The International Steam Pages

The Real Java Sugar Steam Loco Tour 2010

Updated 21st August 2010

The tour ran very successfully and you can read about it:

John Raby's Steamy Java 2010 blog.

Rob Dickinson's Steamy Java 2010 blog.

There will be no further Java tours organised by Yuehong
and myself. There are many reasons I could give but
basically  I have lost interest in watching old friends die...

The sugar mills of Java still use approximately 30 steam locomotives within the mill area and, in a very few cases, to the surrounding fields. Details of the 2009 operation are to be found on

These mills also 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

In 2010 I have agreed to run a mill tour for members and friends of the International Stationary Steam Engine Society and I propose to run this tour in parallel with it. On many days we shall be able to combine visits as the mills with steam locomotives and steam engines often overlap.

Despite the collapse in the value of the GBP, the cost of the land arrangements is confirmed as GBP1950 per person ie excluding the air fares and insurance, with a single supplement of GBP200. This includes everything including all meals (with the usual exceptions like telephone, laundry, alcoholic drinks and so on). Also included are all gratuities - we do NOT have a tips kitty. Note that the (relatively inexpensive) 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 

  • John Raby’s (and my) services as guide

Apart from long-established specials at Ambarawa, Cepu and Semboro, the trip is designed for those who want to see real 2010 sugar mill steam action without trying to recreate the past. Participants should be willing to accept the occasional mill breakdown, substitution of steam by diesel and/or possible other surprises along the way. We also encourage the tour members to take the opportunity to look at the wonderful collection of working stationary steam locos in the mills and to avail themselves of the expertise on offer from the participants on the parallel Sugar Mill Tour.

If your railway interest extends to internal combustion on the narrow gauge, an illustrated historical summary of Java's sugar mill diesels is now available on this site. While we shall rarely seek them out on the tour, many will be seen in the same way that the stationary engines are viewable inside the mills.

Those who want to hedge their bets on seeing the best of the real steam loco action in 2010 at all the mills known to use steam should consider extending their visit at the end of the tour. They can then revisit one or more mills either by making their own way overland back to Jakarta (with guidance and support from the tour leaders before they head off) or by joining a post-tour return to Jakarta escorted by John  specifically to give a second chance at one or more key mills and visit several more interesting diesel mills. This post-tour extension will end in Jakarta on August 8th with time to catch any flight out leaving around midnight on 8th/9th or 9th. Those who are especially keen to see dumped or plinthed locos they missed should plan to make their own way back to Jakarta. Visas on arrival in Indonesia are generally for 30 days (renewable once since January 2010) and the daily costs in Indonesia are relatively cheap so it makes sense to enjoy the experience for as long as possible.

Ours is not be the only tour to Java in 2010, you might naturally ask why you should join this as opposed to the others on offer.

  • You will be tapping into the experience of someone (Rob) who has been visiting Java almost annually for over 30 years and has been leading tours there for over 25 years, all but the first few of which were organised by him as well. John first visited Java nearly 30 years ago and has been back many times since. 

  • The tour is designed for the mature enthusiast who wants plenty of time to take in the atmosphere of working steam (inside and outside the mills) as well as everything else that makes Java a very special place; the countryside including the volcanoes, the food and most of all its people who are uniquely friendly and hospitable.

  • This tour will no doubt produce some excellent photographic results as usual, but it is definitely not designed for those who see the world only through a steam loco orientated camera lens. Video photographers especially will appreciate the variety of sights and sounds (not to say smells) available. See for John's 2008 experiences. 

  • While the tour will be operated in a totally professional manner, the fact that we do not have to rely on it to pay our day to day living expenses means that we can offer it at a very attractive price which is helped by the fact that we can use local friends and contacts built up over many years to help out and do not have to employ local agents.

  • Compared to our rivals, we believe ours is by far the best value on offer. There are no hidden extras like meals and 'tips kitty'.

Real Java Sugar Steam Loco Tour 2010


Mills etc to visit


Fri Jul 16th

Leave UK etc

Sat Jul 17th

Arrive in Java


Sun Jul 18th

Taman Mini Railway Museum


Mon Jul 19th



Tue Jul 20th



Wed Jul 21st

Sragi, Sumberharjo, 


Thu Jul 22nd

Ambarawa Railway Museum + B25 Special


Fri Jul 23rd

Ambarawa B25 Special, Tasikmadu 


Sat Jul 24th

Tasikmadu (plus possibly Wonogiri Branch Train)


Sun Jul 25th

C1218 special, Sudhono


Mon Jul 26th

Kanigoro, Pagottan, Rejosari


Tue Jul 27th

Cepu Forest Railway


Wed Jul 28th

Purwodadi, Merican


Thu Jul 29th

Merican, (Kedawung)


Fri Jul 30th

Semboro (with special train)


Sat Jul 31st

Olean (including mill visit)


Sun Aug 1st



Mon Aug 2nd

(Post-tour extension available – extra night(s) in Situbondo or via Surabaya towards Jakarta)

Leave Java

Tue Aug 3rd

Arrive UK etc early am

Sun Aug 8th (Post tour ends Jakarta)
Mon Aug 9th (return to UK, etc)
Tue Aug 10th Arrive UK etc early am

July 17th

The tour will begin in Jakarta. If you want time to acclimatise or recover from the long flight consider arriving a day or two earlier, we can assist with accommodation etc. 

Overnight is in Jakarta.

July 18th

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. The afternoon will be spent travelling to Cirebon. 

Overnight is in Cirebon.

July 19th

Sumberharjo has a very attractive loco shed with Ducroo & Brauns locos as well as those from Orenstein & Koppel; in 2009 it was the only mill in Java with regular steam field work, albeit most of the full cane trains work at night. Our arrival should be in time for us to see the locos being prepared and moving off the shed. Most of the group will then probably walk to the top of the yard via the dumped locos on the empties side of the mill. After hopefully catching some cable work to marshal the empty stock we can expect as many as three steam hauled trains of empties to head off to the fields. We will try to arrange for the bus to be at the weigh bridge at the far end of the mill to chase any trains heading (tender first) along the roadside line to the west. We will establish which fields are being worked and where we can expect the steam-hauled full trains to be located. Although there is a good chance that these trains won't return to the mill until after dark, this is a rare opportunity to see steam-hauled cane trains in the fields so we will chance our luck with a return there after lunch to see what is happening.

Overnight is in Tegal.

July 20th

Today is available for an extended morning visit to Sragi which had up to eight varied steam locomotives at work in 2009, the bustling yard makes for compulsive train watching. Star performers are the former Staats Spoorwegen Hartmann 0-8-0Ts and BMAG 0-10-0Ts.

In the afternoon we shall go to Pangka which has a busy road yard with up to three steam locomotives at work in 2009 and much steam equipment inside.

Overnight is again in Tegal.

July 21st

Today has been deliberately left open, with the main target the potential afternoon field workings at Sumberharjo. Provisionally, we plan first to return to Pangka to see the morning activity although some members may wish to visit Jatibarang (dieselised in 2009) with members of the mill tour instead. Thereafter both groups will meet for lunch and Jatibarang visitors will rejoin the group. A final decision on the afternoon visit will then be made, obviously if Sumberharjo seems unlikely to perform, a repeat visit to Sragi (or even Pangka) would be the alternatives.

Overnight is again in Tegal.

July 22nd

Today we leave the north coast area to transfer southwards, 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 two working steam locomotives here, both B25 0-4-2T (rack tanks) and we shall have a special train on the line south with one of them up the rack to Bedono.

Overnight will be at the nearby hill station of Bandungan.

July 23rd

There will be a second B25 special in the early morning. Thereafter, the group will proceed to Tasikmadu, some distance away on the other side of Solo. Outside, up to six steam locomotives were at work in the yard in 2009, any extra time planned here tomorrow will not be wasted, we learned in 2008 that these days activity varies considerably from day to day.

Overnight is in Solo.

July 24th

A full day visit will be made to Tasikmadu where the locomotives will be seen being prepared and then working the yard.

Alternatively, in view of the visit to Tasikmadu the previous day, some members may wish to travel on the Wonogiri branch train in the afternoon. A bus will take them to Wonogiri in good time and return for those staying on at Tasikmadu. 

As a further alternative we can offer a few places on the mill tour bus to stationary steam engine heaven, Gondang Baru which has the oldest mill engines in Java and a supporting cast of more than a dozen other 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. A couple of diesels should be working the yard. This will be a 'whole day option'.

Overnight is again in Solo.

July 25th

C1218 has been transferred to Solo to operate trains on (part of) Java's last rural branch to Wonogiri and we hope to arrange for a charter early on a Sunday morning when the traffic in Solo's main street should be much less than average. Moving east, one piece of good news in 2009 was the return to steam at Sudhono, a feature which hopefully will be maintained in 2010.

Overnight will be in Madiun.

July 26th

First stop in the morning will be at Kanigoro where the mill had just one steam locomotive in use in 2009. At Pagottan we should expect to find one or two steam locomotives at work, including a Luttermöller geared 0-10-0T. In the afternoon we shall go to Rejosari where there were two steam locomotives at work in 2009. If available, we shall arrange for the unique OK jackshaft 0-8-0T Salak to be steamed. 

Overnight will be some distance away in Cepu.

July 27th

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.

Overnight will again be in Cepu.

July 28th

In the morning, an early start will be needed to get to Purwodadi where there is a busy road yard operated by up to three OK 0-8-0Tsteam locomotives. For those interested, the many stationary steam engines inside are particularly photogenic and well laid out in contrast with many mills which are quite gloomy and cluttered.

In the afternoon, we will move on to Merican where a couple of steam locomotives were at work in the yard in 2009, including Java's (and the world's) last Mallet. In 2008 the locos were burning wood which doesn't offer the night time fireworks as when burning bagasse. However, if the locos are burning bagasse again, we will wait for darkness to see the impressive fireworks display. If not, there will be the chance of a shower before dinner. Either way, we will need to be at dinner by 7.30 pm as Kediri goes to bed early.'

Overnight will be in Kediri..

July 29th

Today should be a little more relaxed as apart from a return to Merican first thing, there is no active steam at all left in the next part of Java moving east. In the afternoon, a visit will be made to Kedawung which is a diesel operated mill with field lines and some out of use steam locomotives - there are no live steam attractions available in this part of Java.

Overnight will be in Probolinggo.

July 30th

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 some way north for a somewhat later arrival than usual to give us an extra morning at Olean.

Overnight will be in Situbondo.

July 31st

By 2008 the number of mills which still used steam on railways for trains to the fields outside the immediate mill area was very few and Olean was the best place to observe such activity. However, reports from 2009 indicate that such activity was much reduced and it is difficult to predict what steam activity will be available in 2010. The next two days will be spent here or at Asembagus which still had serviceable steam in 2009. Even then if no steam was scheduled for use at Olean it could easily be substituted for the diesel for group visits. We will explore this possibility in 2010 if necessary although we hope to find 'natural' working steam here. 

The interior of the mill rivals Gondang for its variety of ancient steam power some of it dating from the 19th century and time will be set aside for a visit, similarly to the nearby mill at Wringinanom. 

Overnight will be in Situbondo.

August 1st

A second day will be spent at Asembagus and/or Olean. If we draw a steam blank then there are also attractive (diesel) operated field trains at Wringinanom and Panji.

Overnight will again be in Situbondo.

August 2nd

After breakfast the group will disperse. For those who need it, transport will be provided to Surabaya (airport) from where most will fly out to Jakarta (or Singapore or Kuala Lumpur) in good time for onward connections home.

Those who can afford the time will start their post tour experience... See for more information.

About travelling...

I am scathing about the 'Lonely Planet effect', I have been quietly running tours to Java for nearly 20 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. We can advise how best to do this. 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 or similar toy, it should be kept switched off in public. There are internet cafes in most towns, but the connections will be slow. If you have a laptop computer, WiFi is slowly spreading through the island, a few hotels may offer Ethernet connections.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson