The International Steam Pages

Preserved Steam in North Sumatra

Geoff Warren was here in July 2008 with Dave Theobald his report is at the top of the page. Joachim Lutz was here a few weeks later and fills in a few details (click here for his report). See also my brief 2017 report which covers just Medan.

Click here for the full list of known preserved mainline steam in Sumatra.

DSM 38 (not 35 as reported previously) is outside Medan station:

Another loco is preserved at Pulau Brayan works, it carries the number 22, but this is clearly incorrect as it is a former 0-6-0T and not the 0-6-4T the number implies.

There appears to be no rail worked oil palm estates (at least south of Medan, no information is available for Sawit Sebrang to the north). Geoff's text follows - note there also used to a preserved OK 0-6-T at Pulau Rajah south of Kisaran and there may be a preserved OK 2-6-0T at Gunung Melayu in the same area.

We stayed at the Siantar Hotel, Pematang Siantar and the hotel reception obtained us a car with driver for the two days. The latter’s English was about the same level as my Indonesian (ie about 50 key words), but we achieved all objectives.

14 July

To Bah Jambi and the offices of PTPN IV (previously PNP VII). One month previously, I had written a letter announcing our visit to the Bah Jambi address given on an “Agrowisata” website found after some googling, but there was no evidence that the letter had arrived (I showed the office staff my copy). After progression round various management staff, we met an engineer who spoke fluent English. He assured us that all railway operations had ceased in PTPN IV. He said that a diesel hauled tourist train had been tried over lines between Dolok Simumbah and Mayang in the mid-90’s. Monument steam locos were in place at Bah Jambi, Dolok Sinumbah, Gunung Bayu, Tinjowan and Dolok Illir, confirmed by making mobile phone calls to the relevant places. We pressed on around all these places, which took the rest of the day up to about 18:00 with a short lunch-stop.

Bah Jambi. 104 shelters inside a house opposite the offices; a fish-eye lens would be needed for a photo of the complete machine. (Since this picture was taken, the locomotive has been moved to Museum Kerbunan Indonesia in Medan, see my 2017 report.)

Dolok Sinumbah. 84 is on an open plinth by the approach road, no permission needed to view it and it is maintained painted but inevitably all fittings were missing.

Gunung Bayu.  2 Henschel (20040/1923) is preserved here. It’s necessary to pass one security check post to find this loco on an open plinth. (Since this picture was taken, the locomotive has been moved to PTPN IV HQ in Medan, see my 2017 report.)

Tinjowan. Un-numbered 0-4-0T: nr.5, Borsig 11460/1921 according to Rob’s list. On an open plinth, inside the mill compound, and permission to view at close quarters was readily granted. Tinjowan is about 12-15 km down a rough branch road off the Limapuloh-Kisaran main road and took some time to reach.

Dolok Illir. 55 is sheltered by a roof with no sides, so photography is easy. It’s just inside the main compound and permission to visit it was granted immediately by gate staff.

15 July.

Visit to PT Bakerie Sumatra, Bunut factory, just north of Kisaran. We followed up some emails between John Raby and Ray Gardiner in 2007 and a look at the company’s website, which shows a photo of their 600mm gauge railway. I had emailed the company, but there was no response. We found the company headquarters in Kisaran, and eventually got to the secretary of the Operations Director (Mrs Erwina, English speaker). She called the factory and informed them of our mission. On to the Bunut rubber factory, for a very friendly reception and tour of the railway yard and workshop by the manager, Mr Masgar. 

Plinthed: 17 (0-6-0T OK 7067/1919 confirmed on the boiler plate) on an open plinth inside the factory compound.

This railway is still active, with a 32km line. There is a daily train departing about 13:00 which takes about four hours for the return trip to the plantations to collect latex. We were just in time to see it go, running in two portions. There are seven diesel locos existing, many dumped ones having been scrapped in the last year. The survivors include nr.9, an active but heavily rebuilt Ruston (nominally 1954), and an out-of-use but relatively unaltered Ruston, nr.10. This is Dave Theobald's picture:

Joachim Lutz was in the area a little later and reports:

As Geoff has reported above concerning PTPN 4, (link broken by July 2020) which owns all former PTP VI to PTP VIII Oil Palm Plantations, there is nothing left besides their monuments, I have been to the central office in Medan, and was told the same. All places are served by trucks. Pulu Raja is also part of PTPN 4 and the situation is identical. This is their preserved OK 0-6-0T:

I have been to Air Batu (also PTPN 4) and heard the same and as in other places I saw the wagons (but only from outboard) pulled by tractors or fork lifts or capstan over a very short distance from where they were loaded by truck to the place, where the the fruits were steamed threshed, mashed and pressed. There is perhaps one diesel traction exception for PTPN 4. The Manager of PTPN 4 in Medan told me (and staff at Air Batu and Bah Jambi concerning their diesel), some diesel were send to Ajamu I - II and the railways is still in use there, because the circumstances are not (yet?) suitable for trucks. See (link dead by 12th April 2018). Ajamu is south of Rantau Parapat if I'm right and was too far for me to visit this time.

Several stuff told me independently, that PT Socfindo near Aek Loba also in the south of Rantau Parapat is also still using railways.

At Gunung Malayu which is owned by PT PP Lonsum (London Sumatra) I saw also nothing besides the monument, one of their two OK 2-6-0T.

Sawit Sebrang belongs (still?) to PTP II and still uses two Japanese diesels to collect the fruits on the fields. I was allowed to come inside the factory without permission from the head office, which is possibly still at Tanjung Morawa (south of Medan), and I was carried by a policeman to the locomotive on the plantation. This is former 6, an OK 0-4-0T.

PT Bakrie between Kisaran and Bunut belongs to the richest family in Indonesia, Mr. Aburizal Bakrie, who has been a government minister for several years. The management changed recently, reception was very, very friendly at the head office in Kisaran. They use two trains daily to collect the natural rubber. The trains are schedule to arrive at 4 pm the factory, the 1067mm connection is also still in use! A greater part of their plantation has been converted to palm oil and operated by trucks like almost everywhere.

Rob Dickinson