The International Steam Pages


Steamy Java Sugar Mill Tour 2010, Dark Satanic Mill

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.


The afternoon was allocated to Watutulis, a large mill which until recently had avoided any major investment or modernisation. On the outskirts of Krian we witnessed a highway robbery, in much the same style as children used to raid cane trains...

My list of steam equipment inside Java's sugar mills shows that Watutulis had replaced two of its mill engines since my early visits in 2002/3 but the new engines (from Krebet and Cepiring) were clearly not a success as they had been ripped out and dumped and replaced by two electric motors from China. I commiserated with the mill engineers on the grounds that they probably would not last much longer than the replacement steam engines. It was sad to see just the dual drive Stork remaining - I wish they would put its worksplate which is now in the engineers office back in place. On the right below is the former Cepiring engine - compare this with its twin seen on the same trip.

Watutulis on my other visits had a strong supporting cast of other engines, most of which were extremely difficult to film owing to the poor illumination inside the mill - this also makes the mill extremely hot as there is almost no ventilation. Consequently, I whipped round it as quickly as possible before retiring to the office to write up the morning's two visits. Below are the two Reineveld steam powered lime pumps followed by a Stork air compressor, a creature which was once common but is now an endangered species:

The two vacuum pumps were still at work, but the vertical Stork water injection pump had vanished. The first two pictures are the Stork, followed by the older Werkspoor which is a treasure:

After which it was very disappointing to find that the three belt engines which had run the kultrog and the main centrifugals had been reduced to standby status. The 'Johnson' part of the Tangye-Johnson system had long been removed, in fact of all these engines I have ever seen, only two in Burma were intact and working. Simply the steam saved cannot have been worth the extra maintenance. The Ingelse had certainly been the last 'real' working example in the world. 

Hidden in the bowels of the mill surrounded by a sea of sticky molasses is the last active belt engine here, another Tangye. When they eventually replace it, there must be a chance that the electric motor will drown in it.

Next to the Tangye is a largish pump used no doubt for molasses transfer, it looks 'used' but was not running during our visit.

I guess the way things are going here, this could be a mill where steam power has only a very limited life expectancy. Coming back we took 'the pretty way', as I had hoped Penanggungan was clear and there was just one photo opportunity where houses did not line the road. After two overcast days with some rain, the sun had reappeared, the steam loco boys should have had a good afternoon at Merican (see http://www.linesiding.co.uk).

Three successful visits in a day for the second day running was very satisfying, if somewhat tiring. Next up are two of my favourite mills, Tulangan and Krembung en route to Probolinggo and then Nirvana in the form of Situbondo with Olean and Wringinanom as the climax of the tour. Five nights to go...


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

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