The International Steam Pages

Steam in Java 2002

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:

You will 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 action:

Click here for the Mill Index or Mill Map or choose the area you want:

West Java Mills 
(19th August 2002)

Central Java North Coast Mills 
(19th August 2002)

Central Java South Coast Mills 
(26th September 2002)

Madiun area Mills 
(26th September 2002)

Kediri area Mills 
(26th September 2002)

Far Eastern Mills 
(26th September 2002)

Private Mills 
(26th September 2002)


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):








De Maas














Ketanggungan Barat









Pakis Baru














Tasik Madu

Tersana Baru





Mill location map

The numbers are those used in the reports.

The Main News in Brief Contents

  • 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 mid-June.
  • 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 Contents

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 things. 
  • 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 capacity...
  • 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 travelling. Java 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 I found... 

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 locos....

Click here for the unofficial Ambarawa Railway Museum website

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.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson