The Shutdown Tramlines of Surabaya

A Brief History of Surabaya's Tramlines

Naamlooze Venotschaap Oost Java Stoomtram Maatschappij (NV. OJS) was formed in Holland, 7th June 1888, which consisted of several private company owners coming from Amsterdam, Graven’s hage, Rotterdam and several other cities in Holland. These company owners decided to set up an organization which consisted of a commissioner, a chairman, a director which was located in Surabaya, the head of the Dutch East Indies representative which was located in Semarang, and a couple of members. An organization was set up to ease the supervision of the company.

In terms of public transport, Surabaya lagged well behind Jakarta (formerly known as Batavia). Not until 1886 NV. OJS received a permission to open its first line which stretched from Surabaya’s main ship port, Oedjoeng to Wonokromo, around about 30 years after Batavia opened its steamtram line. The first 20 km line of NV. OJS was only as a mean of transport system for the traders who came from Madoera which travelled to Surabaya by a short ferry ride in order they can travel through the northern part of the city (Oedjoeng) to the southern part of the city (Wonokromo). Only the first eight kilometers passed through the city and its frequency was only every half an hour. Not long after, NV. OJS extended its line from Wonokromo to Sepandjang, Krian which then Modjokerto.

An OJS Steamtram passes through Passar Bessar Weg (now Jalan Pahlawan) during its early years of operation in 1880. Notice that it used a steamtram locomotive, one of OJS no.1 - 12 series, the earliest steamtram locomotives that were bought by NV. OJS from Backer & Rueb Machineworks in Breda, Netherlands. These steamtram locomotives had the wheel configuration of 0-4-0Tr. Photo courtesy of KITLV Leiden University.

Its first route more or less travelled along the banks of Surabaya’s main river, Kalimas. It ran from Oedjoeng, Aloon – Aloon Straat (which now has become Tugu Pahlawan, Surabaya’s main heroes monument), Toendjoengan, Kaliasin (which now has become Jalan Basuki Rahmat), Keputran, Groedo and then Wonokromo. Back in 1890 then Keputran, Groedo and Wonokromo was only a group of small villages so the main part of Surabaya was located in Kaliasin, Toendjoengan, Aloon – Aloon Straat and Oedjoeng Weg. As the years go by, NV. OJS not only serve as a passenger transportation system, but it was also use as a main transportation system for the finished products and wastes of Surabaya’s ever growing industries. These industries range from mainly the sugar industry, which was located in Ketintang, Krian and Modjokerto, tiles and roof industry which was located in Sepandjang and some other house industries. During this time the main station was Wonokromo, Grudo and Oedjoeng. This was also the start of a railway building mania, in which then these private owned sugar mills also built their own small private railway, known as spoorlorries (lorry train), to transport the sugar cane from the fields that were owned by the sugar factory to the sugar mill. After the sugar being processed, it was put onto some of the OJS carriages which then transported into the ships ready to be exported to other countries around the world.

As the city grew bigger and more crowded, NV. OJS decided to reroute its line. When a Dutch private company decided to set up a new housing estate in the Darmo area, NV. OJS decided to deal simultaneously in building the real estate with the help of Department Gouvernement van Bedrijven, therefore avoiding the extortionate claims and reaping the benefit of higher land prices, in order that NV. OJS can extend its line when they planned to open an electric line. In 1912, after protacted negotiations, the housing estate grew into a 336 – hectare area extending from the edge of the town at Pandegiling (formerly known as Tamarindelaan) to the riverbank opposite the central market at Wonokromo. In a single development, NV. OJS built a double track electric line which ran through the middle of Darmo Boulevard (now known as Jalan Raya Darmo), which ran from Kaliasin to Wonokromo. At the same time NV. OJS also laid out a garden suburb on both sides of the track, with large blocks fronting onto wide and eventually tree-lined streets. After sorting out complicated legal problems, the building of the extension line of NV. OJS continued. NV. OJS not only extended its line, but they also built new depot to repair the locomotives and carriages owned by NV. OJS. This new depot is located in Wonokromo right behind the central zoo of Surabaya (Dierentuin). This was done because the old depot at Grudo became too crowded and they need bigger space to do their repairs. Since NV OJS rerouted its line through Darmo Boulevard, the depot at Groedo became private and were hardly used.

An OJS Streamtram passes through Passar Bessar Weg in slightly later years in 1890. Notice that by this time, they already imported the new OJS no.13 - 39 series steamtram locomotives, the same time that their sister firm (Zuster Maatschappij), the Samarang Joana Stoomtram Maatschappij (NV. SJS) or the Samarang - Joana Steamtram Company, also imported the same steamtram locomotives no. 40 - 57. These newly imported steamtram locomotives later become the B - 12 series steamtram locomotives. They were imported from Beyer Peacock Works in Manchester, England, which they had the wheel configuration of 0-4-0Tr. Photo courtesy of KITLV Leiden University.

The weaknesses of using steam locomotives was that they caused heavy pollution and they were also dirty. The sparks and the smokes that came from the burning of the wood, which was the fuel of the steam locomotives of NV. OJS, would stain or even caused holes in the clothes of the office workers who every morning travelled from their houses in the southern part of Surabaya to their offices in northern part of Surabaya in Willemsplain area (now called Taman Jayengrono). Therefore the city tram transportation system needed a new technology and a new development in order that the city tram can be a cleaner and more comfortable method of  transportation system, especially for those office workers. So the solution was to electrify some of the steam lines, which was already been planned in 1910. Besides extending their line thorugh the new housing estate of Darmo Boulevard, NV. OJS made 3 new lines which ran from Sawahan – Goebeng Station SS, Willemsplain – Goebeng Boulevard and Willempslain – Tandjoeng Perak. And at the same NV. OJS also made a new depot specifically for the electric carriages in an undeveloped and untouched area at the time, which was called Sawahan. The building of this new depot also happened at the same time when the Darmo housing estate also decided to extend their area to Sawahan and to western parts of Surabaya, which at the time was around Passar Kembang, Kembang Koening and some parts of Goenoeng Sari. Meanwhile the steam line was also relocated through the new built Darmo housing estate in Reiniersz Boulevard (now called Jalan Diponegoro) which then ran towards Passar Kembang Straat, the new housing estate in Ardjuno Boulevard, N.I.S. Laan (now known as Jalan Semarang), Passar Toeri, Stadstuin Kebon Rodjo, Bibis, Tjantian, Kampemen Straat (now known as Jalan K.H. Mas Mansyur), and then turned towards the abandoned Fort of Prins Hendrik, besides the Automatic Lifting Bridge (Automatische Ophaalbrug in Dutch, or the Javanese people called it as Jembatan Petekan) and ran towards its terminus in Oedjoeng Weg (which now has become parts of the ship repair site of PT PAL Indonesia). The line through Darmo Boulevard also experienced a couple of relocations, in which the first electric line ran through Kaliasin which then got relocated through Palmenlaan (now known as Jalan Panglima Sudirman), turned at Simpang which then turned again at Toendjoengan. The ex line through Kaliasin only got as far as the left side of Apotheek Simpang which was the terminus.

During the first opening of the electric tram lines, not all lines were opened. Only the Wonokromo –Willemsplain line that was in operation. Not until 1924 then all lines were operated. During the development of the electric tram lines they were three different classes of ticket prices, which were public passengers, who were mainly Europeans although they were some Chinese and Arabic descendants, which consisted of 1st and 2nd class, the natives, which was the Javanese people passengers which consisted of 1st and 2nd class and the natives and school children passengers which also consisted of 1st and 2nd class.

An electrictram Line 2 (Line Goebeng Boulevard - Willemsplein) trundels along Passar Bessar Weg towards Kebon Rodjo and Willemsplein in the early years of the opening of the electric line, which was a convertion from the old steamtram line, somewhere in 1924.

Operating electric tram lines also needed electrical supply, so therefore NV. OJS collaborated with the local private electricity company at the the time, which was Algemeene Nederlands Indische Electricitiet Maatschappij, or short for ANIEM. ANIEM itself got its electricity by means of hydro power electricity, in which they built a dam in the estuary of Pegirian River near by the Java Sea. From this dam, the electricity power produced by the mechanical movements of the turbine ran towards the power house which was located on the embankment of the Pegirian River, which would then afterwards supply the whole city of Surabaya with electricity. Sadly there are no remains of neither the dam or the power house.

And since electric tram lines ran along the middle streets of Surabaya, a new set of rules were needed to ensure the running of electric trams properly. So therefore the Dutch East Indies government at the time made a new different sets of laws, including running the tram, where to store the locomotives, what a train driver should do at each station, including the priority of trams when it ran in streets which means that if there were any accidents the one to blame was the other vehicle/road users, not the tram driver. This rule is still being used until today in Europena coutries, Autsralia dan USA. All these rules were stated in the Laws of the Dutch East Indies country, otherwise known as Staatsblad.
Nevertheless, electric trams aged younger than steam trams. In 1965, Jakarta saw the first closing of its electric tram lines, which was formerly named as Batavia Electrische Tram Maatschappij. This was closed due to the pressure given by the former President of Indonesia Soekarno (or known as Bung Karno). His reason was that electric trams in Jakarta was too slow in terms of its movements and considered outdated and insufficient. He also reasoned that Jakarta needed a more modern transportation systems in which he implied bus transportation systems. So in order to make new bus corridors, the electric tram lines were sacrified. Not long after in 1968, Surabaya also saw the closing of its electric tram lines. Almost the same to the closing of electric tram lines in Jakarta, electric tram lines in Surabaya was closed under the request of Surabaya’s City Councilor at the time, Soekotjo. The City Councilor Soekotjo closed Surabaya’s electric tram lines being reasoned that Surabaya needed to build and extend its city and roadways to make way for the National Annual Sports Event that were held in Surabaya in 1969, or known locally as Pekan Olahraga Nasional, or short for PON. So since 1969, only the steamtram lines that were still running. When Indonesia experienced a change in their long regime president of Soekarno to Suharto, a new policy was made by Indonesia’s new president then, Suharto. Suharto made a new policy of drastically importing automobile vehicles from Japan. These new automobiles provided a faster, cheaper and more mobile means of transportation system compared to the steam tram. So only around about ten years after the closing of electric tram lines, in 1978 Surabaya saw the closing of its steam tram lines being reasoned it had loose a lot of its profits and could not compete with the new transportation system of automobiles.

A liquidation certificate of NV. Oost Java Stoomtram Maatschappij dated 1949, stating that the firm was being liquidated and bought for a one hundred Dutch Gulden in Gravenhage, Netherlands, by possibly the Indonesian State Railway, which was called Djawatan Kereta Api Rakjat Indonesia at the time. Photo courtesy of Tropenmuseum Collections.

Nowadays what is currently happening in Indonesia is nothing else but congested roads, road accidents and road kills, traffic jams and not mentioning pollution and global warming. Even the new technology of automobiles with cleaner fuels is not a solution because besides their prices are beyond the reach for most of Indonesia’s citizens, they will also fill up the road with more privately owned vehicles. So therefore if the Indonesian Government and private company owners doesn’t help to create a more comfortable, feasible and reliable means of mass transportation system, there will be no doubt that major cities in Indonesia will face a complete roadblock or total traffic jam in a few years time. This proves that rail based mass transportation system such as electric tram still proves to be an efficient, useful, reliable and fast method of transporting people through the city. A lot of the countries in Europe who uses this sort of transportation system proves that this can reduce the number of people buying their own private vehicles and the amount of traffic jams caused by the number of privately owned vehicles. The younger generation of the Indonesians today can only see through the good memories of the older generation of Indonesians who had the chance of going on the steam and electric trams of Indonesia. We as the younger generations who live in Indonesia can only hope that one day the leaders and those who owned the money can change their mind and spend their money to invest on a more reliable public transportation system, especially rail based public transportation system.

Sources :
  • Surabaya City of Work, H.W. Dick
  • A reliable source and witnesses of my own whose name I cannot mention here

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