The International Steam Pages

Steamy Java Sugar Mill Tour 2010, Revisiting a Classic

This series of pages from July and August 2010 records our travels from China to Malaysia and on to Java, Indonesia where we were hosting the 'Steamy Java Tour 2010'. Click here for the main Winds of Change index page.

The group was staying in Solo, a conventional tourist destination and between there and the mega tourist centre of Yogya is today's attraction. On the way, we were reminded that goods carriage in Java is carried out in a way which is unfamiliar to most of my group:

Back in 2002, I first put a page on Gondang Baru on this website. 

The world yawned as it tends to do when I upload anything on stationary steam but this mill is special in every sense and it's time for another look at it - I have tried not to repeat too many of the subjects. This time, I even managed to drag three members of the loco tour away from their regular itinerary and I don't think they will have been disappointed. At the risk of being exceedingly boring, the sun again graced us with its presence which made the view of Gunung Merapi from the mill roof rather appetising:

Actually the main reason I was up there was to take a panoramic view of the line of mill engines:

Compared to my last visit in 2008, there was a large space in the foreground which had been occupied by the mill's original crusher engine. This Corliss engine from Fulton Iron Works has been removed to the Central Java Sugar Museum in the same compound.

Otherwise, the mill was refreshingly unchanged. There are four nineteenth century engines at work, 3 mill engines and one belt engine. Two of the mill engines are similar Storks:


Everyone's favourite has to be the twin cylinder Cail of 1884:

The fourth engine from 1899 is used to drive the B main centrifugals.

This is another old Stork, as yet unidentified which drives the A centrifugals, it's amazing how much of a clean up can be achieved with a rinse and spin using such ancient kit:

This mill uses carbonatation so there are CO2 compressors as well as vacuum pumps albeit they look very similar. These are Stork compressors (#1 first 3 pictures, #2 last picture):

And these are the vacuum pumps, first the older one (probably Stork) and then the modern Stork, the latter followed by two associated vertical engines (that on the left from Stork) used as water injection pumps.

Going round the mill, one keeps stumbling on odd engines. These are two small Java pumps.

Moving on from the engines, there is much else of interest inside the mill. In the power house is an old Stork turbine in use (the two Stork and Belliss & Morcom engines are out of use), also a 1923 water turbine from Voith of Heibenheim.

As would be expected, the boilers are all of the low pressure type and fed with bagasse by conveyor and gravity - assisted by operatives who manually ensure a smooth flow without blockage:

Gondang is unique in many ways, especially in that it operates a traditional carbonatation clarification process, which requires massive quantities of CO2 and lime produced in a kiln. This shows the minimum gauge (370mm) railway system:

Another consequence of carbonatation is the use of Kroogh mud filters. This is an unpleasant labour intensive process...

I spent many a happy afternoon riding and chasing cane trains here in the 1980s and 1990s but it all finished in 1998, since when most of the steam locomotives have been left to rust away. However, former Rendeng 8 was always said to be 'on standby' and now it has been repainted and a coach built for tourist operations. Judging from the way things work here, I dare say it has not turned a wheel since the opening ceremony and the plates on it are anything but authentic. However, in most countries it would have been cut up long ago...

At 15.00, I sent most of the group off to Prambanan, the World Heritage Hindu temple. Alas it is not the place it was since the 'experts' got their hands on it, putting it back together was fine, but ripping out the trees and surrounding it with a market full of tat so they could involve the local people has totally destroyed its ambience. I stayed behind at my own temple of steam... The supreme irony is that while they were there I completed this report and uploaded it on the mill's coffee shop's Wifi.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson