The International Steam Pages


Steamy Java Sugar Mill Tour 2010, Welcoming Drinks

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.


Every journey may officially start with a single step, but, for Yuehong and I, we need a continental breakfast with lashings of coffee to kick start it. For the balance of our journey to join our group in Jakarta, we had to first walk down the hill from our new flat in Penang and wait for the 08.30 102 bus from Telok Bahang to the airport which rounded our corner spot on time at 08.45. For much of the 'free' journey (we had weekly bus passes) the only other passengers were the driver's two young daughters who had come for the weekend ride. So how long the new service will last is anyone's guess.

Compared to April, Air Asia had put back our Jakarta flight by an hour an a half which made for very civilised timings. By the time we arrived at the Hotel Batavia, John Raby had despatched the early arrivals with Bandung friend Tjeng Chiao to Taman Mini and regaled us with stories of the hotel's mad room management which had one of our customers shown three rooms before the required twin was found. And sure enough I was able to witness the same performance again with the next arrival. Previously, they had been unable to locate the rooming list which I had sent them (and which they had acknowledged) and John had been forced to rely on an earlier (and necessarily inaccurate) version which he had printed out. In other words 'Welcome to Indonesia', they didn't get to have real steam in 2010 by being efficient.

John had located a nearby Alphamart with ample supplies of sensibly priced amber liquid and we relaxed with him before ordering a 3 table banquet at the sea food restaurant behind the hotel. 29 diners enjoyed an excellent dinner where dish after dish appeared only to be promptly demolished; the fact that some of the noodles were left at the end indicated not so much their quality as the fact that everyone was full. The best part of 4 cases of cold Bintang also vanished, a sign that we would have to work hard to keep the buses stocked in the weeks ahead in an island where large sections are officially 'dry'. This is 7 out off 11 of my mill (stationary steam engine) group in mid-dinner with Yuehong. Normally, I'm no fan of dining in private rooms but with a post-wedding dinner Karaoke going full blast next door in the main hall, it was a wise option. I'll leave the readers to work out which happy gricer at dinner wasn't quite so smiling next day when he discovered he had donated his notebook to the bagasse furnace at Tersana Baru:

Back at the Hotel, the last two customers had just flown in from Canada and the hotel were swearing blind that they had issued all the keys we requested. Not what was needed... Fortunately, the pantomime had only been going on for 5 minutes and I quickly got them a key and a room to go with it. So what was wrong? "OK, tell me which of my customers is in which room?" "Don't know." "How many keys have you issued?" "Not sure", pause "23" "Well it should be 22, I agree. Which rooms are we using so I can check?" Out comes a pile of papers and the numbers are transcribed on to a scrap of paper. "How many now?" "20" "That's clearly wrong, try again." He 'calls a friend', writes down two more numbers and everyone is happy. Some face is saved and I do not have to go from room to room. Just smile and have a nightcap with John over which we can discuss plans for the first day proper which will see us transfer along the coast to Cirebon...

We had an incident free morning, stopping only to fill the fuel tanks on the bus and the on board cold boxes. Being bald headed old gits, the group slept most of the way. Having quickly checked in, we had an Indonesian fast food lunch (a.k.a. Nasi Padang) which delighted the majority. It took a while to get into Tersana Baru as we had to take a massive diversion down country lanes owing to a traffic jam and then had to wait forever to get in (owing to it being Sunday). Since my last visit in 2008, the railway has almost entirely vanished, I'll leave it to John Raby to show what little is left, but basically the 'patio' has been concreted over, the cane which all arrives by road is now dumped on the concrete and then 'shunted' by some ghastly Chinese imports which will last two years and then break down irretrievably.

Inside, it could have been worse (just). The east mill line is still stationary steam powered and works when the mill is busy. During our visit two out of the three engines were being actively repaired. It is interesting to compare Stork and Werkspoor engines although the latter seems to have acquired a Stork hydraulic governor at some stage.

All the small steam powered pumps have disappeared as has the old milling engine which drove a water injection pump and all the old low pressure boilers. All that is left are three vacuum pumps, two of which were in use. As usual, the newest Stork with drop valves was out of use, behind it the slide valve pump was being actively managed. 

At the far end, the third engine looks fairly normal at first sight, but has its governed mounted on the crankshaft:

To those of us who had known the mill in its glory days, it was all rather disappointing. In a couple of years, I guess it will all be gone. Frankly, I hope I never have to come back here. On the way out, the security people (Satpam) checked people's bags. I'm not sure why, there is almost nothing here worth taking as a souvenir. On the other hand had such a system been in use 10 years ago, my wall would be significantly less full.


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

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