0-4-2RT 35 at Padang Panjang c1895. Courtesy of media-kitlv.nl
In September 1887 the Dutch Parliament authorised the construction of a line from Emmahaven to Sawahloento for the transfer of coal from the Ombilin mines to the port in Padang on Sumatra's west coast. The line was constructed at the governments expense and the winding route around and over the mountain ranges took advantage of favourable gradients. This winding nature meant it took 157.2 kms to cover the 57 km straight line distance. Ride along on the railway here.
A map showing the completed railway circa 1930
Construction started on 6th July 1889 and was completed in 1891 between Padang and Padang Panjang. The sections from Padang Panjang to Solok, Solok to Muaro Kalaban and Padang to Emmahaven (Teluk Bayur) were all completed during 1892. The final link from Muaro Kalaban to Sawahlonto was completed on 1st Febuary 1894.
The total length of the line was 296.9 kms, (including branch lines), with 35 kms of rack sections.
Bridging the Anai river circa 1890. Courtesy of media-kitlv.nl
The steepest gradient on the section used by the coal trains was 1 in 14, (7%) and the branch line to Bukittinggi was 1 in 12 (8%). It reached a summit of 1,154 meters between the volcanoes Merapi & Singalan.
SSS 0-4-0RT - Note the rack drive underneath the locomotive
Railway bridge of the State Railways on Sumatra's West Coast in the Anai Gorge on Sumatra's west coast circa 1910. Courtesy of media-kitlv.nl
The rack centre rail circa 1939. Courtesy of media-kitlv.nl