Journeying to the past in a vintage train

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The Ambarawa Railway Museum
The Ambarawa Railway Museum

IO – A number of trains line up neatly on their individual rails. Within their stillness, one senses a hope that time pauses – or even turns back…back to a time when they ran swiftly on their tracks, connecting distant and remote places to busiest thoroughfares.

Remembrance of the past is strongly etched in these rows of vintage trains. Pieces of old memory are strewn all over the former station, now a museum – the Ambarawa Railway Museum. It is located in the Village of Panjang, Ambarawa, Semarang, Central Java. Here, visitors can look at a collection of old trains that used to run across our country from the days of the Netherlands Indies to the days right before the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia.

The Museum is open every day from 08.00 a.m. to 16.00 p.m. WIB. Tickets are highly affordable, with adult tickets and children’s tickets priced at only IDR 10,000.00 and IDR 5,000.00 respectively.

Rows of photos showing the history of Indonesia displayed on the walls of a tunnel welcome visitors in. They show the blatant difference of railway trains and stations through the eras. For example, some of the photos show the messy, crowded atmosphere of Pasar Senen Station in Jakarta in the past, while next to them are photos of the much neater, albeit still crowded, Pasar Senen Station of today.

The Ambarawa Railway Museum
A tourist train

Dignified Old Trains on Display
If you visit the Museum, don’t forget to take photos of yourselves with the dignified black steam locomotive on display, or the wooden trains that remain preserved through the ages. Let’s not forget the green and yellow CC 200 diesel locomotive, the first one of its kind to operate in Indonesia. Its arrival marked the start of railway modernization in the Republic. However, as time passed, it was replaced by younger, lighter, and more powerful locomotives.

Standing on the museum grounds really makes you feel as if you really traveled on a journey to the past. At the Museum, originally called Willem I Station, you can try out the 7 km-long Ambarawa-Tuntang tourist route. These trains used for the route are pulled with either vintage steam or diesel locomotives, each carrying three cars with a capacity of 40 persons each. They also have the Ambarawa-Jambu-Bedono route that uses toothed steam locomotive trains, which can only run on special toothed tracks. The PT Kereta Api Indonesia official website mentioned how these toothed trains are the only ones that remain in active operation throughout Indonesia. These special trains are only available on weekends and national holidays, and tickets are IDR 50,000.00 each.

Old Depots and Other
Remembrances At the Ambarawa Railway Museum, visitors can also look at the different train depots through the ages. They serve the same function as a full station, i.e. serving embarking and disembarking passengers, but they are much smaller. Such depots are made of wood and have a front door, a back door, and a ticket window. The depots stored within the Museum’s collection include the Kronelan Depot, Kalisamin Depot, Kepuh Depot, and Cikoya Depot. They are now closed thanks to a severe decrease in the number of passengers over time.

Other interesting items in the Museum’s collection include the Edmondson ticket-printing device used by the Nederlandsch-Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij or the Netherland Indies Railway Corporation in the mid 1800’s, which PT Kereta Api Indonesia still used until October 2009; old cash registers; Remington typewriters; ticket shelves; and old model telephones (including a Kellogg wall phone). All of them witnessed the journey of railway travel administration in Indonesia through the ages.

The Ambarawa Railway Museum also has a video room to play films on railway history. Visitors can watch them while sitting on chairs similar to current train passenger seats. It also has many train and locomotive miniatures, as well as a musala prayer room and toilets. Unfortunately, the site does not have any canteens or restaurants in its environs. You will need at least three hours to explore and enjoy the whole museum, so make sure you eat sufficiently before your visit! Enjoy your trip back through time with the trains of old!