The International Steam Pages

Steam in Java 2008

I have lost count of my visits to Java since I first went in 1975. In the 33 years since then, I have missed just 7 years, all but two in the 1980s. In 2008, I ran a very successful tour, there's little to be read about it on these pages but I have added a small 'thank you' to the people who helped me get through a very strenuous 3 weeks. I have often described my relationship as like a public love affair. Alas the global recession and the associated collapse in the value of the GBP mean that I shall not be there in 2009 which will make it three.

Sweet Spot - the ultimate Olean DVD
Read  Keith Chester's Review

This is the 2008 report, click here for a brief summary of the main news, other reports are available:

In 2002 I produced a series of pages containing photographs of the best steam action then, it's well worth a look but very little of it is still possible in 2010.

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

West Java Mills
(12th August 2008)

Central Java North Coast Mills
(12th August 2008)

Central Java South Coast Mills 
(12th August 2008)

Madiun area Mills
(12th August 2008)

Kediri area Mills
(16th November 2008) 

Far Eastern Mills
(12th August 2008)

Private Mills


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), I have now added 'how to get there' information for the mills with active steam in 2008, but Jan Willem's guide has more comprehensive information.:








De Maas














Ketanggungan Barat










Pakis Baru














Tasik Madu

Tersana Baru





Mill location map

The numbers are those used in the reports, they have no official status.

The Main News in Brief Contents

2006/7 were probably the best sugar seasons in Java for some years, first time visitors seem broadly satisfied by what was on offer given that the real steam clock stands at 1 minute to midnight. Of course, it often differed from what was promised by some tour operators but that was down to a combination of their misleading advertising, sloppy proof reading and lack of good quality local contacts. The main offenders as usual were the late and unlamented Globe Steam (consistently overstating the amount of active steam and offering a Borsig at Sragi for a start) and the Railway Touring Company (numerous and noted as appropriate under the individual mills, but 'many steam locomotives in action' at Semboro took the cherry for 2007 and, amazingly, again for 2008). You have to wonder whether their researchers ever bothered to read the detailed reports on these pages.... My guess is that with world food prices soaring (sugar included), there will not be many changes apparent in 2008 - a dangerous comment no doubt and one that invites the unexpected!

  • Tersana Baru has ceased regular steam activity.
  • Jatibarang is using just one steam locomotive, but Pangka, Sumberharjo and Sragi are essentially unchanged
  • Tasik Madu is working much as before with extra (separate) tourist activity.
  • Rejosari, Purwodadi, Kanigoro and Pagottan are operating as before.
  • Asembagus planned to start milling on 17th, Olean on 25th and Semboro about 23rd May 2008.
  • Japanese gricers in Java (and elsewhere) have all too often shown complete disregard for local customs with their insensitive and selfish behaviour. I do not understand why the rest of us should suffer from their stupid social system that denies them sensible holidays and leads to them throwing money around with complete disregard for the consequences. Moreover at Pangka in July this ugly arsehole charged straight through my video and his colleagues marched in front of my group members taking their own pictures. From now on whenever I encounter Japanese groups (individuals by and large are fine) in Java I shall treat them with the same contempt that this group showed us. 


  • If it's not too clear from the reports, then the best mills for steam in quantity and in action are (in alphabetical order): Olean, Pangka, Sragi and Tasik Madu. Under no circumstances contemplate a visit to Java which does not include all of these.
  • Java's main line railways have suffered a large number of well publicised accidents (search under 'Java railway accident') owing to derailments, particularly during the rainy season. Additionally, the line from Surabaya to Bangil (and on east to Jember /Banyuwangi and south to Malang) has been subject to short-notice long delays and even closure owing to the 'mud volcano' adjacent to the track at Porong near Sidoarjo although the situation seems to have eased by 2008. Bear this in mind if you are considering using the trains as part of your planned visit, they are not "well maintained" although, of course, as everywhere they are undoubtedly safer than the roads.
  • The Ambarawa rack railway is operating as per normal.
  • The Cepu Forest Railway suffered bridge damage just outside the log yard during the rains of 2005/6 and the authorities failed to restore it in time for the rail tour season and it seemed that the railway was doomed. However, Steve Noon told me (31st December 2007) that the bridge has been repaired and that work was completed to reinstate the railway for first proving runs with steam on 15th/16th December 2007. We negotiated a sensible package so we added a visit to this fascinating railway during our 2008 tour and planned to be back with the Java Experience Tour in 2009.

PT Keretapi News Contents

I ran 3 specials at Ambarawa using B2503, E1060 and C1218 as usual in August 2006 and tried to do the same in July 2008, although C1218 was a last minute failure. I have posted a page of pictures of C1218 at work in 2006.

Click here for the unofficial Ambarawa Railway Museum website.

The first two pictures are of 2003 trains, but note that as Ambarawa is in the mountains, the weather may not always be kind, even in the dry season. First E1060 at Jambu:

Here is B2503 during a late afternoon runpast.

C1218 on the bridge south of Jambu station in August 2006.

Cepu Forest Railway Contents

Regular logging trains ceased some time ago and much of the system has been lifted. The only way to see this unique operation was to organise your own special logging trains which I did regularly once or twice a year since 1997 and did again for a final time in July 2005. 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 were planting on an 80 year cycle but cutting on a 10 year cycle, now all (legal) logging has been stopped in Java. In 2003/4 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, the picture below is from 2006 when we were restricted to the log yard owing to the damage to a bridge, despite appearances the locomotive could not move itself.....

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson