The International Steam Pages


Industrial Railways in North Sumatra, Indonesia, 2017
Kebun Ajama

Scott Jesser reports on his explorations, of course steam finished here some 20 years ago. Use the links to view the other locations, in each case click the thumbnails for larger images:


Kebun Ajama

PT Perkebunan Nusantara IV’s Kebun Ajamu palm oil mill is 380 kilometres south-east of Medan, east of the town of Rantau Pratap in the Labuhan Batu Regency. An extensive 700mm gauge rail system extends into three of the large plantation’s five sectors. Long lengths of heavy rail are used on the main lines, on concrete sleepers.

Bunches of oil palm fruit are delivered to the mill by road vehicles which tip directly into elevated bunkers within one of the mill’s buildings or in steel cages mounted on four wheel frames called bogies. Low-profile 600mm gauge bogies, which are only used on six parallel lines inside one of the mill’s buildings, carry cages loaded on the two outer lines. Cages on one side are loaded from the bunkers filled by road vehicles while those on the other side are loaded from bunkers filled by cages lifted off 700mm gauge bogies which have arrived at the mill behind a locomotive.

Loaded cages are pulled by a wire rope from the two outer lines. onto an electrically-driven traverser at the end of the building and then placed with other loaded cages, to be pulled into four sterilizer tubes at the other end of the inner lines. Once the cages (on their 600mm gauge bogies) have been placed inside the tubes the ends are closed and the oil palm fruit is cooked with steam.

Kebun Ajamu has four operational 4wDM locomotives. None of the operational or withdrawn locomotives at the mill have builder’s plates, but three of the operational units, Nos. 7, 12 and 14, appear to have been built by Schöma. Empty and loaded trains seen on Monday 10th April and Tuesday 11th April 2017 had between 12 and 13 cages.

The two smaller units, numbered 12 and 14, may be Schöma CFL-20B locomotives, converted from hydraulic to mechanical drive. No.7 has a similar frame design to Schöma’s CFL-45B locomotives, but it appears to be slightly smaller, and like the other operational locomotives at Kebun Ajamu it has been rebuilt with a mechanical transmission and chain drive.

When PTPN IV’s Air Batu palm oil mill, 180 kilometres south-east of Medan, closed its 700mm gauge rail system some of its redundant diesel locomotives were transferred to Kebun Ajamu. The fourth working locomotive at Kebun Ajamu and three withdrawn locomotives are painted in a simple green colour scheme, in contrast to the orange, white and green striped colour scheme worn by the other locomotives at Kebun Ajamu. It seems likely that the green locomotives were originally used at Air Batu.

The operational green 4wDM is numbered 08, while the other three withdrawn green locomotives are 03, 5 and one that could not be identified, having been reduced to just a frame on wheels. Air Batu’s locomotive roster included at least two Ruston & Hornsby units, which may be 03 and 5.

Apart from the three withdrawn units that may have been transferred from Air Batu, another seven withdrawn locomotives, numbered 4, 5, 14, 17, 19, 20 and 21, were seen stored in the yard at Kebun Ajamu on Monday 10th April 2017. None of these locomotives had builder’s plates. Only the frame, wheels and cab of 4wDM No.4 remained, and it was not possible to identify this locomotive.

Kebun Ajamu’s second No.5 appeared to have been built by Schöma while Nos. 14 and 18 are almost certainly from the group of four Baguley-Drewry 4wDH locomotives built in 1975 and still fitted with their original Perkins 4236 diesel engines. No.14 had a small plate on its cab side which stated “MANUFACTURE PT. PARMAN”.

No.17, which had lost its engine, transmission and wheels, was a Schöma CFL-45B. Nos.20 and 21 were perhaps the most interesting locomotives found at Kebun Ajamu. While all the other locomotives seen in North Sumatra in April 2017 were small 4wDM and 4wDH locomotives, Kebun Ajamu’s No.20 and No.21 were larger B-B DH locomotives. The mill manager could not offer any details but said the locomotives had been built “locally” by Chinese engineers. Both units still had their engines and cardan shaft drive to their bogies.

The roster

3 4 5' 5'' 7
8 12 14 16 17
18 20 21 ?? Crane

Locos in action:

7 08 12 12 16

Rob Dickinson

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