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...
If you've never been to Java and need to see what is left in its historical
context then you should consult these pages:
Visiting Olean in
2014? Need some help with
Please contact Zaenal Combo firstname.lastname@example.org
Reports for Steam in
Java 2014 - updated 1st November 2014
See also John
Raby running blog of visitors' experiences which is necessarily diesel
orientated with some steam content (added 8th August 2014, check for later
Local enthusiast Bagus has led some
international gricers round Java, his
developing illustrated blog promises to give an alternative view of
familiar territory (final 11th part available 1st November 2014).
Andrej Hoffmann and friends visited at the end
of August, read his report (17th September 2014).
Mill reports below have been updated as
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 2014 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 early July) will have affected operations and limit the availability of
refreshments during daylight hours.
2013 Daily Steam - 2014 will necessarily be a bit
Visitors to the mills in East Java in 2014
have found generally that admission will not be allowed without a written permit
from Headquarters in Surabaya. This will severely limit those not so equipped as
virtually no steam operation is within the public domain, just the road
deliveries at Purwodadi and the field working at Olean.
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
A June 2013 visitor found typical activity with 1, 2 and 10 in
use (16th July 2013). John Athersuch found 1. 3 and 10 in use with 2 having a
washout in early August 2014. There is now a small diesel powered tourist
railway in the park opposite the mill offices.
SUMBERHARJO (700mm gauge)
(There is a minibus from some way south of the bus terminal in Pemalang.)
Aditya Budidama reports 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9 (and possibly no.10)
active in 2014 (20th July 2014)
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
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
John Athersuch was here on 10th August 2014 and found 6, 9 and
11 in steam, as usual things were mostly quiet in daylight hours but 9 did move
a loaded train by 17.15.
These pictures are courtesy of Aditya Budidarma (added 24th July 2014):
A June 2013 visitor found typical activity with 3, 6, 7, 9 and
10 in use
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.
A June 2013 visitor found typical activity with 5, 7, 8, 12, 16,
17 and 20 in use (16th July 2013). This YouTube clip shows activity in September
Wilson Lythgoe was told by a Japanese group that steam continues
in use here in 2014. Indeed on 11th August 2014, John Athersuch found 7, 12, 16,
17. 19 and 20 at work (no diesels!) with 5 and 8 spare. No change in other words
including the usual mega derailments.
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
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
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. V, VI, 5B, 7B, 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.
A July 2013 visitor found typical activity with V and VI on
loaded trains with I (normally used on the tourist circuit) on empties. Borsig 3
was working in the park (16th July 2013). Stefanus Krisandi reported (6th
November 2013) that milling ceased at the end of October. He found 0-6-0T TM I
in steam being tested with a 'new' boiler.
Stefanus Krisandi was here at the beginning of May (added 8th
May 2014). He reports that the new season will start around 17th May 2014. He
confirms that TM I's 'new' boiler was off TM VIIB. Another 'new' boiler has
arrived, which is off OK 9273/1921 (700mm gauge Colomadu 6), how it will be used
is not yet known as is the fate of Colomadu 2 which will have been the last
intact locomotive at that mill.
For Doni Setiawan Tasikmadu was 'home' for many years, he was
back on 23rd May 2014 and confirms the season has started, however, VI was the
only locomotive in steam. It's burning expensive wood, hopefully when bagasse is
available others will be steamed. Jens Toft Ingemann found only VI in steam in
early August 2014, most of the work was being done by tractors.
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.
Local reports show that the active steam
locomotives now carry a basically green livery (with trimmings), photographs of
5 and 10 are on the web (7th June 2013).
A July 2013 found 10 and 16 in steam on the fulls with a diesel on the
empties (16th July 2013). The same two locomotives were at work later in the
month. Jens Toft Ingemann found 15 and 16 in use in early August 2014. This is
15 which looks like some kind of OK hybrid with 5 on the smokebox door..
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.)
Historically 6 and / or 7 would be used to shunt the limited remaining rail system, with 10
steamed 'by arrangement'.
A July 2013 found no live steam, it seems that one of the locomotives had
been used in early June (16th July 2013), a visitor later in the month found no
active steam also. Sadly it appeared that Henschel 12 may have been scrapped,
there was no sign of it apart from a pair of axles... Jens Toft Ingemann found
day-to-day operation all diesel in early August 2014.
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. Jens Toft Ingemann found no steam
in use in early August 2014, but a few das later local enthusiast Aji found
'Tomas' at work. Now they've given it the famous name, why not go the whole way
and add the face too? Those lamps make splendid ears.
A July 2013 found 11 at work, with 6 spare (16th July 2013), a visitor later
in the month found the situation reversed.
PAGOTTAN (700mm gauge)
(The mill is 9km south of Madiun. Buses and colts between Madiun and
Ponorogo pass the main gate.)
Luttermöllers 6, 7
and 8 have been converted to fireless operation, necessarily without their
tenders which are no longer needed. Jens Toft Ingemann found them in use in
early August 2014, although Wilson Lythgie reported soon afterwards that 6 was
poorly and may well be 'finished'..
least two of the firelesses (7 and 8) reported running in a new orange livery
(16th June 2013).
A July 2013 visit found 6, 7 and 8 at work (16th July 2013), a visitor later in the
month found the same situation..
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
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
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 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.
Wilson Lythgoe joined the FarRail tour group here
on 9th August 2014. The fireless is 'real', OK Mallet 15 definitely not:
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.)
Aditya Budidama reports just 4 in use this year (20th July
2014), these are his pictures (added 24th July 2014):
Bagus was here late in the season he says (2nd October 2013)
"I recently went to Olean sugar mill to see the steam locomotive who does the field working at there. I was so impressed by my visit, that now I'm thinking about returning back again."
His pictures are here http://www.flickr.com/photos/26470784@N03/sets/72157636106635376/.
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'
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!
These YouTube clips show activity in September
2013 - (23rd October 2013)
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.
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. Jens Toft Ingemann
found 3 looking ready for someone to hire it in early August 2014.
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.
Andrej Hoffman found 10 in 'bad condition' and many of the
derelicts scrapped in 2012.
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)
Click here for the unofficial Ambarawa Railway Museum
website. By July 2014 it was said that the rack line had not been used for
some 60 months and only B5112 in use on the section to Tuntang.
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 as by 2013 the foreground
was very overgrown last time I was here in 2008. B5112 has now been returned to
service and is used on the non-rack sections..
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. The city council have
reversed their decision to suspend funding and the train must again be available
for charter. .
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