The International Steam Pages

Steam in Java 2011

Java Sugar Diesels - Worth a Second Glance

Java Steam Loco List - See what you missed working!

Inside Java's sugar mills - Veteran stationary steam!

Sweet Dreams in Java (1975-1997) - Those were the days...

I have lost count of my visits to Java since I first went in 1975. In the years between then and 2010, I missed just 7 years, all but two in the 1980s. I have often described my relationship as like a public love affair. I am proud that in the 20 years I ran tours here between 1991 and 2010, it never became a circus with the staff 'on the make'. Now that the level of reliable daily real steam has reached the level that cannot support a further tour in a way I would feel comfortable with, it's time to quit. My 2010 group ended up paying for guaranteed steam in too many mills and that is a path I would not want to follow again. It's not the cost which is actually modest, it's the principle; I don't listen to the siren voices which say it doesn't matter because in a few years it will all be gone anyway, most of them come from tour operators who sold their souls to the Devil many years ago in the name of making a living. One day Yuehong and I will be back, I am sure, to have a last private look, I just hope no-one else spoils what little is left in the meantime...

Sweet Spot Sweet Spot - the ultimate Olean DVD

Read  Keith Chester's Review

If you've never been to Java and need to see what is left in its historical context then you should consult these pages:

Budget or Independent traveller?
David Longman at large in Java in 2006

Budget or Independent traveller?
Read Jan Willem van Dorp's Travel Guide 

Visiting Olean in 2011? Need some help with arranging steam trains?
Please contact Zaenal Combo

Reports and prospects for Steam in Java 2011 - updated 7th August 2011

News items have been posted:

  • Pangka, Olean, Asembagus (16th July 2011)

  • Merican (17th July 2011)

  • IMPORTANT - the museum at Ambarawa will be closed for renovations from 22nd July 2011 for at least 6 months and no special trains will run during this period (20th July 2011).

  • Pangka, Sumberharjo (25th July 2011)

  • Sragi (26th July 2011)

  • Tasik Madu (27th July 2011)

  • Purwodadi (28th July 2011)

  • Soedhono (28th July 2011)

  • Pagottan (29th July 2011)

  • Rejosari (29th July 2011)

  • Kanigoro (29th July 2011)

  • Merican (30th July 2011)

  • Asembagus (31st July 2011)

  • Olean (5th August 2011)

  • Semboro (7th August 2011)

The glory days of Java steam are well and truly over but for the connoisseur of narrow gauge industrial (steam) railways, what is left is still well worth savouring, preferably at leisure sitting in the shade enjoying the whole scene rather than rushing around accumulating yet more pictures of what has already been recorded by many others in better days. I have listed below the mills which are likely to offer reliable daily steam in 2011 followed by those where it will be occasional, either naturally or 'by arrangement'. To keep the information concise, I have not identified the locomotive types - these are readily checked from the Java steam loco list. As my main interest these days is in the steam powered machinery inside the mills, I have taken very few steam loco pictures in the last few years but those I have included below were typical of what could have been seen by 2010 visitors. The mills around Situbondo were reported 'ready to go' in mid-May 2011, in which case those further west will most likely be starting by early June. Visitors should be aware that the fasting month of Ramadan (from late July) will affect operations and limit the availability of refreshments during daylight hours.

2010 Daily Steam - 2011 is necessarily a bit different...:

PANGKA (600mm gauge)

(Tegal - Pekalongan buses pass the turn-off at Larangan some 9km east of Tegal. Take a minibus from here - which continues to Slawi south of Tegal - this is an alternative approach, there are buses between Tegal and Slawi.)

Cane is brought from the road delivery yard by a mixture of steam and diesel along the side of the mill before reversing. The mill has a well developed tourist programme but this consists mainly of trying to screw a larger than average entry fee from overseas visitors, but in global terms it's not extortionate. Steam activity tends to increase as the season progresses and more bagasse becomes available. Up to five locomotives from 1, 2, 3, 9 and 10 have been used in recent years, repainted orange when their tourist operation started.

A local report in late June 2011 stated that 'all steam is in the garage' although it could be arranged for it to work for visitors. Very sad news, maybe the mill will be busier later in the season and 'return to steam'. Indeed the FarRail tour reported one Jung 0-6-2T in use in July 2011, together with two 0-8-0T, situation quite normal in other words.


SUMBERHARJO (700mm gauge)

(There is a minibus from some way south of the bus terminal in Pemalang.)

3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 (with the inevitable diesels) have all worked here in recent years but don't expect to see much daylight movement. The best most visitors can hope for is some yard shunting and steam tender first on empties. Unless, of course, you are the kind of Japanese or other shit who believes money can and should buy you anything you want and you pay for a circus train.... However, with patience there will be some out of course running. This was the shed in 2008:

The FarRail tour reported 'no change' in July 2011.

SRAGI (600mm gauge)

(Take a minibus (occasional) or an ojek (motor cycle) from the turn-off between Wiradesa and Comal on the Pekalongan - Tegal road. Alternatively, there are more minibuses from the centre of Comal.)

Yard shunting in quantity, fulls are propelled, sometimes by more than one loco, empties are smokebox first. 5, 7, 8, 12, 16, 17, 19 and 20 have been seen working in recent years, usually with no more than one diesel. I haven't been to Sragi since 2008 when this is what I saw one afternoon. 

The FarRail tour reported 'no change' in July 2011.

TASIK MADU (750mm gauge)

(Buses between Solo and Tawangmanggu pass the turn-off which is 1km south of the mill. Walk or take a becak from here. There are slower, less frequent, but direct small buses to the west side of the mill from Solo which pass through the small bus station at Palur near where the Madiun road turns sharp left and the Tawangmanggu road goes straight on. For those staying in the west end of Jalan Selamat Riyadi - the main street - the bis kota between Kartasura and Palur connect with this.)

This is a schizophrenic mill. On one side of the mill is what is best described as a 'theme park' with swimming pool, caged animals and birds and weekend live music through which some of the mill's steam and diesel locomotives weave their way with passenger trains at slow speed.

On the other hand, there is still much rail movement in the yard although trucks now deliver cane directly to the mill. Depending on the availability of cane (and hence bagasse), the balance between steam and diesel will vary. III, V, VI, 5A, 7A, XIV are the locomotives which have been seen in the yard in the last few years, but rarely more than 50% at any one time! At the height of the season, the unloader further from the mill may be in use and this will probably necessitate steaming the 'super power' VI, although I confess this shot from 2010 was 'by arrangement' at the nearer unloader.

The FarRail tour visit coincided with a mill breakdown in July 2011 but V and VI were working as delivered cane was stockpiled.

PURWODADI (700mm gauge)

(Buses between Madiun and Solo pass the mill, which is some 6km north of Maospati, the major road junction west of Madiun.)

With up to four out of 5, 10, 15 and 16 this is the busiest steam mill in the Madiun area, with locomotives top and tailing trains on the short run over the main road and across the photogenic viaduct before vanishing into the mill. It can only be a matter of time before a gricer is mown down by the heavy passing traffic. Apparently an extra railing has been added to the viaduct since this picture was taken in 2002. If the mill is not busy most of the work will be done by diesels.

The FarRail tour reported 'no significant change' in July 2011, with 5 and 10 at work and 16 under repair, just one diesel was working..

11 on the big bridge

REJOSARI (700mm gauge)

(The mill is at Gorang Gareng, south-west of Madiun. Minibuses run from the newer (southern) of the two bridges on the west side of town.)

6 and / or 7 will be used to shunt the limited remaining rail system, with 10 steamed 'by arrangement'.

FarRail reported 'no change' in July 2011.

Like 10, one of the diesels has a jackshaft transmission.

KANIGORO (700mm gauge)

(The mill is a little way south of Madiun. Buses and colts between Madiun and Ponorogo pass a set of traffic lights on the outskirts of town. Walk, take a becak or minibus T east some 1km to the mill.)

In recent years just one loco has been steamed to work with the diesels at a mill which is rarely very busy. I've had to go back to 2000 for this picture, but much better results can be achieved with patience!

Kanigoro 11

The FarRail tour reported both 6 and 11 in use in July 2011, although the mill expected to revert to just one steam locomotive later in the season.

MERICAN (700mm gauge)

(Buses between Nganjuk and Kediri pass very near the mill which is visible to the east from the traffic lights where the main road curves on the outskirts of Kediri.)

2, 8 and 205 may be used in the mill yard along with increasing numbers of tractors. This was the Mallet on a rainy day in 2010, it was bad enough here but worse for my other group riding the Cepu train. A picture of 8 at work on 19th June 2011 has appeared on a local website (17th July 2011) 

Alas the FarRail tour reported only 0-8-0T 2 and 8 in use in July 2011, 205 was merely spare loco, being less powerful than the other two. Ahmad Arif tells me (June 2016) that 4 was also used again, just for this season.

SEMBORO (700mm gauge)

(Take a bus between Jember and Probolinggo, get off in the middle of Tanggul, walk or take a becak the short distance south along the road to Semboro, not very frequent yellow minibuses to the mill start 200 metres beyond the level crossing. Alternatively take an ojek from the turn off. When returning, wait at the T junction east of the mill entrance. Management here seem to do their best to discourage visitors even with a permit and those without will be denied entry.)

The firelesses (2 and 3) work behind the mill, not straying very far from their recharging point. I have only been here out of season in recent years and this was in the shed in 2008. 15 and 29 may be steamed for pre-booked visitors but they are in appalling condition.

The FarRail tour reported 'no change' in August 2011, save that the locos have been repainted black with 'gold' lining..

Non-Daily Steam Possibilities

SOEDHONO (600mm gauge)

(Buses between Madiun and Solo pass the turn off to the mill, some way south of Ngawi. Take a becak or ojek or walk.)

3 has seen use from time to time in 2009/10, steaming can probably be guaranteed by prior arrangement.

The FarRail tour had 3 in action in July 2011, it is not clear from the report whether this was specially arranged.

PAGOTTAN (700mm gauge)

(The mill is 9km south of Madiun. Buses and colts between Madiun and Ponorogo pass the main gate.)

6 and 7 were in use early in the 2010 season but not later. Wait and see for 2011.

The FarRail group in July 2011 found that Luttermöllers 6, 7 and 8 have been converted to fireless operation, necessarily without their tenders which are no longer needed.

OLEAN (700mm gauge)

(The mill is some 4km north of the centre of Situbondo. Take a becak or an occasional minibus towards Kalbut from the bus station.)

One loco (1, 4 or 7) was usually steamed for yard work in 2010 with the two diesels covering what little field work remains. Metaphorically stuffing the firebox with Rupiahs could, however, produce a steam loco for these turns, naturally this had to be arranged in advance. This was one such occasion, a real 'choker' for me as it was probably my last ever photo here:

A local report in mid July 2011 stated "Olean used diesel....Asembagus too. It means that it's for rent."

The FarRail group in July 2011 found 1 and 4 in use and the latter was used on a field train on one day, I assume this was a 'paid for' operation.

ASEMBAGUS (700mm gauge)

(The mill is east of the town centre of the same name. Buses between Situbondo and Banyuwangi pass the mill gate.) 

Steam (10 and / or 11) was most likely in use 'on request' in 2010 although undoubtedly there were days when it was needed. This was another choker for me, possibly my last ever field train in Java albeit it was not there in the normal course of events.

A local report in mid July 2011 stated "Olean used diesel....Asembagus too. It means that it's for rent."

The FarRail tour in July 2011 found 10 in use with 9 (formerly 11) under repair. How much was 'natural' and how much arranged was unclear from the report.

Charter Steam


Click here for the unofficial Ambarawa Railway Museum website.

The line to Tuntang is now upgraded to carry full sized train and repairs of the line to Jambu are complete. 2011 will see much needed repairs on the rack to Bedono which may lead to services being suspended from time to time. Here is B2503 during a late afternoon runpast in 2003, you will be lucky to be able to repeat this shot in 2011 the foreground was very overgrown last time I was here in 2008. However, local reports stated that the museum and operating line would be closed for renovations from 22nd July until at least early 2012.


C1218 runs special trains down the main street, some will be private charters, very occasionally others will be for the public - exact dates will only be known locally. I have since heard that these are now 'only for VVIP', just what has happened I don't know. 

Cepu Forest Railway

Despite appearances the locomotive below (in 2006) could not move itself..... This is a railway I no longer wish to deal with, somehow the trains always seem to run for tour parties but behind the scenes, it is a constant battle with a management in both Cepu and Jakarta which is at best incompetent and at worst totally untrustworthy.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson