The International Steam Pages

The Java Experience Tour in July/August 2009
(a different kind of Java tour)

The Real Java Sugar Steam Loco Tour 2010

While the proposals below for 2009 are history, you should click here for information about the 2010 tour.

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. At the same time the mills still use around 40 steam locomotives within the mill area and, in a few cases, to the surrounding fields. I have run an annual tour to Java for many years principally for the steam locomotives attached to these mills although latterly I have set aside time for mill visits. In 2006, for the first time, I ran a tour specially for members and friends of the International Stationary Steam Engine Society. In 2008, I organised a tour that offered the best of all possible worlds to see steam power in Java. We satisfied an amazing variety of interests, the group of 20 included those who wanted simply to see as many steam locomotives (dead or alive) as possible, those who were dedicated steam photographers and those whose main interest was the stationary steam engines as well as ‘middle of the road’ enthusiasts who simply wanted the kind of steam experience which is still possible only in Java. For good measure, we threw in a charter on the Cepu Forest Railway and the two major steam locomotive museums in Jakarta and Ambarawa, including no less than three special trains at the latter.

Building on this, the 2009 tour will omit a few of the marginal mill operations and instead offer other visits of a more ‘normal’ tourist nature. I believe that this will appeal to those enthusiasts whose partners might want to come along to share in the enjoyment.

If we have sufficient numbers (minimum 13) to justify a second bus, then this will allow us to offer, as we did in 2008, alternative programmes on some days. The intention is that this would allow some participants to follow a more fully railway orientated schedule and should this happen then experienced Java hand John Raby will be in charge of this side of things. We learned in 2008 that it is not necessary for the party to divide anything like evenly as switching luggage to the less full bus frees up extra seats.

Details of 2008 operations are to be found on and there is a loco list on

There is detailed information on the mill engines on and illustrations of them appear on my CD-ROM Gula Java and

I estimate that the cost of the land arrangements will be (about) £1650 per person. 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. This is 10% more than we charged in 2008, not just because the tour includes an extra day in Jakarta (the most expensive city in Indonesia), but also because, apart from significant local inflation, the pound has recently lost nearly 10% of its value against the Indonesian rupiah. The price is based on the exchange rate at the beginning of September 2008 and will only be changed if the value of the pound declines further by more than 5%.

The price quoted includes:

  • 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 guide
  • All gratuities etc, unlike most other tour operators there are no 'hidden extras', no 'tips kitties', no nasty surprises. 

It excludes:

  • International flights and one (possible) domestic flight and obviously airport taxes
  • Insurance
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry and telephone

The minimum party size will be six. The day out at Cepu is expensive by Java standards and we need at least eight people to operate it. A deposit of GBP 100 per person will secure a place on the tour. Should the minimum number not be reached by 20th April 2009, then the tour will be cancelled. The early date has to be specified because traditionally flights booked after this time from Europe have been significantly more expensive. Conversely, the earlier we are able to confirm the tour before this date then the better the likely flight availability and price.

(Anyone specifically interested in the railway-orientated option should book to secure a place on the tour specifying this. Should this option not run, this deposit will be fully refundable.)

For more information on the tour please email . the email address is not a link, you will have to retype the address.

Itinerary for the Java Experience Tour


Visits etc (@ = sugar mill)


Fri July 24th 

Arrive in Java


Sat July 25th Old city visit, Taman Mini Railway Museum Jakarta

Sun July 26th 

Train to Pekalongan


Mon Jul 27th 

Batik workshop, Pangka @


Tue Jul 28th 

Sumberharjo @, Sragi  @


Wed Jul 29th 

Dieng Plateau, Gedong Songgo


Thu Jul 30th 

Ambarawa Railway Museum + 2 Specials (C12/B25)


Fri Jul 31st 

Borobudur and Prambanan (or Gondang Baru @)


Sat Aug 1st 

Tasik Madu @, Candi Sukuh 


Sun Aug 2nd 

Kraton, Wonogiri branch


Mon Aug 3rd 

Gamelan workshop, Rejosari @


Tue Aug 4th 

Purwodadi @, local visits in Cepu


Wed Aug 5th 

Cepu Forest


Thu Aug 6th 

Merican @


Fri Aug 7th 

Local visits, Gempolkerep @


Sat Aug 8th 

Semboro @


Sun Aug 9th 

Olean @ (both mill and railway)


Mon Aug 10th 

Olean (including cutting/loading)


Tue Aug 11th

Kawah Ijen, Olean @


Wed Aug 12th 

Wringinanom  @, transfer to Bromo


Thu Aug 13th 

Dawn at Bromo

Tour concluded

Tour Details

Friday July 24th
Participants will assemble in Jakarta, I expect to again use the Batavia Hotel which is situated in the (old) Kota area.

Saturday July 25th
The morning will be available to relax or visit the adjacent tourist attractions which include many Dutch buildings, the old harbour with its traditional sailing vessels and Kota station which houses a small museum. In the afternoon we shall go to the transportation museum at Taman Mini Indonesia, home to over 20 former PNKA steam locomotives.
[Alternative programme – ride the suburban trains and/or visit the magnificent station at Tanjong Priok.]

Sunday July 26th
The day will be spent travelling by (air conditioned) train to Pekalongan, where our tour bus(es) will be waiting to take us the short distance to our hotel at Batang. Relax and enjoy a swim in their large pool.

Monday July 27th
After breakfast we will visit a batik workshop near Pekalongan. Afterwards we will drive to Tegal for lunch and Pangka Mill which has plenty of yard steam activity, while the interior is very steamy but rather dark and gloomy. Overnight is again in Batang.
[Alternative programme – visit the mills at either Jatibarang or Sragi in the morning. In 2008, Jatibarang was using a single Jung 0-8-0T.]

Click below to view

Pangka in action 2008

(YouTube Clip)

Tuesday July 28th
Sumberharjo is a sleepy mill whose steam allocation 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. In the afternoon we shall visit Sragi. Although it has now lost its field lines, the remaining yard work is very interesting. In 2008, there were half a dozen working steam locomotives including Berliner 0-10-0T and Hartmann 0-8-0T. Overnight is again in Batang.

Click below to view

Sragi in action 2008

(YouTube Clip)

Wednesday July 29th
We shall avoid the crowded north coast road and take the scenic inland route for a visit to the Dieng Plateau, 2000 metres above sea level. Often shrouded in clouds, this area is now a vast vegetable garden in the mountains. The plateau has geysers and several small Hindu temples. Afterwards, we shall travel on through Wonosobo to our overnight destination, the hill station at Bandungan. In the afternoon we shall visit the tiny Hindu temples at Gedong Songo nearby which arguably have the best setting of any antiquity in Java. Situated high up on Mount Ungaran, the towering volcanoes of Merbabu, Merapi, Sumbing and Sindoro are all clearly visible on fine days. 
[Alternative programme – travel directly to Ambarawa and have an extra charter in the afternoon with the E10 between Ambarawa and Jambu, E1060 has now been sent back to West Sumatra, it would have to be a B25)

Thursday July 30th
Ambarawa is home to Java’s other railway museum although in truth it is more a locomotive park than anything else. More than twenty iron dinosaurs are preserved 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 two special trains on the line south. Overnight will again be in Bandungan. 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 take one of the B25s up the rack to Bedono. Overnight is again in Bandungan.

Click below to view

Ambarawa 2008

(YouTube Clip from John Raby)

Friday July 31st
The two prime historical religious sites in Java are the huge Buddhist stupa at Borobudur and the Hindu temple complex at Prambanan. Extensively restored and somewhat sanitised, they cannot fail to impress. As an alternative in the afternoon one of the ultimate steam experiences must be the mill machinery at Gondang Baru which is the oldest on the island with an active mill engine dating back to 1884. The next three overnights will be in Solo. 
[Alternative programme – Gondang Baru with an extra visit to Tasik Madu]

Click below to view

Gondang Baru mill in action

(YouTube Clip)

Saturday August 1st
The steam railway attraction today is Tasik Madu where up to six steam locomotives were at work in the yard in 2008. Star of the show is OK 0-10-0 Luttermöller VI with its giant twelve wheel tender and I shall request a steaming of their vertical boiler steam roller although it is not in perfect health. During the midday break we shall travel up to the idyllic Hindu temple of Candi Sukuh claiming to be the home of Java’s only erotic stone carvings although they are very tame by Indian standards.
[Alternative programme – Full day at Tasik Madu]

Click below to view

Tasik Madu in action 2008

(YouTube Clip)

Sunday August 2nd
In the morning we shall visit one or two of Solo’s royal palaces (Kraton). In the afternoon we can offer a ride on Java’s last real branch line (diesel hauled of course) from Wonogiri to Solo 
[Alternative programme – watch the busy morning rush hour at Purwosari and then ride the train to Wonongiri. Linesiding the train on the way back to Solo or ride it again.]

Click below to view

Wonogiri train 2008

(YouTube Clip from John Raby)

Monday August 3rd
After breakfast, we shall journey towards Madiun to visit a Gamelan workshop where the individual components of the orchestra are still made in the traditional way and where we shall also see a Wayang Kulit performance. 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 be in Madiun.
[Alternative programme – Mills at Kanigoro and Pagottan in the morning. Kanigoro was using one OK 0-8-0T and Pagottan was using two inside framed OK Luttermöllers in 2008.]

Click below to view

Rejosari in action 2008

(YouTube Clip)

Tuesday August 4th
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. Afterwards we shall go to Cepu for a preliminary visit (see below) which will include the sawmill and experimental station.
[Alternative programme – PTKA Cepu shed.]

Click below to view

Purwodadi in action 2008

(YouTube Clip)

Click below to view

Purwodadi mill in action

(YouTube Clip)

Wednesday August 5th
For nearly 100 years, the teak trees of the Cepu Forest were harvested conservatively with planned reforestation. Social and political changes mean that this is under threat from overcutting, but today we shall have a special logging train which will recreate the days before road transport took over. We shall ride out to the forest on the empty loris (wagons) and watch as the train is loaded by hand before returning in the late afternoon. There will be plenty of photo opportunities during what is traditionally one of the highlights of the tour.

Click below to view

Cepu train 2008

(YouTube Clip from John Raby)

Thursday August 6th
After breakfast, it will be time to move on from Cepu, lunch will be in Ngawi and afterwards we shall visit Merican for the (up to five) steam locomotives in the yard. In July 2008, the steam locomotives were burning wood instead of bagasse so the customary ‘Roman Candle’ evening fireworks display was not available but we shall have to check the current situation on arrival. Overnight is in Kediri.

Click below to view

Merican in action 2008

(YouTube Clip)

Friday August 7th
Today we will make a number of visits showing the diverse nature of Javanese culture, possibilities include a Chinese temple, a Christian grotto and restored Mojopahit temples. After lunch in Mojokerto, the group will visit the mill at 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. Overnight will be in Probolinggo.
[Alternative programme – return to Merican in the morning]

Saturday August 8th
We have to be at Semboro by late morning. After inspecting the two fireless locos, we will board our special train around the large estate. The train loco will probably be the 1961 Jung 0-6-0T, none of the Mallets was available for line work during our visit in 2008. In the late afternoon we will drive to Jember for our overnight.

Click below to view

Semboro in action 2008

(YouTube Clip from John Raby)

Sunday August 9th
By 2008, 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, as always I have allowed plenty of time here. 
Along with Gondang, Olean Mill is a contender for the best preserved working steam mill on the island. After driving up from Jember, we shall have a visit to the mill to see the machinery (the oldest engine dates from 1891). After a very hurried lunch, we will return for the steam action in the fields. The next 3 nights will be spent in Situbondo.
[Alternative programme, visit PTKA Jember shed or train to Banyuwangi and bus back to Situbondo.]

Click here to view

Olean in action 2004/5

(YouTube Clip)

Click here to view

Olean mill in action

(YouTube Clip)

Monday August 10th
Today I expect to see the empty loris going out at Olean (tender first if steam hauled) after which we should be able to see traditional hand cutting and loading of the cane, together with the use of water buffalo to bring up the train over the temporary track. According to how loading progresses we may have time for a quick lunch in Situbondo before the afternoon action.

Tuesday August 11th
East of Bondowoso lies the Ijen plateau, an ancient volcanic crater, which is now home to a large coffee estate. High above the plateau is Kawah Ijen, a beautiful crater lake with active sulphur vents. The crystalised sulphur is collected and carried on foot up to the crater rim and down again in baskets weighing 60-70kg. An early start from our hotel (05.00) is essential so that our climb can be completed in the cool of the morning. It takes about 90 minutes to drive to Pos Paltuding where the bus has to be parked. The route to the rim is a well-worn (uphill!) track which will take about an hour. Descending to the crater lake (30 minutes) is more demanding but very rewarding. Depending on how long it takes the group, we may have time for lunch before we re-visit Olean for the afternoon train(s).
[Alternative programme – additional full day at Olean and/or Asembagus morning or afternoon visit and/or diesel field workings at Panji or Wringinanom, subject to discussion!]

Wednesday August 12th
After breakfast, we shall offer a mill visit at Wringinanom which ranks alongside Gondang Baru and Olean as one of the best traditional steam powered mills on the island, the railway has been dieselised for some time. In the late morning, we shall drive to Probolinggo (for lunch) and up to Cemoro Lawang (on the edge of the large crater in which Bromo is found) where we shall stay the night.
[Alternative programme – Wringinanom baby diesels or dieselised Panji mill]

Thursday August 13th
Dawn at Bromo is one of the ‘musts’ of Java. Take your pick from staying on the main crater edge or joining the masses who walk or ride to Bromo itself. My personal favourite is leaving the hotel at 05.45, taking the bus to the foot of Gunung Penanjakan and climbing 300m to the summit to arrive just after the hordes have left in their 4 wheel drive jeeps at 07.00. The views are staggering.... After breakfast, we shall drive down to Surabaya (airport) where the tour will end just after midday.

Post tour options:

I strongly recommend extending your stay and travelling back to Jakarta in stages. For instance, first take the afternoon train from Surabaya to Yogya (or Solo). Enjoy a day sightseeing in this popular tourist centre then take the train up to Bandung in the West Java highlands. In addition to its well known attractions of Dutch ‘Art Deco’ buildings, not far away there are hot springs at Cipanas (Garut). The train ride down to Jakarta offers some spectacular bridges in attractive scenery with an arrival time at Gambir station ideal for late afternoon and evening flights. If there is sufficient interest than this will be offered as an escorted tour extension.

For those who are interested in seeing more of the many out of use or preserved steam locomotives then we can offer advice on how to travel independently back to Jakarta. It will require the best part of a week.

More links:

More videos (external links)

DVDs of Java Sugar Steam:

About travelling in Java...

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 quite 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 and Cepu 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 and Bromo where you will need a good jersey) 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.

For more information on the tour please email . The email  address is not a link, you will have to retype the address.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson