The International Steam Pages


A Month in Java, 1976 Part 6

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 1: Introduction, Jakarta to Purwokerto (including Cibatu, Banjar, Maos and Kroja)

Part 2: Purwokerto to Madiun (including Kutarjo, Yogya and Solo)

Part 3: Madiun to Blitar (including Kertosono, Kediri, Pare and Tulungagung)

Part 4: Blitar to Cepu (including Mojokerto, Bangil, Malang and Probolinggo)

Part 5: Cepu to Semarang (including Kudus, Surabaya and Purwodadi)

Part 6: Semarang to Jakarta (including Pekalongan, Tegal, Prupuk, Cirebon, Rangkasbetung)


28th May 1976

This was now unknown territory as the 1975 tour had not had time to visit steam sheds at Tegal and Cirebon and early next morning in Semarang I got on another big bus. Basically, I had no choice but to rely on Power Parade which suggested that Pekalongan might well be worth a passing visit. The small shed showed no sign of any recent activity but did have B2015 inside, stored in good condition. 

In retrospect, I should have asked at the station but instead I went back to the main road and took a bus on to Tegal. However, I had to take a break midway when Sragi 13 was seen approaching, yes that is the main north coast road in Java in the picture... I blame this encounter for my later complete fascination with Java sugar steam, it inspired me to ask my late friend Peter Michie for a copy of the loco list compiled by earlier visitors, which is basically the one which is available elsewhere on this website

At Tegal station I was directed to the shed where I found an array of gleaming locos of classes B22, B52, D10 and D15. Of these it seems that only B2207 was in steam, it was said to shunt the harbour branch but it never turned a wheel during my stay. This was B5212 outside the shed.

Inside the shed was D1002, behind is B2202:

More importantly, B5220 (Prupuk) and D1503 (Pekalongan) were on the road and would return in due course. The shedmaster (Mr. Karpon) was not only very proud of his charges, he was incredibly hospitable. For the duration of my stay I was accommodated in the Tegal Hilton (a.k.a. the depot's mess room) and fed, all at no charge. From this day till now I have never eaten jackfruit again as every meal seemed to consist of it stewed with a pile of rice, hardly the tastiest of dishes. Somewhere along the way, I photographedD1503 as it returned and was grateful for an early finish after a lot of travelling in the last few days.

29th May 1976

I had no problem with the early start and rode in the cab of D1503 on the morning train to Pekalongan. 

I am not sure why I didn't follow it the whole way out and back, but having secured a few station pictures, I had 'smoke by request' as it left Comal:

I returned to Tegal by bus presumably to photograph B2207 

It seems D1502 was in steam too, but I forget why:

and later B5220 returning from Prupuk in the early afternoon.

It was impossible to decline my host's jackfruit dinner and no doubt I slipped away as soon as I could to catch up on my sleep.

30th May 1976

This was yet another day with a pre-dawn start. Unfortunately, Tegal's locoshed is/was some way north of the station on the (erstwhile) harbour branch, so I had a long trudge in the dark. First light must have been somewhere around Slawi and I remember arranging an impromptu false departure with B5220 at one of the small stations where the alighting passengers stayed on the platform to look on in amazement. 

As the sun rose a little higher, the magnificent Gunung Slamet - at over 3400 metres, Java's second highest volcano after Semeru - provided one of my favourite footplate shots of all time. I even still have the scar from when the loco lurched and my bare arm was thrust against a hot pipe. 

My onward plans were fluid but on arrival I found D52097 on the morning local from Cirebon and it was a no brainer to board it for the return run. 

I think it must have been tender first as I seem to have no pictures at all of the journey - no doubt Prupuk's turntable could not accommodate anything much bigger than a B52. Along the way, we crossed a number of sugar mill railways with the occasional glimpse of the steam locomotives which would become so familiar to me some 10 years later. In those days, Cirebon's D52s were mainly used on freights to Jakarta (Jatinegara) and were well kept, this one had a CC200 tucked in behind and appears to have been on a local mixed train. 

During the afternoon, I saw C2832 depart on a short local train to Jatibarang. I cannot recall how I got to Jakarta, almost certainly it would have been by train and I made my way to the south of the city in the dark for another free bed.

31st May 1976

I had just enough time left to visit the westernmost steam shed on the island at Rangkasbetung. I had hoped for a B51 ride from Tanahabang, but had to be satisfied with bunker first C2710. I rode on the loco and my presence must have so affected the crew that they forgot to take water midway and inevitably when we stopped later at Tenjo it was for several hours while we waited to be rescued by CC1009 which had been out on the Anyerkidul working. 

Ironically, as the loco rested waterless we were drenched by a tropical downpour. It was very gloomy by the time the Mallet arrived and when the cavalcade got to Rangkasbetung, it was long after dark. In the whole trip I had managed to avoid spending even Rp 1000 (USD 2.5) on a bed for the night and it was a matter of pride to maintain my record. I toured the town by becak but there was nothing on offer to maintain the budget. With a departure booked for 04.00, the simplest thing was to bed down on the station

1st June 1976

Apart from steam on the trains back to Jakarta, there were local workings west to Labuan (B51, afternoon out and morning back) and north-west to Anyerkidul (CC10, morning out and afternoon back). So given that I was running out of time, I had no choice for my ride, it was fortunate because by the next time I returned next year the big Mallet tank had expired and B51s were in charge of both workings. 

The candles in the coaches blew out immediately CC1009 departed as the windows had long lost their glass. At Banten I left the train, thereafter the line would turn west and in any case I had to get back to Jakarta. As always seemed to happen with CC10s, the forward low pressure cylinders were leaky, what should have been a rare mastershot became another run-of-the mill shot. 

I just had time to intercept B5132 between Pandeglang and Rangkasbetung on the Labuan train:

Back in Rangkesbetung, I saw B5132 again. 

Later very lucky visitors occasionally found BB1005 on Labuan trains but once the shedmaster discovered that well heeled groups would pay for it to be turned out, it spent most of its time at the back of the shed. During my visit, it was working as station pilot in the middle of the day, but it did count as another new class active..

After B5138 left on the afternoon Labuan train I made my way back to Jakarta, probably it was diesel hauled because I certainly didn't take any pictures. It was a year later when I finally got to crack the B51s here, but that's another story.

2nd June 1976

After my return flight to Singapore, the rest is guess work. Possibly I weakened on arrival and bought an air ticket to Penang, possibly I took the cheaper option of an overnight train to Kuala Lumpur with the day train onwards to Butterworth. In any case, I was fit only to drop. In those long off days, film was expensive and I had consumed just over 10 rolls of Kodachrome 64. There was a nerve racking wait until the processed slides returned from Australia, but in due course they did and apart from some inevitable loss of colour quality they are still alive and well (and more importantly scanned).


Rob Dickinson

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