The International Steam Pages

PT KA Sumatera Barat (West Sumatra Railway) – June 20th - 21st, 2010

This report comes from Thomas Kautzor. From his experience, I would strongly recommend direct communication with the railway (ie do NOT rely on this or any other website) to establish exactly what service is running before making a visit! I was here in late 2012 and you should also read my report which updates some of the information below.

The West Sumatra Rail Network:

The main line of the West Sumatran rail network, started in 1891, went from Padang (km 7+093), the capital and major town of West Sumatra with nearly one million inhabitants, in a clockwise direction to the north via Lubuk Alung (km 39+699), Kayu Tanam (km 60+038), Padang Panjang (km 75+361), and Batu Tabal (km 93+873) to Solok (km 127+956) (which is only 50 km from Padang in a straight line), from where it turned east to Muara Kalaban (km 151+442) and then northwest through a tunnel to reach the coal mining town of Sawahlunto (km 155+520). The long detour was due the presence of a mountain range which needed to be crossed. Even with the additional length, rack sections (Riggenbach system) were needed on both sides of the range, from Kayu Tanam (max. 70°/°°) and Batu Tabal (max. 51°/°°), to reach Padang Panjang (alt. 773 m.).

A number of branch lines also existed:

  • from Padang a 2.374 km-long branch went to the old port at Pulau Air. The tracks from that long-closed branch can still be found

  • the new port south of Padang at Teluk Bayur (km 0) was reached via Kampung Juar (km 4+434) and the shunting yard at Bukit Putus (km 1+193). From Kampung Juar a branch extended to the cement works at Indarung (km 14+572 from Teluk Bayur)

  • from Lubuk Alung (km 39+699) on the main line, a branch line went northwest to the coast at Pariaman (km 60+592), continuing along it to Naras (km 67+543) and Sungai Limau (km 75+000)

  • from Padang Panjang (km 75+361) a branch line went north to the town of Bukit Tinggi (km 94+657), again needing rack section (ascending from Padang Panjang to Kota Baru, the point of the line with the highest elevation at 1150m, and descending from there to Bukit Tinggi). This branch then continued east to Payakumbuh (km 127+526), again with three short descending rack sections, and on to Limbanang (km 147+758)

  • from Muara Kalaban (km 151+442) a line continued to the northeast to Padang Sibusuk (km 157+605) and Muaro Sijunjung (km 177+428). This line was extended during WWII by the Japanese military all the way to Pekan Baru, a distance of 220 km from Muaro Sijunjung to the east coast of Sumatra. The work was carried by allied prisoners of war at a great cost of human lives (à la “Bridge on the River Kwai”). The line was only just completed by the end of the war and due to washouts it was never opened to traffic.

The major traffic was coal from Sawahlunto to Padang for shipment, as well as to the cement works. However, the mine, which still produced one million tonnes of coal in 1999, was mined out and closed in December 2003.


Steam locomotives:

For the flat sections of the railway, the Staats Spoorwegen Sumatra (SSS) introduced a fleet of twenty-four 2-6-0Ts built by Esslingen between 1891 and 1904 (incl. 5 in 1891 and 10 in 1892). This later became class C33, they were allocated to both Padang and Solok depots and in use until 1978. Of this class, three examples are preserved: CC3318 (2453/1891, ex SSS 18) at Taman Mini Indonesia, Jakarta (Java), CC 3322 (2553/1892, ex SSS 47) on a plinth in Pekanbaru (at the end of the Japanese-built railway), and C3325 (2556/1892, ex SSS 50), plinthed at the entrance to the station complex in Padang. A fourth is derelict but extant at Muaro Sijunjung, West Sumatra and may be officially preserved in due course.

A number of C30 class 2-6-2T locos, built by Borsig, Hohenzollern, Hanomag and Werkspoor in 1929/30 (47 built), were used on the West Sumatra network. During WWII a number of these were taken to Cambodia by the Japanese. The last in use could be found on the West (at Padang depot) and South Sumatra networks into the 1970s, (although C3065 worked into the 1980s at Kertapati opposite Palembang, leased to the colliery system, RD). Two locos from South Sumatra survive in preservation, C3065 (Werkspoor 595/1929, ex ZSS 1765) at Taman Mini and C3082 (Hanomag 10743/1930, ex ZSS) plinthed under cover at Lubuklinggau (South Sumatra).

To haul the heavy coal trains on the steeply-graded adhesion sections (max. 30°/°°) on the eastern part of the network, a number of F10 class 2-12-2Ts were introduced, all based at Solok depot. Twenty-eight locos of this class were built by Hanomag and Werkspoor between 1912 and 1920. Some were delivered new to West Sumatra, where they were in use until 1977, while others were transferred from Java. Two locomotives of this class survive in preservation: F1002 (Hanomag 6813/1913, ex SS 802) at Ambarawa Railway Museum (Java) and F1015 (Hanomag 7366/1913, ex SS 815), which was transferred from East Java to West Sumatra in the early 1970s before coming back to Java for preservation at Taman Mini.

At least two C19 class 0-6-0Ts from Semarang (Java) made their way to Padang (C1905/07), where they were probably used on shunting duties. Twelve locos of this class were built by Hartmann 1898-1902 for the Semarang Joana Stoomtram Mij. The last-built example of this class survives at Taman Mini, C1912 (2790/1902, ex SJSM 112).

For the rack sections the SSS at first introduced thirty-three 2-cylinder locomotives of types 0-4-0RT, 0-4-2RT and 2-4-0RT, all built by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen between 1892 and 1896. However, these proved too weak for the important coal traffic and in 1913 three 4-cylinder compound (Durrant claims in Power Parade that they were ‘simples’, RD) 0-8-2RTs were supplied by Esslingen (SSS 101/102) and SLM (SSS 103, SLM 2326/1913). They later became class D18, none of which survives to this day.

In 1920 the first E10 class 0-10-0RT locos were introduced. A total of twenty-two were built by SLM (2744-52/1920 and 3128-30/1926 respectively ex SSS 104-112 and119-121) and Esslingen 3986-91/1920, 4214-15/1928 and 4221-2/1928 respectively ex SSS113-118,122-123 and 124-15). Of this first order, E1016 (ex SSS 116) survives at Taman Mini in Jakarta. Then, in 1964 a repeat order was placed with Esslingen for an additional ten locomotives (E1051-E1060) built to an almost identical design, which were delivered by 1966, when a further seven (E1061-E1067) were ordered from Nippon Sharyo. An additional feature of these locomotives was the provision of Giesl ejectors. They were the last steam locomotives built at both factories. All E10s were based at Pandang Panjang depot and used until the mid-1980s, when the class BB204 diesel locomotives replaced them.

E1060 “Mak Itam” (Esslingen 5316/1966), the only survivor of the more modern batch, was transferred to Ambarawa railway museum in Central Java in 1998, where it was restored to working order on the wishes of a politician from West Sumatra. Over the next ten years it was used very occasionally on special charter trains between Ambarawa and Jambu, at the foot of the rack section, as it was deemed too heavy for the track on the rack section. Then in the mid-2000s a tourist project emerged at Sawahlunto following the closure of the Ombilin coal mine there. The railway was to be part of the project and consideration was made to take C3325 down from its plinth and restore it to working order. However, this would have proven too complicated and costly, but then someone remembered serviceable E1060 at Ambarawa. In 2008 she was brought back to West Sumatra and a weekly steam tourist train introduced between Sawahlunto and Muara Kalaban (4 km of non-rack track), in connection with the Sunday tourist train from Padang Panjang. A small two-track loco shed was built to house E1060 and her equipment at Sawahlunto and a local loco crew schooled to drive her. She is also available for charter trains.

Diesel locomotives:

On the adhesion sections of the West Sumatra network, diesel locomotives of two types, still in use today, were introduced to replace steam from the mid-1970s. Both were diesel-hydraulics built by Henschel and comprised classes BB303 (DHG1000BB with MB 23V493 prime mover, 940 hp, 57 built 1972-84) and the little less-stronger BB306 (DHG800BB with MTU 8V396 prime mover, 802 hp, 22 built in 1984). Both classes were also widespread in North Sumatra and Java, and after the closure of the coal mine, some units were transferred to Java. In West Sumatra, the BB303 were based at Padang and now-closed Solok depots, while the BB306 were based exclusively at Padang. Today, five BB303 (BB30325/48/50/52/54) are kept serviceable for the cement traffic between Indarung and Teluk Bayur. The weaker BB306 were used on passenger service, and at the time of our visit BB30613 (automatic couplers) was assigned to the daily Padang – Pariaman service, while BB30614 (hook coupler) was in charge of the weekly tourist train to Pariaman. Out-of-use at Padang workshops were BB30346, BB30353, BB30612 and two unidentified units (could be either class).

Some Krupp BB300 (B’B’-dh, M700BB, MB820B prime mover, 625 hp, 30 built 1958/59), used on branch line and shunting duties on Java, also made their way to West Sumatra, but none is left today.

In the late 1970s a decision was made to replace the E10 class steam locos on the rack sections by diesel locomotives. An order was placed with SLM Winterthur in 1979 for six rack-and-adhesion diesel-electrics locomotives (HGm 4/6 / Bo-z’2’Bo-z’-de with MTU 12V396 prime mover, 1230 hp) of class BB204, which were delivered in 1982 (SLM 5213-8). At that time a repeat order was placed for an additional four, delivered in 1983/84 (SLM 5278-80), with a final seven units delivered in 1993 (SLM 5627-33). The builder of the electrical equipment was BBC, from 1988 ABB. To limit axle-loading, the locos were fitted with an additional two-axle non-powered bogie under the chassis, which could have been removed once the track had been improved (it never happened). The first loco of the class made a test run on a rack section of the St. Gallen-Gais-Appenzeller Bahn (SGA) in Switzerland. Maximum speed was limited to 60 km/h on adhesion, and 20 km/h on the rack sections. Contrary to the BB303/BB306, this class was unique to West Sumatra and all maintenance work was done at Padang workshops, whereas the diesel-hydraulic locos could be taken to Yogyakarta workshops (Java) for important work. Nowadays, only three BB204 remain serviceable, with BB20413 (equipped with automatic couplings) used for cement trains at Padang and BB20415/16 at Padang Panjang for the weekly tourist train to Sawahlunto (these have subsequently been renumbered BB2049305/06). Another eleven locos are stored inside Padang wokshops, bereft of various components to keep the serviceable units running. According to the foreman, no spare parts could be obtained since the closure of SLM.

Present Day Operations:

Cement trains:

In my view this is the most interesting operation. Cement trains operate 24 hours per day (up to 15 daily pairs of trains) on the 14 km section between the cement factory at Indarung and the port of Teluk Bayur. The cement is loaded into tank cars at Indarung, which then form 16-20 wagon trains. These trains are then double-headed by two BB303 class diesels down to Bukit Putus (12.6 km), where the locos uncouple, while another loco (at the time of my visit it was BB20413, the only BB204 equipped with automatic couplings) couples to the rear of the train and pushes it to the cement silos at Teluk Bayur harbour (1.9 km), where the train is unloaded by vacuum. Meanwhile, the two BB303 at Bukit Putus couple to the front of the empty train that was hauled from the harbour, while a third BB303 couples to its rear for banking duties on the gradient up to Indarung. The double-headed and banked train thus returns to Indarung. Immediately after arrival there the banking loco uncouples and returns to Bukit Putus light engine to wait for her next duty. A fourth BB303 is kept at Indarung to shunt the wagons being loaded.

From the seven-track yard at Bukit Putus, three tracks lead to the harbour. The right one goes to the large coal silos, which are now unused. The middle track ends at the cement silos. The left track goes to the commercial harbour, but has been unused for a long time.

The first cement wagons of the type presently in use were built by Nippon Sharyo in Japan, but all those now in use are from PT INKA, Madiun.

The return trip from Bukit Putus to Indarung to pick up a loaded train takes a little over an hour.

Padang – Pariaman passenger trains:

Following the end of passenger service on the West Sumatra network, a weekend tourist train was introduced between Padang and Pariaman (60.6 km). Then, five years ago a regular passenger service was reintroduced along this densely populated section of track. In 2008 a new rake of coaches was obtained for the service from PT INKA, Madiun.

The two pairs of Ekonomi class trains run to the following schedule:

PLB 7002  PLB 7004 PLB 7001 PLB 7003
06:00    13:30 Padang 10:52 18:25
06:17/19 13:47/49 Tabing 10:33/35 18:06/08
06:36/38 14:06/08 Duku 10:14/16 17:47/49
06:50/52 14:20/22 Pasar Usang 10:00/02 17:33/35
07:07/10  14:37/40 Lubuk Alung 09:40/45 17:15/18
08:15 15:45 Pariaman 08:35 16:10

For these trains there is a flat fare of Rp. 2,500, (USD 1 is approx Rp. 9,000 RD) regardless of the distance traveled.

The tourist train, using 1958-built stock, still operates on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays to the following schedule. It crosses with the daily trains at Lubuk Alung:

 7000 7001
08:35 Padang 15:41
08:52/54 Tabing 15:22/24
09:11 Duku 15:05
09:20 Pasar Usang 14:53
09:32/43 Lubuk Alung 14:03/42
10:48 Pariaman 13:30

Fares for the tourist train are Rp. 15,000 in Ekonomi, Rp. 25,000 in Bisnis, Rp. 30,000 in Eksekutif and Rp. 40,000 in Minang Kabau.

At the time of our visit the five-coach daily train was hauled by BB30613 (equipped with automatic couplers), while the seven-coach tourist train was hauled by BB30614 (with hook couplers).

Padang Panjang – Sawahlunto tourist trains:

(The information which follows is now out of date with respect to the operation - please see my 2012 report. RD)

The line from Padang Panjang to Sawahlunto is presently isolated from Padang by a broken bridge near Kayu Tanam, the beginning of the first rack section. The scenic section of track through the famous Anai River gorge is therefore presently disused, but still sees limited maintenance by PTKA. Two BB204 class diesel locos (BB20415 & 16) are based at Padang Panjang’s imposing three-track depot, together with the trainset for the tourist train, composed of three 1958-built Ekonomi coaches (the middle one equipped with a bar) and 1929-built inspection coach IW2. Four-wheel covered breakdown van GR 219 (built 1916) is also kept inside the depot. A large number of bogie coal hoppers of two different types (KKBW.400/500 from 1967 and KKBW.500/600 from 1983) occupy the large yard, with most of the more modern ones lying on their sides and bereft of their bogies. Also disused are the small wagon repair shop and the turntable here.

The tourist train out of Padang Panjang runs on Sundays and national holidays to the following schedule:

B8 B7
08:30 Padang Panjang 17:24
08:59 Kubu Kerambil 16:56
09:28/30 Batu Tabal 16:20/26
09:48 Kacang 16:03
10:03 Singkarak 15:58
10:25/30 Solok 15:20/25
10:51 Sungai Lasi 15:00
11:09/11 Muara Kalaban 14:39/41
11:20 Sawahlunto 14:30

Stops were only effectively made at Batu Tabal and Solok, where the majority of passenger boarded/got off. Two four-wheel covered wagons were present in the abandoned depot at Solok. On the return journey the loco runs around the train at Batu Tabal in order to push it up the rack sections. One-way fares are Padang Panjang-Sawahlunto Rp. 50,000/25,000 (Eksekutif/Ekonomi), Padang Panjang-Solok Rp. 40,000/15,000 and Solok-Sawahlunto Rp. 20,000/10,000.

At Sawahlunto, the steam tourist train hauled by E1060 “Mak Itam” until recently used to run to Muara Kalaban according to the following schedule (when it was first introduced, there were two scheduled return trips), also only on Sundays and national holidays:

B11 B12
12:00 Sawahlunto  13:30
12:30 Muara Kalaban 13:00

In reality, the train hardly needs 30 minutes to cover this 4.1 km section of the line. However, during our visit we were told that the Sunday steam trains have now been suspended and instead run on Saturdays for the benefit of local school children. These trips are sponsored by the local government.  (This service no longer operated by 2012. RD) Charter trains can also be booked at a cost of Rp. 5,000,000. (This still remains the case in 2012, subject to the E10 being serviceable. RD)

The following coaches are available at Sawahlunto (all air-conditioned):

bogie inspection car i20301 (J.J. Beijnes, Haarlem 1920) in crème-and-green livery;
four-wheel wooden inspection coach;
bogie wooden “Kereta Resto” dining car.

Also present in the depot is four-wheel covered breakdown van GR 262 and bogie water tank wagon KKW/R-502 (built 1984).

This part of the network has a permanent staff of 37, all for two weekly pairs of trains and eventually a possible charter train. Padang Panjang station has a complement of five staff, with another seven at the depot to take care of the two diesels. Our train to Sawahlunto had at least two (possibly more) loco drivers who took turns driving the loco. At Sawahlunto there are also five staff at the station and another five at the depot to take care of E1060. Even though the train only stops at two intermediate stations, all seven stations along the line were occupied, even those that only had an overgrown passing track. All the major level crossings along the line were equally manned, with staff dressed in reflective vests for the occasion to stop road traffic.

Sawahlunto Railway Museum

Part of the tourist project for Sawahlunto, a small museum has been established inside the station building (built in 1918), with displays of photographs, models and small items related to the railway. The museum was inaugurated on December 17, 2005 and is open daily except Mondays from 08.00 to 17.00 (entry adults Rp. 3,000/children Rp. 2,000). Outside in the station the following wagons are on display:

four-wheel low-sided wagon with retractable roof WR 3 (built 1914)
four-wheel wooden covered wagon DR:6
four-wheel flat wagon K.124 with ore/coal containers Nos. 57 & 62
four-wheel tank wagon K.328
bogie coal hopper wagon KKBW.402 (built 1967)

Also present is a derelict motor trolley with two trailers. This was used to take tourists through the tunnel to Muara Kalaban prior to the arrival of E1060 at Sawahlunto.

Beyond the station a track goes across a bridge to the huge coal loading installations and silos, which were fed by a conveyor belt from the mine. The conveyor belt replaced an earlier incline for 600 mm gauge wagons and in the workshops above the loading installations narrow gauge tracks can still be seen embedded in the concrete floor. At the small mining museum in Sawahlunto photos of electric mining locos once used in the area are on display. These included two 600 mm gauge lines with rack sections, on which AEG-built electric locos operated.

Other tourist attractions in and around Sawahlunto include historic buildings of the mining era, the Ransom Warehouse Museum (local history), the Mbah Soero Tunnel (a former mining gallery opened to visitors), the “Waterboom” water park at Muara Kalaban and the Kandi Fauna Park & Resort. Lodging can be found at the Ombilin Hotel in Sawahlunto, which is the mine’s former homestead, similarly the Farai City Garden Hotel.  


The most advanced project at the moment is to replace the loco-hauled passenger trains to Pariaman by DMUs. Two KRD class DMUs have been ordered from PT INKA, with the first one expected next year.

There are also plans to rebuild/rehabilitate sections of line east of Bukit Tinggi and around Pekan Baru (this would be a brand new railway, RD) in order to introduce commuter services, using DMUs.

Steam Locomotives:

C3322 Esslingen 2553/1892, ex SSS 47 plinthed Pekanbaru (not seen) ex-Muaro Sijunjung, West Sumatra
C3325 Esslingen 2556/1892, ex SSS 50 plinthed Padang station
E1060 Esslingen 5316/1966 serviceable Sawahlunto

Diesel Locomotives:

BB20402 SLM 5214/1982 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20403 SLM 5215/1982 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20405 SLM 5217/1982 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20406 SLM 5218/1982 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20407 SLM 5278/1983 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20408 SLM 5279/1983 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20409 SLM 5280/1983 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20411 SLM 5267/1983 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20412 SLM 5217/1982 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20413 SLM 5629/1993 in use Bukit Putus – Teluk Bayur
BB20414 SLM 5630/1993 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB20415 SLM 5631/1993 serviceable Padang Panjang
BB20416 SLM 5632/1993 serviceable Padang Panjang
BB20417 SLM 5633/1993 Padang wks. (complete)
BB30325 Henschel 32219/1978 in use Bukit Putus - Indarung
BB30346 Henschel 32761/1984 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB30348 Henschel 32763/1984 in use Indarung ? (not seen)
BB30350 Henschel 32765/1984 serviceable Padang dipo
BB30352 Henschel 32767/1984 in use Bukit Putus - Indarung
BB30353 Henschel 32768/1984 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB30354 Henschel 32769/1984 in use Bukit Putus - Indarung
BB303/6XX Henschel o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB303/6XX Henschel o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB30612 Henschel 32796/1984 o.o.u. Padang wks.
BB30613 Henschel 32797/1984 in use Padang – Pariaman (not seen)
BB30614 Henschel 32798/1984 serviceable Padang dipo

Passenger Coaches:

IW2 (1929)  tourist train Padang Panjang
i20301 (J.J. Beijnes 1920) tourist train Sawahlunto
4-wheel inspection coach) tourist train Sawahlunto
“Kereta Resto”  tourist train Sawahlunto
K3.58001 Padang wks.
KP2.58001 tourist train Padang
K3.58003 tourist train Padang
KMP3-58004 tourist train Padang Panjang
K1.58005 (Eksekutif)  tourist train Padang
K3.58006 tourist train Padang
K3.58007 tourist train Padang
K2.58008 (Eksekutif) tourist train Padang
K3.58009 tourist train Padang Panjang
K3.58010 tourist train Padang Panjang
K3.58011 tourist train Padang
breakdown van rebuilt from class 58 coach Padang

KMP3-08507 (PT INKA 2008) 

Ekonomi train Padang
K3-08519 “ Ekonomi train Padang
K3-08520 “ Ekonomi train Padang
K3-08521 “ Ekonomi train Padang
K3-08522 “ Ekonomi train Padang

KMP3-09505 (PT INKA 2009)

stored Padang wks.
K3-09544 “ stored Padang wks.
K3-09545 “ stored Padang wks.
K3-09546 “ stored Padang wks.
K3-09547 “ stored Padang wks.

(hook couplers: steam locos, BB204s, BB30614, old & 58 passenger stock, coal wagons);
(automatic couplers: BB20413, BB303s, BB30613 & 12, 08 & 09 passenger stock, cement wagons).

Rob Dickinson