The International Steam Pages


Steamy Java Sugar Mill Tour 2010, Those Who Boldly Go

This series of pages from July and August 2010 records our travels from China to Malaysia and on to Java, Indonesia where we were hosting the 'Steamy Java Tour 2010'. Click here for the main Winds of Change index page.


Or, in this case, 'Those Who Boldly Went'. 'This is the roll of honour for those 11 brave souls who came on the 2010 campaign through Java's vintage sugar mills. If you were among them and are easily offended then I would click the 'back' button now...

John Porter was the patriarch of the tour being both loquacious and knowledgeable; he was on his third trip with us, having survived being abandoned by me at Tasikmadu in 2008. Amazingly, Yuehong seems to have very little difficulty with his thick Scottish accent.

Owen Peake was also on his third visit with us. At least as equally knowledgeable but as quiet as John is garrulous, Owen was more than a little apprehensive about his first visit. These days, quite simply, he loves every waking minute.

Ray Gardiner has a Ph.D. from the University of Life. Ray joined one of my tours 'just for the Ambarawa train' in 1997, decided he liked what he saw and left us in Situbondo 2 weeks later. When we first met up, he barely spoke a word except to say 'Yes' when offered another beer and very soon even that was unnecessary. I've travelled with Ray day and night in Java many times, he even joined Yuehong and me in Burma in 2006. Ray is now an absolute fount of historical information on the mills and industrial railways in Indonesia. The picture on the right is courtesy of Paul Stephens.

Paul Stephens was on his second visit. Having donated his notebook to the bagasse burning boilers at Tersana Baru, he was more careful afterwards. The fact that he has seemingly managed to bring up a near normal family must be a great tribute to his wife (whom, I hasten to add, I have never met).

Paul's alter ego John Cooper was also back for a second bash. If ever they formed a rock group it would have to be called 'The Sweet Shop Boys', because they must have learned their time keeping on one of Java's long defunct rural branch lines. On second thoughts, given the conditions inside the mills, maybe 'The Sweat Shop Boys' might have been even more appropriate. Together they must have taken more photographs than the whole of the rest of the group combined. The young ladies of Java seemed to sense that John was an eligible bachelor although usually there was a potential size mismatch issue.

Our 'Dutch Uncle' was Marc Stegeman who came on the 2006 trip and saved all his Euro cents to come back again:

Brian Boucher also came in 2006. Brian (far left below) has his own steam roller and seeing the roller at Tasik Madu 'working' was a real highlight for him. As a professional railway engineer he thoroughly enjoyed everything a Javan sugar mill threw at him, both inside and out.

When I last saw Graham Knight, it was with Ray Gardiner on the patio at Espartaco Mill in Cuba, since when both have taken time off to acquire a wife from that other sugar island. In the intervening 10 years Graham has lost most of his hair (so much so that I failed to recognise him) but not his voice. Graham is one of nature's gentlemen, he always waited patiently for others to finish before taking his video which made him very camera shy for me. In this trio of Australians, Graham (left) is separated from his mate Ray by loco man, John Browning. Two British schoolboys are in the background. At Wonolangan, it was my (rare) turn to wait patiently for Graham to finish. 

If ever John King had sat with John Porter and Graham Knight for dinner, the noise would have been as deafening as inside a sugar mill. John learned quickly that smiling at schoolgirls is not an arrestable offence in Java, in fact visitors would be considered very strange if they did not (and equally so at schoolboys). Smiling and waving at children practising for independence day is a great sport because invariably they all crack up, wave and lose their rhythm completely.

Nick Morgan (on the left, with John King and also with John Porter and Marc Stegeman), is a volunteer at the Kew Bridge Pumping Museum in London. He took a little while to come to terms with my various foibles... The picture on the right is courtesy of Paul Stephens - the subject of their attention is a pre- WW 2 register of the mills in Java and their staff.

Clive Penfold (below left and with Paul Stephens right) has a number of unusual hobbies other than steam power and was an extremely happy consumer of anything that was put in front of him including food and drink. He seems to have been very good at avoiding me when I had my camera out!

The 11 'millers' were actually part of a larger overall group of 29, the rest being made up of steam locomotive enthusiasts. Normally in the evenings all were mixed up together but not, as here, in Kediri. Marc Stegeman was temporarily away with the 'other half' on the Cepu Forest Railway.

It's all a bit more personal when you have a group this size, when we had the full party it was much more difficult to ensure everyone was satisfied, this is the last night scene in Situbondo. In fact, this is not everyone, the management and a few of the captain's guests were on a separate table.

As I said in one of my blog pages for the trip, "stationary steam enthusiasts who missed the opportunity to come on one of my two ISSES tours here will regret it for the rest of their lives". There may be more stationary steam engines remaining in revenue service here than in the rest of the world put together, certainly that must be true if one ignores those in the rice mills of Burma.


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

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