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NGULIK BANDUNG: Tramweg in Bandung

The construction of a tramway to the plantation areas south of Bandung was supported by conglomerate of Cinchona and tea factories. It connects Bandung with Ciwidey.

State Electric Railway locomotive, presumably in West Java. (KITLV Collection 84206, digitalcollections.universiteitleiden.nl)

Penulis Ahmad Fikri25 November 2023

BandungBergerak.id – The Bandung map in the Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (KIT) collection, which includes a map published by Boekhandel Visser in 1927, shows a piece of the tram line, aka the innercity train. The tram line on the map is named Tram Weg Naar Dajeuhkolot (Tram Line to Dayeuhkolot).

Karees, between Pasar Kosambi and Jalan Papandayan, is the starting point of the tram line. From Karees, the tram line extended north and then turned around the Cibangkong area to the south to head directly to Banjaran.

At the turnaround at Cibangkong, around the Kiaracondong area, the tram tracks would branch off. The branch then merged with the railroad to Cikudapateuh, which continued on to Bandung Station in the Kebonkawung area.

The tram line is represented on the map as a dotted black line. The size of the line is different from the symbol for the railroad on the map, which is made in the form of a thick, dotted black line.

Trams and trains do have many similarities. Both use carriages to transport passengers. They also both use rails as a roadway.

The difference is in the function and scope of operation. Trams are usually used specifically for short routes, generally to serve transportation within the city. While trains are used for transportation serving longer distances.

A number of colonial maps of Bandung published after 1918 show tram lines. Maps with a wider scope show the tram route connecting Bandung with Ciwidey.

The Weg naar Dajeuhkolot Tram line is part of a 1927 map of Bandung published by Boekhandel Visser. Digital collection of Leiden University, the Netherlands (KK 162-01-02).
The Weg naar Dajeuhkolot Tram line is part of a 1927 map of Bandung published by Boekhandel Visser. Digital collection of Leiden University, the Netherlands (KK 162-01-02).

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For Cinchona and Tea

Mr. Mijer, the owner of an ice factory in Bandung, was the first to apply for a concession to build a tramway. The January 25, 1897 issues of De Preanger-bode newspaper reported that the ice factory owner was applying for a concession to build a tram line from Bandung to Tjitjalengka (Cicalengka). He intended to build an electric tramway utilizing the electricity generated by the turbines of the power plant driving his ice factory on the edge of the Cikapundung.

Mijer wants two routes to be built. After building a bridge across the Tjitarum, the tram line would branch into two. One goes to Banjaran and continues to Kopo (Soreang), the other crosses Ciparay to Majalaya and then to Cicalengka. Mijer was optimistic because the route was busy with people and the transportation of goods from the plantations that spread across the southern Preanger.

Mijer was not the only one intent on building a tram line connecting Bandung with the pockets of plantations scattered across the highlands in the mountains surrounding it. These ranged from Cinchona, coffee and tea plantations.

De locomotief newspaper of March 11, 1910 reported on a number of plantation owners vying for a concession to build a tram line to Bandung. A tram that would save transportation costs for shipping goods.  

In the mountain areas south of Bandung, cinchona and tea plantation companies are numerous. These include Rioenggoenoeng, Tirtasari, Tjibeureum, Kawah Tjiwidej (a government cinchona company), Kertamanah, Santosa, Taloen, Wanasari, Tjihoerang, Boemikaso, Wanasoeka, Malabar, Gamboeng, Tjilaki, Pasirmalang, and Tjoekoel (the southernmost location). A series of carts loaded with tea and cinchona bark ran like a continuous loop along the road connecting Bandung to Pangalengan.

In early 1883, for example, Mr. Maas Geesteranus, Administrator of the Malabar company applied for a concession to build a tram from Bandung to Pangalengan. The Dutch East Indies government granted the concession, but Maas failed to build it because the funds needed to build the tram could not be collected. Maas searched for funds all the way to Europe, but returned empty-handed.  

The Dutch East Indies government was also secretly interested in the idea. Mr. P. Van Leersum, director of the government-owned quinine company, was sent to Europe to explore the possibility of building a tram to transport cinchona products. The Dutch East Indies government, by borrowing the hand of the government's quinine plantations, also rallied the support of cinchona and tea plantation owners to jointly obtain a concession to build a tram.

A tram would be very beneficial, as it would make it easier to transport chemicals, machinery and materials to process plantation produce. However, the most difficult challenge was to build a rail line for the tram, which would have to climb a high altitude. Bandung is 700 meters above sea level, while Pangalengan is 1,400 meters above sea level. 

The rail line is still relatively easy to build from Bandung to Cikalong because it crosses a relatively flat area. But starting from Cikalong, the route climbs up the mountainside. The railroad had to be constructed in a zigzag way in order to avoid the incline and conquer the hilly terrain. The conclusion: it is not possible to build a tram. It was possible to use trains instead.

A plan to replace the tram with a train was submitted in 1908. The plan was rejected by the Regional Council.

Railway bridge between Soreang and Tjiwidej in Bandung. KITLV Collection 84225. (Source digitalcollections.universiteitleiden.nl)
Railway bridge between Soreang and Tjiwidej in Bandung. KITLV Collection 84225. (Source digitalcollections.universiteitleiden.nl)

Taken by the Dutch East Indies Government

The Dutch East Indies government finally openly took over. Staatsspoorwegen (SS), the government-owned railway company, was given the task of building a tram to the southern part of Bandung. De locomotief newspaper of October 13, 1917 reported that the railway company had prepared an additional budget to build the Bandung-Banjaran-Kopo (Soreang) tram line, which would begin in 1918.

The 26.5-kilometer Bandung-Banjaran-Kopo tram line was expected to cost 1,465 million Gulden. The construction would take 22 months. 100,000 Gulden was set aside in 1918 to start the road design and construction drawings. The rest would be provided in a year to build the tram line.

De Preanger-bode newspaper on May 19, 1919 reported that the design of the tramway route in southern Bandung was almost finalized. The tram line will be built from Karees, Bandung. Construction work on tram will begin soon. The railroad company also decided to build a tram line on another route, from Rantja Ekek (Rancaekek), connecting the existing railroad, to Tanjungsari in Sumedang. 

De locomotief newspaper of January 29, 1920 reported on the progress of the tramway construction, which began in May 1919. The Dutch East Indies government decided to plan further. The tram line would not stop at Kopo (Soreang), but would continue to Ciwidey. The budget will be prepared next year.

The starting point of the Bandung-Ciwidey tram line is in Karees, Bandung. The location is between Jalan Papandajanlaan and Pasar Kosambi. The tram stop will be at Kiaracondong. The tram line from Karees to Kiaracondong will only be used to transport goods.

The tram route follows Jalan Papandjanlaan, circling the cavalry residence to turn south towards Boeah Batoe (Buahbatu). From there continue straight south to Banjaran through Citeureup, Dayeuhkolot. At Citeureup, a 40-meter iron bridge will be built over the river to cross the Citarum.

The tram line then goes directly to Banjaran. The tram stop in Banjaran will be built near the market. From there, the tram line turned toward Soreang.

De locomotief newspaper recounted that the construction of the tracks was hampered by workers who refused to cut down a banyan tree in Dayeuhkolot that was on the tram track. The tree was destroyed with dynamite.

"The sacred banyan had to be cut down, which no worker dared to cut down. The tree had to be cut down with the help of dynamite, but to the delight of the natives this first time did not work, so another "shot" had to be made, after which the wind did the rest in the night," wrote De locomotief (January 29, 1920).

Bandung-Ciwidey tram line on Touristmap: Bandung and environs]: Boekit Toenggoel - Tangkoebanprahoe - Patoeha - Malabar published by Officieele Toeristen Bureau in 1924. (Collection KK 016-04-03, digitalcollections.universiteitleiden.nl)
Bandung-Ciwidey tram line on Touristmap: Bandung and environs]: Boekit Toenggoel - Tangkoebanprahoe - Patoeha - Malabar published by Officieele Toeristen Bureau in 1924. (Collection KK 016-04-03, digitalcollections.universiteitleiden.nl)


The De Preanger-bode newspaper of February 12, 1921 reported on the opening of the Bandung-Soreang and Rancaekek-Tanjungsari tram lines. Both lines were built under the directionof chief engineer J.K. Lagerwey.

On the Bandung-Kopo tram line, only two stations were opened for the time being. Passengers would board from Karees in Bandung, then get off at Soreang and vice versa.

A booklet was published to commemorate the inauguration of the Bandung-Soreang tram line. In it, a brief history of the idea to build the tram line is recorded. It starts with a concession application by A. A. Maas Geesteranus in 1883, followed by concession applications by different companies. The last tram construction concession was granted to Tiedeman en Van Kerchem in 1912.

The takeover was decided after Tiedeman en Van Kerchem wrote to the government to return the concession. The government then gave the concession to Staatsspoorwegen, which was asked to build a tram line from Bandung to Soreang. The design of the tram line by P. A. Roelofsen was approved on October 30, 1916.

The steam power plant for the tramway was built in Dayeuhkolot. Several bridges across the river were built for the tramway. The largest was in Citeureup, Dayeuhkolot, to cross the Citarum. Other bridges were built over the Citalutuk, Cisangkuy and Ciherang. 

De Preanger-bode newspaper mentioned that the Bandung-Kopo line bore the official title of a tram line, but the tracks were built to the size of railroad tracks so that they could be used by ordinary trains. The trains that passed through there were only allowed to travel at a limited speed, a maximum of 30 kilometers per hour. 

Meanwhile, for the 5.25-kilometer Rancaekek-Jatinangor tram line, planning began in 1916. Construction preparations began in 1917. This line was prepared to reach a further route, towards Sumedang.

The starting point of the tram line was at Rancaekek. From there the line turned north towards Tanjungsari, passing over a stone bridge that crossed the Tjikoeda (Cikuda) ravine. The bridge is 115.5 meters high.

Bandung station around 1930. KITLV Collection 84198. (Source digitalcollections.universiteitleiden.nl)
Bandung station around 1930. KITLV Collection 84198. (Source digitalcollections.universiteitleiden.nl)

From Tram to Train

The De Preanger-bode newspaper of July 18, 1924 reported on the plans of the state-owned railway company Staatsspoorwaegen to extend the tram service in Bandung. Not only did they continue to build a tramway to Ciwidey, but they also discussed the possibility of building other routes. These include to Majalaya, Cimahi, Ujungberung and Lembang. The tram line to Cimahi, for example, was supported by the Dutch military.

The development of a tram line is also being considered to cross a number of highways in Bandung City, utilizing tram cars. Trams operate without rails, only in the form of carriages pulled by vehicles on the highway. Shanghai, a city in China, has successfully used tram cars.

Potential passengers, construction and operating costs, and detailed plans were calculated. Some Staatsspoorwegen officials were skeptical about plans to expand tram services due to the high cost. To be sure, Staatsspoorwegen is continuing construction of the Bandung-Kopo to Ciwidey tram line. 

On February 7, 1925, Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indie newspaper reported the launch of a tram line from Karees in Bandung to Ciwidey. The scenic canal route, which crosses mountain passes, would be operational from February 15, 1925.

Staatsspoorwegen announced that it would close Karees Station, and move the departure point from Bandung Station. The reason was the lack of passengers. Train passengers were still reluctant to use the tram as they still had to transfer from Karees to the city center.

Staatsspoorwegen announced that seven trains will depart from Bandung Station to Ciwidey. The service network will be expanded to utilize existing train lines. The service is similar to the commuter trains operating today in Bandung. Passengers can take different trains from Padalarang, Cicalengka, or Bandung Station to Cikudapateuh to continue their journey to Ciwidey.

"Seven trains will run daily in both directions, with connections to and from Tjiwidej and Madjalaja in Dajeuhkolot. In Bandoeng, connections are made as much as possible to trains to and from Padalarang and in Tjikoedapateuh to mixed trains to and from Tjitjalengka. Passengers of the tram in the latter direction, who wish to use express and express trains, which are known not to stop at Tjikudapateuh, must change at Bandung," wrote Het nieuws van den dag voor Nederlandsch-Indie, February 7, 1925.

Staatsspoorwegen announced that train tickets were available at all stops on the tram line. Luggage could also be loaded directly, without the need to be stored in cargo cars. The Cikudapetuh-Ciwidey train fare was divided into three classes. The second class fare was only 15 cents, the third class 10 cents, and the local class 5 cents.

Bandung is getting busier. The streets are increasingly crowded with vehicular traffic. Sometimes accidents between cars and trains were unavoidable. De koerier newspaper on December 10, 1932 reported a serious accident at the railroad crossing in Coenstraat, Bandung. Due to the slippery road, a car belonging to a Papandajaanlan resident almost hit a train traveling towards Dayeuhkolot.

* Translated from this article by Khumaira Birru Al Walidain.

Editor: Iman Herdiana