2001 saw my 21st visit to Java and I led my 13th tour. Despite my pessimism, everyone
agreed that there was still more than enough activity to satisfy the first time visitor
and here I am back again in 2002 with my 14th tour (actually rather more when you allow
for the years I have run two).
This is the 2002 report, click here for a brief summary of the main news,
click here for the non-sugar news, other reports are available:
notice a slight difference in the pictures this year - I have a new digital camera, mainly
bought to record the mill machinery but which saved me a lot of money on slide film (not
much point in adding significantly to my existing slide mountain). Late news (1st
September 2002) is that the season has been so good that most mills in Central and
East Java are likely to be active well into October 2002. By late August, the Cirebon
mills had already finished their season. I went in September for a second visit to
enjoy sugar steam while it was still possible.
This year I have produced a series of pages containing photographs of the best steam
Click here for the Mill Index or Mill Map or choose the area you want:
The mills are arranged from West to East, North Coast
then South Coast with the Private Mills at the end. Click on the mill in the Index below
(mills with no link no longer use steam, but may have locos stored on site):
The numbers are those used in the reports.
The Main News in Brief
- 2002 looks like being at least as good as 2001. Despite the recovery of the Rupiah (up
20% on late 2001), most cane was planted before this happened and the Government has moved
to protect the industry through this season. I have no firm evidence but from personal
observation I think there is more cane and of a higher quality this year than I have seen
for a long time.
- Tersana Baru and Sindanglaut are working normally with the season starting in in
April/May, but Ketanggungan Barat is not working at all because of a damaged bridge.
- Further along the north coast, Jatibarang,
Pangka, Sumberharjo and Sragi were working by
- Tasik Madu is working as in 2001.
- Madiun is mainly 'no change' except there is no steam at Soedhono this year.
- Gempolkerep is working normally with both Luttermöllers in action, there are two
Mallets (only) at Pesantren and Merican is working as per 2001.
- Trangkil is working normally, although 1 is out of action.
- Olean and Asembagus have steam field trains as usual, Asembagus 5 has expired and 0-6-0T
De Mass 3 is now working here.
Prospects for 2002
This is an updated version of what I wrote in September 2001 (click here for the original).
- The long term prospects for the sugar industry (and its remaining steam locomotives) are
very poor. A few large (and relatively efficient) mills will survive, but what is left of
their railways will almost inevitably be dieselised. The only question is one of timing.
Since the end of the 1997 season, nine sugar mills have ceased operation and, equally
important, (steam) field operations have been abandoned at two more. Although the
Government has repeatedly stated its intention to shrink the industry instead it seems
content for 'natural' economic events to occur whereby mills will close because farmers
have chosen not to plant cane. This is very much the traditional Indonesian way of doing
- The short term prospects for the industry are tied to the
Rupiah/US $ exchange rate. In
1997, U$1 bought Rp 2500. Within a year it was more than Rp 10000, before dropping back to
around Rp 7000 in 1999. By mid-2000, the underlying value was about Rp 8000. Further
political uncertainties caused it lose further value to around Rp 11200 in mid June 2001,
but it recovered to Rp 9000 by August 2001 before weakening again. By June 2002 it was
stronger again at Rp 8600. Sugar imports have been liberalised since 1999 and the
local sugar price broadly reflects world prices. In 2001 the sugar industry was just about
competitive but since then world sugar prices have collapsed, even Cuba has decided to cut
- Labour shortages are again evident in some areas which confirms that the Javanese
economy continues to recover strongly. Few people want to cut cane for around U$2.50 a day
or less and much cane is now 'ratooned' (= grown again in the same place as opposed to
making part of a rice/sugar cycle).
- The Government would like to close more mills, but the (Government owned) sugar
corporations are naturally opposing this, not least on the grounds of the social upheaval
it would cause in some areas (especially around Situbondo). They seem able to 'burn' cash
to keep this uneconomic industry going and frustrate the free marketeers. There is
so much excess capacity built into the system that many of the smaller mills could be
closed if circumstances allowed it...
- Will I be back running a tour in 2003? (I shall be back because I will have my
last two large volcanoes to climb - a bad knee having frustrated me in
2002.) It is early
days yet but the answer is almost certainly yes. Add to the sugar steam, the possibilities
of special trains at Ambarawa and Cepu, together with visits to the sugar mills themselves
with their ancient steam powered machinery and you can have a steam trip which has no
equal in the world today. In 2002 I ran two tours, which combined the best of steam with
visits to Java's other tourist attractions - the volcanoes, antiquities and cultural
centres. There is not enough steam left to do otherwise without cutting back the time
spent on the island and thereby increasing the proportion of time spent
has far more to offer than just steam...
Perhutani Bojonegoro Contents
This under-publicised 1067mm gauge industrial railway uses vintage diesels to bring in
teak logs. I paid a brief visit on 26th June 2002. You can read what
PT Keretapi News Contents
I ran no less than 4 specials at Ambarawa in 2002 in July/August using both B25 and E10
as usual. There were large numbers of trains in July including groups from Japan and
Germany so E1060 will have been busier than usual this year.
In 2001, the Government of Central Java allocated money in its budget to restore the
line north from Ambarawa to Tuntang. This line is flat but scenic along the lake, Rawa
Pening. The track was more or less unobstructed after being closed for 25 years, some
(illegal) buildings had to be demolished and in places the low embankment was eroded. In
practice only half a job was done - the line is passed for light 'loris' but not steam
Click here for the unofficial Ambarawa Railway Museum
These are pictures of 2002 trains. First E1060 ready to leave Ambarawa station:
Unlike most visitors we always let the local children ride our trains:
I would do it anyway, but it actually makes for better pictures.
Cepu Forest Railway Contents
Regular logging trains have now ceased altogether and much of the system has been
lifted. The only way to see this unique operation is to organise your own special logging
trains which I did again twice in July/August 2002. However, the political anarchy which
is taking over the country has seen large parts of the forest devastated and in September
2001 Perhutani lost its Smartwood accreditation which has stopped legal exports of teak
from Indonesia to Europe. They are planting on an 80 year cycle but cutting on a 10 year
cycle.... We didn't load much wood but we still got some good pictures. There is a full illustrated report of one of the 2002 trips available.