Solo Balapan station

The Solo Balapan station was constructed by Nederlanssch Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij (NISM) in 1873 coincide with the construction of Kedungjati-Solo-Yogyakarta mainline (via Gundih and Klaten) in Banjarsari village, Surakarta, under the rule of Mangkunegara IV Sultanate. The station building was designed by Herman Thomas Karsten. The Solo Vorstenlanden region (the region which is owned by local kings) divided into two regions after the completion of Giyanti Treaty in 1755 in which Mataram Kingdom was split into Kasunanan Surakarta and Mangkunegara IV Sultanate.

The Solo Balapan station is marked as historical site by the city council of Solo due to its architectural, historical and cultural value which illustrates the life in Solo during its construction. In the future Centre of Historical Assets Preservation PT. Kereta Api (Persero) working program, we planned to revitalize the building in order to be utilized for academic and economical purpose. The academic benefit is that it would be used for science research for historical, archeological, architectural, geography, geology, and other purposes. While the economic benefit is that it could be used as tourism object due to its beautiful and unique structure, aside of the usage for artistic commerce and trading space.

Solo Balapan station currently serve railway transportation for executive and business class trains to destinations such as Jakarta, Semarang, and Surabaya, as well as freight services. This station has 12 tracks, consist of 7 tracks at northern side for freight service and 5 tracks at southern side to cater passenger services. In addition, the Solo Balapan station consist of two buildings where:
1. The South building is used for ticket selling and waiting hall for passengers.
2. The Central building is used for railway operational offices.
3. The Northern building is used for freight services.

The station is often called Balapan as the village where the station stood is often called Kampung Balapan (Balapan = Racing). The area during Mangunegara IV Sultanate rule is often used for horse racing, complete with tribune for Mangkunegaran royalty and nobilities to watch the race.

The unique side of this station, from railway operational view, is that the track to the east of station headed to two separate directions: the one that head north is heading for Semarang, whereas the one that goes to east is the one to Surabaya. At the eastern end of station yard, there is a large triangular shape line, which enables the whole train set to turn it around. Antoher use of this intersection is that the train that come from Solo Jebres station which headed for Semarang (and vice versa) doesn’t have to enter Solo Balapan station. This intersection is also useful for petrol trains that wants to access the nearby  Pertamina fuel depot.

The additional unique side of the station building is the involvement of local architecture, where the main hall resemble traditional Javanese joglo house. A stark contrast to other main stations in Java which fully adopting European architecture. This aspect was contributed by the fact that Herman Thomas Karsten himself was involved in Instituut de Java, an organization that concerned with Javanese culture and criticized many previous Dutch architects that had placed too much European design in Java. For him Java is Java, not Holland (Europe) and the principal of city is an organic matter that keeps growing. In a city development plan, the public parks was regarded as an important aspect of city design. As a result then a new architecture movement, called “Indisch” architecture style, began to appear during pre-independence era.

Photo's Courtesy KITLV, The Netherlands