I have lost count of my visits to Java since I first went in
1975. In the years between then and 2010, I missed just 7 years, all but two in the
1980s. I have often described my relationship as like a public love affair. I am proud that in the 20 years I ran tours here between 1991 and 2010,
it never became a circus with the staff 'on the make'. Now that the level of
reliable daily real steam has reached the level that cannot support a further
tour in a way I would feel comfortable with, it's time to quit. My 2010 group
ended up paying for guaranteed steam in too many mills and that is a path I
would not want to follow again. It's not the cost which is actually modest,
it's the principle; I don't listen to the siren voices which say it doesn't
matter because in a few years it will all be gone anyway, most of them come from
tour operators who sold their souls to the Devil many years ago in the name of
making a living. One day Yuehong and I will be back, I am sure, to have a last
private look, I just hope no-one else spoils what little is left in the meantime...
If you've never been to Java and need to see what is left in its historical
context then you should consult these pages:
Visiting Olean in
2012? Need some help with
Please contact Zaenal Combo email@example.com
Reports for Steam in
Java 2012 - updated 5th January 2013
There have been three active blogs (now
completed 13th August 2012) covering the 2012 sugar season in Java and two separate reports
Mill reports below have been updated as
Tasik Madu (7th August 2012)
Sudhono, Purwodadi and Rejosari (2nd August
Kanigoro and Pagottan (2nd August 2012)
Merican (29th July 2012)
Olean (29th July 2012)
Asembagus (29th July 2012)
Sumberharjo, Sragi, Semboro (22nd July
Pangka (17th July 2012)
The glory days of Java steam are well and truly
over but for the connoisseur of narrow gauge industrial (steam) railways, what
is left is still well worth savouring, preferably at leisure sitting in the
shade enjoying the whole scene rather than rushing around accumulating yet
more pictures of what has already been recorded by many others in better days.
I have listed below the mills which are likely to offer reliable daily steam
in 2012 followed by those where it will be occasional, either naturally or 'by
arrangement'. To keep the information concise, I have not identified the
locomotive types - these are readily checked from the Java
steam loco list. Visitors should be aware that the fasting month of
Ramadan (from mid July) will affect operations and limit the availability of
refreshments during daylight hours.
2011 Daily Steam - 2012 is necessarily a bit
PANGKA (600mm gauge)
(Tegal - Pekalongan buses pass the turn-off at Larangan some 9km east of
Tegal. Take a minibus from here - which continues to Slawi south of Tegal - this
is an alternative approach, there are buses between Tegal and Slawi.)
Cane is brought from the road delivery yard by a mixture of
steam and diesel along the side of the mill before reversing. The mill has a
well developed tourist programme but this consists mainly of trying to screw a
larger than average entry fee from overseas visitors, but in global terms it's
not extortionate. Steam activity tends to increase as the season progresses and
more bagasse becomes available. Up to five locomotives from 1, 2, 3, 9 and
10 have been used in recent years, repainted orange when their tourist operation
Wilson Lythgoe reported that 1,2 and 9 (and three diesels) were
working on 16th July. 9 was shunting the mill and 1 and 2 on the 'main drag'. Andrej Hoffman
reported 1, 2 and 10 in use earlier.
SUMBERHARJO (700mm gauge)
(There is a minibus from some way south of the bus terminal in Pemalang.)
3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 (with the inevitable diesels) have all worked here in recent years but don't expect to see much daylight movement. The best most visitors can hope for is
some yard shunting and steam
tender first on empties. Unless, of course, you are the kind of Japanese or
who believes money can and should buy you anything you want and you pay for a
circus train.... However, with patience there will be some out of course
running. The FarRail tour reported 'no change' in July
On 30th June 2012, Andrej Hoffman found 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11 in
steam but only 3, 7, 10 were working with no line activity. Wilson Lythgoe
reported similar with very little beyond occasional yard shunts in July 2012
(22nd July 2012).
SRAGI (600mm gauge)
(Take a minibus (occasional) or an ojek (motor cycle) from the turn-off
between Wiradesa and Comal on the Pekalongan - Tegal road. Alternatively, there
are more minibuses from the centre of Comal.)
Yard shunting in quantity, fulls are propelled, sometimes by
more than one loco, empties are smokebox first. 5,
7, 8, 12, 16, 17, 19 and 20 have been seen working in recent years, usually
with no more than one diesel. I haven't been to Sragi since 2008. The FarRail tour reported 'no change' in July
Andrej Hoffman reports that at the beginning of July 2012, 5, 7, 8, 12, 16, 17,
20 were working with 19 undergoing big boiler repairs. Wilson Lythgoe
was here on 21st July 2012 and reports 7 steam locomotives hard at
work, presumably the same as Andrej saw (22nd July 2012).
TASIK MADU (750mm gauge)
(Buses between Solo and Tawangmanggu pass the turn-off which is 1km south
of the mill. Walk or take a becak from here. There are slower, less frequent, but direct
to the west side of the mill from Solo which pass through the small bus station at Palur near where the Madiun
road turns sharp left and the Tawangmanggu road goes straight on. For those
staying in the west end of Jalan Selamat Riyadi - the main street - the bis kota
between Kartasura and Palur connect with this.)
This is a schizophrenic mill. On one side of
the mill is what is best described as a 'theme park' with swimming pool,
caged animals and birds and weekend live music through which some of the
mill's steam and diesel locomotives weave their way with passenger trains at
On the other hand, there is still much rail
movement in the yard although trucks now deliver cane directly to the mill.
Depending on the availability of cane (and hence bagasse), the balance
between steam and diesel will vary. III, V, VI,
5A, 7A, XIV are the locomotives which have been seen in the yard in the last few
years, but rarely more than 50% at any one time! At the height of the
season, the unloader further from the mill may be in use and this will
probably necessitate steaming the 'super power' VI.
The FarRail tour visit coincided with a mill breakdown in
July 2011 but V and VI were working as delivered cane was stockpiled.
Andrej Hoffman reported on VI in use in early July 2012 but 7
had worked this year. John Browning found just VI in use on 13th July
2012. Far Rail saw 5B one day and VI the next on 4th/5th August 2012.
PURWODADI (700mm gauge)
(Buses between Madiun and Solo pass the mill, which is some 6km north of
Maospati, the major road junction west of Madiun.)
With up to four out of 5, 10, 15 and 16 this is the busiest steam mill in the
Madiun area, with
locomotives top and tailing trains on the short run over the main road and across the photogenic
viaduct before vanishing into the mill. It can only be a matter of time before a
gricer is mown down by the heavy passing traffic. If the mill is not busy most of the work
will be done by diesels.
The FarRail tour reported 'no significant change' in July
2011, with 5 and 10 at work and 16 under repair, just one diesel was working..
Andrej Hoffman reports 5 and 10 working at the
beginning of July 2012, the same locomotives were working when John Browning
visited on 14th July 2012 and also when the Farrail group were here on 2nd
REJOSARI (700mm gauge)
(The mill is at Gorang Gareng, south-west of
Madiun. Minibuses run from
the newer (southern) of the two bridges on the west side of town.)
6 and / or 7 will be used to shunt the limited remaining rail system, with 10
steamed 'by arrangement'. FarRail reported 'no change' in July 2011.
Andrej Hoffman reports 'no steam' in mid-July 2012 although there were signs
that 6 had seen some use. John Browning found them all looking very smart and
serviceable 'on request' on 14th July 2012. The FarRail group had 10 in steam
specially for some shunting on 1st August 2012 but were told there is
insufficient bagasse for regular steam operation.
KANIGORO (700mm gauge)
(The mill is a little way south of Madiun. Buses and colts between Madiun
and Ponorogo pass a set of traffic lights on the outskirts of town. Walk, take
a becak or minibus T east some 1km to the mill.)
In recent years just one loco has been steamed to work with the
diesels at a mill which is rarely very busy. The FarRail tour reported both 6 and 11 in use in
July 2011, although the mill expected to revert to just one steam locomotive
later in the season.
Andrej Hoffman found 'no steam' on 10th July 2012 but apparently
11 is used occasionally. John Browning found 6 in use on 15th July 2012 with 11
clearly serviceable as well. John Raby found both in steam on 1st August 2012 as
the mill was changing over the working locomotive.
PAGOTTAN (700mm gauge)
(The mill is 9km south of Madiun. Buses and colts between Madiun and
Ponorogo pass the main gate.)
The FarRail group in July 2011 found that Luttermöllers 6, 7
and 8 have been converted to fireless operation, necessarily without their
tenders which are no longer needed.
Andrej Hoffman found 7 and 8
working as before in mid-July 2012, John Browning saw all three working on 15th
July 2012. John Raby also found all three at work on 1st August 2012.
MERICAN (700mm gauge)
(Buses between Nganjuk and Kediri pass very near the mill which is visible
to the east from the traffic lights where the main road curves on the outskirts
In 2010 2, 8 and 205 were used in the mill yard along with increasing numbers of
Alas the FarRail tour reported only 0-8-0T 2 and
8 in use in July 2011, 205 was merely spare loco, being less powerful than the
other two. Ahmad Arif tells me (June 2016) that 4 was also used again, just for
John Browning found only tractors working in
mid-July 2012. Andrej Hoffman confirms this with the steam locos apparently
abandoned in the shed, at least two looked as if the roof had fallen in on them!
Bernd Seiler confirms all this and states that steam must be considered finished
here as no work was done on the steam locos during the off season (29th July
SEMBORO (700mm gauge)
(Take a bus between Jember and
Probolinggo, get off in the
middle of Tanggul, walk or take a becak the short distance south along the road
to Semboro, not very frequent yellow minibuses to the mill start 200 metres
beyond the level crossing. Alternatively take an ojek from the turn off. When
returning, wait at the T junction east of the mill entrance. Management here
seem to do their best to discourage visitors even with a permit and those
without will be denied entry.)
The firelesses (2 and 3) work behind the mill, not straying
very far from their recharging point.
The FarRail tour reported 'no change' in August
2011, save that the locos have been repainted black with 'gold' lining.
The firelesses are confirmed to be operating
normally in 2012 (22nd July 2012), they have again been repainted this time to
traditional colours as have Jung 29 and OK Mallet 15 which are said to be
available for charters.
OLEAN (700mm gauge)
(The mill is some 4km north of the centre of Situbondo.
Take a becak or an occasional minibus towards Kalbut from the bus station.)
One loco (1, 4 or 7) was usually steamed for yard work in
2010 with the two diesels covering what little field work remains.
Metaphorically stuffing the firebox with Rupiahs could, however, produce a
steam loco for these turns, naturally this had to be arranged in advance.
The FarRail group in July 2011 found 1 and 4 in use and the
latter was used on a field train on one day, I assume this was a 'paid for'
John Raby found 1 in use on a field train with a
diesel in mid-July 2012. It was having injector trouble which meant the
diesel went back alone but it didn't get very far before the light failed.
Two further attempts to get some good video of an authentic daylight steam
hauled field train were also unsuccessful (29th July 2012)
On an earlier visit Andrej Hoffman found 1 on field trains "every
day", with 5 additionally shunting the yard. On 24th July 2012, a
healthy 1 attempted to haul a field train but promptly derailed!
Non-Daily Steam Possibilities
SOEDHONO (600mm gauge)
(Buses between Madiun and Solo pass the turn off to the mill,
some way south of Ngawi. Take a becak or ojek or walk.)
3 has seen use from time to time in 2009/10, steaming can
probably be guaranteed by prior arrangement.
The FarRail tour had 3 in action in July 2011, it is not
clear from the report whether this was specially arranged.
John Browning was here on 14th July 2012 and found steam had
not been used for some time, 3 was sitting looking serviceable. It was fired
up specially for the FarRail group on 2nd August, it is also reported that 6
may yet be revived as a fireless, Pagottan style.
ASEMBAGUS (700mm gauge)
(The mill is east of the town centre of the same name. Buses between
Situbondo and Banyuwangi pass the mill gate.)
Steam (10 and / or 11) was most likely
in use 'on request' in 2010 although undoubtedly there were days when it was
needed. This was another choker for me, possibly my last ever field train in
Java albeit it was not there in the normal course of events.
The FarRail tour in July 2011 found 10 in use with 9
(formerly 11) under repair. How much was 'natural' and how much arranged was
unclear from the report.
Andrej Hoffman found 10 in 'bad condition' and many of the
Bernd Seiler reports that 'working steam' has now officially
finished at Asembagus but the locos will remain available for charter until
there is a major problem. In this case 10 failed in the morning and lost its
whistle when it hit an overhanging tree in the afternoon... A second morning
charter with empties for the field was more successful (29th July 2012)
Click here for the unofficial Ambarawa Railway Museum
The line to Tuntang is now upgraded to carry full sized train
and repairs of the line to Jambu are complete. 2011 will have seen much needed repairs
on the rack to Bedono which may have led to services being suspended from time to
time. Here is B2503 during a late afternoon runpast in
2003, you will be lucky to be able to repeat this shot in 2012 the foreground
was very overgrown last time I was here in 2008. B5112 is under repair but there
are no reports on progress since February 2012.
C1218 runs special trains down the main street,
some will be private charters, very occasionally others will be for the public -
exact dates will only be known locally. I have since heard that these are now
'only for VVIP', just what has happened I don't know.
Cepu Forest Railway
Despite appearances the locomotive below (in 2006) could not move itself.....
This is a railway I no longer wish to deal with, somehow the trains always seem
to run for tour parties but behind the scenes, it is a constant battle with a
management in both Cepu and Jakarta which is at best incompetent and at worst