The International Steam Pages
A Month in Java, 1976 Part 5
These pages are a sentimental record of a long gone age when all that was needed to enjoy a good grice was a smile, a lot of patience and a willingness to put up with a small amount of discomfort...
Part 5: Cepu to Semarang (including Kudus, Surabaya and Purwodadi)
23rd May 1976
I paid an early morning visit to the shed at Cepu. There was then time to photograph C5108 before departure to Bojonegoro, ride it out to the first station and then catch a bus back to town to collect my bag.
On I went to Blora where the only active steam was on workings from Purwodadi although C2003 was stored here in good condition.
I made my way on to Kudus which struck me as one of the most pleasant towns in this rather poor area of Java. On my way into town we passed one of Rendeng's unusual 900mm gauge locos next to the road:
A clean but oily C1910 was in steam with little work to do, but most importantly the daily train to Rembang and back was still steam and would be in the hands of B5202 next morning.
This would suit my plans perfectly as the first step of my journey back to Surabaya.
24th May 1976
B5202 left Kudus long before the light was good enough for photography. Once the sun was high enough, I was able to shoot the train at most of the relatively few stations but I was itching for some kind of lineside shot.
There was a lengthy wait scheduled for Juana, so I jumped on a bus. Alas, this was arguably the least interesting section of roadside tramway in the whole of Java. Few people live here and much of the land is given over to salt pans. I waited in vain for something promising but by the time we were almost in Rembang I had to give up.
The train rolled past me with no visible sign of movement and I had such a long wait for a bus that there was no point in investigating it further - the shed at Rembang was known to have been dieselised for some time. I carried on with the bus back to Cepu and (no doubt) an afternoon train back to Surabaya. Where I stayed to keep within budget I have no recollection, most likely it was near Kota station.
25th May 1976
I had seen limited success with B1221 on the Surabaya steam tram the previous year. However, at the time I was learning the ropes in Java and opportunities were bound to be limited when you are part of a group of nearly twenty riding the train - the traffic in the modern parts and the narrow streets near the port precluded any serious attempt to chase. On this occasion, I had the tram to myself. I made my way in good time to Wonokromo and waited for it to arrive from its early morning run out of town to Karang Pilang. Unlike most tank locos, tram locos are effectively bi-directional and I had an extremely pleasant morning riding, hopping on and off and photographing it. This was outbound with the sun still low:
This was the scene at Benteng when the tram station had long doubled as an open air market. It was now the terminus as the line on to Ujung had been abandoned and this caused chaos with vegetables abandoned between the rails as the loco ran round and then departed :
Then later in the middle of Chinatown
Long before midday, I was more than satisfied and had plenty of time to catch an afternoon train to Cepu.
26th May 1976
One of our less satisfactory visits in 1975 had been to Purwodadi towards the end of a long day which started in Surabaya and ended in Semarang taking in Bojonegoro and Cepu as well, much of it on appalling roads. From Cepu to Purwodadi the clever way seemed to be to take a local train with a C28 to Gambringan and then make the short hop by bus as the rail service and been abandoned. And in due course so it all worked out, although Purwodadi was a sizeable town, it proved to be probably the most run down place I stayed in. I had hoped to make a flying visit and bag a couple of their several B27s in action but when I got to the shed I found very well presented B2204 tucked just inside the shed next to a notice that pronounced it also to be a 'runner'. Unfortunately, its next excursion would be the following afternoon and if I wanted to see a skirt tank in action then I had no alternative but wait. If the losmen was forgettable then so was the dinner but first I had the consolation of seeing B2701 roll out of town to the east.
27th May 1976
With B2204 promised for the afternoon, the obvious way to fill in was to take the pre-dawn train to Demak, especially as the return working would be smokebox first in good light. B2710 made fair progress and we got to Demak at sunrise. In almost no time it was ready to return and I climbed into the cab.
The first part of the journey was away from any kind of motorable road, but when we got to the principal intermediate station of Gondang, I was able to transfer to a succession of colts with which I 'chased' the train back to base. On at least one occasion, the occupants were so amazed by my activity that I was able to reboard once the train had passed.
There was still some considerable time left before the B22 performed so I took another train with B2701 east to Wirosari and returned by road.
My target was the late afternoon train to Kradenan and it was clear that the only place where the light would be at all favourable would be on the outskirts of Purwodadi where the line ran north for some way before turning east. Fortunately the rails were on the east side because it set out half an hour late, just before the lengthening shadows ruined the shot.
It was to prove another long day, but as satisfying as any, since my schedule demanded I get to Semarang afterwards - not least because I could not face another night in Purwodadi. In those days, the buses terminated in the old part of the city and it wasn't difficult to find a bed in the late evening.