26 July 2008

Indonesia's First Locomotives

Semarang, 22 June 1865: NIS 1 - Indonesia’s first locomotive – starts its service

Though the first railway line in Indonesia, between Semarang and Tanggung, was only officially opened on 10 August 1867, in 1863 the Netherlands-Indies Railway Company (Nederlandsch-Indische Spoorwegmaatschappij – NIS) had already put orders for two locomotives from Borsig, Berlin. These two locomotives were intended for the Kedungjati – Willem I (Ambarawa) line, which in some parts had gradients of 2.8 percent. At that time Borsig engines were already widely used in the Netherlands.

Exactly one year later the two locomotives were ready and sent to Semarang. On 22 June 1865 these two first Indonesian engines were operational, carrying the numbers NIS 1 and NIS 2 respectively. As the tracks were still being constructed, the two engines were enlisted to speed up the work, and at the same time to train the personnel who will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the machines. It should be noted that in his book “De Stoomtractie op Java en Sumatra” JJG Oegema mentions that by 1868 the NIS had already had natives engine drivers. The public viewed the new transportation mode with awe as well as fear. As Liem Thian Joe wrote in his book “Riwayat Semarang” (1933): “Publiek Priboemi dan Tionghoa pertjaja, itoe kepala spoor didjalanken dengan kekoeatan …… setan.” (“Both the Native and Chinese public believed that the engine was moved by the power of…… satan.”).

For the relatively flat Semarang – Surakarta – Yogyakarta route the NIS wanted to order four more locomotives from Borsig. But Borsig turned down the order because it still had many unfinished orders. NIS than turned to the renowned British locomotive manufacturer, Beyer Peacock of Manchester.

At the end of 1866 four Beyer Peacock engines arrived in Semarang and were given the serial numbers NIS 3 to NIS 6. Besides numbers, the four engines were given names: “JP de Bordes” (after the NIS chief engineer), “Merapi”, “Merbaboe” and “Lawoe” (the names of three Central Javanese volcanoes). On one side the names were written in Roman characters while on the other side in Javanese script. The locomotives were commissioned on 10 August 1867, the same date as the official opening of the Semarang–Tanggung line.

The performance of the Beyer Peacock engines pleased the NIS, so that in the following years NIS ordered tens of locomotives from the British company. Meanwhile, NIS also ordered three more Borsig engines especially for the Kedungjati-Ambarawa line.

Tjahjono Rahardjo

NIS 1 (right/kanan), Beyer Peacok (left/kiri)

Semarang, 22 Juni 1865: NIS 1 - lokomotif pertama di Indonesia - mulai bertugas

Meskipun jalur kereta api pertama di Indonesia, yaitu antara Semarang – Tanggung, baru diresmikan pada 10 Agustus 1867, pada 1863 perusahaan kereta api Nederlandsch-Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij (NIS) telah memesan dua buah lokomotif dari pabrik Borsig, Jerman. Kedua lokomotif itu direncanakan akan melayani jalur antara Kedungjati dan Willem I (Ambarawa) yang di beberapa tempat kemiringannya mencapai 2,8%. Ketika itu lokomotif-lokomotif buatan Borsig sudah banyak dipakai di Belanda.

Tepat setahun kemudian dua lokomotif tersebut selesai dibuat dan dikirim ke Semarang. Pada 22 Juni 1865 lokomotif pertama di Indonesia itu mulai dioperasikan, masing-masing dengan nomor seri NIS 1 dan NIS 2. Karena jalur kereta api pada waktu itu sedang dalam pembuatan, lokomotif baru itu dimanfaatkan untuk mempercepat pembangunan, sekaligus untuk melatih para petugas yang akan mengoperasikan dan memelihara lokomotif-lokomotif tersebut. Sebagai catatan, seperti ditulis dalam buku “ De Stoomtractie op Java en Sumatra” (1982) karangan JJG Oegema, pada 1868 NIS telah mempunyai masinis orang pribumi Indonesia. Alat transportasi baru itu disambut masyarakat dengan rasa kagum tapi sekaligus takut. Seperti ditulis Liem Thian Joe dalam buku “Riwayat Semarang” (1933): “Publiek Priboemi dan Tionghoa pertjaja, itoe kepala spoor didjalanken dengan kekoeatan …… setan.”

Untuk jalur Semarang – Surakarta – Yogyakarta yang relatif datar NIS memesan empat buah lokomotif lagi pada Borsig. Tapi Borsig tidak sangup memenuhi pesanan tersebut karena banyaknya pesanan lain yang masih harus diselesaikan. Kemudian NIS menengok ke Beyer Peacock, perusahaan pembuat lokomotif terkenal di Manchester, Inggris.
Pada akhir 1866 empat lokomotif Beyer Peacock itu tiba di Semarang dan mendapat nomor seri NIS 3 – 6. Selain nomor, keempat lokomotif itu juga diberi nama, masing-masing “ JP de BORDES” (hoofdingĂ©nieur NIS), “MERAPI”, “MERBABOE” dan “LAWOE”. Nama-nama tersebut pada satu sisi lokomotif ditulis dalam aksara latin, pada sisi lain dalam aksara jawa. Penggunaan keempat lokomotif diresmikan pada 10 Agustus 1867, bersamaan dengan pembukaan jalur Semarang – Tanggung.

Kinerja lokomotif-lokomotif Beyer Peacock ini sangat memuaskan, sehingga NIS pada tahun-tahun berikutnya memesan puluhan lagi lokomotif dari perusahaan Inggris itu. Sementara pada 1870 NIS memesan tiga buah lokomotif lagi dari Borsig khusus untuk melayani jalur Kedungjati – Ambarawa.

Tjahjono Rahardjo

Semarang's stations have own place in history

It was to be the greatest exposition ever held in the Netherlands East Indies, an unabashed celebration of colonial supremacy. And the venue was Semarang.

As the colonial administrators drew up their plans for the exposition celebrating the centennial of Dutch independence, they hoped the Koloniale Tentoonstelling would draw many visitors and an influx of revenue to the city. New hotels and pensions were opened; car rental companies were set up. The city was galvanized into activity for the grand event.

Unfortunately, by the time the exposition opened on August 20, 1914, rumblings of war in Europe, triggered by the assassination of Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, cast a dark shadow on the event. Due to the tense political situation the patron of the exposition, governor general Idenburg, was unable to attend the opening ceremony. And even though Japan, China, Australia, India, French Indochina and the United States were represented by their respective pavilions, all of the European countries were noticeably missing. Of the more than one million visitors expected, only about 670,000 visited the three-month-long exposition.

Among those who had been excited about the exposition were three railway companies, all privately owned, that served Semarang at that time. The Nederlandsch-Indies Spoorweg Maatschappij (NIS), the Samarang-Joana Stoomtram Maatschappij (SJS) and the Semarang-Cheribon Stoomtram Maatschappij (SCS) were expecting huge numbers of visitors to travel to Semarang on their trains. They vied with each other to be able to give the best service, including constructing new stations.

As early as 1913 the SJS already had a new iron structure built to replace the wooden station building on the same site at Jurnatan that had been in use since 1882. The old station initially served the four-kilometer-long city tramway the company operated to Semarang's Jomblang district, at the foot of the New Candi hills.

Here, in the 1920s, a new, modern housing development was built to the design of the famous architect and town planner Thomas Karsten. This tramway was later extended to the Bulu area and the harbor. The station also served the SJS line that connected Semarang with towns along the eastern coast of Central Java such as Kudus, Pati, Rembang and Juana.

Grand station

The NIS soon followed suit by building a new station but at a completely new location. This grand station, based on a NIS in-house design, came into use on June 1, 1914. The old station at Tambaksari, which was located near the harbor, was the starting point of the first railway in the Netherlands East Indies, the 25-kilometer Semarang to Tanggung line opened in 1867. It was a small, two-storey building with identical wings on both sides. It was a terminus, an end station that the Dutch call a kopstation, a typical layout for end-of-the-line stations. Unfortunately, to allow for the extension of the line to the new station at Tawang, which was located nearer to the city center, the old Tambaksari Station was pulled down.

The SCS contributed to the station-building spree with the construction of the Semarang West Station at located at Poncol, near the Prince of Orange Fort. This station was officially opened on Aug. 6, 1914, just in time for the Exposition. It was designed by Henri Maclaine-Pont who also designed the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) campus. Formerly, the SCS had a small nondescript station building at Pendrikan, southwest of Poncol.

Pendrikan was never really meant to serve passengers, thus its small size. Instead, SCS trains would continue their journeys along the city tramline and finally stop at the SJS station in Jurnatan.

Of the five railway stations -- Tambaksari, Jurnatan, Pendrikan, Tawang and Poncol -- only the latter two are still extant. Jurnatan stopped being used in 1974 and for a short time it became Semarang's bus station. It was eventually dismantled, with a plan, never realized, to re-erect it at Ambarawa Locomotive Museum. Pendrikan is now a dense kampung.

Tawang now still serves as Semarang's main passenger station. All kinds of trains, mainly business and executive class passenger trains, including the pride of the Indonesian railways, the fast Argo trains, stop at the station. However, it is facing a constant battle against chronic flooding. Hopefully, the polder system currently being constructed by the municipality will solve the problem once and for all.

Poncol is mainly an economy class and cargo station. It is now a some what plain, dull looking edifice, mainly because its large clock and elegant porcelain tile ornaments have been removed. In addition, part of its formerly open platforms have been walled in, and seen from the outside the station has lost most of its light and airy quality. The recent addition of a canopy in front of the entrance has not been of much help either.

It seems highly unlikely that Semarang will have any new station building projects in the near, and even the not so near, future to resemble those of the 1900s. Thus, it would be wise to maintain those which do remain. After all, they are all well designed, soundly constructed edifices in their own right.

Tjahjono Rahardjo

22 July 2008

Rob Dickinson's Tour 22 July 2008: Ambarawa - Bedono Rack Line

Rob Dickinson's Tour, Ambarawa 22 July 2008

Departure, Ambarawa Station


Local children are more than welcome on Rob's tour, unlike most other charter tours on the rack line. The "local coach" was full of them.

It was a bit quiter, though, in the "international carriage".

Children were also outside the train, chasing it on their "lorry".

On the down trip from Bedono the brake rod of the engine snapped. Nothing really serious happened, some people even did not know that there was something wrong. The train eventually stopped after the hand brakes of the coaches were applied till the wheels smoked. But people who had gone off the train to take pictures had to walk down some distance to get back on the train again. My friend Bill Greer said they looked like Napoleon's army retreating from Russia. A few days later, however, it was already repaired.

More information:
http://www.users.waitrose.com/~jraby/blog.html http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/tours/java2009.htm

Dalam perjalanan turun dari Bedono ke Ambarawa batang rem lokomotif patah. Tidak terjadi sesuatu yang serius, bahkan sebagian orang tidak asadar ada sesuatu yang tidak beres. Rangkaian kereta akhirnya berhenti setelah semua rem tangan di kereta penumpang diputar, sampai roda-roda berasap. Tapi orang-orang yang telah turun sebelumnya untuk mengambil foto terpaksa berjalan cukup jauh untuk naik kembali ke kereta. Teman saya Bill Greer mengatakan mereka mirip pasukan Napoleon yang kalah di Rusia. Tapi. beberapa hari kemudian kerusakan berhasil diperbaiki.

Informasi tambahan:


20 July 2008

The Wistful Ride That Started in Semarang

The Jakarta Post, August 21, 2000

SEMARANG (JP): It certainly was not as luxurious as the Venice Simplon Orient Express, nor could it match even a fraction of the speed of the TGV or the Shinkansen. Even by Indonesian standards it was not an impressive train. It was just a slow, third-class train with an antiquated passenger coach that had seen better days and a couple of modified freight cars fitted with benches to accommodate passengers.

A 1957 BB 200 class General Motors diesel locomotive pulled the whole affair. It was no wonder then that when the daily Pekalongan to Surakarta Pandanaran passenger train stopped running a couple of months ago, nobody really seemed to notice.

Yet despite its obscurity, the Pandanaran claims a certain distinction. The Pandanaran was the last passenger train to travel along Indonesia's historically most important railway line. The Semarang to Surakarta and Yogyakarta (the vorstenlanden, or land of the princes) line was the first ever to be built in the then Netherlands Indies.

On June 17, 1864, then governor general Baron Sloet van de Beele officiated a ground-breaking ceremony to start the construction of tracks running 25 km from Semarang to Tanggung. Shortly after its completion on August 10, 1867, King Chulalongkorn of Siam, who was planning to start a railway system in his own country, visited Semarang to have a look at the short line.

Having faced various technical and financial problems, the whole 205 km line was completed in 1873. This included a line for military purposes, the Kedungjati-Tuntang-Ambarawa line, which at the time was called Willem I. This line was later extended to Yogyakarta through Magelang, passing the Merbabu and Merapi volcanoes and the Borobudur temple.

(map: Rob Dickinson)

A section of this line, between Jambu, Bedono and Gemawang, is a rack line, the only one in Java. Part of this line, between Ambarawa and Bedono (with plans to extend it to Tuntang), is used occasionally by the vintage Railway Mountain Tour to carry tourists.

Meanwhile, Ambarawa station is now a popular locomotive museum. This railway system, built by a private company, the Nederlandsch-Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij (NIS), was to improve communications between the portof Semarang and the agricultural heartland of Central Java. That is why the NIS station was originally located at Tambaksari, near the harbor, while the "new" Tawang Station only started to be used in 1914. It is rather ironic that this historical line was unprofitable, since its main raison d'etre was originally for its economic viability.

The rich and famous

But the NIS trains did not transport agricultural products only. The rich and famous of the day also traveled on these trains. Pakubuwana X of Surakarta (r.1893-1939) for instance, who ruled in sumptuous (albeit impotent) splendor, was a frequent traveler along the NIS line. When he was to marry Ratu Mas (the Golden Queen), daughter of Sultan Hamengkubuwono VII of Yogyakarta, he rode to Yogyakarta on his private coach decorated with the three colors of the Dutch flag. And when he died in 1939 his last journey to the royal mausoleum at Imogiri
was made on a white glazed rail-hearse.

The Dutch had tried to dissuade Pakubuwana X from making official tours beyond his tiny realm, as they were afraid that these visits might stir up commoners who still thought of him as the "King of Java". But the wily ruler simply told them that his excursions were "incognito", although this did not prevent him from having an entourage of up to 100 retainers, much to the dismay of the Dutch. Pakubuwana X's train hearse and private railway carriage, for which incense is burned and flowers are strewn, is now kept at the Surakarta keraton.

Besides the NIS line, which was a real railway, Semarang also saw the construction of the first steam tramway, a light railway unsuitable for heavy and fast traffic, in the East Indies. Another private company, the Samarang-Joana Stoomtram Matschappij (SJS), built this tramway to connect Semarang with the teakwood forests and oil fields at Cepu.

The SJS terminus in Semarang was the Station Centraal in Jurnatan. Other companies soon followed suit and new tramway lines sprung up in Java and Madura, in Sumatra (Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra and South Sumatra) and even in South Sulawesi, which unfortunately proved to be unprofitable and was closed after a few years.

Among these new tramway lines was the Semarang-Cheribon Stoomtram Matschappij (SCS), connecting Semarang with Cirebon. This was often called the "sugar line" as it served the numerous sugar factories along the north coast of Central Java. The end of the line in Semarang was the Poncol Station. Meanwhile, a city tramway system began its service in 1883, connecting Semarang's Bulu and Jomblang districts via Station Centraal.

Initially, the three privately operated railway lines were completely independent from each other. The three stations were only connected after the NIS moved its station to Tawang. Later, the SCS line was upgraded and became part of the Semarang-Batavia (Jakarta) main line in cooperation with the state railway company, the Staatsspoorwegen (SS). The SCS line is the only surviving (former) tramway in Java today. Other tramways have been closed down because they were unable to compete with other, newer modes of transportation.

The railways had an influence on Semarang's media. A Dutch-language newspaper published in Semarang was the Semarangsch Handel en Advertentieblad. As its name indicates, its content was mainly advertisements. Later, however, when it became a full-fledged daily newspaper, it was renamed De Locomotief. This name was deliberately chosen because it represented progress and innovation. Indeed, De Locomotief developed into one of the most liberal and influential newspapers in the Netherlands Indies.

Heritage sites

As the birthplace of the Indonesian railway system, Semarang has many railway-related heritage sites. Besides the four stations mentioned earlier: Tambaksari, Tawang, Jurnatan (Centraal) and Poncol, there are various railway offices. The most important one is, of course, the former head office of the NIS, which the people of Semarang have lovingly given the nickname of the "Thousand Doors Building".

Then there is the zustermaatschappijen (sister companies) building, the joint offices of the SJS-SCS-Serajoedal Stoomtram Maatschappij. The latter is the operator of the 126 km line from Maos to Wonosobo that passes through the fertile Serayu River valley.

The sister company building was designed by Thomas Karsten, a Dutch architect and town planner who played an important role in the development of Semarang. Among his many designs are the Johar Market, the New Candi settlement and the popular housing complex at Mlaten. All of these projects reflect Karsten's deep appreciation of Indonesian culture as well as his socialist and anticolonialist leanings.

Unfortunately, many of these witnesses of Semarang's past importance as a port city and a center of trade and commerce, such as the Tambaksari and the Jurnatan stations, have disappeared.

In the 1970s Jurnatan station was turned into a bus station, which, from an architectural point of view, was much more attractive than the present nondescript Terboyo bus station located at the eastern edge of the city. Moreover, it was located near the city center, just like intercity and international bus terminals in most cities in the world.

Only in Indonesia, it seems, are bus terminals constantly being pushed out into the periphery. After serving only a couple of years as Semarang's main bus terminal, this airy glass and cast-iron structure that looks like a smaller version of the Gare d'Orsay (now the Musee d'Orsay, which houses an impressive collection of French impressionist paintings) was dismantled. Now in its place is, as you might have guessed, a banal glass office and shopping complex.

The NIS headquarters, one of Semarang's most important landmarks, still exists, but in a very bad state. Besides being closely connected to the history of Indonesia's railways, it was an important scene in Semarang's fierce five-day battle from Oct. 14 to Oct. 19, 1945. This historical and beautiful building is now deserted, its plight uncertain.

Previously, there were plans to turn it into a luxury hotel while maintaining its original appearance, but with the economic crisis (and the fact that the money for this project was supposed to come from people close to the Suharto family), this plan was abandoned. The Tawang Station is somewhat more fortunate. The station is still in use and the building is well-maintained. However, it faces serious storms and high-tide flooding. There have been proposals to move its activities to Poncol, but luckily this has been canceled, at least for the time being.

The former SCS station at Poncol is also still in use, though its facade has been slightly altered with the addition of an insensitive canopy that caused some public furor. This station building was designed by Henri Maclaine-Pont, who is better known for his design of the Technische Hogeschool (now the ITB/Bandung Technological Institute) in Bandung, the church at Pohsarang, Kediri and the former SCS head office in Tegal. The luckiest railway edifice is the former zustermaatschappijen office. PT Kereta Api, the Indonesian railway company, now occupies it. It is well-maintained and in perfect condition, with no significant changes made to spoil its beauty.

These railway-related legacies are very valuable assets for Semarang. These structures could easily give Semarang the identity that it is now lacking and be a factor to attract visitors to the city.

In many developing countries there are people and groups who share an interest in railway heritage. Given its important position in Indonesia's railway history it would not be too difficult to persuade them to come to Semarang, especially if links are created with other railway heritage artifacts, such as the Ambarawa Locomotive Museum, the Jambu-Gemawang rack line and the large number of still operable steam locomotives found in sugar mills around Semarang and the teak forests of Cepu.

More importantly, however, these conserved legacies will remind us of the cost needed to build the railroads of Indonesia, not just in terms of money, but also human suffering. It will make us remember how the thundering trains of the turn of twentieth century Java, ushering a new age of modernity and progress but at the same time increasing colonial dominance, had, for better or worse, irreversibly changed its landscape, not just physically but also economically, culturally and socially.

Tjahjono Rahardjo

19 July 2008

Incredible Indian Railways / Kereta Api India Yang Luar Biasa

Incredible Indian Railways

Indonesian passenger trains only have three classes: economy, business and executives, but in India they have no fewer than eight classes. The most inexpensive class is the Unreserved 2nd Class, the most expensive Air-Conditioned 1st Class (AC1). The Unreserved 2nd Class have simple wooden (or sometimes plastic covered) benches and barred windows to prevent people from entering through them. AC1 coaches have air conditioned compartments, dark tinted windows and carpeted floors. Each compartment contains 2 or 4 beds which during the day are converted into seats. AC1 tickets are seven times costlier than those of Unreserved 2nd Class. Other classes are AC2, AC3, AC Executive Chair Class, AC Chair Class, and 1st Class Sleeper. 1st Class which is similar to AC1 but without the AC is being phased out and therefore not very common anymore.

AC3 uppermost tier

In Indonesia, we have only one rail gauge, 1067 mm. India has four: 5'6 "(1676 mm), 1000 mm, 2'6" (792 mm) and 2 '(609 mm). Indian Railways (IR), a state owned monopoly, each day carries 11 million passengers and one million tons of goods. The 63,140 kilometre IR network (reputedly the largest railway network in the world under one management) is passed by more than 14,440 trains each day. IR employs about 1.6 million people, making it one of the largest employers in the world.

Two railway lines in India are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Darjeeling Himalaya Railway and the Nilgiris Mountain Railway, the only rack and pinion railway in India. Chatrapati Shivaji Station (formerly Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai is also registered as a World Heritage. Up to 1995 IR still operated steam locomotives regularly.

Currently, the National Rail Museum in New Delhi houses the 'Fairy Queen' made in 1855, recorded by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest working steam locomotive in the world. The Kalka Shimla Railway is also recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the steepest railway line, continuously climbing for 96 kilometres.

When the 34 kilometre long Bori Bundar (Bombay) to Thane was opened on 16 April 1853 India became the first country in Asia to have a railway network. This was followed by Indonesia (1867) and China (1876). Later on 42 railway companies were operating in India. These companies were nationalized into the Indian Railways after India’s independence. Today, the railways are still the mainstay of India’s transportation system. In the cabinet there is the post of Union Minister for Railways.

But if one wants to really know how extraordinary the trains of India are, one must experience it first hand. The uniqueness of train travel starts from ticket purchasing. The trains are very popular, so one has to book a place as early as possible, especially for long distance travel. When places on the trains are sold out, there is still a possibility to obtain the status of 'Reservation against Cancellation (RAC). After all RAC quotas are sold, prospective passengers can still be on the waiting list. When there are cancellations, the name in the RAC list replaces them, while those on the waiting list go up the RAC list. The passengers list can be seen at the station two hours before departure and on a piece of paper sticked next to the carriage door.

IR provides special quotas for foreign tourists, which must be paid in “hard” currencies such as U.S. dollar, euro or pound sterling. These 'Tourist quotas' can be obtained at the International Tourist Bureaus at stations in tourist centres such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Agra, Jaipur and Varanasi, without the need to queue at the crowded counters. It should be noted that the stations in India are always very crowded, like stations in Indonesia during Id’ul Fitri. Indians tend to travel in large groups occupying every corner of the station.

When planning the trip from New Delhi to Agra, Varanasi, Gaya and back to New Delhi again, I opted for the AC2. The price of the ticket is only half of AC1 but still quite comfortable. But the Agra - Varanasi train was full, so I had to go to Tundla Junction (about 24 kilometres from Agra) and the places available were only in AC3. The difference between AC2 and AC3 is that in AC2 the berths are two tiered, while in AC3 the berths were three tiered and had no curtains.

Actually I also wanted to try the Unreserved Class, but I decided against it because it was not recommended for long distances. But the opportunity came when during journey from Agra to Varanasi I overslept. When I woke up the train had already passed Varanasi, also the next station, Mughal Sarai. Unlike in Indonesia, no young and friendly steward or stewardess wake you up at your destination station. The attendants I met on Indian trains were all middle aged men and usually not very friendly.

Sunrise at Buxar Station

I had to get off at Buxar station, about three hours from Varanasi. From Buxar I rode back to Varanasi on the Amritsar Mail. This was also my chance to ride on the Unreserved Class. In this class nobody spoke English, but that did not prevent my fellow passengers to point out the city Varanasi (or Benares) to me when we crossed the River Ganga.

The Ganga from the Malviya Bridge, the holy city Varanasi shimering in the background

It was different on AC2 and AC3. At Tundla station, waiting for the Poorva Express, I became acquainted with a Canadian couple who were teachers in the United Arab Emirates, and were going for their holidays in Nepal. On the Sealdah Express from Varanasi to Gaya I was involved in a discussion about "the meaning of life" with an Indian Army officer. He was on leave from duty in Kashmir to visit his family in Kolkata. He already had travelled two day from Jammu Tawi, and still had another day before he arrived in Kolkata. Back from Gaya to New Delhi on the Rajdhani Express, the pride of IR, I shared the bay with an American businessman of Indian descent and his wife. They where on their way home to the U.S. via New Delhi after attending the wedding their nephew. The businessman worked in Manhattan, New York, and he witnessed the collapse of the World Trade Centre (WTC) on 11 September 2001.

At the International Tourist Bureau in Varanasi I met an Indonesian political fugitive who was now living in the United States. She is now a writer and "professional traveller." She was very critical of developments in Indonesia and still knew some political figures. We walked the whole day visiting places in Varanasi and surrounding areas such as Dashashwamed Ghat at the edge of the river Ganga and the Deer Park, where the Buddha first taught the Dhamma.

Indeed, it is incomplete visiting India without trying its trains. One has a choice of classes: AC1, AC2, or AC3. For day trips one can take the AC Executive Chair or AC Chair which are similar to our Argo trains in Indonesia. Those more adventurous can try the Unreserved Sleeper class. Those who have expensive tastes will be treated like a maharaja on the luxurious "Palace on Wheels" during the week long New Delhi - Jaipur - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Agra - New Delhi route. And one must not forget to visit the National Rail Museum, not far from the Indonesian Embassy in the elite Chanakya Puri neighbourhood in New Delhi. More than 100 locomotives, carriages, wagons and other historic objects are displayed outdoors and in covered galleries in the museum’s 4.5 hectares grounds.

Kereta Api India Yang Luar Biasa

Indian trains have Indian (squatting) style and Western style toilets.

Kereta api penumpang Indonesia hanya mengenal tiga kelas: ekonomi, bisnis dan eksekutif , tapi di India terdapat tidak kurang dari delapan kelas. Yang paling murah Unreserved 2nd Class, yang paling mahal Air-Conditioned 1st Class (AC1). Unreserved 2nd Class mempunyai bangku-bangku kayu sederhana (atau kadang-kadang busa tipis berlapis plastik) dan jendela berjeruji untuk mencegah orang masuk. Kereta AC1 terbagi menjadi kompartemen berpendingin, berkaca gelap dan berkarpet. Setiap kompartemen berisi 2 atau 4 tempat tidur yang pada siang hari diubah menjadi tempat duduk. Harga tiket AC1 tujuh kali lebih mahal dari harga tiket Unreserved 2nd Class. Kelas lain adalah AC2, AC3, AC Executive Chair Class, AC Chair Class, 1st Class dan Sleeper Class. 1st Class yang mirip AC1 tapi tanpa AC sedang mengalami phasing out sehingga semakin jarang ditemukan.

Two inquisitive brothers, Purush and Varun, on the Agra Intercity
Di Indonesia kita mengenal satu lebar sepur, 1067 mm, India mempunyai empat: 5’6” (1676 mm), 1000 mm, 2’6” (792 mm) dan 2’ (609 mm). Indian Railways (IR), perusahaan monopoli milik pemerintah India, setiap hari mengangkut 11 juta penumpang dan satu juta ton barang. Jaringan IR sepanjang 63.140 km (konon jaringan kereta api terbesar di dunia di bawah satu manajemen) dilalui lebih dari 14.440 kereta api setiap hari. IR mempekerjakan sekitar 1,6 juta orang, menjadikannya salah satu perusaahaan terbesar di dunia.

Dua lintasan kereta api di India diakui UNESCO sebagai Pusaka Dunia (World Heritage Site), yaitu Darjeeling Himalaya Railway dan Nilgiri Mountain Railway, satu-satunya lintasan bergerigi di India. Stasiun
Chatrapati Shivaji (dulu stasiun Victoria Terminus) di Mumbai juga tercatat sebagai Pusaka Dunia. Sampai 1995 IR masih mengoperasikan lokomotif uap secara reguler. Saat ini National Rail Museum di New Delhi menyimpan ‘Fairy Queen’ buatan 1855, yang dicatat oleh Guinness Book of World Records sebagai lokomotif uap tertua di dunia yang masih beroperasi. Kalka Shimla Railway juga tercatat dalam Guinness Book of World Records sebagai lintasan yang paling curam, menanjak terus sepanjang 96 kilometer.

Ketika pada 16 April 1853 diresmikan lintasan Bori Bundar (Bombay) dan Thane sepanjang 34 kilometer India menjadi negara pertama di Asia yang membangun jaringan kereta api. Menyusul Indonesia (1867) dan China (1876). Dalam perkembangannya muncul 42 perusahaan kereta api di India. Perusahaan-perusahaan itu dinasionalisasi menjadi Indian Railways saat India merdeka. Sampai sekarang kereta api masih menjadi sarana transportasi andalan India. Dalam kabinet ada pos Menteri Kereta Api (Union Minister for Railways).
For physically challenged

Tapi bila ingin betul-betul mengenal luarbiasanya kereta api India, kita harus langsung merasakannya. Keunikan perjalanan kereta api India terasa sejak membeli tiket. Kereta api sangat populer sehingga kita harus memesan tempat seawal mungkin, terutama untuk perjalanan jarak jauh. Bila kehabisan tempat, masih ada kemungkinan untuk mendapatkan status ‘Reservation Against Cancellation’ (RAC). Setelah semua jatah RAC terjual, calon penumpang masih bisa masuk dalam daftar tunggu (‘waitlist’). Bila ada pembatalan, nama di daftar RAC naik menggantikannya, sedang calon penumpang daftar tunggu masuk daftar RAC. Daftar penumpang bisa dibaca di papan pengumuman stasiun dua jam sebelum keberangkatan dan di kertas yang ditempelkan di samping pintu kereta.

IR menyediakan jatah untuk turis asing yang harus dibayar dengan mata uang seperti dollar AS, euro, atau pound sterling. ‘Tourist quota’ ini bisa diperoleh di International Tourist Bureau di stasiun-stasiun di pusat wisata seperti New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Agra, Jaipur dan Varanasi, tanpa harus berdesak di loket. Perlu dicatat stasiun-stasiun di India setiap hari penuh seperti suasana Lebaran di Indonesia. Orang India cenderung bepergian dalam rombongan besar yang menduduki setiap sudut stasiun.

Ketika merencanakan perjalanan New Delhi – Agra –Varanasi – Gaya – New Delhi saya memilih AC2. Harga tiketnya separuh AC1 tapi cukup nyaman. Tapi untuk rute Agra – Varanasi kereta api sudah penuh, jadi saya harus ke Tundla Junction (sekitar 25 kilometer dari Agra) dan tempat yang tersedia hanya di kelas AC3. Perbedaan antara AC2 dan AC3 adalah di AC2 tempat tidur bersusun dua sedang di AC3 bersusun tiga dan tidak ada tirai pembatas tempat tidur.

Shatabdi Express, New Delhi Station

Sebenarnya saya ingin mencoba juga naik Unreserved Class, tapi saya batalkan karena tidak dianjurkan untuk jarak jauh. Ternyata kesempatan muncul ketika dalam perjalanan dari Agra ke Varanasi saya tertidur karena kecapaian. Ketika bangun ternyata kereta api sudah melewati Varanasi, juga stasiun berikutnya Mughal Sarai. Tidak ada pramugari atau pramugara muda dan ramah seperti di Indonesia yang membangunkan penumpang menjelang saat tiba di stasiun tujuannya. Petugas di atas kereta api India yang saya temui semuanya laki-laki setengah umur dan samasekali tidak ramah.

Terpaksa saya turun di stasiun Buxar, sekitar tiga jam dari Varanasi. Dari Buxar saya kembali ke Varanasi naik Amritsar Mail. Ini kesempatan saya naik di Unreserved class. Di kelas itu tak seorangpun bisa berbahasa Inggris, tapi itu tidak menghalangi mereka beramai-ramai menunjukkan kota Varanasi (dulu dikenal sebagai Benares) pada saya ketika kami melintas di atas Sungai Ganga.

Amritsar Mail, Varanasi Station

Beda ketika naik kereta kelas AC2 dan AC3. Di stasiun Tundla saya berkenalan dengan suami-isteri asal Kanada yang menjadi guru di Emirat Arab yang akan berlibur ke Nepal. Di atas Licchavi Express dari Varanasi ke Gaya saya terlibat diskusi menarik tentang “tujuan hidup” dengan seorang perwira Angkatan Darat India. Ia sedang cuti dari tugasnya di Kashmir untuk menengok keluarganya di Kolkata. Pulang dari Gaya ke New Delhi di atas Rajdhani Express kebanggaan IR saya duduk berhadapan dengan pengusaha Amerika Serikat keturunan India dan isterinya. Mereka dalam perjalanan pulang ke AS lewat New Delhi setelah menghadiri pernikahan keponakan mereka. Pengusaha itu berkantor di Manhattan, New York dan dia melihat sendiri runtuhnya gedung World Trade Center (WTC) pada 11 September 2001.

Rajdhani Express, New Delhi Station

Di International Tourist Bureau Varanasi saya berkenalan dengan seorang pelarian politik Indonesia yang tinggal di Amerika Serikat. Ia sekarang menjadi penulis dan “professional traveler.” Ia sangat kritis mengikuti perkembangan di Indonesia dan masih kenal beberapa tokoh politik. Kami berjalan bersama sehari penuh mengunjungi tempat-tempat di Varanasi dan sekitarnya seperti Dashashwamed Ghat di tepi sungai Ganga dan Taman Rusa, tempat Buddha pertama kali mengajarkan Dhamma.

Memang, tidak lengkap rasanya ke India tanpa mencoba kereta apinya. Kita punya pilihan kelas AC1, AC2, atau AC3. Untuk perjalanan siang bisa naik AC Executive Chair atau AC Chair yang mirip dengan KA Argo kita. Mereka yang menyukai petualangan bisa naik kelas Sleeper atau Unreserved. Bagi yang berselera mahal bisa merasakan hidup bagai maharaja di atas kereta api super mewah “Palace on Wheels” melalui rute New Delhi – Jaipur – Udaipur – Jodhpur – Agra – New Delhi selama seminggu. Dan jangan lupa mengunjungi National Rail Museum, tidak jauh dari kedutaan Indonesia di kawasan elit Chanakya Puri, New Delhi. Lebih dari 100 lokomotif, kereta, gerbong dan benda bersejarah lain dipamerkan di udara terbuka dan galeri tertutup di kawasan seluas 4,5 hektar.

16 July 2008

Sekilas Museum Kereta Api Ambarawa

Pada 1863 dimulailah pembangunan jalan rel pertama di Indonesia (ketika itu masih disebut Hindia Belanda) antara Semarang dan daerah kerajaan (vorstenlanden) Surakarta dan Yogyakarta, melalui Kedungjati dan Gundih. Yang membangun adalah Nederlandsch-Indische Spoorwegmaatschappij (NIS) yang mendapat konsesi dari pemerintah Hindia Belanda. Salah satu syarat konsesi adalah dibangunnya lintasan cabang ke Ambarawa yang ketika itu adalah salah satu pusat militer kolonial. Pada 1873 seluruh jaringan itu selesai dibangun, Lebar sepur (gauge) yang dipilih adalah 1435 mm, seperti halnya di Eropa.

Antara 1898 dan 1907 dibangun lintasan Ambarawa-Secang-Magelang-Yogya dan lintasan cabang Secang-Parakan dengan lebar sepur 1067 mm yang lebih sesuai untuk lintasan yang melalui perbukitan. Bahkan karena curamnya medan yang harus dilalui antara Jambu-Bedono-Gemawang sepanjang hampir 6,5 kilometer diperlukan rel bergerigi.

Stasiun Ambarawa (Willem I) yang ada sekarang adalah bangunan kedua yang dibangun 1907, menggantikan bangunan lama yang terbuat dari kayu. Stasiun ini adalah stasiun pulau, sisi selatannya dulu adalah untuk kereta api sepur lebar (1435 mm)[1] jurusan Kedungjati, sedang sisi utara untuk kereta api sepur sempit (1067 mm) jurusan Magelang dan Yogya. Pada pertengahan 1970an Stasiun Ambarawa tidak lagi dilalui kereta api reguler, dan dijadikan museum kereta api, sedang lintasan Ambarawa-Bedono menjadi jalur wisata yang disebut “Railway Mountain Tour”.

Stasiun Willem I (Ambarawa), 1905

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Railway Mountain Tour (Foto: Rob Dickinson)

Koleksi Museum Kereta Api Ambarawa selain 24 lokomotif non-aktif dan peralatan-peralatan perkeretaapian, juga 4 lokomotif yang masih aktif. Dua diantara lokomotif aktif itu adalah “penghuni asli” Ambarawa, yaitu B2502 dan B2503 yang memang dirancang khusus untuk melayani lintasan Ambarawa-Secang. Kini kedua lokomotif itu menarik “Railway Mountain Tour”. Lokomotif aktif lainnya adalah lokomotif E1060 yang dulu melayani jalur bergerigi Sawahlunto-Teluk Bayur dan C1218 dari Cepu yang berhasil diaktifkan kembali dan rencananya akan melayani lintasan Ambarawa-Tuntang.

PT Kereta Api Daerah Operasi IV Semarang sedang menyusun rencana pengembangan Museum Kereta Api Ambarawa agar benar-benar bisa menjalankan fungsi konservasi, penelitian, pendidikan dan rekreasi.

[1] Di masa pendudukan Jepang semua lintasan sepur lebar diubah menjadi 1067 mm.

Informasi tambahan: http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/ambarawa/museum.htm