The International Steam Pages

About the Ambarawa Railway Museum

Where is Ambarawa?

Ambarawa is in Central Java, Indonesia, about 30km south of the provincial capital Semarang and some 75km north of the educational centre and tourist city of Yogyakarta. It is also about 70km north-west of Solo (Surakarta).  It is on the main road between Semarang and Yogyakarta and a few km south of the main road between Semarang and Solo.

How do I get there?

Travel agents in Semarang, Solo or Yogyakarta will be able to organise private transport (car or minibus) to get you there (travel times will be about 1 hour, 2 hours or 2 hours respectively). Long distance buses between Yogyakarta and Semarang go through the town - if you get off opposite the military museum south of the town centre, it is 5/10 minutes walk down the hill to the museum. Coming by bus from Solo, you need to get down at the small bus station at Bawen at the major road junction north of Ambarawa and transfer to a Yogyakarta bus or one of the small local buses.

Where can I stay locally?

There are small local hotels in Ambarawa, but visitors are recommended to travel up to the nearby hill resort of Bandungan (there are regular minibuses taking just 10 minutes for those without their own transport) where there is accommodation to suit every pocket and good restaurants. However, try to avoid Bandungan at weekends (and school holidays, particularly in June/early July) when it gets very crowded with Indonesian tourists. During the week and out of season it is almost deserted except for local people attending the large fruit, vegetable and flower markets.

How can I charter/ride the steam train?

Click here for contact points. Please allow at least a month to arrange a charter and note that during the peak season between late May and the end of August the trains are quite heavily booked. If you arrive and there is a train operating then it will be private to the party organising it, but you MAY be able to get permission from the organiser (NOT the museum staff) to ride it and there may be a fee to pay. Allow about 3 hours for the return trip, if you want to stop the train to take photographs of it then you will need longer, but please note that on the rack section this can only be done in the downhill direction owing to lack of water capacity of the locomotives.

What other tourist attractions are there in the area?

Bandungan is an attractive hill station, the climate is cool and refreshing and there are pleasant walks in the hills. It makes a lovely break from the hot polluted plains of Java. The flower market here is extremely interesting. Some of the nearby plantations offer visits under their AgroTourist program (for a visit to a coffee plantation at Losari south of Bedono, contact Mrs Gabriella Teggia via (link found broken on 27th October 2017). Near Bandungan there are the Hindu-Buddhist temples at Gedong Songo and not far away are the world heritage sites at Borobudur and Prambanan. The Dieng plateau with its geysers and temples at 2000m is not far away. For those with more energy, walking up the active volcano Gunung Merapi (check locally if it is safe to climb) and the extinct volcano Gunung Merbabu both at around 3000m are well worth the effort. (I climbed them both on successive days in 1997!).  These and the major cities of Semarang, Solo and Yogyakarta are described in all the standard guide books. There is some information on the Central Java tourism web site: (link broken by 1st November 2018). 

When is the best time to visit Ambarawa?

The conventional time to visit Ambarawa is during the drier season which runs between May and September. As stated above it is best to avoid weekends and the school holidays. The best time is usually mid-week from mid-July through to the end of September. Even during the rainy season, it does not rain continuously!

The following is (broadly) a translation of what appears on a leaflet issue by the Museum:

"Ambarawa in the old Dutch Colonial Government era was a military city, so that King Willem I wanted to build a railway station to enable the government to transport its troops to Semarang. In May 21, 1873 the Ambarawa railway station was built on a 127,500 sqm land.

The glory days of Ambarawa Station which was well known as Willem I station ended with the termination of the Ambarawa-Kedungjati(-Semarang) railway service. In 1976 the railway services for Ambarawa-Secang-Magelang was also terminated.. (This latter is wrong, the southern service finished before 1975. RD)

With the closure of Ambarawa Railway Station, the Governor of Central Java, Mr. Soepardjo Roestam, and the Head of Railway Company in Central Java region, Mr Soeharso, decided to establish Ambarawa Station as a Railway Museum, collecting 21 locomotives which served in the fight for Indonesia's independence, particularly in transporting the national army.

The collection in the Ambarawa Museum comprises:
Mountain Rail for Tourism
Old telephone
Old Morse telegraph equipments
Old tables, chairs and cupboards
Old bells and signal equipments
21 locomotives.

Visitors can charter the 9 kilometers Ambarawa-Bedono rack-track tourism train with mostly 6% gradient. The return trip for the train with the capacity of 90 passengers costs Rp 1,300,000 (2001 price).

Motor Lorry for the 5 kilometers Ambarawa-Jambu track is also available for a relatively cheaper fare.

More information can be obtained from:
Kantor Daerah Operasi IV PT Kereta Api Indonesia (Indonesian Railway Company, Region IV Office)
Jalan Thamrin no. 3, Semarang. Phone 024 - 354 5382
Museum Kereta Api Ambarawa (Ambarawa Railway Museum)
Jalan Setasiun no. 1, Ambarawa. Phone 0298 - 591035

(If you do not speak Indonesian, write in English to the Semarang address. RD)

Visitors can see the historic locomotives and coaches, the glorious transportation mode in the old days. The objectives of the establishment of the Railway Museum is to preserve and to utilize the historic asset and the environment to help to strengthen the development of arts, science, and technology to understand the culture. Knowing the history, we will understand the role of railway as a land transportation mode and its service to the people and the country from time to time.

With the establishment of the Railway Museum, it is expected that the younger generation can inherit and understand the role of railway as one of the reliable transport mode.

Click here for the main unofficial Ambarawa Railway Museum Home Page

Click for pictures and further information about the museum:

Rob Dickinson