For more than two decades C1218 (constructed by Hartmann in 1896) was stored in the back of the shed in Cepu, forgotten and neglected but more or less intact. In 2002 a group of foreign railway enthusiasts led by Rob Dickinson, a frequent visitor to
C1218 in Ambarawa
The intention was to use the restored C1218 on the flat Ambarawa – Tuntang line. But the line was not ready yet for C1218 as it still needed major improvements. As a result C1218 did not see much service after being restored. Except for an occasional run to Jambu it was mostly idle at the Ambarawa shed.
Meanwhile, the Mayor of Solo came up with the idea to have a steam train run on the track alongside Slamet Riyadi Street, Solo’s main thoroughfare, to attract tourists. At that time only one train, the once daily, one-coach Solo - Wonogiri feeder train hauled by an ancient BB300 series Krupp diesel engine, used the track.
In April 2009 the Mayor together with a busload of city officials came to Ambarawa to pick an engine for the tourist train. Initially, the Mayor wanted the mammoth CC5029 Mallet engine. This, of course, was out of the question. Besides being unsuitable for an urban line (CC5029 used to serve the mountainous Priangan region), CC5029 was in such a bad condition that it would be much too expensive to restore it. Finally, it was agreed that C1218 would be leased to the City of Solo. It was also agreed that in September of that year C1218 and its rack of two wooden coaches (also from Ambarawa) would operate as a tourist train in Solo.
At that time the Indonesian Railway Preservation Society (IRPS) had already pointed out to the City of Solo as well as PTKA that there was not yet any proper facility in Solo for maintaining C1218. No one, however, paid much attention, so on 27 September 2009 amid much fanfare the steam tourist train, named ‘Sepur Kluthuk Jaladara’ was launched. In mid March, however, there were reports that all was not well with C1218. IRPS, therefore, decided to send a small team (Aditya Dwi Laksana, Asep Suherman and myself) to Solo to find out what the problem was.
When we left Semarang Poncol Station on 16 March 2010 only Setyo Prakoso, an IRPS member living in Solo, knew about our schedule for that day. However, just after we passed Gundih on board the Pandanwangi train, Aditya got a call from Sutrisno, Head of Operations of PTKA's Region 6. How he knew about our itinerary is a mystery. In any case, when we arrived at Solo Balapan desides Setyo, Sutrismo was also there to meet us. Without wasting any time we were immediately rushed to Solo Balapan depot.
At the depot we were greeted by the depot chief Joemarno and some of his staff. They showed us Jaladara’s two wooden coaches (whose paint, we had been told earlier, had been peeling off due to being constantly exposed to rain and sun) which had just been given new coats of paint. Sutrisno also showed us all the repairs and maintenance work done to C1218 since its arrival in Solo from Ambarawa in September 2009. Basically, they were trying to convince us that Jaladara was not being neglected and was ready to operate any time. Nonetheless, they admitted that they had to work harder because C1218 and its rack were still stabled in the open, without any protective shelter.
C1218 in Solo Balapan
Sutrisno showing the maintenance work done to C1218
Regarding the absence of the protective roof for the railway Jaladara we were told that the original plan to place it in the depot at Purwosari could not be carried out because Purwosari depot is already full. Furthermore, the security there was poor because the depot is not a restricted area. So they thought that it is better that Jalasara remain at Solo Balapan depot, at least for the time being, despite the lack of any protective roof.
The fact is there has been a plan to construct a protective roof for Jaladara. But the City of Solo and PTKA have not agreed on who should bear the costs. We also found out that the lease payment mechanism from the City of Solo to PTKA is unclear. Rather strange, we thought, because normally such an important issue would have been settled right from the very beginning. This also means that that there is actually no money specifically set aside for maintaining C1218.
Meanwhile, the people of Solo, who used to be very enthusiastic about Jaladara, have been complaining about the high price they have to pay to ride on the train. Residents have to pay IDR 30,000 per person per trip, while non-Solonese have to pay IDR 200,000 per person per trip. Chartering the whole train would cost IDR 15,000,000. By Indonesian standards those are indeed steep figures.