4 March 2012

General Electric, KAI to Build Locomotive Center

Tri Listiyarini | Jakarta Globe, March 02, 2012

GE Transportation, a unit of General Electric, and Kereta Api Indonesia, the state railway operator, signed an agreement on Friday to build a regional locomotive service center here.

The center will serve customers in Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, they said in a statement released in Jakarta.

“GE will work with KAI to improve maintenance practices and specifically address improvements at the Yogyakarta service facility in order to provide maximum availability of GE diesel-electric locomotives in the KAI fleet,” the statement said.

Lorenzo Simonelli, the president and CEO of GE Transportation, said that the US company has had a long partnership with Indonesia.

“The memorandum of understanding will provide reliable locomotive services to the country for decades,” he said in a statement. “We are looking forward to serving our customer KAI and contributing to Indonesia’s sustainable infrastructure growth for many years to come.”

There are about 250 GE locomotives in operation in Indonesia, including some that have been successfully operating for more than 34 years.

The number of train passengers in the country increases every year and the need for safe, reliably maintained locomotives has become increasingly important.

Kereta Api has introduced a number of programs to improve its service, including upgrading its equipment. But observers say more needs to be done if railways are to play a greater role in moving goods and people around the country.

Poor infrastructure, including railways, seaports and airports, has hampered economic growth here.

Investor Daily

14 February 2012

B 5112 Restored

B 5112 at the Ambarawa depot

Prior to 1900 the main passenger trains of the Staatsspoorwegen (SS), the Netherlands Indies State Railway Company, on its flat plain routes were hauled by 2-4-0 locomotives. However, by the turn of the century it was felt that more powerful and faster locomotives were needed. In 1900 Hanomag delivered the first engines of the 600 class to the SS. The design of this 4-4-0 engine was based on the Prussian State Railways class P4 locomotive. Eventually, 44 engines of these series, built by Hanomag, Hartmann and Werkspoor, were operated by the Staatsspoorwegen

Prussian State Railways P4 Locomotive

During the Depression ( 1929-1934) many engines of this class were mothballed. In the late 1930s they returned to active duty, but only on branch lines. Following the Japanese occupation class 600 were renumbered B51. Class B51 continued to be operated by the Indonesian Railway Company till the early 1980s.

The last surviving engine of this series is B5112 which has been put on static display at the Ambarawa Railway Museum since 1976. Soon, however, B5112 will running again thanks to restoration works that are being done at the Ambarawa locomotive depot. Currently the boiler is back in working order and the depot staff are starting work on the cylinders. When ready, the engine will haul tourist train between Ambarawa and Tuntang.

B 5135 (Photo: Tony Ford)

30 January 2012

Sidetrack: Not about trains but about (vintage) airliners

Today, in this age of mass air travel, flying is an everyday experience. As the tag line of Asia’s leading budget airline Air Asia proclaims: “Now everyone can fly”. Back in the pre-jet days of  the 1950s, however, when flying was not yet as common as today, it still had a sense of adventure and glamour in it.

It was in those days, in October 1956, that I, for the first time ever, flew on an airplane. My mother, younger brother and I were travelling from Indonesia to the USA to join my father who had left earlier to study there. Our airplane, a KLM Royal Duch Airlines Lockheed Constellation, took off early in the morning from Kemayoran Airport, Jakarta.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Lockheed Constellation, Kemayoran Airport, Jakarta, Indonesia

Our first stopover was at Paya Lebar Airport, Singapore. The next stop was Don Mueang Airport, Bangkok. Those, of course, were the days before Sukarno-Hatta, Changi and Suvarnabhumi airports. From Bangkok we flew to Karachi. At about midnight we arrived at Karachi. We were taken to Hotel Midway House, a hotel owned by KLM located near the airport, where we could freshen up and rest for a few hours. The name Midway comes from the fact that Karachi is approximately halfway between Amsterdam and Jakarta. Very early in the morning we were brought back to the airport, to continue our journey to Amsterdam via Beirut, Rome, and Geneva.

Hotel Midway House, Karachi, Pakistan

We arrived in Amsterdam early in the evening. There we stayed overnight before continuing our journey the next evening on a Pan American World Airways (PAA) Douglas DC7C “Seven Seas.” Before crossing the Atlantic our plane made a brief stop in London. After flying non-stop for about thirteen hours we arrived the next morning at Idlewild Airport in New York.

Pan American World Airways Douglas DC7C ‘Seven Seas”

From Idlewild we were transferred to La Guardia Airport, to catch the afternoon flight to Nashville. The plane we rode on the last leg of our journey was an American Airlines Douglas DC6. After about three hours aboard this plane we finally arrived at our final destination, Nashville, Tennessee.

American Airlines Douglas DC6

Together with my mother and brother I had flown over three continents (Asia, Europe, and North America) and across one ocean (the Atlantic), on three different types of aircrafts (Lockheed Constellation, Douglas DC7 and DC6). It was quite an experience, especially for a first-time air traveller.

18 January 2012

Indonesia concrete balls combat 'train surfing'

BBC 17 January 2012

Railway staff in Indonesia have started hanging concrete balls above train tracks to try to prevent commuters from riding on carriage roofs.

The first balls were installed just above carriage-height near a station outside the capital, Jakarta.

More will be put up elsewhere if they are found to keep people off the roofs.

Previous attempts to deter roof riders included spraying roofs with paint, spreading oil on carriages and hiring musicians to perform safety songs.

Correspondents say those initiatives have failed. Officials hope that the latest move will prove to be the ultimate deterrent.

Roof riders also face the possibility of imprisonment.


The balls - which can deliver a severe blow to the head - will be suspended a few inches above the tops of carriages at points where trains enter or pull out of stations, or where they go through crossings.

Critics say that 'roof surfing' takes places because there are not enough trains
Officials told the BBC that "roof surfing" can be extremely dangerous. In 2008 at least 53 passengers died in an accident while travelling on a train roof. In 2011, 11people were killed.

Most victims are electrocuted by overhead power cables, but some fall off train carriages while trains are moving.

The BBC's Dewi Safitri in Jakarta says that passengers on train roofs can be seen every morning and evening. At peak times about 400,000 commuters cram in or onto carriages to travel into and out of the centre of Jakarta.

While tickets are cheap by Western standards, poorer people struggle to pay which is why they go on the roofs, correspondents say.

The main problem, commuters say, is just how crowded the trains are. Reports say some ticket holders also end up on train roofs because there is no room inside.

Officials say they have tried everything to stop the problem - and even put rolls of barbed wire on train roofs - but nothing has worked.

Officials say that if the latest initiative is successful, the project will be expanded.

But the "roof surfers" themselves told the Associated Press news agency that they are determined not to be put off.

"I was really scared when I first heard about these balls,'' said Mulyanto, 27, who rides daily between his hometown of Bogor and Jakarta almost every day for work.

"It sounds like it could be really dangerous. But I don't think it will last long. They have tried everything to keep us from riding... but in the end we always win.''

Indonesian trains run on often poorly maintained tracks left behind by Dutch colonisers 60 years ago.

Critics say that the problem of "roof surfing" will never be completely ironed out until there are fewer delays and enough trains to meet demand.

1 January 2012

Early morning bike ride

Since about a year ago I started cycling instead of swimming to keep fit. I have found that cycling has certain advantages compared to swimming. I can do it everyday (weather allowing, of course) instead of only two or three times a week. I do not have to pay entrance and I can start right from my door. But most importantly, I can pass along a railway track. This not just any track; it is part of the first railway line in Indonesia, the 25 kilometres Semarang-Tanggung line opened in 1867. But before I get to the tracks I first pass through quite and shady kampung streets.

My regular encounters during these morning trips is with the humble economy class Bojonegoro feeder. Once in while I meet some slow freight trains waiting at the passing loop at Alastua Station.

One day, however, I was surprised to see the crack Argo Bromo Anggrek ‘Go Green’ which was about three hours behind schedule.

During weekends and holidays Alastua station has become a popular place for train watching and an impromptu fair has sprung up where one can buy food, toys and even clothes.