The museum was established in the 1970s primarily to preserve a wide selection of the steam locomotives, which were then coming to the end of their useful lives on the 3ft 6in (1067mm) gauge railways of the Indonesian State Railway (the Perusahaan Negara Kereta Api, PNKA). These are parked in the open air next to the original station, originally a transhipment point between the 4ft 8 in gauge branch from Kedungjati to the northeast and the 3ft 6in gauge line onward towards Yogyakarta via Magelang to the south. It is still possible to see that the two sides of the station were built to accommodate different size trains. Ambarawa lays some way above sea level and was an administrative centre for the Dutch colonialists. Now the provincial Government of Central Java is increasingly taking an interest from the point of view of its heritage significance and its potential as a tourist attraction. Non-Governmental bodies like the Semarang Heritage Society are also acting to assist and there is also an unofficial overseas group ‘The Friends of Ambarawa Railway Museum’.