The International Steam Pages

Steam in Java 2015

Java Sugar Diesels - Worth a Second Glance

Java Steam Loco List - See what you missed working!

Inside Java's sugar mills - Veteran stationary steam!

Sweet Dreams in Java (1975-1997) - Those were the days...

Sweet Dream Video Clips (1991 - 1999) 
21st Century Sweet Dream Video Clips

I have lost count of my visits to Java since I first went in 1975. In the years between then and 2010, I missed just 7 years, all but two in the 1980s. I have often described my relationship as like a public love affair. I am proud that in the 20 years I ran tours here between 1991 and 2010, it never became a circus with the staff 'on the make'. Now that the level of reliable daily real steam has reached the level that cannot support a further tour in a way I would feel comfortable with, it's time to quit. My 2010 group ended up paying for guaranteed steam in too many mills and that is a path I would not want to follow again. It's not the cost which is actually modest, it's the principle; I don't listen to the siren voices which say it doesn't matter because in a few years it will all be gone anyway, most of them come from tour operators who sold their souls to the Devil many years ago in the name of making a living. I did think that one day Yuehong and I would be back to have a last private look, but the bad news in 2015 means that is now most unlikely.

Sweet Spot Sweet Spot - the ultimate Olean DVD

Read  Keith Chester's Review

If you've never been to Java and need to see what is left in its historical context then you should consult these pages:

Visiting Olean in 2015? Need some help with arranging steam trains?
Please contact Zaenal Combo

Reports for Steam in Java 2015 - updated 28th September 2015

In 2014, John Raby wrote a running blog of visitors' experiences which was necessarily diesel orientated with some steam content, it's definitely worth consulting if you are visiting in 2015. He is visiting again this year, he tells me his own report from his August tour will appear as

I will note updates (if any)  to the mill reports below as and when they become available.

The glory days of Java steam are well and truly over but for the connoisseur of narrow gauge industrial (steam) railways, what is left is still well worth savouring, preferably at leisure sitting in the shade enjoying the whole scene rather than rushing around accumulating yet more pictures of what has already been recorded by many others in better days. I have listed below the mills which are likely to offer reliable daily steam in 2015 followed by those where it will be occasional, either naturally or 'by arrangement'. To keep the information concise, I have not identified the locomotive types - these are readily checked from the Java steam loco list. Visitors should be aware that the fasting month of Ramadan (from early July) will have affected operations and limit the availability of refreshments during daylight hours.

With all the disastrous news reported below, it seems that apart from the firelesses, as of early August 2015, the only real working steam in Java's sugar mills is at Kanigoro. Of course, steam 'on demand' is available at a number of mills but for someone who enjoyed real sugar steam for over 30 years, these represent second best (or even less).

2014 Daily Steam - 2015 was actually very different...:

Visitors to the mills in East Java in 2014 found generally that admission will not be allowed without a written permit from Headquarters in Surabaya. This will severely limit those not so equipped as virtually no steam operation is within the public domain, just the road deliveries at Purwodadi and the field working at Olean.

PANGKA (600mm gauge)

(Tegal - Pekalongan buses pass the turn-off at Larangan some 9km east of Tegal. Take a minibus from here - which continues to Slawi south of Tegal - this is an alternative approach, there are buses between Tegal and Slawi.)

Bertram Frenzel reports that a visit to Pangka in early August 2015 found only diesels working the trains although the mill claimed that steam would be used later in the month. It didn't happen and it now appears that this is now designated as a tourist mill and steam will operate 'on demand'. You can expect a bill in millions of Rupiah which is, in fact, affordable for small groups. 'Real' it is not although it will look it providing you have a still and not video camera. Groups were indeed able to charter steam here which did at least substitute for a diesel.

Cane is brought from the road delivery yard by a mixture of steam and diesel along the side of the mill before reversing. The mill has a well developed tourist programme but this consists mainly of trying to screw a larger than average entry fee from overseas visitors, but in global terms it's not extortionate. Steam activity had tended to increase as the season progresses and more bagasse becomes available. Up to five locomotives from 1, 2, 3, 9 and 10 were used in recent years, repainted orange when their tourist operation started.

SUMBERHARJO (700mm gauge)

(There is a minibus from some way south of the bus terminal in Pemalang.)

Bertram Frenzel reports that a visit to Sumberharjo in early August 2015 found the field lines apparently out of use with just one diesel and one tractor shunting. Groups were able to charter a steam locomotive to potter around. Experience suggests that by 2016 it won't be worth trying to repeat.

3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 (with the inevitable diesels) have all worked here in recent years but few saw much daylight movement. The best most visitors could hope for was some yard shunting and steam tender first on empties.

SRAGI (600mm gauge)

(Take a minibus (occasional) or an ojek (motor cycle) from the turn-off between Wiradesa and Comal on the Pekalongan - Tegal road. Alternatively, there are more minibuses from the centre of Comal.)

Bertram Frenzel reports that a visit to Sragi in early August 2015 revealed five tractors handling the full loris and just one diesel on empties. All steam was cold in the shed. Later groups were able to charter 17 to do some pottering around.

Previously there was yard shunting in quantity, fulls being propelled, sometimes by more than one locomotive, empties were smokebox first. 5, 7, 8, 12, 16, 17, 19 and 20 had been seen working in recent years, usually with no more than one diesel.

TASIK MADU (750mm gauge)

(Buses between Solo and Tawangmanggu pass the turn-off which is 1km south of the mill. Walk or take a becak from here. There are slower, less frequent, but direct small buses to the west side of the mill from Solo which pass through the small bus station at Palur near where the Madiun road turns sharp left and the Tawangmanggu road goes straight on. For those staying in the west end of Jalan Selamat Riyadi - the main street - the bis kota between Kartasura and Palur connect with this.)

This is a schizophrenic mill. On one side of the mill is what is best described as a 'theme park' with swimming pool, caged animals and birds and weekend live music through which some of the mill's steam and diesel locomotives weave their way with passenger trains at slow speed.

On the other hand, there is still much rail movement in the yard although trucks now deliver cane directly to the mill. Depending on the availability of cane (and hence bagasse), the balance between steam and diesel would vary. V, VI, 5B, 7B, XIV are the locomotives which have been seen in the yard in the last few years, but rarely more than 50% at any one time! Yhe unloader further from the mill is no longer used and this has spelled the death knell for regular working steam.

Stefanus Krisandi was at the mill on 22nd June 2015. VI was the sole locomotive at work. A change since 2014 is that V is now available to deputise and XIV will not normally be used. Now most of the cane goes directly to the mill, the yard is much less busy. (27th June 2015). However, Doug Brooks visited in early August and found that VI had not been used since early July and the mill had no plans to use it again although for a fee they would steam it to substitute for a tractor (7th August 2015).

PURWODADI (700mm gauge)

(Buses between Madiun and Solo pass the mill, which is some 6km north of Maospati, the major road junction west of Madiun.)

Bernd Seiler had reported that steam has finished here (6th August 2015), but Doug Brooks found 15 and 16 in use as normal on 10th August 2015, other later season visitors found similar.

With up to four out of 5, 10, 15 and 16 this is the busiest steam mill in the Madiun area, with locomotives top and tailing trains on the short run over the main road and across the photogenic viaduct before vanishing into the mill. It can only be a matter of time before a gricer is mown down by the heavy passing traffic. If the mill is not busy most of the work will be done by diesels.

Jens Toft Ingemann found 15 and 16 in use in early August 2014. This is 15 which looks like some kind of OK hybrid with 5 on the smokebox door..

REJOSARI (700mm gauge)

(The mill is at Gorang Gareng, south-west of Madiun. Minibuses run from the newer (southern) of the two bridges on the west side of town.)

Historically 6 and / or 7 would be used to shunt the limited remaining rail system, with 10 steamed 'by arrangement'. Dieselised since 2014, but steam (in poor condition) remains available. 

KANIGORO (700mm gauge)

(The mill is a little way south of Madiun. Buses and colts between Madiun and Ponorogo pass a set of traffic lights on the outskirts of town. Walk, take a becak or minibus T east some 1km to the mill.)

Steam was active on 30th July 2015 and into August although by September it was no longer the case. it's impossible to say what will happen in 2016 but the omens are not good.

In recent years just one loco has been steamed to work with the diesels at a mill which is rarely very busy.

PAGOTTAN (700mm gauge)

(The mill is 9km south of Madiun. Buses and colts between Madiun and Ponorogo pass the main gate.)

Luttermöllers 6, 7 and 8 have been converted to fireless operation, necessarily without their tenders which are no longer needed. They saw regular use in 2015.

SEMBORO (700mm gauge)

(Take a bus between Jember and Probolinggo, get off in the middle of Tanggul, walk or take a becak the short distance south along the road to Semboro, not very frequent yellow minibuses to the mill start 200 metres beyond the level crossing. Alternatively take an ojek from the turn off. When returning, wait at the T junction east of the mill entrance. Management here seem to do their best to discourage visitors even with a permit and those without will be denied entry.)

The firelesses (2 and 3) work behind the mill, not straying very far from their recharging point, and are confirmed to be operating normally in 2015, there is a YouTube video showing 3,  (27th June 2015).

Expect Jung 29 and OK Mallet 15 to be available for charters, a local group of enthusiasts chartered them in June 2015 (27th June 2015).

OLEAN (700mm gauge)

(The mill is some 4km north of the centre of Situbondo. Take a becak or an occasional minibus towards Kalbut from the bus station.)

Bernd Seiler has reported that steam has finished here (6th August 2015). In fact, this is now designated as a tourist mill and steam will operate 'on demand'. You can expect a bill in millions of Rupiah which is, in fact, affordable for small groups. 'Real' it is not although it will look it providing you have a still and not video camera.

Other Steam Possibilities, I have left these notes in but I am not sure is either mill can now provide steam to order.

SOEDHONO (600mm gauge)

(Buses between Madiun and Solo pass the turn off to the mill, some way south of Ngawi. Take a becak or ojek or walk.)

3 has seen use from time to time in 2009/10, steaming can probably be guaranteed by prior arrangement.

John Browning was here on 14th July 2012 and found steam had not been used for some time, 3 was sitting looking serviceable. It was fired up specially for the FarRail group on 2nd August, it is also reported that 6 may yet be revived as a fireless, Pagottan style. Jens Toft Ingemann found 3 looking ready for someone to hire it in early August 2014.

ASEMBAGUS (700mm gauge)

(The mill is east of the town centre of the same name. Buses between Situbondo and Banyuwangi pass the mill gate.) 

Steam (10 and / or 11) was most likely in use 'on request' in 2010 although undoubtedly there were days when it was needed. This was another choker for me, possibly my last ever field train in Java albeit it was not there in the normal course of events.

Andrej Hoffman found 10 in 'bad condition' and many of the derelicts scrapped in 2012.

Bernd Seiler reports that 'working steam' has now officially finished at Asembagus but the locos will remain available for charter until there is a major problem. In this case 10 failed in the morning and lost its whistle when it hit an overhanging tree in the afternoon... A second morning charter with empties for the field was more successful (29th July 2012)

Charter Steam


Click here for the unofficial Ambarawa Railway Museum website. By July 2014 it was said that the rack line had not been used for some 60 months and only B5112 in use on the section to Tuntang. I do not believe any trains used the rack line in 2015.

The line to Tuntang is now upgraded to carry full sized train and repairs of the line to Jambu are complete. 2011 will have seen much needed repairs on the rack to Bedono which may have led to services being suspended from time to time. Here is B2503 during a late afternoon runpast in 2003, you will be lucky to be able to repeat this shot as by 2013 the foreground was very overgrown last time I was here in 2008. B5112 has now been returned to service and is used on the non-rack sections..


C1218 runs special trains down the main street, some will be private charters, very occasionally others will be for the public - exact dates will only be known locally. The city council have reversed their decision to suspend funding and the train is again be available for charter. .

Cepu Forest Railway

Despite appearances the locomotive below (in 2006) could not move itself..... This is a railway I no longer wish to deal with, somehow the trains always seem to run for tour parties but behind the scenes, it is a constant battle with a management in both Cepu and Jakarta which is at best incompetent and at worst totally untrustworthy. However, trains do still run from time to time but I do not know how far they can get.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson