The International Steam Pages


Java Sugar Steam 2000 - Private Mills

Rejoagung and Krebet are large efficient mills which got rid of their steam 10 years ago, having used it very little in the years before then. Both have large fleets of diesels. The same company runs the Cirebon mills for the Government, no doubt the attraction was the two new mills at Subang and Jatitujuh rather than the run-down steam mills. They won't be buying diesels for them, more likely, they will shut them down (they have made a start with Gempol, Jatiwangi and now Kadhipaten). Trangkil and Kebonagung have the same management who have installed modern machinery within the mills but have stuck with steam for their railways because 'it does the job'. Pakis Baru similarly has new mill machinery but kept the steam locos as the best economic proposition until it closed.

45. TRANGKIL Mill Index

My friend Lie Tjeng Chiao was told that the mill would be working normally. Indeed on 7th July, I arrived at 14.20 just in time to board 4 en route to a point half way to Nguren on the north (east) line. As usual the train had to be split for the final approach. I am not sure where 3 went to (it was at the mill when I first arrived), but I found 2 coming back from Wonorejo on the main line south at 16.10 and 1 from Mulyarjo near Pati half an hour later. Definitely still a mill unspoiled by 'progress', although I learned at Kebonagung later that the mill has been unable to secure enough cane during the last three seasons and that its season was getting shorter and shorter, so perhaps its days too are numbered, it does not have the backing of the Ministry of Agriculture to underwrite its losses. 

On 23rd July, things were running much later than usual. We found 3 still handling empties near at Pati at 14.00 and a little later passed 1 on its way to the Payang branch. 2 was still taking fuel and there was little sign of 4 going out on its allocated duty to Nguren by 15.00. We opted to photograph 1. Departure was delayed until 16.30 because one of the diesels had to clear first, but the light was still good. However, with a delay for a broken coupling and the loco not steaming well, it was a slow journey back, only reaching the mill turn off well after sunset. By now 2 was following and we passed 3 with another train on our way back to Pati. The next morning we saw 3 leaving with empties on the south line at 07.30 and later 4 on the same line at 10.00. During the afternoon 1 and 3 reversed duties from the previous day. We stuck with 3 which had enormous difficulty getting its modest load started, but photographically it was extremely pleasant. We heard 1 returning down the main road, and some of the group saw 4  here too but 2 was not observed at all - 2 and 4 were still on shed at 14.30.

On 25th July, 1 took a few empties down the main line at 07.00, but the main activity was 3 and 4 tripping from the mill to the road delivery yard, where they were joined by 1 at 10.00 just as we left. It strikes me that there is more and more cane here coming in by road and the main railway system is running later and later... The afternoon was 'total prei' - a situation I have only met once before (in 1992) whereby no field trains are run and all activity is based on the road deliveries. We did not wait long and the most interesting thing we saw was the preparations for a traditional Javanese wedding near Rembang, complete with gamelan orchestra, singers and dancers.

For the afternoon of August 8th, 1 and 2 worked the road yard. 4 was part way down the Payang branch and worked in impressively with 20 fulls at 15.15 - even getting round the curve by the petrol station without stopping let alone splitting its train. By the time it reached the mill just before 16.00, 3 was on the way back from near Pati. Performance here was less good, with a couple of blow ups before the mill was reached just before 17.00. On the morning of 9th August, 1, 2 and 4 were at work around the road yard by 07.30 and later 1 and 4 took out empties. In the afternoon 4 worked in from Suwadak at 14.30, 1 was near Pati with 2 and 3 double heading a train from Payang. Unfortunately the light was not good. The train disgraced itself by derailing a couple of loris on the bridge next to the main road at Wedarijaksa. The cane went into the stream and the loris were left hanging in mid-air. I didn't see it happen but it must have been spectacular. I guess not much will have moved on this side of the mill the next day.

46. PAKIS BARU Mill Index

Management had stated in 1999 that the mill was not profitable milling cane and was contemplating refining imported raw sugar in 2000 which would see the railway out of use. In April 2000, my friend Lie Tjeng Chiao was told that this plan was confirmed. The biggest disaster to hit the steam scene in Java in the last 10 years. We visited on July 24th. Only a skeleton staff was present and the locos were sitting in the shed where they had been left at the end of the 1999 season. The refining of raw sugar seemed to have been abandoned and I am sure that the mill will officially be closed soon.

47. REJOAGUNG Mill Index

Only the OK Mallet preserved at the north end of the mill by the road junction remains of the once large fleet of steam locos. Previously reported scrapped, 6 and 8 were in fact transferred to Candi where they survive dumped out of use.

48. KEBONAGUNG Mill Index

My friend Lie Tjeng Chiao was told that the mill would be working normally. It was, but they forgot to tell him that the field lines to the east have been closed and that the level of traffic on the south lines is such that it can be covered by a single diesel (surely these lines too will close at the of this season). On 9th July, 4 was in steam and available to shunt the yard, but 99% of cane was coming in by road and the railway seemed an irrelevance. I talked to the mill installation manager on 10th July and he confirmed that the mill was economic at the present level of operation and local sugar price, but he made it clear that the railway had no future. What do you do when your tour group is booked to visit this mill for a whole day? You talk nicely to the loco foremen and persuade them to reverse duties and send out a steam loco to the fields in the afternoon. On 30th July, 6 shunted the mill in the morning and was dispatched to the fields in the afternoon for what will probably have been the last ever steam hauled field train here. The sun shone initially and an enthusiastic crew made it an occasion to remember. When the light failed I rode the last kilometre into the mill on the loco. With a gallery of photographers to record the scene it was an event to remember. We requested a repeat for August 14th, but in the event mill staff had personal problems and it did not come off, 4 was shunting during the afternoon shift.

49. KREBET BARU Mill Index

There are no steam locos left on site.

53. CANDI  Mill Index

This mill is not on my map, but is on the old main road just south of Sidoarjo, just north east of mill 32, Tulangan.

Two former Rejoagung locomotives (6, an OK 0-4-4-0T, and 8, a Vulcan 0-6-0T) are stored here. The management is keen to sell them but they are not in very good condition.

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Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

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