The KA Siantar Ekspres is a once-daily train linking Medan and Pematang Siantar, the second most populous city in Northern Sumatra after Medan and a popular pit-stop on the way to and from Lake Toba. Despite the high population between the two towns, the Siantar Ekspres is more of a “Parliamentary Train” rather than a profit-driven service, with low PSO fares and a poor timetable for those heading from Medan and back as shared hires and buses link the cities and their surroundings even faster and more frequently than the train. Mitigating the demand of the train, this once-daily service is formed of just 3 Ekonomi coaches.
Checking-in for my train ride from Medan to Siantar. Despite being an Ekonomi-only train, the boarding pass system is in force rather than the normal Lokal train ticket without the need for identification. That being said, pre-booking of tickets 30 days in advance is allowed for the Siantar Ekspres and is available in all ticket channels including Tiket.com – fantastic for my trip planning and ticket securing.
However, I had purchased my tickets from the ticket vending machines at Gambir Railway Station, Jakarta on my previous trip.
Plenty of ticket vending machines are available there.
Selection of seats are also available at the ticket vending machines, and payment can be easily done with cash.
My tickets for the Siantar Ekspres rides, purchased from Gambir. I don’t really like the new thermal paper with blue prints for these long-term tickets though, but since they are just more like receipts nowadays without the real need for hardcopy tickets, I simply used the booking codes which I saved in my phone to check-in.
And it works, as always.
Printing out my boarding pass.
My boarding pass for the KA Siantar Ekspres U58 ride from Medan to Siantar.
Heading for ticket checking to get to the platform early.
As the boarding pass system is enforced, I needed to show my passport as usual along with my boarding pass to be cleared in.
The Siantar Ekspres was at Platform 3.
Heading through the underpass to Platform 3.
The destination sign of the Siantar Ekspres.
The locomotive wasn’t attached yet.
Heading to Coach 3 at the rear of the train.
Boarding Coach 3.
Apparently I found myself on a kindergarten classroom.
The clean squat toilet on board the Ekonomi coaches.
The view of Medan Elevated Railway Station from the Siantar Ekspres at Platform 3.
As with a bunch of other PSO trains, the seat numbers are conveniently ignored by the passengers. However, after I had made known my seat to the people in mine, I had the aisle instead. Oh well, but at least it’s slightly more convenient when I got out of my seat at every station along the way.
The view of the kindergarten from my seat.
The air-conditioning didn’t help much with the crowd on board, but kept the temperature at just a comfortable temperature.
Departing from Medan Railway Station.
Oh don’t pull the curtains off please.
Approaching the new Bandar Khalipah.
Making a brief stop at Bandar Khalipah.
The new high platforms allow for easy step-free access to the coaches.
Crossing with Railink U21 at Bandar Khalipah.
Railink U21 heading past the old Bandar Khalipah station.
Heading on to Araskabu.
Making a brief stop at Araskabu.
Heading on to Batang Kuis.
Didn’t get a picture of it this time due to the crowds though, but I’ve passed by that station many times before already so that’s fine.
Making a brief stop at Lubuk Pakam.
Heading on to Lidah Tanah.
I was expecting to cross with the Putri Deli U53 here, but apparently the train moved ahead of the station up the siding to wait for my train to enter. Oh well.
Making a brief stop at Lidah Tanah.
Heading on to Tebing Tinggi.
Making a brief stop at Tebing Tinggi, where I finally had the opportunity to take a picture of the locomotive properly. Also, it was easier to move around now that about half the passengers have alighted. Hmm, seems like most people use this low PSO fare in order to travel back to Tebing Tinggi only.
The number plate of BB 203 78 03.
With the green signal showing up, I quickly made my way back onto the train.
Departing from Tebing Tinggi. From here, the train splits off to the Siantar line.
Merging back to the mainline first before splitting off.
Splitting off the mainline to Rantau Prapat.
Finally on my way on the last line to conquer the whole of Divre I‘s passenger railway network.
Passing by houses very close to the side of the track.
The scenery inland towards Siantar.
Making a brief stop at Baja Linggei.
A rather small station, but it comes with its own full fledged loop line.
Departing from Baja Linggei.
The rather small passenger building of Baja Linggei Railway Station.
The station sign of Baja Linggei.
Heading on south with a view of birch trees, reminding me of my journey on the Trans-Siberian in Russia.
The afternoon setting sun from the Siantar Ekspres.
Making a brief stop at Dolok Merangir.
Here, I got yelled at by the security personnel based in one of the front coaches for taking photos of the station. Thankfully, it was towards the end of the journey so I didn’t miss much pictures.
More birch trees, just like Russia.
Approaching civilization again.
Entering Pematang Siantar City.
Entering Siantar Railway Station.
Disembarking from the once-a-day Siantar Ekspres train to Siantar.
The integrated route map of the Siantar Ekspres and Putri Deli, though I don’t think PT KAI interchanges the rakes often. Probably created out of convenience for Ekonomi coaches and these are the only 2 services which run it.
Heading out of the station.
By the time I got to the front of the train, the locomotive was already in the Pertamina depot. Oh well.
Looking back at the platform of Siantar Railway Station.
Exiting the station.
Outside, a bunch of becaks were already waiting for passengers.
The facade of Siantar Railway Station. However, the station hall was already closed when the Siantar Ekspres arrived. Hence, I could only check-in for my return train tomorrow before departure.
Seems like Siantar is a key stop for the RailClinic. I hope the Sri Lelawangsa KRDI isn’t becoming another RailClinic set.
From the station, I walked over to the Tugu Becak or Becak Monument, which is supposedly the landmark or icon of Pematang Siantar City.
The becaks in Siantar are slightly different, using big British motorbikes such as Birmingham Small Arm (BSA) or even Harley Davidson, rather than being manually pulled or by bicycles.
From here, I got a Grab (sorry becak) to my hotel for the night, Arya Inn.
Overall, a great ride on the elusive Siantar Ekspres despite the noise from the kindergarten coach and being shouted at for taking photos at the second last station of the journey. Not really looking forward to anything in Siantar, just the ride back to Medan the next day.