The International Steam Pages

Steam in Java 2012

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 2012? Need some help with arranging steam trains?
Please contact Zaenal Combo

Reports for Steam in Java 2012 - updated 5th January 2013

There have been three active blogs (now completed 13th August 2012) covering the 2012 sugar season in Java and two separate reports

Mill reports below have been updated as follows:

  • Tasik Madu (7th August 2012)

  • Sudhono, Purwodadi and Rejosari (2nd August 2012)

  • Kanigoro and Pagottan (2nd August 2012)

  • Merican (29th July 2012)

  • Olean (29th July 2012)

  • Asembagus (29th July 2012)

  • Sumberharjo, Sragi, Semboro (22nd July 2012)

  • Pangka (17th July 2012)

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 2012 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. Visitors should be aware that the fasting month of Ramadan (from mid July) will affect operations and limit the availability of refreshments during daylight hours.

2011 Daily Steam - 2012 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.

Wilson Lythgoe reported that 1,2 and 9 (and three diesels) were working on 16th July. 9 was shunting the mill and 1 and 2 on the 'main drag'. Andrej Hoffman reported 1, 2 and 10 in use earlier.

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

On 30th June 2012, Andrej Hoffman found 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 in steam but only 3, 7, 10 were working with no line activity. Wilson Lythgoe reported similar with very little beyond occasional yard shunts in July 2012 (22nd July 2012).

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

Andrej Hoffman reports that at the beginning of July 2012, 5, 7, 8, 12, 16, 17, 20 were working with 19 undergoing big boiler repairs. Wilson Lythgoe was here on 21st July 2012 and reports 7 steam locomotives hard at work, presumably the same as Andrej saw (22nd July 2012).

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.

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

Andrej Hoffman reported on VI in use in early July 2012 but 7 had worked this year. John Browning found just VI in use on 13th July 2012. Far Rail saw 5B one day and VI the next on 4th/5th August 2012.

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. 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..

Andrej Hoffman reports 5 and 10 working at the beginning of July 2012, the same locomotives were working when John Browning visited on 14th July 2012 and also when the Farrail group were here on 2nd August 2012...

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.

Andrej Hoffman reports 'no steam' in mid-July 2012 although there were signs that 6 had seen some use. John Browning found them all looking very smart and serviceable 'on request' on 14th July 2012. The FarRail group had 10 in steam specially for some shunting on 1st August 2012 but were told there is insufficient bagasse for regular steam operation.

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. 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.

Andrej Hoffman found 'no steam' on 10th July 2012 but apparently 11 is used occasionally. John Browning found 6 in use on 15th July 2012 with 11 clearly serviceable as well. John Raby found both in steam on 1st August 2012 as the mill was changing over the working locomotive.

PAGOTTAN (700mm gauge)

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

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.

Andrej Hoffman found 7 and 8 working as before in mid-July 2012, John Browning saw all three working on 15th July 2012. John Raby also found all three at work on 1st August 2012.

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.)

In 2010 2, 8 and 205 were used in the mill yard along with increasing numbers of tractors. 

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.

John Browning found only tractors working in mid-July 2012. Andrej Hoffman confirms this with the steam locos apparently abandoned in the shed, at least two looked as if the roof had fallen in on them! Bernd Seiler confirms all this and states that steam must be considered finished here as no work was done on the steam locos during the off season (29th July 2012)

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.

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

The firelesses are confirmed to be operating normally in 2012 (22nd July 2012), they have again been repainted this time to traditional colours as have Jung 29 and OK Mallet 15 which are said to be available for charters.

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.

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.

John Raby found 1 in use on a field train with a diesel in mid-July 2012. It was having injector trouble which meant the diesel went back alone but it didn't get very far before the light failed. Two further attempts to get some good video of an authentic daylight steam hauled field train were also unsuccessful (29th July 2012)

On an earlier visit Andrej Hoffman found 1 on field trains "every day", with 5 additionally shunting the yard. On 24th July 2012, a healthy 1 attempted to haul a field train but promptly derailed!

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.

John Browning was here on 14th July 2012 and found steam had not been used for some time, 3 was sitting looking serviceable. It was fired up specially for the FarRail group on 2nd August, it is also reported that 6 may yet be revived as a fireless, Pagottan style. 

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.

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.

Andrej Hoffman found 10 in 'bad condition' and many of the derelicts scrapped.

Bernd Seiler reports that 'working steam' has now officially finished at Asembagus but the locos will remain available for charter until there is a major problem. In this case 10 failed in the morning and lost its whistle when it hit an overhanging tree in the afternoon... A second morning charter with empties for the field was more successful (29th July 2012)

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 have seen much needed repairs on the rack to Bedono which may have led 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 2012 the foreground was very overgrown last time I was here in 2008. B5112 is under repair but there are no reports on progress since February 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