The International Steam Pages
Olean - Thunder in the East
Olean Mill itself probably has the best collection of steam worked equipment working in the world today. I consider it to be a candidate for a World Heritage Site. However, by 2009, activity here was extremely limited with steam only used occasionally.
5 overtaken by ducks in 2001
Beyond Probolinggo, the north coast of Java is inhabited mainly by immigrants from the nearby island of Madura. Not only do they have their own language and customs (include bull fights between bulls), but they also seem able to cut and load sugar cane in half the time it takes the indigenous Javanese. This means that daylight loaded trains are the rule rather than the exception and the best place to see steam hard at work is at Olean, just north of Situbondo.
Olean is a small mill and is high on the hit list for closure. There are few sealed roads in the cane growing area and much of the cane comes in by rail. The only diesels are small and no longer venture outside the mill if they are in use at all. Most of the original roster has succumbed to old age in recent years, sadly including the magnificent Berliner. The Jatiroto Mallets were underpowered and in poor condition and were only used in 1991/2, although there were (unfulfilled) rumours of further Mallets en route from Semboro for the 1997 season.
The first trains will be ready to return to the mill by 13.00. The rail system is compact and virtually all the lines are close to a road or dirt track which makes it easy to follow them if you have the right kind of transport. Trains will consist of up to 30 wagons and the locos usually have difficulty getting them started. However, after that they are all driven in only one way - total thrash! Crews are enthusiastic and co-operative (especially if they are kept supplied with cigarettes or photos), slowing down to let chasers come past on the narrow tracks, although in places there is so little room that cars tend to acquire 'go faster stripes' as they come into contact with cane overhanging the wagons!
By 16.00 most will be back at the mill, there may well be time to watch the sun go down next door at Wringinanom before heading back for a well-earned cold beer on the beach at Pasir Puteh.
Here are some more pictures taken in recent years:
Olean 7 at Tribungan, July 1999
Olean 5 heads for home, July 1999
Olean double header, August 1999
Olean 7 at Gelung, July 2000
Olean 4 near Duwet, July 2000
Olean roadside near Tribungan, July 2001
A surprise reappearance for 1 in 2001 after years in store.
There is also an update on the current scene.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson