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. I did think that one day Yuehong and I would be back to have a last
private look, but the bad news in 2015 means that is now most unlikely.
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
2015? Need some help with
Please contact Zaenal Combo firstname.lastname@example.org
Reports for Steam in
Java 2015 - updated 28th September 2015
2014, John Raby wrote a
running blog of visitors' experiences which was necessarily diesel
orientated with some steam content, it's definitely worth consulting if you
are visiting in 2015. He is visiting again this year, he tells me his own
report from his August tour will appear as http://www.users.waitrose.com/~jraby/java2015.html.
I will note updates (if any) to the mill reports below
as and when they become available.
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 2015 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.
With all the disastrous news reported below, it
seems that apart from the firelesses, as of early August 2015, the only real
working steam in Java's sugar mills is at Kanigoro. Of course, steam 'on demand'
is available at a number of mills but for someone who enjoyed real sugar steam
for over 30 years, these represent second best (or even less).
2014 Daily Steam - 2015 was actually very different...:
Visitors to the mills in East Java in 2014 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.)
Bertram Frenzel reports that a visit to Pangka in early August
2015 found only diesels working the trains although the mill claimed that steam
would be used later in the month. It didn't happen and it now appears that this
is now designated as a tourist mill and steam will operate 'on demand'. You can
expect a bill in millions of Rupiah which is, in fact, affordable for small
groups. 'Real' it is not although it will look it providing you have a still and
not video camera. Groups were indeed able to charter steam here which did at
least substitute for a diesel.
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 had tended to increase as the season progresses and
more bagasse becomes available. Up to five locomotives from 1, 2, 3, 9 and
10 were used in recent years, repainted orange when their tourist operation
SUMBERHARJO (700mm gauge)
(There is a minibus from some way south of the bus terminal in Pemalang.)
Bertram Frenzel reports that a visit to Sumberharjo in early
August 2015 found the field lines apparently out of use with just one diesel and
one tractor shunting. Groups were able to charter a steam locomotive to potter
around. Experience suggests that by 2016 it won't be worth trying to repeat.
3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 (with the inevitable diesels) have all worked here in recent years but
few saw much daylight movement. The best most visitors could hope for was
some yard shunting and steam
tender first on empties.
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.)
Bertram Frenzel reports that a visit to Sragi in early
August 2015 revealed five tractors handling the full loris and just one
diesel on empties. All steam was cold in the shed. Later groups were able to
charter 17 to do some pottering around.
Previously there was yard shunting in quantity, fulls being propelled, sometimes by
more than one locomotive, empties were smokebox first. 5,
7, 8, 12, 16, 17, 19 and 20 had been seen working in recent years, usually
with no more than one diesel.
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 would 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! Yhe unloader further from the mill
is no longer used and this has spelled the death knell for regular working
Stefanus Krisandi was at the mill on 22nd
June 2015. VI was the sole locomotive at work. A change since 2014 is that V
is now available to deputise and XIV will not normally be used. Now most of
the cane goes directly to the mill, the yard is much less busy. (27th June
2015). However, Doug Brooks visited in early August and found that VI had
not been used since early July and the mill had no plans to use it again
although for a fee they would steam it to substitute for a tractor (7th
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.)
Bernd Seiler had reported that steam has finished here (6th
August 2015), but Doug Brooks found 15 and 16 in use as normal on 10th August
2015, other later season visitors found similar.
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.
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'. Dieselised since 2014, but steam (in poor condition)
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.)
Steam was active on 30th July 2015 and into August although by
September it was no longer the case. it's impossible to say what will happen in
2016 but the omens are not good.
In recent years just one loco has been steamed to work with the
diesels at a mill which is rarely very busy.
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. They saw regular use in 2015.
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, and are confirmed to be operating
normally in 2015, there is a YouTube video showing 3, https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=34&v=z28e6-Dt4qs
(27th June 2015).
Expect Jung 29 and OK Mallet 15 to be
available for charters, a local group of enthusiasts chartered them in June 2015
(27th June 2015).
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.)
Bernd Seiler has reported that steam has finished here (6th
August 2015). In fact, this is now designated as a tourist mill and steam
will operate 'on demand'. You can expect a bill in millions of Rupiah which
is, in fact, affordable for small groups. 'Real' it is not although it will
look it providing you have a still and not video camera.
Other Steam Possibilities, I have left these
notes in but I am not sure is either mill can now provide steam to order.
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. I do not believe
any trains used the rack line in 2015.
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 is 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
totally untrustworthy. However, trains do still run from time to time but I do
not know how far they can get.