Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Modern Railways in Indonesia

In March 2010 I visited Indonesia, principally because I wanted to see the Buddhist stupa at Borobudur. But, whilst out-and-about in Yogyakarta, I look the opportunity to spend half an hour on Yogyakarta station. I knew very little about railways in Indonesia. Some years ago, I'd supported a project to repatriate one of the venerable Beyer Peacock 2-4-0 steam locomotives but I'm afraid that scheme didn't achieve success.

The pictures I took at Yogyakarta station on 12-Mar-2010 are here. My first impression was of narrow-gauge permanent way in good condition - high-poundage flat-bottom rail with modern rail fastenings, concrete sleepers and adequate ballasting. The system is 3 foot 6 inch gauge. There were a number of long platforms which were divided into sections, allowing passengers to cross from platform to platform at rail level. Colour light signals were in evidence and each platform track was signalled for movements in both directions. Electric point machines were provided and, at one end of the station, a series of double slips facilitated access to a number of sidings.

I'd entered the station from a large car park at one side but the main station building lay in the middle of the station with a rather pleasing vaguely Art Deco frontage to the road access. I heard a train arrive but couldn't see it because of the station buildings. By the time I'd walked across to that side of the station, most of the passengers had got off and the train engine has disappeared.

A Co-Co diesel electric (CC 201 75) was backing onto the passenger stock. I suspect this was the train engine having run-round, but I can't be certain. The cab controls were in the classic 'American' format. That's not surprising because (as I afterwards discovered) these locomotives are GE class 'U18C'. More data on 'U18C'. I was intrigued with narrow, hinged mirrors fitted adjacent to the cab windows, giving the driver a view back along his train. Automatic couplers simplified 'hooking on' the passenger coaches. An air brake hose and two side chains were also provided.

At the end of the platform, the subsidiary signal aspect (two white lights at 45 degrees - the 'cat's eyes') cleared. Whereas in the U.K. the left white light is higher than the right, in Indonesia it's reversed. In addition, the red main aspect is extinguished when the white lights are lit. I didn't stop to see the shunting move as another passenger train had arrived over the other side of the station, so I hurried across to have a look.

The locomotive was another 'Co-Co' diesel electric (CC203 13) with a more modern-looking cab at one end. Afterwards, I found out that this is special Indonesian 'full width cabin' version of the GE class 'U20C' (see Wikipedia entry). There's more data on the basic 'U20C' here. After a few minutes, the driver got the 'rightaway' and, acknowledging my nod of the head with a similar gesture, took the train out.

By this time, CC 201 75 had drawn the passenger stock out of the station and propelled it back along a station by-pass road into one of a number of carriage sidings, adjacent to a two-road covered diesel depot. What appeared to be a 'grounded' steam locomotive boiler stood near the depot. CC 201 75 uncoupled and drew forward into the by-pass road. A crowd of men, apparently from the stock that had just been stabled, swarmed across the lines towards the station and, I suspect, the exit.

Another diesel electric, CC 201 42 now appeared dragging a single bogie tank wagon. The locomotive uncoupled and drew forward. I'd arranged to meet my guide so I didn't see the end of the move but I guessed that the tank wagon was locomotive fuel and that the locomotive was going to run round and propel the wagon to the diesel depot.

An interesting half hour! Before I left Yogyakarta, I made one more railway visit, which you can read about here.