The International Steam Pages

Steamy Java Tour in July/August 2008

Latest News - 21st October 2008:

The sugar mills of Java have what must be the one of the largest collections and certainly the most varied of working stationary steam engines in the world. These are detailed on and illustrations of them appear on my CD-ROM Gula Java and

At the same time the mils still use approximately 50 steam locomotives within the mill area and, in a few cases, to the surrounding fields. Details of the 2007 operation are to be found on

For many years I ran an annual tour to Java principally for the steam locomotives attached to these sugar mills although latterly I set aside time for mill visits and other tourist attractions. In 2006, for the first time, I ran a tour for members and friends of the International Stationary Steam Engine Society to visit these sugar mills. In 2008, I am offering a tour that, I believe, offers the best of both worlds of steam power in Java. In effect, it is two tours in one, participants can elect to concentrate on either the stationary steam engine side (A below) OR the steam locomotive/railway side (B below). However, most will find themselves spoiled for choice…..

Participants will be asked to state their allegiance (A or B) to assess the viability of the concept. However, if the numbers are sufficient I hope that there will be some built in flexibility in the transport to allow some ‘cross-over’ experience. I require a minimum of 5 people for each option (6 if only one part is run), the nature of the transport available will obviously depend on numbers – the ability to switch luggage from one vehicle to another is essential to overall viability.

I estimate that the cost of the land arrangements would be no more than £1500 per person (reducing significantly for a larger party) ie excluding the air fares and insurance (less for those not taking the extra day in Jakarta). This would include all expenses (with the usual exceptions like telephone, laundry, alcoholic drinks and so on). Note that the internal flight from Surabaya to Jakarta on the final day would not be included although some airlines will allow ‘open jaw’ arrangements so participants could fly out from Surabaya:

  • Our own small buses (probably air conditioned unlike the mills)
  • Hotels and full board on a twin share basis
  • Mill admission fees, special trains etc
  • My services as leader/guide (with experienced co-leader John Raby for where the groups make separate visits)

Itinerary for Steamy Java Tour


Mills to visit


Wed 16th July Arrive in Java Jakarta

Thu 17th July

Taman Mini Railway Museum


Alternative arrival in Java (14.00 at the latest)

Fri 18th July

A - Karangsuwung, (Sindanglaut), Tersana Baru


B - Cirebon station and shed, Tersana Baru

Sat 19th July

Jatibarang, Pangka


Sun 20th July

Sumberharjo, Sragi


Mon 21st July

Ambarawa Railway Museum + Special


Tue 22nd July

Ambarawa Railway Museum + 2 Specials


Wed 23rd July

A - Gondang Baru


B – (Gondang Baru), Tasikmadu

Thu 24th July

A - Tasikmadu, (Mojo), (Sudhono), (Pagottan)


B - Tasikmadu, Wonogiri to Solo Train

Fri 25th July Cepu Forest Railway Charter Cepu

Sat 26th July

Purwodadi, Rejosari


Sun 27th July

A - Kanigoro, (Rejoagung), Merican


B - Kanigoro, Pagottan, Merican

Mon 28th July

A - Cukir, (Jombang), Watutulis


B - Merican, Gempolkerep

Tue 29th July

A - Krembung, Tulangan


B - Semboro – special train


Wed 30th Jul

A - (Candi), Gending, Pajarakan


B - Olean

Thu 31st Jul

Olean (including railway operation)


Fri 1st Aug

A - (Asembagus), Panji, Wringinanom


B - Asembagus, Olean

Sat 2nd Aug


Leave Java

Mills in brackets will only be visited if time allows, as their attractions are marginal.

July 16th

The tour will begin in Jakarta. Those who wish to visit the railway museum at Taman Mini – or want time to acclimatise or recover from the long flight should also arrive today.

July 17th

The morning will be spent visiting Taman Mini Indonesia which includes Indonesia’s railway museum, home to more than 20 preserved mainline steam locomotives from Java and Sumatra. Thereafter the group will move on to Cirebon for the overnight. It will be possible to arrive today (14.00 at the latest) and travel to Cirebon for a late evening arrival.

July 18th

Our first mill visit will be to Karangsuwung, one of the best ‘steam’ mills on Java with a wide range of stationary steam engine equipment although the small railway system is entirely tractor operated. Afterwards there will be a short visit to Sindanglaut which has steam mill engines and some stored steam locomotives. Those needing a more relaxing schedule may choose to visit the nearby railway station in Cirebon (preserved B13 2-4-0T outside with its adjacent loco shed probably including the preserved CC200 half centenarian diesel).

In the afternoon, everyone will visit Tersana Baru where the mill has a mass of steam engines (two lines of mill engines, vacuum pumps etc) and at least half a dozen working steam locomotives (0-8-0T by Orenstein & Koppel, Du Croo & Brauns, Jung) whose activity is restricted to the yard.

Overnight is again in Cirebon.

July 19th

Today those with a broad interest in steam power will find themselves totally spoiled for choice, steam locomotives and stationary steam engines will compete for your attention.

We shall visit Jatibarang, some distance east, where the mill itself has traditional stationary steam engines in quantity. Outside there will be some yard work (mostly likely one or two locomotives, the possibilities include a Couillet 0-6-0T, Jung 0-8-0/0-8-0T). We shall then continue to Tegal (preserved C14 0-6-0T) for lunch before visiting Pangka in the afternoon, which has plenty of attractive yard steam loco activity (Jung 0-6-2T, OK 0-8-0T). The mill itself is very steamy with an excellent range of steam engines. Overnight is in Batang (near Pekalongan).

July 20th

Sumberharjo is a sleepy mill whose steam locomotive allocation (OK and DB 0-8-0T) rarely stirs early in the morning – they do most of their work on overnight trains. However, the mill itself contains some large stationary steam engines and is spacious and well lit for photography, the mill engines are a treasure and the Werkspoor combined vacuum pump, water injection pump and condenser is simply unbelievable. In the afternoon we shall visit Sragi. There are no stationary steam engines here, but with eight varied steam locomotives at work in 2007, the bustling yard makes for compulsive train watching, a perfect opportunity for the stationary steam engine visitors to rehydrate. Star performers are the former Staats Spoorwegen Hartmann 0-8-0Ts and BMAG 0-10-0T. Overnight is again in Batang.

July 21st

For the hardcore, there may be time for a brief early morning visit to Sragi, where most locomotives will be on shed or sitting in the yard waiting to start the day’s work. In any case, we then have a fair distance to travel, skirting Semarang to Ambarawa which is home to one of Java’s two railway museums although in truth it is more a locomotive park than anything else. More than twenty iron dinosaurs are preserved here in the open. There are four working locomotives here, 2 B25 0-4-2T, an E10 0-10-0T (all rack tanks) and conventional 2-6-0T C1218 and we shall have three special trains on the line south. This afternoon the E1060 (which is restricted to the flat section to Jambu) will be first out. Overnight will be at the nearby hill station at Bandungan.

July 22nd

In the morning we shall take C1218 (restored to working order in 2006) to Jambu and back. Afterwards, we shall take a trolley ride north-east to Tuntang along the edge of the lake, Rawa Pening (this line is not fit for locomotive hauled trains). In the afternoon we shall finally take one of the B25s up the rack to Bedono. Overnight is again in Bandungan.

July 23rd

Today is stationary steam engine heaven, Gondang Baru has the oldest mill engines in Java (including a Corliss engine kept in reserve) and a supporting cast of more than a dozen more assorted stars. The lime kiln has its own narrow gauge push system, but the mill’s steam locomotives are stored out of use in the shed and a couple more are preserved in the on-site Central Java sugar museum. If there is sufficient demand, some of the party will move on to Tasik Madu (see 25th schedule) for a short afternoon visit to see the steam locomotives at work in the yard.

July 24th

The main steam attraction today is Tasik Madu where up to six steam locomotives were at work in the yard in 2007. Inside the mill, there are some wonderful steam pumps (the CO2 compressors are thought to have been taken out of use since 2006) and they even have a preserved vertical boiler steam roller.

In the afternoon we can offer a ride on Java’s last real branch line (diesel hauled of course) from Wonogiri to Solo or for those whose main interest is stationary steam, we shall offer three brief visits to mills which all have a small number of engines.

The group will reassemble for overnight in Madiun.

July 25th

With the reported restoration of the broken bridge and reinstatement of the railway in late 2007, we shall again be able to offer a charter train on the Cepu Forest Railway. Overnight is again in Cepu.

July 26th

We go to first to Purwodadi which has a busy road yard operated by up to five OK 0-8-0T, best seen in the morning while inside the mill the many stationary engines are particularly photogenic and well laid out in contrast with many mills which are quite gloomy and cluttered. Lunch time will see us in Madiun (preserved C26 0-6-0T). In the afternoon we shall go to Rejosari where stationary steam inside the mill is again present in quantity and extremely photogenic. In the railway yard, there is an outside chance that the unique OK jackshaft 0-8-0T will be available for a special steaming. Overnight will again be in Madiun.

July 27th

First stop in the morning will be at Kanigoro. Hopefully at least one steam locomotive will be in use and the mill has the usual selection of stationary steam engines inside. The stationary fraternity will hopefully have already visited Pagottan, but outside we should expect to find one or two steam locomotives at work, including a Luttermoller geared 0-10-0T. Meanwhile the rest of the group will visit Rejoagung for its limited stationary steam. In the afternoon, everyone will visit Merican for the (up to five) steam locomotives in the yard and the stationary steam inside.

July 28th

The two halves will travel separately today. Group B will revisit Merican and then afterwards visit Gempolkerep which has a busy road yard system operated mainly by diesel, the main attractions are a pair of OK Luttermőller 0-10-0s which operate close to the mill.

Group A will have brief visits to Cukir and Jombang and a longer visit at Watutulis.

Overnight will be in Mojokerto.

July 29th

Group A will visit the very steamy sugar mills at Krembung and Tulangan although there are no steam locomotives at either site. Overnight will be in Mojokerto.

Group B should aim for a late morning arrival at Semboro. After inspecting the two fireless locos, lunch is unlikely to be available at the mill guest house (so we take snacks or eat modestly locally) before boarding our special train around the large estate. The train loco will probably be the 1961 Jung 0-6-0T, although one of the OK 0-4-4-0T Mallets may be available. In the late afternoon/early evening the group will drive to Situbondo north of Jember.

July 30th

Group A will visit the steam sugar mills at Candi (this may now be completely modernized and no longer worth visiting), Gending and Pajarakan although there are no remotely active steam locomotives at any of these sites.

By 2007 the number of mills which still used railways outside the immediate mill area was very few and Olean is the best place to observe such activity.

Group B will use the morning to watch the empty wagons go out at Olean (the mill used four OK 0-8-0T in 2006) and see the cane being cut and loaded and will return for the steam action as the train(s) return to the mill.

Overnight will be in Situbondo.

July 31st

Group B will again use the morning to watch the empty wagons go out at Olean (the mill used four OK 0-8-0T in 2006) and see the cane being cut and loaded or they can join Group A for a full mill visit. After an early lunch, both groups will return for the steam action as the train(s) return to the mill.

August 1st

We shall all visit Asembagus where it may be possible to charter a short steam hauled train (OK 0-6-0T or 0-8-0 in 2006) for Group B, Group A will have a brief mill visit although in 2007 what little steam equipment remained seemed to be about to be replaced.

Thereafter, Group A will visit the steam powered mills at Panji and Wringinanom – the latter probably running Olean and Gondang close for the title of the best on the island. In the afternoon Group B will have a third opportunity to see the field trains at Olean.

August 2nd

After breakfast, we shall drive to Surabaya (airport) from where we will take an afternoon flight to Jakarta in good time for onward connections home. Group A will have an earlier start with a brief visit to Wonolangan en route.

About travelling...

I am scathing about the 'Lonely Planet effect', I have been quietly running tours to Java for over 15 years in which time our regular destinations have remained 'unspoiled'. The peoples of Java are uniquely hospitable, helpful and friendly and I respect them and their traditional lifestyle. Apart from paying for what is now an official agro-tourism programme in the sugar mills, this tour will continue my policy of taking the sugar mills as we find them and not turning them into a circus. 

This tour is designed for the kind of person who says 'normally I don't join tour groups but....'. It is intensive but not at the expense of being 'fun'. 

Over the years many people have extended their visits with me to travel independently afterwards and I can offer practical advice, Java is not a difficult destination despite what the media implies. By the same token, I have always welcomed independent travellers who wish to join the tour for activities like the Ambarawa special trains.


Java is equatorial, it will be hot outdoors in the daytime, but not excessively humid as sugar cane is harvested in the dry season. The evenings will be pleasantly warm. Every few years we seem to get a slightly wet 'dry season', this is most likely to affect the Ambarawa area which is inland and in the hills, but there is no need to bring a rain coat!.

Hotels will be 'good local' as opposed to 'international', all with air-conditioning (except in Bandungan which is a hill station) with en-suite facilities including western toilet, normally with a hot shower or even a bath.

Breakfasts will be a mixture of local and continental. Lunches will be simple rice or noodle dishes. Dinners will be substantial Chinese style meals.

Bottled water and international soft drinks are readily available. Finding cold beer is now a major logistic exercise. If you enjoy a stronger tipple from time to time, best bring your own.

The tour is definitely 'non-smoking' and if (unlike me) you have a mobile phone, it should be kept switched off in public.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson