Part of the line skirts the deep blue Indian Ocean. Many people believe that the Indian Ocean is the abode of the mythical Queen of the South Sea. The combination of gorges, ravines, jungle and ocean makes it one of the most scenic railway lines in Indonesia.
On 4 and 5 July 2009 a group from the Indonesian Railway Preservation Society (IRPS) made a trip along the disused line. The group visited three of the four tunnels and two of the longest viaducts. Unfortunately, since the whole line had been closed for more than two decades, the tour had to be made by bus and (naturally) on foot.
The trip started early in the morning of 4 July with short tour of Banjar Station and its former engine shed. This station dates from 1894 but renovated in 1949 after sustaining heavy damage in the war of independence. This busy former junction is on the Bandung- Yogyakarta mainline. The shed is more or less abandoned, but the turntable is still workable.
The next stop was Banjarsari Station. This station was built in 1911, at about the same time the Banjar-Kalipucang line was built. In 1986 the closure of the Banjar-Pangandaran line also meant that this station, together with the other stations and halts along the line, became redundant. Earlier, in 1984, the Pangandaran-Cijulang line had already been closed. The reasons given were the poor condition of the bridges and viaducts and the large number of non-paying passengers. This, of course, is a reflection of the bad management of the railways. In 1995 there were plans to reopen the line, and the tracks up to Banjarsari had actually been rehabilitated, but the economic crisis in 1997 stopped the project on its track.
The group did not spend much time at Banjarsari, because except for the station building ( now used as a house), nothing much of the railway remains. We continued our journey to the Hendrik tunnel. This 128 meter tunnel is now part of a local road connecting villages in the area. It is named after Prince Hendrik, husband of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands (r.1890-1948). We walked into the tunnel, and came out on the other side. After a short walk further down the road, we saw a magnificent sight, the Cikacepit viaduct. Even though a closer look showed that many parts have been vandalized, it was still impressive, with its nearly 300 meters span and high trestles spanning the deep ravine below it.
It is interesting that in the book published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Staatsspoor- en Tramwegen (State Rail- and Tramway Company) in 1925 there is no mention of Cikacepit. However, it shows a drawing of it, with the explanation that it is the “bridge over the Tji Pembokongan ravine on the Bandjar-Parigi line”. Strangely, the name Tji Pembokongan (Cipembokongan) is totally unknown today.
We then turned to the right. After about 300 meters we entered the Juliana Tunnel, known as Terowongan Bengkok (Curved Tunnel) by the local people. As its names suggests, this 147 meter tunnel is curved. It is named after Princess Juliana, who became Queen of the Netherlands in 1948 when her mother Queen Wilhelmina abdicated. Here, we were allowed to enter and see the viaduct on the other side of the tunnel. This unnamed viaduct directly leads to the Cikacepit viaduct.
We decided that we had to go down and have a closer look at the viaduct, and also go to the beach which looked so inviting.
We started the second day rather early by watching the sun rise at the beach just in front of our hotel at Batukaras Cove, followed by a swim in the sea before breakfast. The evening before, we had a hearty dinner of different kinds of fish at a beach side restaurant. Batukaras reminded me of Bali in the 1970s. It is still relatively quite, with only three small hotels, mainly catering to surfers. Our hotel was very basic, with no air-conditioning and no television (who needs it, anyway, in such a place), but clean and very comfortable.