This seemingly unique map was made for the privileged use of the senior officials of the Nederlandsch-Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij (NIS, Dutch East Indies Railway Company). The NIS, founded in 1863, and headquartered in Semarang, served as Java’s anchor railway system, handling both passenger and freight traffic, connecting all the island’s major cities, including as Batavia (Jakarta), Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Bandung, Semarang and Surabaya.
By the late 1880s, the main northern (Jakarta-Semarang-Surabaya) and southern lines (Bandung-Cilcap-Yogyakarta-Surabaya) lines ran across most of the length of Java. However, for a longtime, the rail system endured a severe limitation, as there was no line connecting these routes near their midpoints. In the early 1900s, Java entered its ‘Golden Age’ of rail, and the will and resources were marshalled to rectify this problem. Yet, realizing the cross-island route was a challenge, owing to Java’s extremely mountainous terrain.
The present map features the solution to the crossing of Java, as it depicts the proposed course of the Cirebon-Kroya Railway, the only rail link to cross the midriff of Java. The line was built between 1913 and 1917, and the present map was seemingly made in 1912-3, before the construction of the railway commenced. The map hails from the estate papers of Willibrordus James Felix de Rijck van der Gracht (1865 – 1933), the Surabaya-born Chief Engineer of the NIS; the map may have been made by him personally.
The map, printed in an unusual blue-tinted photolithographic technique that seems, at first glance, to mimic the whiteprint medium, takes its underlying geographical template from another printed map. It shows the locations of cities and towns, railway lines, roads, rivers, the spot heights of key mountain peaks, as well as political divisions (residentie, district boundaries). The map embraces the midriff of Java and shows Batavia-Surabaya line running along the north coast, while the southern line is shown running across the lower part of the map.
Importantly, the map features the proposed route of the Cirebon-Kroya Railway, marked in manuscript, by a neat line of red pen, with its stations marked, along with various technical annotations. The route commences at ‘Cherbon’ (Ceribon), on the Java Sea, in the upper left, a major centre located about 200 km east of Batavia. The line is shown to run in a roughly southeasterly direction down to Pasar Kroya, near the south coast, where it connects to the main southern line. The entire length of the line is shown to be 156.4 km, with points between Ceribon and Kroya marked at Margasari Station (at the 73 km mark); the ‘Hoogste punt’, the highest point of elevation on the line at 339.4 metres above sea level; and at ‘Poerwokerto’(Purwokerto) Station (at the 129.7 km mark).
The construction of the Ceribon-Kroya Line proceeded swimmingly and pretty much followed the route as illustrated upon the map. The line immediately played a vital role in the commercial and social life of Java, a mandate it still fulfills today.
As an interesting aside, the Southern Methodist University Library possesses a link to a wonderful photo album of the construction of the Cirebon-Kroya Railway:
References: N/A – Map seemingly unrecorded.