Ambarawa - Bedono Rack Railway

In 1862, Governor General of Dutch East Indies, Baron Sloet Van Den granted the railway company, Nederlandsch-Indische Spoorwegmaatschappij (NIS), to build the railway route Semarang - Kedung Jati - Solo - Yogyakarta, which included the branch line route Kedungjati - Ambarawa - Secang – Magelang, used for military purposes. The railway route Semarang - Kedung Jati - Solo - Yogyakarta was completed with serious effort and began to operate on June 10, 1872, including the branch route Kedungjati - Ambarawa which was completed in 1873. The railroad was 1435 millimeters gauge.

The route Ambarawa - Secang – Magelang was merely 1067 millimeters gauge since the railway construction passed by hilly areas and it was to minimize the cost of development. This 1067 millimeter gauge rail was then defined by Dutch East Indies government as the more suitable gauge for the hilly topography of Indonesia. The NIS continued developing the railway line from Secang to Ambarawa (including rack railway routes Jambu-Bedono-Gemawang with the length of almost 6.5 kilometers) which officially started its operations on February 1, 1905.

The railway route from Jambu to Gemawang must go through a steep hill (with 65 degree of inclination ) and climb, so to save costs, a rack railway was built. in 1902; the NIS bought a special steam locomotive that had a series of gears, which is B25. The function of the rack railway is to hold the steam locomotive B25 so that it had no difficulty climbing the track. The rack rail was placed in the middle of the track, while the gear, which was in the locomotive B25, hooked the rack rail underneath. If there were no gears, the train would not be able to climb. Without the gears, a steam locomotive could only climb by 5% of the steepness, which means every increase of 5 meters is equal to horizontal distance of 100 meters, and even would be climbed with difficulty. The use of gears allows 65% of steepness likely to climb even though the train goes up at a low speed of 10 km / hour. As the train declines, the gears will hold the train speed.

The rack railway in Indonesia which are still active today can be found in Ambarawa (Central Java) and Sawahlunto (West Sumatera), classified as tourist railways.{jcomments on}

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Photo's Courtesy KITLV, The Netherlands