Kayu Tanam Exploration: Disused but Intact Rack-and-Pinion Railway Line in Indonesia

With slightly more than 3 hours to wait for the return train back to Lubuk Alung, it was more than enough time for me to explore a small section of the rack-and-pinion railway which used to take passengers all the way to Sawahlunto just after Kayu Tanam Railway Station. I would have loved to continue up to the Lembah Anai Waterfall, the namesake of the train or even to Padang Panjang, but unfortunately no public transport (or Grab for that matter) was available to get there.

Kayu Tanam Railway Station becomes quiet shortly after all passengers have disembarked from the train, and I was the only one who showed up really early for the return train.

The small housing area around the station, leading out to the main road leading to Padang Panjang, and also onwards to Pekanbaru, Bukit Tinggi, and even Lake Toba, Medan and Aceh.

The overall exterior of Kayu Tanam Railway Station.

The vast yet quiet station of Kayu Tanam.

A rather unique set of steel sleepers, probably to anchor the sleeper onto the track bed due to the inclines around.

A classic set of points within the station.

The rack-and-pinion railway line starts immediately after the station. This is the only rack-and-pinion railway line on Sumatra, with the other Indonesian rack-and-pinion railway line on Java at Ambarawa – though that is in operation as a museum tourist line. The only other rack-and-pinion railway line in ASEAN is in Vietnam at Dalat, though even that has limited service only on tracks without the rack-and-pinion.

Entering the rack-and-pinion railway area with a sign to warn to check that the train’s pinion fits in the rack.

The start of the rack, with loose teeth to help with the initial alignment.

This continues to the actual rack with guards at the side to prevent the locomotive’s teeth from dislodging.

Heading onwards on the rack-and-pinion alignment.

A change in ownership of the rack-and-pinion rails and alignment.

Looking back at Kayu Tanam Railway Station.

The first incline up from the station is already pretty steep for a normal train without gears.

The line bypasses the backyards of houses along the railway.

The drain behind the houses actually sounds pretty refreshing with the water from upstream coming down as well at a fast speed.

Locals now use the track to dry their clothes.

And here comes the first break-in-gauge just 5 minutes out of the station – a tared over railway crossing, rendering the track unusable.

The rack-and-pinion railway track now buried under asphalt.

The onward track still remains in tact though.

The railway track now operates as a clothesline.

Looking back towards the downhill gradient towards Kayu Tanam.

The seamless tarred-over road makes the railway unnoticeable.

From the railway crossing (?), I headed back to Kayu Tanam via the main road in hopes of finding a bus stop to continue on to the Lembah Anai Waterfall or Padang Panjang, but unfortunately neither bus stops nor passing buses were in sight.

I headed back to the station area to just lepak around for the next 2 hours and grab lunch to wait for the return train back to Lubuk Alung.

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