The Forgotten Steamtram of Batavia

Before any other major cities had their tramlines, Batavia (what is now Jakarta) already had theirs. It is not clear when the tramlines were built, but when it was first built, it used horse drawn trams. It was not until 1881 when the steam power began to be used for the tramlines. And the unique thing about the first steam power in Batavia, it was a rechargeable/refuellable steam compressed in a fireless locomotive boiler. And not only that, Batavia had a very uncommon gauge. Back in Netherlands East Indies (what is now known as Indonesia), the majority of the railways had gauges of 1067 mm (3 ft 6 in) or the standard gauge, 1435 mm (4 ft 8,5 in). Even the narrow gauge plantation lines had gauges of 700 mm (2 ft 4 in) and 600 mm (2 ft). Batavia had an 1188 mm gauge, definitely very uncommon in the Netherlands East Indies, and it may also be uncommon across many parts of the world as well.

The early version of Batavia tram, a horse drawn tram, as seen on the above photo, with tracks going around De Amsterdam Poort (The Amsterdam Gate) in North Batavia dated before 1881. Photo courtesy of Tropenmuseum Collection.

A photo of the Batavia Steamtram, ran by the Nederlandse Indische Tramweg Maatschappij (abbreviated as NITM, or Netherlands East Indies Tramway Enterprise), with two of its workers on the streets of Batavia. The location of the photo is unknown. Photo dated around 1900, courtesy of Tropenmuseum Collection.

The fireless steam locomotive did not work really well in the Netherlands when it was first built by Hohenzollern, because since Europe had cold weather and climate, the steam in the boiler quickly condensed to water or liquid form. And it has also been found by from the tests and experience, that the loss in pressure amounts to from 3,5 pounds per hour in summer to 7 pounds per hour in winter. But when it was being exported to Batavia in the Netherlands East Indies, it worked really well due to the warm weather and climate, and small temperature changes, which meant that not a lot of steam were lost and vapourised. Between 1882 – 1909, the first batch of the Batavia’s fireless steamtram locomotive arrived. They were the NITM (Nederlandse Indische Tramweg Maatschappij, or the Netherlands East Indies Tramway Enterprise) series number 1 to 21, with cylinders of 380 x 400 mm, 850 mm driving wheels and a container volume of 4 m3. It was not until quite later, around 1921, where NITM added a second batch of the new four-axle locomotives to their roosters from Hohenzollern, numbered NITM 57 to 61.

Once being charged, this 0-4-0 steamtram locomotive can manage a journey of approximately 1 hour before it had to be recharged/refilled again with steam. The first steamtram lines of Batavia that were open were the Meester Cornelis (today it is Jatinegara) – Kramat, Kramat – Rijswijk Straat (De Harmonie, today it is still known as Harmony) and Harmonie – Amsterdam Poort (Amsterdam Gate, in North Batavia, today it is near Pasar Ikan (The Fish Market)), which stretched from North Batavia to East Batavia, along the routes where the majority of the European citizens resided. These three routes also signified the three relays of which then the locomotive had to be changed with another standby locomotive in the depot located in Kramat in East Batavia before it had to be refilled/recharged with steam, otherwise if the locomotive was not changed, it would ran out of steam and the tram would just stop right in the middle of the street, today just like a toy robot that ran out of batteries. Once being charged for approximately 15 to 20 minutes with steam, they are then ready for duty again at any moment’s notice. Although there were further plans of extending the steamtram line to Paalmerah, an area in what was then the West outskirts of Batavia, just South of the China Town of Tanahabang, however, this plan never came true.

A city map of Batavia showing the South Terminus Point of the Batavia Steamtram (circled in red) in Meester Cornelis (today its name changed to Jatinegara) dated 1910. Notice that the track just came to a dead end rather than having a circled/rounded track for the locomotives to go round. Map courtesy of KITLV Leiden Library.


Another city map of Batavia showing Meester Cornelis, dated later around 1933. Notice that by this time, the steam tramline had been electrified, and a round/circled track had been built on its endpoint (circled in red), which was used for the electrictram wagons to turn around and to avoid the driver having to change cabins on the other side of the electric tram. Photo courtesy of KITLV Leiden Library.


Today's location of the South Terminus of the Batavia Steamtram line at Meester Cornelis. The red line represents the tramline during the steam era, and the blue circled line represents the tramline after it was electrified. Photo courtesy of 2016 Google Earth Images.

Halte Meester Cornelis NITM, or the Meester Cornelis NITM steamtram stop, the South Terminus of Batavia Steamtram, dated 1910, courtesy of KITLV Leiden Pictura. The photographer faces South, and the tram is preparing for its journey back Northwards.


Today's location of Meester Cornelis NITM tramhalt. As you can see, it has turned into a bus station (Kampung Melayu Bus Station). The red line represents the location of the tramline during the steam era, and the blue lines represent the tramlines after it was electrified. Photo courtesy of Google Earth Streetview.


Another view of the steamtram line, still in Meester Cornelis, approximately North of the endpoint of Meester Cornelis. According to the map dated 1919, the position of the track is on the left hand side of the street. So here, by interpreting the map, the photographer faces North, and the tram is going towards the endpoint at Meester Cornelis. Photo dated around 1885, courtesy of Tropenmuseum Collection.


Today's approximate location of the tramline in Meester Cornelis in the above photo. Photo courtesy of 2016 Google Streetview Images.

Known as the Galloping Thermoflask, the steam or hot water reservoir rests on two cross stays connecting the longitudinal frames of the engine; it is a plain cylinder with bulged ends and a dome. Steam is taken from the dome of a reservoir through a perforated copper pipe leading into a reducing valve, where the pressure is reduced to 100 pounds per square inch, and the steam is then conveyed through a pipe of large diameter which passes through the water space of the reservoir and through the bottom, where it divides, a branch leading to each valve box. A steam trap is formed at the termination of the large steam pipe, a smaller pipe leading some distance up into it, and very dry steam is thus obtained for the cylinders.

A steamtram passes along a section of the steamtram line at Kramat. Possible/approximate location of the photo is just South of the Kramat Steamtram Depot, where the locomotives are being recharged/refilled with steam. Photo dated 1921, courtesy of KITLV Leiden Pictura.


Today's approximate location of the steamtram line at Kramat, East Batavia. Photo courtesy of 2016 Google Earth Streetview Images.

A city map of Batavia dated 1910 showing the locations of the steamtram depot and also the Kramat Steamtram Station (labelled as "St. Stoomtram, circled in red). Map courtesy of KITLV Leiden Library.

A later city map of Batavia, dated 1933, courtesy of KITLV Leiden Library. Notice that what was the steamtram depot, has now become the electrictram depot (labelled as "St. Electr. tram, circled in red) after all the steamtram lines were electrified. It also shows that by 1933, all the steamtram lines were gone and they were all replaced by electric trams.

Today's location of the former fireless steamtram/electrictram depot at Kramat, East Batavia, courtesy of 2016 Google Earth Images.

The Head Office of NITM at Kramat, East Batavia, dated 1920, courtesy of KITLV Leiden Pictura.

The Batavia Steamtram (NITM) Locomotive Depot at Kramat, East Batavia, dated 1920 courtesy of KITLV Leiden Pictura. This is where the fireless steam locomotives are stored and repaired. And not only that, but this is also where the fireless steam locomotives of NITM are being recharged and refilled with steam, so that they can continue on their next journey and they do not run out of steam during the middle of their journey.

The Kramat NITM Steamtram Station, (possibly) located just in front of the Kramat Depot, East Batavia, dated 1890. Photo courtesy of KITLV Leiden Pictura.

Today's approximate location of the Kramat Steamtram Station and the Kramat Fireless Steamtram Depot, in East Batavia. Photo courtesy of KITLV Leiden Pictura.

A Batavia Steamtram, with fireless locomotive no.5, passes along a double track section of the tramline in the Chinatown of Passar Senen (The Monday Market) in East Batavia. Photo dated 1900, courtesy of KITLV Leiden Pictura.

Today's approximate location of the steamtram line at Passar Senen (The Monday Market). Photo courtesy of 2016 Google Earth Streetview Images.

There are a lot of advantages of these fireless steam locomotives, such as there are no flying sparks, ashes, cinders, and unpleasant products of combustion, all which were needed back in those times since the European residents needed to remain clean and neat since they came out of their house until they arrive at their offices, and also the engine and carriages remained longer, cleaner, and costs for cleaning and repairs alike are reduced. But even so, there some disadvantages, which were pumping high pressure steam from one container to another proved to be dangerous. Records show that the steam locomotive of NITM no.4 exploded during the recharging process in the Kramat Depot, in which afterwards the NITM no.4 fireless locomotive were the first locomotive of its kind to be (assumably) scrapped.

A Batavia Steamtram poses in front of the former building of Postspaarbank in Molenvliet West (today it is Jalan Hayam Wuruk, or Hayam Wuruk Road) in Centre Batavia, just meters North of the Hoek De Harmonie (The Harmony Junction). Photo dated 1925, courtesy of Tropenmuseum Collection.


A city map of Batavia, dated 1919, courtesy of KITLV Leiden Library, showing the location of Hoek De Harmonie (The Harmony Junction), circled in yellow. The straight red lines represent both the combined steam and electric tramlines. The broken red lines represent the proposed new and extended steamtram lines which never came true. The grey lines represent the electric tramlines, and the broken white and black lines represent the main railway lines owned by Nederlands Indische Spoorwegen Maatschappij (N.I.S.M) and Staatsspoorwegen (SS).


Today's location of the former steamtram and electrictram line in front of the former Postspaarbank building in Molenvliet West (Jalan Hayam Wuruk). In the background, you can see Hoek De Harmonie (The Harmony Junction), in Centre Batavia.


A city map of Batavia, dated 1919, showing the locations of the steamtram line around Stadhuis Batavia (The Batavia Townhall), underlined in red, bottom, and also the North Terminus of the steamtram line at Amsterdam Poort (Amsterdam Gate), labelled as "St. Stoomtram", underlined in red, top.

A latter city map of Batavia, dated 1933, courtesy of KITLV Leiden Library, showing the steamtram lines around Stadhuis Batavia (Batavia Townhall), at the bottom of the red circle, and  the North Terminus of the (former) steamtram line in Amsterdam Poort (Amsterdam Gate), at the top of the red circle.

An aerial photo of Stahuis Batavia (Batavia Townhall) and its surroundings, dated 1900, courtesy of Tropenmuseum Collection. Notice that the Batavia Zuid Railway Station, owned by SS (later named as Batavia Ooster Spoorweg, or more known as BEOS, and now known as Jakarta Kotta) was still in the process of building. Whilst the Batavia Noord Railway Station, owned by N.I.S, was still in operation. Also notice that the steamtram line curved from Binnen Nieuwpoort Straat (top to middle of the photo, today it is Jalan Pintu Bessar) to Prinsen Straat (middle to bottom of the photo today it is Jalan Cengkeh), where it lead to its North Terminus at Amsterdam Poort.

A photo of Stadhuis Batavia (Batavia Townhall) with the foreground of Halte Stadhuis Plein (Batavia Townhall Garden Tramhalt) on the right hand side of the photo. Photo dated 1920, courtesy of Tropenmuseum Collection.

Today's approximate location where the tramline curved from Binnen Nieuwepoort Straat (Jalan Pintu Besar Utara) to Prinsen Straat (Jalan Cengkeh), and also the approximate location of the former Halte Stadhuis Plein (Batavia Townhall Garden Tramstop). Photo courtesy of 2016 Google Earth Streetview Images.

A Batavia Steamtram with the background of Stadhuis Batavia leaving for the North Terminus at Amstedam Poort located in Prinsen Straat (Jalan Cengkeh). Photo dated 1900, courtesy of Tropenmuseum Collection.

Today's approximate location of the above photo of a shot of the steamtram leaving Halte Stadhuis Plein, as it travels along Prinsen Straat (Jalan Cengkeh). Notice some of the remnants of buildings from the era of the Netherlands East Indies Government. Photo courtesy of 2016 Google Earth Streetview Images.

The end of the line at the North End, as the steamtram reaches the North Terminus at Amsterdam Poort Tramstation, seen on the right hand side of the photo, located in Prinsen Straat (Jalan Cengkeh). Also notice in the background the Amsterdam Poort (The Amsterdam Gate), the gateway for European residents to ride a ship back to Europe where they can land in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Today's approximate location of the Amsterdam Poort and the North Terminus of the tramline at Amsterdam Poort Tramstation, in which both of them have been knocked down due to reasons that they both block and congest the road traffic (which I think it's an utter and an absolutely ridiculous reason). Photo courtesy of 2016 Google Earth Streetview Images.

And also due to these dangerous reasons of the previously exploded locomotive when it was being refilled with high pressure steam, all the steamtrams were then abandoned in 1933 after the NITM was merged together with BETM (Bataviasche Electrische Tramweg Maatschappij, or the Batavia Electric Tramway Enterprise), another private tramway company that already constructed an electric tramline in 1915. After all the steamtrams were abandoned, it was then all replaced with electric trams, which proved more safer working environment for the staff (the elimination of pumping high pressure steam), also cleaner environment for the European passengers who worked at the offices in North Batavia. It is unclear what had happened to all the fireless locomotives, but it is assumed that they were all scrapped around the same period when they were abandoned and replaced with electric trams.

Two Batavia Steamtrams meet in the middle of a line in one of the streets of Batavia. The location of the photo is unknown. Photo dated 1931 courtesy of KITLV Leiden Pictura, just around 2 years before all the fireless steamtram locomotives were scrapped.


A typical model of the Batavia Steamtram Halte/Stopplaats (Tramstops/Tramhalts). Location and date of the photo is unknown. Photo courtesy of Delcampe Postcards.

It was not until around 1960, after the Netherlands East Indies became Indonesia, or after Indonesia gained their independence, that all the trams in Batavia (it was already called Jakarta then) were abandoned. Records show that the trams were abandoned due to the order of then the President of Indonesia, Soekarno. Soekarno was such an anti-Dutch and an anti-Western man, that anything created by the liberal Western or European natives that he thought obstructed his ways of thinking and concepts had to be destroyed. And at that time, he thought that the electric trams that were built by the Dutch obstructed the streets of Jakarta, and amongst other factors, hence it was time to erase them and replace them with more ‘modernised’ bus services. And today’s generation can only look back to the great history of the Batavia tramlines. 

The Rooster

A photo of a Batavia Steamtram (NITM Steamtram) fireless steam locomotive, built by Hohenzollern, with wheel arrangement 0-4-0. Photo courtesy of Jack Rozendaal through his book, Steam and Rail in Indonesia.

Originally Imported For : Nederlands Indische Tramweg Maatschappij (NITM)
Former Number : NITM no.1 to 21, no.51 to 67.
Wheel Arrangement : 0-4-0
Year Manufactured : 1882 to 1909
Manufacturer : Hohenzollern
Overall Weight: +/- 9,1 tons
Maximum Speed : Unknown (Possibly around 20 km/hour)
Cylinder Dimensions : 380 x 400 mm
Driving Wheels Diameter : 850 mm
Power : +/- 15 horsepower
Source of Power : Compressed Saturated Steam
Steam Charging Time : +/- 15 to 20 minutes
Steam Usage/Capacity : Once fully charged with compressed steam, it can only be used at maximum of approximately 1 hour.

References :
1. American Scientific Journal of Arts, Science, Mechanics, Chemistry, and Manufacturers, dated 1882, courtesy of eBay Postcards.
2. Steam and Rail in Indonesia, Jack Rozendaal.
3. De Stoomtractie op Java en Soematra, JJ Oegema, 1982

Photo Sources :
1. Tropenmuseum Collection
2. KITLV Collection
3. Delcampe Postcards
4. eBay Postcards

*Note that all the present photos are courtesy of 2016 Google Earth Streetview Images. 
**Also note that today's locations are only approximations of the locations in the old black and white photos, with considerations that in the old photos, the streets and main roads are narrower, the houses and buildings along the main roads had bigger and wider front gardens, and not to mention that all the buildings have changed.

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