The International Steam Pages
In the Heat of the Night
In most parts of the world, when the sun goes down, railway photographers pack the cameras and head for the nearest bar.
In Java, at the sugar mills, the fun has only just begun.....
When sugar cane is crushed, the juice is processed for sugar and what is left behind is bagasse, a straw like woody material. Generally, it is used to fire the mill boilers and in some case it is sold for turning into paper. Sugar mills with steam locomotives use the bagasse as fuel.
Compared to oil, coal or even wood, the calorific value of bagasse is very low and most locos have large auxiliary tenders to carry it. Since it is so fibrous, much of the fuel passes from the firebox straight though the boiler tubes unburned and burns up in the air. During the day time, the only signs of this are the balloon stacks on the locos and the holes in the shirts of the crew. At night, when most cane trains from the field run, you get a free firework display.
You don't even need a train on the move. Sugar locos need frequent stops to 'brew up' and turning on the blower gives instant roman candles.
In the mill yards, the night sky is lit up as the crews prepare for occasional massive bursts of effort. The night pictures on this page were obtained using 200ASA film on time exposure with a few fill-in flashes. From experience, locos with a lighter coloured livery give the best results.
There is also an update on the current scene.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson