The International Steam Pages


Steamy Java Sugar Mill Tour 2010, the Lake of Honey

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.


This was another brilliantly sunny day. Yuehong and I declined to join the combined groups for a 06.00 home made breakfast and instead settled for a 09.00 soto ayam in one of the small restaurants down the hill in the middle of Bandungan. The early groups made a virtue of necessity by sending back one of the buses from Ambarawa with two keys which had been removed by dozy customers, it meant we did not have to take a local minibus. At the station the second B25 special rack train did not arrive until nearly 11.00, as the gricers had been gorging themselves on photography long after the sun was near vertical. I hope not too many would later suffer from exposure.

Another day, another volcano, this is Gunung Merbabu from the bus and on the right the larger than average Luttermöller steam locomotive which everyone wanted to see in action at Tasikmadu (literally 'Lake of Honey'):

As a result we were once again running well behind schedule. The two loco tour buses were sent ahead to the mill with some of my keener members. The rest came with me to Solo for a late lunch, I had to visit the Garuda Indonesia office to get an end of tour air ticket for one customer whose request I had failed to add to the list. We had requested the vertical boilered steam roller in action for 15.00 and we arrived just 10 minutes earlier to find that John Raby and Tjeng Chiao had settled everything for us. The beast ran up and down for the assembled gricers and millers, compared to 2008 it been completely repainted:

Tasikmadu was a carbonatation mill until 2006 after which it was converted to sulphitation. There were formerly three CO2 compressors, two survive as air compressors, the other has been despatched to the theme park next door. The engine part of the older one (left) bears some resemblance to the new arrival at Sumberharjo, I believe now they are both Storks from the early 20th century like the compressor at Gondang Baru, the drop valve pump (right) is a standard Stork.

The myriad of pumps in the clarification area has been rationalised. There are two large vertical mud pumps at the back of the mill while this set of three small pumps is now out of use:

The two classic juice pumps with inclined cylinders survive too:

At the top end sizewise are a water pump - the exact use of which I have never fathomed - and two standard vacuum pumps one of which was unphotographable as part of it was lit by a shaft of light and the rest was totally dark in comparison:

Outside in the yard, despite the recent improvement in the weather it was clear that business was anything but brisk. According to Ameling Algra and local contacts, steam has not seen much use this season working only at busier moments although Luttermöller VI had been used two days before our visit. We had reluctantly arranged a guaranteed steaming and in due course when pressure was sufficient it hauled a trainload from the gantry next to the main mill yard. I have to confess that the lighting conditions made an overwhelming case for photographing it. With some trucks unloading directly into the mill, it was clear that the line up the side of the mill will see increasingly less use and this will reduce the chance of seeing VI at work.

It was a pleasant enough visit, but not to be compared with even just a few years ago. Over dinner it seemed to me that both groups, like their leaders, would appreciate a good night's sleep. With the weekend coming up, I have hopes of continuing mobile phone silence when there is more scope for those who consider such things indispensable to schedule their calls back home.


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

Email: webmaster@internationalsteam.co.uk