The International Steam Pages


Indonesia 1977, Part 7 The Ambarawa Rack Railway

Derek Huntriss had what he describes as 'his best ever trip' to Indonesia in 1977. You may like to compare what he saw with what I saw a year earlier in Java although he had less time available and also went to West and Norrth Sumatra. He and companion John Hunt very loosely attached to the Dorridge Travel Group which t hey used for cheap flights, the special train at Ambarawa and also to chase the train between Kediri and Pare. As you will see, he took every opportunity to do a bit of 'riding on the loco'.. I believe these pages will be of special interest to Indonesian enthusiasts who will be very grateful to Derek for making these pictures available. If you are one of them, please respect his copyright and thereby ensure that further such pages will appear from time to time. The "I" in the captions refers to webmaster RD who has actually written most of the captions after reference to Derek - a real role reversal as Derek has often done the same job for a number of books he has helped produce.

See also the other parts:


Back in 1977, PNKA were just taking steps to establish what would become the Ambarawa railway Museum  However, despite closure of the route between Kedungjati and Yogykarta through Ambarawa, it was already possible to charter trains to Tuntang in the north and Bedono (up the rack) to the south. While Derek and John very much did their own thing elsewhere for the most part, the made a special point of joining the group here on 4th August 1977.

The B25 rack tanks would face south (uphill) for the rack workings and that meant B2503 had to be turned before working to Tuntang:

Rawa Pening is a shallow natural lake and the railway runs along a causeway between the main part and that from which a stream flows out down to the sea. Behind is Mount Merbabu more than 3000m high. From this angle the second slightly smaller active volcano, Mount Merapi is hidden by its dormant sister.

At that date it was possible to run a short distance beyond Tuntang station, the departure shot shows it in the background. The coaches of course are bearing a non-authentic peach livery which mercifully has now been abandoned, but the small boards reading "Railway Mountain Tour" remain unless removed by the tour leader.

Afterwards B2504, worked another train up the rack. How many Javanese does it take to change the points at the end of the loop? B2504 sets off to run round its train at Jambu so it can propel it up the rack.

The climb starts just past a bridge south of the station. Since these pictures was taken, the vegetation has grown up all along the line to the extent that it is very hard to see down to the plains:

The track over this small bridge has long been sealed and it is open to motor traffic:

This position offers two shots for the price of one - very handy when the loco's water supply is barely sufficient to make it to the top.

By the time this picture was taken, the train was about half way up:

Journey's end was (and still is) Bedono where the loco gets a very necessary drink before returning home:

What goes around comes around... The steam operation at Ambarawa in 2012 is not that much different from that in 1977. Again there are two serviceable B25s (B2502 and B2503, the numbers mean nothing both have been heavily cannibalised), E1060 and C1218 have been and gone (elsewhere) as working locomotives and the line to Tuntang has been reopened after many years of disuse. The turntable at Ambarawa, however, is no longer serviceable.


Click here for Part 8 - In the Shadow of Mount Slamet


Rob Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk