The International Steam Pages
The Ultimate Java Steam Tours 1991-2010
This page celebrates nearly 20 years of steam tours in Java between 1991 and 2010. To start with when there was steam activity in quantity, I ran 'full steam' tours effectively dedicated to the steam operated railways in Java. Over that period, the level of activity on the sugar mill systems declined considerably and in 2001 for the first time I offered a tour balanced between 'steam' and the other attractions Java has to offer. This allowed me to keep the tours going for a few more years but after 2005 I decided it was time to stop. Although I recanted in 2006 and 2008, this time 2010 will really have been the last ever steam tour because quite frankly I have lost interest in watching old friends dying and it's more and more effort for less and less 'steam' reward. I have to say that it has been a privilege to take so many people to Indonesia over the years, not all were in sympathy with my philosophy, particularly in the later years, but many of my customers are now good friends which says it all. One of the special features of these tours is that we always welcomed independent travellers to join us on special trains or even to join the tour for a few days.
Travelling independently for real steam (as opposed to going with a tour group) is always the best way to visit somewhere and Java is no exception. If you are thinking of such a visit, feel free to get in touch if you need assistance to get started.
This page describes the 'steamy side' - there are descriptions of other attractions in good guide books like the Lonely Planet and Blue Guides and also in the various links below:
There are few countries in the world where you can still see authentic narrow gauge industrial steam at work and Java, Indonesia is the only place where you can see a wide variety of European built locomotives. There are now about 40 working sugar mills on the island of which about 15 used around 50 steam locos during the season mainly between June and September in 2005. By 2010, the corresponding numbers were about and 13 and 40, figures which include several mills and locomotives where steam is no longer in daily use. Many more locomotives are, of course, still present out of use and every year the number is likely to rise - but the longer you wait, the less there will be to see.
Much of what is shown below is now history but the longer you wait the less there will be left...
Semboro steam special with Semeru behind
Field train at Olean
Tasikmadu steam veterans
Tersana Baru line up
Gempolkerep Luttermollers at work
Merican yard work
Firebox repairs at Asembagus
Here are the gauges they work on: 600, 700 and 750mm; 670, 720 and 900mm systems were formerly in use! Virtually all were built before the second world war and several reached a century of service. Almost all are restricted to the mill yards where they shunt road deliveries, but some still work loaded cane trains in the traditional manner. Java is always colourful and never less than warm, although the sun shines almost continuously for the photographer. Even after the sun goes down, the roman candles produced by these bagasse burners have to be seen to be believed.
In addition, most mills themselves contain vast amounts of steam-driven vintage equipment.
Collecting the cane at Olean:
I have visited Indonesia almost annually for over 30 years ran tours for small parties of enthusiasts between 1991 and 2010. Latterly, the Java Experience' tour covered the Cepu Forest Railway (where we had annual logging trains for 14 years after the real trains died), the Ambarawa Rack Railway (where we had both B25 and E10) and those sugar mills with the greatest steam activity. The balance of the time was spent on 'normal' tourist activities like visiting Javanese palaces and temples as well as natural attractions like volcanoes, lakes and waterfalls. There were a number of cultural events such as Wayang Kulit and Gamelan performances.
Imitation is always the sincerest form of flattery as exhibited at the Kledung Pass Hotel in 2003:
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson