The International Steam Pages

Narrow Gauge Diesels in Java's Sugar Mills (Part 1)

Even a dyed-in-the wool steam enthusiast like me cannot fail to appreciate that Java's narrow gauge diesels almost all now qualify as 'heritage' since they were delivered at least 25 years ago, indeed some of those around today have notched up half a century of service. I have never totally 'cursed' the mills' diesels as in many cases the field lines would have closed much earlier if the service had had to be maintained by steam alone. And with 'real' narrow gauge railways around the world in full retreat, Java's estate railways today offer an unparalleled concentration of traditional 'Decauville' railways, complete with temporary track to connect remote cutting areas with the permanent way. During my own early visits from 1975-9, money was short, colour slide film was expensive and there was steam everywhere. Even on later visits into the 1980s and beyond I rarely paid much attention to the diesels and I was amazed when I discovered that over the years I had built up a reasonably comprehensive coverage!

This article is in three parts:

I am very grateful to Ray Gardiner for providing me with a copy of his 'All Indonesia Loco List' which has provided much of the information which follows. Ray's researches continue and he is always happy to hear from those who can contribute to his project. He would particularly like to hear from anyone with knowledge of sugar mill and other industrial diesel and electric locos pre-1980's. Ray can be emailed via me (address at the bottom of the page).

Pre World War II Internal Combustion Engines

It is not generally appreciated that large numbers of these were delivered to the former Dutch East Indies, including the sugar mills. Almost none survived to the time when the first steam enthusiast visited the sugar mills in the early 1970s. The only time I both noted and photographed such a machine was at Gempol on 3rd August 1988, I recall that the staff had great trouble starting it and there was a loud explosion when they succeeded! This 6wPM locomotive was produced by Oberursel in Germany before 1925, but sadly it is assumed scrapped when the mill was dismantled some years ago.

A similar smaller locomotive (4wPM) survives in a kindergarten playground at Gempolkerep, it was photographed there by Joachim Lutz quite recently:

A Deutz diesel from the same era is preserved at the Central Java Sugar Museum in the grounds of Gondang Baru. This 2008 picture is courtesy of Brian Rumary.

Orenstein and Koppel bought up the manufacturer Montania in 1912 and many of their locomotives came to Java, it is likely that the two locomotives below are theirs and arrived in Java at least 80 years ago (!), I believe they were originally gasoline engines but were later fitted with diesel engines.

Rejosari is well known for its jackshaft OK 0-8-0T, it also has a venerable diesel version. But first here is another example photographed at Gempolkerep on 6th June 1978, it was out of use then and has long since been scrapped:

This picture of Rejosari 15 was taken on 12th August 2000, it was still working in 2008 when I last visited the mill. It has been heavily rebuilt over the years.

Since this 4wDM Henschel at Sudhono was delivered in 1941 it is strictly from the 'pre-WW 2 era'. Ray Gardiner photographed it on 8th August 1996.

Do it yourself diesels

Unlike steam locos, home made is an option. This a fairly conventional looking one at Rejoagung, photograph is courtesy of Ray Gardiner. It used a cane wagon frame with Mitsubishi motor and transmission, chain drive to axles:

Less conventional is this critter at Gondang, photograph is courtesy of Brian Rumary in 2008:

Famous Belgians

Pangka sugar mill has a Belgian built Couillet 0-6-0T steam locomotive and it also has two 4wDH from Moes. This is 1975 built 14 on 20th August 1984, there were several others delivered mainly to north coast mills.

Two Kinds of Baldwins

Mojopanggung was well known for its two American 0-8-0T steam locomotives, but it also had a 6wDM from E.M. Baldwin in Australia in 1974, the two kinds are seen here at the mill on 23rd August 1999:

The British Connection

With one exception, not many diesels have come from Britain. That exception is Ruston, who sold some 300 locomotives to Sporijzer after World War 2, but very few went to the Javan sugar mills. One of these was 1951 built 4wDM Tasik Madu 1 which I photographed on 26th May 1979. These days it's still alive and well but looking a little strange with a part steam outline for use on the mill's tourist operation. (There is a picture of a cape gauge Ruston on my page about the Forest Railway at Bojonegoro.)

There were a number of Baguleys sent to Indonesia, most went to Sumatra. However, this 4wDH went to Kedawung in 1950 and was still at work when photographed by Ray Gardiner in the late 1990s:

Krebet has three 1973 built 4wDM Motor Rail locomotives - many more locomotives from this manufacturer also ended up in oil palm estates in North Sumatra. This is 5 on 15th August 2003. It's a strange (at least to me) creature with hydraulic transmission and a final chain drive:

American Interlopers

In my travels I have bumped into a couple of Brookville diesels. 1956 built 4wDM Cepiring 1 was photographed on 9th August 1986:

While further east, 1949 built Asembagus 6 was on a trip to the seaside on 14th September 2002:

Chinese Interloper

Thomas Kautzor spotted this new arrival at Semboro in 2010, apparently it was there in 2008 but if anyone in my tour group noticed it, they didn't tell me! (I was at the sugar mills near Probolinggo that day). Quite why Semboro should want this, heaven knows, its builder's details are yet to be confirmed. John Browning tells me that he had been told that Ahmad Z Arif that it arrived in 2009 painted red and worked a bit in 2010 before being set aside.

Rob Dickinson