The International Steam Pages

Gold Mine Railways in Sumatra

Gerard de Graaf writes of a fascinating visit made in April 2009 (added 20th June 2009), if anyone reading this can help with missing details, please get in touch and I will pass you on to him. An additional report from Alan Goode (24th October 2012) is available on this site. Gerard has been back in October 2015.

Thomas Kautzor (4th July 2009) has sent me the following links which he has found relating to this operation:

[] (old & new pics - apparently the mine had overhead electric locos once);
[] (hand-pushed wagon);
[] (old photos of the mine);
[] (old photos of the mine);
[] (photo of a trolley off the track following an earthquake in 9/2007).

‘Mijn Maatschappij Simau’, Benkulu, Sumatra, Indonesia

I am working on a book which will describe the railway transport (in the pit and on the surface) from the coalmines in the Netherlands and our former colony Indonesia. During the investigations I was many times confronted with the goldmines in Indonesia (Sumatra and Sulawesi). Since I had four weeks to go, I decided also to go to Benkulu area to see what was left of the governmental goldmine Tambang Sawah, the goldmine Redjang Lebong (both near Moearaäman) and the Simau mine. The last one was based in Lebong Tandai, which is more west in Benkulu. There also was another gold mine company, the Mijn Maatschappij Ketahoen, in this area, but this one I did not visit. All companies were digging in the Barisan mountains. From the Mijn Maatschappij Redjang Lebong some remains could be found. They had two Arthur Koppel electric locos and another one, looking the same, but not AK, built in 1919. The recent German Nellesmap shows a red star ‘historic goldmine’ on Tambang Sawah. I was sleeping uneasily, hoping to find buildings and plinthed locomotives. NOTHING was there!

The Mijn Maatschappij Simau was founded 1901 in Amsterdam. From annual reports I knew a railway was opened on 1st August 1910 between Napalpoetih (now Napalputih) and Ajer Simau, which was later renamed Lebong Tandai. The railway was operated ‘with locomotives’ (so more than one…) later they bought some Jung steam locos , Deutz diesel locos and sometime in the 1920s at least 3 motorised railcars from Simplex-Amsterdam, seen here in a Simplex catalogue ca 1927.

The Dutch were kicked out in 1949. From 1984 to 1995 PT Lusang Mining, an Australian-Indonesian company was active, but it got in financial trouble. After the Australians left the local people in Lebong Tandai continued digging gold. The whole village is full of washing installations. 

To go from Muaraäman to Lebong Tandai was impossible, the only way was 'kaki- kaki' (on foot). But there was a bus once a day from Muaraäman to Napalputih. I heard someone talk about 'kereta api'. My heart was beating more quickly, could the railway still exist....? Yes it does!!!! Outside Napalputih is a sandy road, behind that is the 'stasiun'. A few motorcars, build in Indonesia on the concept of the Simplex-cars was waiting in the sun. Some people were in a warung, waiting. Then I could hear the sound of a motor, soon followed by a second one. Fifteen minutes later 9 (!!) of these wooden cars were present in Napalputih. Each can, according to European standards transport approximately 8 people, in general about 12-14 came out! The cars were brought to the only turning table (1 m) and were turned. I was asked if a wanted to go to Lebong Tandai, and after saying yes the red car was mine. They have Chinese motors, the driver is sitting in the middle. The cars can reach approximately 40 km/h, but on many places the 600mm railway is in a poor state! The drivers are very much aware of this, luckily. The line contains about 35 small bridges (2-5 metre) and 5 big bridges (5-10 metre). There are also about 6 tunnels. It took 3 ½ hours to go to Lebong Tandai, which was reached in the monsoon rain at 7.30 pm. I was afraid there would not be a losmen or hotel, so I asked the kepala desa for a 'kamar tidur'. I could spend the night on a bed in his office, the day after he did not want to be paid. Many remains of the Mijn Maatschappij Simau are still there! From the original rolling stock nothing is left, I found an Australian mining engineer who was in Lebong Tandai in 1973, by then there still was a derelict steam locomotive. Now a home made diesel loco is there (or what is left of it..., they had a few of them) and the remains of one of the two battery locos, it seems to me to be a Gemco. From the 1920s bought compressed-air locos nothing is left, same with the Deutz diesel locos. In the Dutch period the mining railway in and out of the (horizontal-)pit was 500mm, the rest was 600mm, now everything is 600mm.

Below is what I know about the rolling stock:

Number Maker Works Number Year Wheels Type Remarks
? ? 1910 Bn2t? ?
? Jung 3244 1921 Cn2t 30hp Through A.J. Fuller, London
? Jung 5100 1932 Cn2t 30hp idem
? Simplex, Amsterdam ? 192x Bbm Motorrailcar type DH
? Simplex, Amsterdam ? 192x Bbm
? Simplex, Amsterdam ? 192x Bbm


Porter 6406 1919 Bpr C a
Porter 6407 1919 Bpr C a
? ? 1931 Bdm ? Diesel according to annual report
? ? 1932 Bdm ? idem
Deutz 15674 1936 Bdm MLH 322G
Deutz 23242 1938 Bdm MLH 322G
Vulcan 4315 1940 Bdm 37hp Through Kattenhorn & Co
Vulcan 4316 1940 Bdm 37hp idem

After the arrival of the first diesel loco, one of the compressed air locos was reserve. All the photographs which follow are copyright Gerard de Graf:

An Indonesian copy of the Simplex motorlorrie in Napalputih, April 2009.

Lebong Tandai, south side

9 lorries after arriving from Lebong Tandai in Napalputih, April 2009

One of the diesel locos build by PT Lusang

Remains of a Gemco (?) battery loco, Lebong Tandai April 2009

Between Lebong Tandai and Napalputih, April 2009.

Rob Dickinson