2000 saw my 20th visit to Java and I led my 12th tour. Despite my pessimism, everyone
agreed that there was still more than enough activity to satisfy the first time visitor
and here I am back again in 2001 with my 13th tour (actually rather more when you allow
for the years I have run two). You can read my analysis of the
prospects for the season.
This is the 2001 report, click here for a brief summary of the main news,
other reports are available:
Click here for the Mill Index or Mill Map or choose the area you want:
The mills are arranged from West to East, North Coast
then South Coast with the Private Mills at the end. Click on the mill in the Index below
(mills with no link no longer use steam, but may have locos stored on site):
The numbers are those used in the reports.
The Main News in Brief
- 2001 looks like being the best season since 1997. There are probably more working
locomotives than in 2000, certainly just over 100 in all. The (temporary) revival can be
entirely attributed to the collapse in value of the Rupiah making sugar imports more
expensive, forcing up the sugar price.
- Tersana Baru, Ketanggungan Barat and Sindanglaut were working normally with the season
starting in mid-May.
- Further along the north coast, Jatibarang,
Pangka, Sumberharjo and Sragi were working by
- Tasik Madu was due to start in early June and was very busy by late June.
- Madiun mills have had a mini steam revival, likely to be short-lived.
- Pesantren and Merican were working normally by 23rd June, having been going for some
time. No news yet from Ngadiredjo or Mojopanggung.
- The mills east of Surabaya had all started milling by 20th June and there was every
indication that the crop would be good. Olean in particular was producing top class field
train action again.
- It should be a good year for centenarians with Sragi (2) and Merican (2) having 100 year
old small tank locomotives at work most days. There is a further such locomotive at
Prospects for 2001/2
This is an updated version of what I wrote in September 2000 (click here for the original).
- The long term prospects for the sugar industry (and its remaining steam locomotives) are
very poor. A few large (and relatively efficient) mills will survive, but what is left of
their railways will almost inevitably be dieselised. The only question is one of timing.
Since the end of the 1997 season, nine sugar mills have ceased operation and, equally
important, (steam) field operations have been abandoned at two more. In August 2000, the
English language Jakarta Post reported that four more mills (unnamed) would close at the
end of the season. The Government has stated its intention to close no less than a
further 22 of the 57 mills in due course. In the event, probably owing to political
instability all the mills active in 2000 worked again in 2001.
- The short term prospects for the industry are tied to the
Rupiah/US $ exchange rate. In
1997, U$1 bought Rp 2500. Within a year it was more than Rp 10000, before dropping back to
around Rp 7000 in 1999. By mid-2000, the underlying value was about Rp 8000. Further
political uncertainties caused it lose further value to around Rp 11200 in mid June 2001,
but it recovered to Rp 9000 by August. Sugar imports have been liberalised since
1999 and the local sugar price broadly reflects world prices. So once again in 2001, the
sugar industry is just about competitive! Every last stalk will be harvested in 2001, in
June 2001 there were more cane trucks and trains than I had seen for some time. There were
even stories of more cane being planted for 2002. However, realistically the best we can
expect is stability, anything more would be a nice surprise.
- However, labour shortages were again evident in some areas which confirms that the
Javanese economy continues to recover strongly. Few people want to cut cane for around
U$2.50 a day or less and much cane is now 'ratooned' (= grown again in the same place as
opposed to making part of a rice/sugar cycle).
- The Government would like to close more mills, but the (Government owned) sugar
corporations are naturally opposing this, not least on the grounds of the social upheaval
it would cause in some areas (especially around Situbondo). There is so much excess
capacity built into the system that many of the smaller mills could be closed if
circumstances allowed it...
- Will I be back running tours in 2002? (I shall be back because I will have my last
two large volcanoes to climb.) It is early days yet but the answer is almost certainly
yes. Add to the sugar steam, the possibilities of special trains at Ambarawa and
together with visits to the sugar mills themselves with their ancient steam powered
machinery and you can have a steam trip which has no equal in the world today. In 2001 I
ran two tours, one was the conventional 'all-steam' tour, the other (for the first time)
combined the best of steam with visits to Java's other tourist attractions - the
volcanoes, antiquities and cultural centres. The response to these suggested that the
future lies in the new style tours and it is clear that any tours I run in 2002 will of
this kind although I shall again steer clear of the tourist traps like Yogya for the most
part. Please Email me for details.
PT Keretapi News Contents
I ran no less than 4 specials at Ambarawa in 2001 on July 5th/6th and August 5th
(twice). These used B25 (pm) and E10 (am) as usual. They were only spoiled by Harald Nave
and his friend (sorry to my good Austrian friends) who gate-crashed the last one and
despite my bare-arsed tactics refused to go away until I let their tyres down. I will name
the other when I find out who he was! If you read this, Harald, why not submit one of your
mastershots of the full moon?
The Government of Central Java has allocated money in its budget to restore the line
north from Ambarawa to Tuntang. This line is flat but scenic along the lake, Rawa
The track is more or less unobstructed after being closed for 25 years, some (illegal)
buildings will have to be demolished and in places the low embankment has eroded. It is
too early to speak of a completion date but I would guess 2003, although I have heard 2002
These are pictures of our 2000 specials (I was relaxing for the 2001 trips...)
Cepu Forest Railway Contents
Regular logging trains have now ceased altogether and much of the system has been
lifted. The only way to see this unique operation is to organise your own special logging
trains which I booked on July 11th and July 30th 2001. The little DuCroo and Brauns 0-6-0T
made it all the way to the forest along with the normal Berliner 0-10-0T on both days.
However, the political anarchy which is taking over the country has seen large parts of
the forest devastated. They are planting on an 80 year cycle but cutting on a 10 year
cycle.... On both occasions, it was a sign of the times that instead of being taken to see
teak trees being felled, we went to recover a set of logs which had been 'rescued' from
tree poachers. These pictures were taken in 2000.
This shows loading in 2000:
Check out the 2002 Cepu pictures.