2017 Java Steam & Sugar Tour: The Humble Return Part 4

Monday 11th September 2017 is the day where we will have the highlight of our 2017 Java Steam & Sugar tour: riding steam train on Semboro’s vast field lines network.

Or not so, according to Geoff.

While we were having breakfast, I expressed my excitement about today’s planned itinerary where we will ride steam loco hauled excursion train on Semboro sugar mill. Especially since the mill have 2nd largest field lines network in Indonesia, this would guarantee a more exciting journey than what I had in Olean back in 2015.

But Geoff reminds me not to be too excited about it first, as the chance of not having working steam loco does present. He said that back in last August, John Raby’s tour group left Semboro almost empty handed. Just like us, they had actually booked steam train excursion on the mill. But upon arrived, the mill management told them that none of the steam locos were available for excursion (including the rather young no.29). So they ended up doing excursion ride onboard small inspection railcar at Jatiroto.

Upon hearing that I lost my appetite to eat breakfast, and began to felt very nervous. So much that I began to suffer from gastritis, resulting from the stress. The feeling of excitement on me turned into anxiety. Although both Geoff and Joop said that they wouldn’t mind if we fail to had a steam train excursion, for me it would make tour’s financial management into a nightmare.

After breakfast, we return back to our room to have shower and preparing ourselves for the journey. Today, my brother rejoined us and he will assist me on running this tour. He will do the driving, while I do administration matter. This proved beneficial for me, because as a tour leader, dealing with administration with sugar mill can be a very tiring and even heartbreaking process. And if added with driving, like what I did in 2014, it would have been a very tiring work to do. Although back then, I thankfully encountered mostly friendly mill managements who were accustomed to impromptu foreigner visits.

The drive between Jember to Semboro was quite an easy one. Although it was Monday morning, the fact that Jember is just a small town means there were virtually no traffic jams. It was the second time I visited Semboro. The first one was back in early 2015 during off season, when I visited the mill just for curiosity after I dropped a group of fussy German tourists in Banyuwangi. And back then, I didn’t enter the mill or wandering around its field lines. So finding the way to Semboro is an easy one.

Upon arriving at the mill, we head into its administration office. I have to say that unlike most sugar mills that I’ve visited, which have shabby and dusty entrance, the frontage of Semboro sugar mill is very neat and tidy. It is a truly pleasant place to visit.

Upon parking our car, we went into the administration office.

I went into the administration room. While Geoff, Joop, and my brother Satrio sat in the guest room, I met with one of the administration staff, and submitting the permit letter as well as informing our intention to go on steam excursion trip, with nervous feeling. I was met by one management staff named Agus.

It was during this meeting that one major glitch is revealed: apparently none in Semboro has prior warning over our intention to have a steam excursion tour! Apparently my permit letter wasn’t forwarded to here! This truly increases the tension on me.

Then I asked to Agus, whether if it’s still possible to charter steam loco for that day. I’m anxiously waiting his answer……

Surprise! Surprise! Agus delivered one answer that truly easy my tension: Yes, the steam loco is available for charter today! Although the catch is, due to our “impromptu visit” (no it’s not! It’s the fault of the management office in Surabaya for failing to forward my letter to here!), the steam locomotive would only be ready by 3pm.  And also the only available steam loco will be the no.29. The rare mallet is not available due to maintenance. I replied to Agus, that’s perfectly fine.

After I settle the payment for the tour (which thankfully didn’t exceed my predicted amount) I left the office with a very relieved feeling. I then informed everyone that the steam locomotive tour will proceed as planned, although there will be some delay encountered. Geoff and Joop don’t mind about that. Now everyone is happy!

It’s still 10.30 in the morning, and we still have an ample of time to do before we start the steam train excursion. So we decided to spend time by exploring the mill.

Semboro sugar mill is a massive complex. Its sugarcane receiving station size is twice larger than what I see in Tasikmadu. One is for truck deliveries while other for railway delivery.

It’s quite a novelty, considering that in some other mills that operate their railway, one receiving station is used for both trucks and rails.

Near the station, we found one locomotive parked next to small food stall hut. Its driver is having some coffee between duties.

Once the driver finished his coffee, he resumed his works.

Semboro sugar mill is quite a modern sugar mill. Although it was built in 1921, very little trace of original factory building can be seen. It has largely been swallowed by modern structure.

The sign of modernity doesn’t just visible on the factory compound, even the railway wagons are equipped with one modern feature: roller bearing axle.

In other mills, the wagons are so primitive that they still have friction bearing. This give the sugarcane train distinctive creaking noise, especially when loaded. With the roller bearing axle, sugarcane train would be much less audible. And the only way to spot their presence is by listening to the sound of its locomotive. And due to the fact that all of the locomotives in Semboro are rather silent (the diesel locos sound are similar to tractor, while the steam locos only makes faint hisses), noticing train presence would be tricky.

Despite all of its modernization, Semboro sugar mill still operates some ancient relics which have become increasingly rare in the world: the Fireless locomotives.

Unlike conventional steam locomotives, Fireless locomotive works by mean of using steam pressure which is injected into its boiler.

The steam itself is also generated from byproduct of crushing process.

The reason why Semboro is still resorting to fireless locomotives for shunting works is due to the threat of fire that can be caused by spark emission from steam locomotives. Even to smaller degree diesel locomotives can still pose similar threat too.

And if you look into its cab, it has no firebox. The fireless locos in Semboro doesn’t even have whistle. Probably to conserve the steam pressure needed to move the wheels. So it’s only mean to warn people are by using the bell seen in the background.

Although the role of fireless locomotives have largely been superseded by battery locomotives in other parts of the world, the reason why Semboro sugar mill still retain this pair of 1920s built locomotives is due to its simplicity and reliability.

Of course there is a catch: the locomotives cannot wander to outside due to limited quantity its steam reserve.

Once both locomotives have been filled with steam pressure, they resume their shunting works.

 

It’s quite amazing to be able to see such rare locomotive to do regular works in 21st century.

You can see the video of their working in here:

These locomotives works in pull and push order. In this occasion, the no.3 pulling the loaded train from the yard, while no.2 assisting it by pushing the train.

For some reason, the train is delayed for long, so I took the chance by photographing its builder logo on its boiler.

My brother said he couldn’t stand the heat and noise. So he decides to return back into the car. I stay with Geoff and Joop, who watching the fireless. Even if none of them are moving, they’re willing to wait.

Although the noise from the factory is nearly unbearable, they seem to enjoy being there!

A few minutes later another loaded train came from the yard, and heading into the receiving station.

Since I too couldn’t stand the noise and the heat further, I decide to return back to my car and catching up with my brother.

But apparently the length of the diesel hauled loaded train is so long that it blocked my way back. So I decided to cross the train by passing through the driving cab of one of the loco there.

I took the photo of the locomotive’s builder plate. From it, you can see that the locomotive was built by Hokuriku in Japan, back in 1976. I believe it was actually delivered here as a part of Japanese economic assistance to Indonesia.

I went back to the car and found it locked. Apparently my brother is relaxing in the gazebo just in front of the office. It’s quite a pleasant place to relax and drinks while waiting for our steam locomotive to be ready.

While waiting, I decided to go to steam locomotive monument near the entrance. This loco is similar to what I saw near Jatiroto yesterday, albeit in better condition.

From the monument, I head into the locomotive shed to find out how does our locomotive preparation progress.

I asked the direction from one of the security officer there. She said that it’s on the back compound. But she reminds me that it’s quite a long walk, so she suggests that I need to take my car there. I replied that it’s alright for me. I get used to walk long anyway, so I decided to walk.

Along the way, I came across this molasses filling station, where tank trucks receiving their load here.

Up until 1988 harvesting season, this service was served by railway where it was connected on a cape gauge branchline that starting from Tanggul station on the mainline. The line itself is a dual gauge, a combination of 1067mm mainline gauge, and 700mm field lines gauge, which also cross a large bridge just to the north of the mill compound. The cape gauge is no longer in use, while the 700mm is still busy.

The haulage was done by a cape gauge Orenstein & Koppel built steam locomotive. Coincidentally the loco is now displayed just next to the loading point.

After the end of the service, the locomotive went into disuse, and for decades it was stored in derelict condition. But in 2016, it was rescued and partly renovated for display. They never made any attempt to fully renovate it, probably due to complexity of the task.

And it’s quite interesting that now they display the loco just next to the place where it would normally do some workings in the past.

I resume walking where upon arriving at the locomotive shed; I went inside and greeted by the sight of busy maintenance workers. It is in here too that I catch up again with Geoff and Joop who have finished watching the fireless locos.

The yellow locomotives are the big locos that are normally used to haul loaded trains in the field, while the small green locomotives are used to haul shorter train. And the small locomotives are also capable of going down into the field on temporary track to haul loaded wagons, and carrying them into the permanent track, essentially replacing the role of animals or tractors that are normally used on other sugar mills.

Right in the middle of the shed, I can see that our locomotive is being slowly steamed for the excursion.

A fireman stood in front of the firebox door, carefully monitoring the heating progress. While waiting for the steam pressure to go up, he complained on why didn’t I inform the mill management before coming? I replied that it is actually the fault of the central office in Surabaya for not forwarding my permit letter to here. He seems to accept my answer and resuming his work.

The loco that we will ride today is quite new, being built by Jung in West Germany in 1961. And it is also the twin sister of Jatiroto number J100 that we saw yesterday. It’s amazing how a pair of identical twins would have different fate these days.

Right next to our loco is this Orenstein & Koppel built mallet number 15.

Unlike the number 29, she is a very old locomotive. Built 1926, she was once the star excursion locomotive in Semboro. Her uniqueness lay in the fact that she is the last mallet locomotive to see operation in Indonesia, or even South East Asia! Although officially listed as “ready but under maintenance” the loco haven’t run its wheels since 2015. The mill management promised that the loco will be available for charter, once the maintenance works completed. They’ve been saying similar thing since 2 years ago anyway.

As we go deeper into the locomotive shed, we could see the remains of the glory days of steam locomotive era in Semboro, in a form of variety of derelict steam locomotives which saw last regular use in 1990s. We can see many steam locomotives from different builders like Orenstein & Koppel, DuCroo & Brauns, and also Maffei. Up until 2013 or 2014 there was one Borsig mallet loco, but it has since been disappeared. It has probably been scrapped.

This locomotive is one of a several DuCroo & Brauns locomotives that survive in Semboro.

If I’m not mistaken Semboro have 4 of them, but only 3 are seen. They’re the smaller variant of DB’s mallet, which only generates 60hp.

Other type mallets in storage are the OK variant, whose are essentially similar to no.15. The derelict OK locos are used for spare parts source to keep no.15 going.

The shed looks rather empty now because majority of steam locomotives (and possibly early diesels) have been scrapped.

The number 9 is a rarity in the mallet dominated shed. It is one of a few small OK 0-4-2T locos that survive today, albeit in a very poor condition.

Steam locomotives operation in sugar mill like Semboro have survived mass dieselization that began after First World War and intensified in 1950s and 1970s, but thanks to the fact that they use sugarcane bagasse that come for free, they can survive well beyond internet era of late 1990s. But as the price of diesel fuel becomes increasingly reasonable, combined with the economic crisis of 1997-1998 led to drastic cost cutting measure, and the old steam locomotives have to go into the history.

And that leaves these 2 locos (plus 2 Fireless ones) as the sole survivor of working steam locomotives in Semboro sugar mill.

Satisfied with the inspection, I decide to return back to the car. Along the way, I passed in front of this display which show Semboro’s fleet of trains and tractors.

Upon returning back to the car, I learned that our water supply began to be depleted. Apparently the scorching heat causing us to drink more than what our supply has.  So we decided to go out from the mill and search for some supermarkets around for resupply. Thankfully, there are some minimarkets such as Indomaret or Alfamart which is similar to Seven Elevan convenient shop. They sell wide variety of drinks, snacks, or even food ingredients.

Once we bought necessary provisions, we return back to the sugar mill and head straight to the locomotive shed. It’s still 1.30pm, and we still have an ample of time before our steam tour commence. So we decided to park in a shady place near the locomotive shed and taking a brief nap.

At around 2’o clock, I woke up and went into the locomotive shed to see how our steam locomotive have progressed. Upon arriving in the shed, I’m surprised to found that our locomotive is nowhere to be seen!

Apparently the locomotive is on the outside, now fully steamed, and basically ready to go.

I hastily return back to the car to call my brother to be ready, and also picking up the ice box which carry our drinks provision.

Our locomotive is now ready to go. All it need is just fresh supply of firewood and also turning its direction around.

While waiting for that, I met the shed master and his subordinate. Once again, I listened to the same advice of “please inform us in advance”, which I replied by mentioning the head office’s carelessness in forwarding my permit letter.

The vice shed master also reminds me that it is highly advisable to return back to the mill before 6pm. This is to avoid inbound loaded trains traffic which might hinder our return trip. He said that they will not provide VIP treatment to our train, where regular sugarcane trains would gave way to ours, because it is impossible to do. That is despite the presence of double tracks on field lines.

When they move locomotive backward, my brother suddenly feel an eerie supernatural feeling. He asked to the crew whether if the loco have “guardian ghost”. They replied that it actually is, for those who believe in Javanese supernatural stuffs.

I think it’s quite strange that a locomotive of such age can have supernatural being in it.

While waiting for the locomotive to be turned around, I took some time to photograph the detail of our loco.

They might have done good job in making this locomotive in working condition. But obviously more effort needs to be done to fully repair this locomotive, as they obviously don’t do proper painting work on the locomotive. Not to mention some leaking in the steam piping joints.

Soon our locomotive is on the way to get its fresh supply of firewood.

Once the loading completed, our locomotive is turned around in the nearby triangular track. Since there is no turntable in this mill, this procedure is necessary to prepare the steam locomotive.

As I walk to a spot where I would photograph the outbound steam locomotive, I came across a small bit of the remains of cape gauge branchline which used to connect this mill and Tanggul railway station.

Although the outer track on branchline is largely still intact, most of those in the mill compound seem to have been pulled up.

Moments later, the steam locomotive completed its turning and heading straight to field lines.

But there is one more task that needs to be done before we can start going out into the field: retrieving the passenger coach for our accommodation during the trip.

I initially thought that they will use a passenger coach that is parked next to steam locomotive. It turned out that they allocate another coach with better appearance for us. The problem is, the aforementioned coach is parked in the part of the shed yard which is inaccessible by our steam locomotive, due to low axle load clearance.

So they will use small green diesel loco to haul our train. But then another problem presents itself. When I asked the shed master where the locomotive is, I’m stunned when they pointed to one nearby which seem to undergo major overhaul! Several mechanics swarmed the loco, while some parts and engine bay panels scattered around the locomotive. It doesn’t look like it is going to finish anytime soon.

I look on my watch, and it’s already 2.45pm! It means that we only have about 15 minutes to go before we have to go out to commence the excursion, without risk of being hindered by regular sugarcane trains. Yet, upon looking at the locomotive’s condition, I began to wonder if we would make it in time?

Amazingly, against all obvious odds, they could fix the locomotive in 5 minutes! And not for long they began to use it to pull the coach out.

Once they park the coach into the position, the steam locomotive backed into the shed to be coupled into the coach.

I get onboard the coach, and quite amazed on how spacious the interior is.

Once they coupled the coach, the train began to set off.

Then a few hundred meters from the shed, the train stopped by to pick Joop and Geoff, as well as my brother who carries the ice box.

The train moves slowly out into the field. It is when our train passes the gate, a security guard hop onboard our train to accompany us. Despite of good level of safety in the area, it is a standard procedure that an excursion train will be guarded by at least one security officer. There is no train conductor here, so either the security officer or my brother would act like one throughout the journey.

When our train exiting the mill compound, I spot one big diesel locomotive following us.

The locomotive act as an escort, in the event of steam locomotive breakdown the diesel loco will push the steam train into the safety, and then hauling our train back into the mill.

In the past, there have been some incidents where the steam loco broke down, and the diesel escort loco plays its part by helping clearing the track and rescuing the train.

As we go further, we can see a junction where one double track line goes into the south.

They say that if we took the long excursion route, the train would head to that line all the way into Kencong, about 20 km to the south.

Although the area around the mill is normally reserved for sugarcane crop, these days the farmers are given freedom to plant any crops that they think beneficial for them, like rice or corn. The rice field truly provides beautiful scenery for our trip.

About one kilometer after we left the mill, Joop asked us to stop the train. He said that this spot is good to photograph and record passing train with the backdrop of the mill in the distance. So we obliged to his request and taking some run past photos in here.

Once we finished taking photos and recording, we resume our journey again. While we are traveling slowly, I could see the feet of one volcano in the distance (which I assume as the nearby mount Argopuro).

I’m wondering, had the sky was clear, we could probably take the photo of the train with the backdrop of the volcano.

The railway line is winding its way through the rice field and sugarcane plantation. Sometime it also crosses some village road. When we approached one village (which I later learn that it is named “Kebon Agung”), Joop asked us to stop the train.

Apparently there is another interesting spot in here, where we can take the photo of video of the train as it about to cross the street and enter the village.

When the photo session ended, we return back to our train. Unfortunately, as we’re about to depart, our locomotive suddenly stalled. Although it is still in proper running condition, it is obvious that she is not designed for frequent stop and go operation.

We waited for some time before the driver fixed the problem and we resume our journey again.

During this stage of the journey I asked Geoff and Joop whether if they like to take photo at the girder bridge. They replied yes. Although I haven’t been there before, I have studied the satellite map of the place before, so I know that there is one interesting spot ahead.

As soon as we get near the bridge, we disembark from the train and walk into the bridge.

Signaling the train to move is a bit tricky, because our spot is located away from the track. So I decided to use my phone to call my brother to dispatch the train.

Although looks similar to younger bridges on the mainline, this steel girder bridge is a very old one, being built sometime in early 1930s to accommodate Semboro field lines. At that time it was one of the most modern railway bridge designs in the world.

Despite the fact that the railway lines were built to low axle load clearance and purely for industrial purpose, the Dutch didn’t spare any expenses and built the best narrow gauge railway system that they can get at that time. No temporary cheap wooded bridge designs were ever used in here.

Once the train crosses the bridge, we return back the train to resume our journey.

While traveling, I asked the security officer about our final destination, Pondok Jeruk. He replied that the place is not very far, and we will reach the place in less than 5 minutes.

Less than 5 minutes? As far as I know, the place named Pondok Jeruk is still a very long distance away. When I looked on satellite map, the distance between the steel girder bridge and the village of Pondok Jeruk is roughly equal to the distance between the bridge and Kebon Agung village. And the recent trip took more than 15 minutes to complete. So it left me wondering whether if one of us miscalculates the distance.

As soon as out train left the village area, our train passes a flat crossing with another railway line, and our train stopped. It is in here the security officer informing us that we have reached Pondok Jeruk. Really? I thought the place is still several kilometers to go, and feature triangular track?

Apparently this place is indeed parts of Pondok Jeruk district, and yes this place have triangular track which allowing the train to turn around to mill direction. The locomotive detached from the coach and ready to commence turning process.

Probably due to fatigue, Joop saying some requests which I found difficult to comprehend. Basically he wants to get the best angle for his video recording, but the way he telling it somehow puzzled me.

I went to the western apex of the triangular track to see the locomotive approaching the corner.

I believe had we paid more, we would have been able to go to the real Pondok Jeruk, or even Jatiroto!  These days, most of the workings beyond this point are done by diesels. While steam locomotives are only used on chartered service like what we have today, with very few options.

The locomotive the switched track and reverse into the distance.

It seems that while we were busy documenting the steam locomotives movement, the diesel loco pulled the passenger coach into different place to give clear way to steam locomotive to pass through. It is also turned around so it will be placed on the back of the loco.

While we wait for the turn around to complete, a loaded train from the west crosses the diamond crossing just in front of the steam. I didn’t photograph the trains crossing, but I do record it on the video.

After several movements, the locomotive is now facing to the mill direction. The locomotive then re-coupled to the passenger coach and ready for return journey back to the mill.

 

The trip back to Semboro was generally uneventful, with the exception of small incident at Kebon Agung. At that time, Joop requested to do lineside photography. I was too tired to join, so I remain seated in the train. After one pass, apparently the train failed to stop! Geoff and Joop were nearly left behind, before I notice the error and asked the driver to stop the train. Both of them huffing and puffing upon returning back onboard the train.

The remainder of the trip went uneventful. It was almost 6pm when we approaching the mill compound. And like what have been informed before, some loaded trains began to arrive into the mill. There is even one very long train that comes from southerly direction.

Contrary to what was told by shed master, that loaded train would not give way to our train in the event of congestion, one of the loaded trains in front of actually moved to another track, allowing us clear path to enter the mill.

But as our excursion is about to came to conclusion, one major incident strike. The locomotive water tank derails!

This caused some drama among the train crew. They suddenly rushed to re-rail the wagon. After some effort, they eventually succeeded in doing that and we’re able to complete the last few meters of our journey.

Soon we disembark from the train and thanking the crew for their hard work in making our steam locomotive journey possible.

The trip has been a good one. I wouldn’t say perfect because the absence of tripod makes the video looks odd in some scene, but overall it provide you with the live action of our happy steam train excursion.

Overall, today have been a blessed one and we are really grateful of our successful steam train journey.

TO BE CONTINUED

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2017 Java Steam & Sugar Tour: The Humble Return Part 3

After a very tiring trip in the past couple of days, we woke up in the morning. It was 10th September 2017.

I opened the window and can see semi-rural scenery out there. It’s quite surprising to find out that Jember is not as urbanized as I initially thought. I believe that up until recently, this area must be a rural outskirt of the town. But it is gradually swallowed by the town’s expansion.

Nevertheless, it is also an excellent place to see sunrise as well.

I went down alone to have breakfast. My brother said he would like to enjoy some rest because today he would not going along for the tour.

As I went down stair, I use the opportunity to take some photos of the hotel interior. This hotel was opened in late 2013. Although quite new, the interior design looks passé for a hotel of this age. Quite a stark contrast to Aston hotel in Madiun, which I stayed in 2015.

The breakfast is served at the hotel’s restaurant. Interestingly, although part of the hotel, it is branded as “Bumbu Desa”, named after famous Sundanese restaurant chain. The logo even looks similar. Yet the foods that they serve that morning are anything but Sundanese.

As I usual, I took western menu that feature no rice. The starter tasted okay.

Then I proceed to the main menu which consist sausages, spicy fried chicken, and polenta. I’ve never tasted polenta before, so I took some out of curiosity.

Although the sausage and the fried chicken tasted nice, the polenta is too starchy. The texture is rather heavy for breakfast menu.

While I was enjoying the breakfast, Geoff and Joop come to have their breakfast. They had wonderful rest last night. Geoff said he had a sound sleep, and really happy about the hotel selection. Joop also enjoyed the sleeping.

However, also notice that Joop’s face looks rather pale. He said that he actually have digestion problem, akin to food poisoning. This problem traced back during his tour in Sumatera where he contracted some bacteria during one leg of the tour. Although he feels much better now, his meals are always accompanied by Norit. He looked much weaker than yesterday. I asked him whether if he need some rest. His reply is no. His only request is for me to drive slowly, so he would feel less pain.

After we finished our breakfast, we return back to our room to prepare for our journey. After having shower and dressing up, I return back to the lobby to meet both of them, before heading to out at 08.30 in the morning.

Our today’s itinerary is visiting Jatiroto sugar mill. We are focusing our activity today to chase after the field train. This will be a unique one, considering that Jatiroto currently operates the largest field lines network in Indonesia, and it too is also connected to the neighboring Semboro sugar mill whom is currently the second largest!

The drive from Jember to Jatiroto is an easy one. It was Sunday morning traffic, and there were very few cars or buses around. This route also sees very little truck traffic (aside of some sugarcane carriers) as most of them would ply north coast.

After 30 minutes’ drive, we finally arrive at Jatiroto. It is the first time I came to here, but prior to this journey I’ve made some “familiarization trip” by using Google street view. So when I came to this place, all places look quite familiar to me.

Yet, it doesn’t prevent me from taking the wrong way. Apparently, I missed the entrance gate! So, instead of going through main entrance, I went into the employee housing complex!

But actually, it’s not a wrong thing to go to here actually. Joop asked me to stop in one of the classic houses in here.

He said that one of his friends in Netherlands used to spend his childhood in here. So he wants to photograph the neighborhood for his friend.

The row of classic Dutch-era houses, combined with unpaved road, gave a strong atmosphere of bygone era in here. Indeed, had the trucks and modern automobiles are replaced by horse or buffalo hauled carriages, this place would feel like in early 20th century!

From the housing, we do some brief exploration of the nearby field lines. There were no activities to be seen over there.

While waiting for some movements, they suggesting visiting the locomotive shed to see some interesting collections inside. Although entering the mill complex is part of the itinerary, I actually wished to avoid spending exorbitant amount of money just for entering the complex. So, I devise some plan to avoid such thing, by not revealing too much information about our intention.

We first went into the entrance way to the loco shed, which is quite near to where we took the photo of the houses. I was met with one security who asking my purpose. I politely replied with smile that my group wants to make brief visit the locomotive shed.  The young security officer, uncertain on making decision, decided to direct me to the main security post at the entrance gate.

Now this will be the moment of truth for me. Would I be required to pay hefty amount of money, just to make a brief visit, or would they only charge me small amount of money?

After arriving at the entrance, I decided to park the car slightly away from the security post and asked both Geoff and Joop to remain in the car while I settle the permit. Upon entering the post, I was greeted by one security officer in friendly manner. I politely shook hand and smiled to him, and mentioning my intention to visit locomotive shed. That’s it! I didn’t say if I travel with 2 Europeans, wanting to see production process, or any other information that might be too revealing (the fact that my car have tinted window also help!)

Much to my surprise, the officer gave me the pass to enter, and charged nothing! He only asked me to drop my ID card, which can be retrieved back again upon completion of the visit.

I returned back to the car, slightly relieved, and then head back to the shed entrance. I didn’t say much about the problem to both of them, because I don’t want to bother them.

Upon returning back to the shed entrance, I showed the pass to the security and thankfully we are allowed to enter!

After parking the car in a shady corner, we start exploring the locomotive shed. Along the way, we catch up with the diesel number 25 doing some shunting work in the yard.

Jatiroto sugar mill doesn’t just have massive field lines network, its yard is also really big. Indeed the journey between the mill entrances all the way into the mill building itself can take more than 15 minutes. In smaller mills, that is similar to journey between the entrances to the nearest sugarcane cutting area.

We walk slowly to the locomotive shed.

Upon nearing the shed, we are greeted by the sight of this Ruston steam roller.

Although it looks in good cosmetic condition, it is actually no longer in working condition as it has lost many of its vital components.

From there we head to the former steam locomotive shed which sadly is now empty.

Up until early 2017, there was plenty of derelict steam locomotives parked in here. Some of them were intact and suspected to be in working condition.

But now only these locomotives are left. One of them is obviously in a very sad condition.

Leading the pack is the locomotive number J100.

Contrary to popular beliefs among ordinary people, which said that all steam locomotives, are leftover from Dutch colonial era, this locomotive is quite new, being manufactured by Jung in Germany in 1961.

This locomotive is the twin sister of Semboro no.29. Indeed both of them were built and delivered at the same time, although they ended up in two different mills.

The second loco is no. J47. This one is really old as it was built by Maffei (also in Germany in 1910).

The third loco, numbered J50 is identical to J47. It is also manufactured by Maffei in 1910. But unfortunately, its cab has been obliterated. The reason why they spared this loco is a mystery.

While we exploring the steam locos, one elderly lady shouted from inside the shed “The locomotives have been stolen! They’ve been illegally taken away!” I’m quite confused by what she said, so I approached her and made some inquiries.

She said that there used to be many steam locomotives in the shed. But, contrary to the news from railway enthusiast which said that they were scrapped here, those locomotives were transported intact by trucks to Gresik. Since there is a large steel mill complex in that town, obviously these locomotives are going to be scrapped and turned into liquid metal.

She protested such move because it is considered as stealing. The steam locomotives, she said, are taken without permission from their original owners. She also added that in late October, the whole locomotive shed complex will be demolished to make way for mill expansion, while the diesel shed will be relocated further south. This move would surely endanger remaining historical artifacts in the shed area, and that somehow worries her. So she hopes that I can relay her message to the PTPN XI head office in Surabaya.

I thanked for her information, and promised to do something to inform the bosses in Surabaya about it.

I think it is truly sad if these beautiful locomotives would ever be scrapped.

Like this J100, despite the fact that it is the twin sister of Semboro no.29, being in Jatiroto means she ended up in such a derelict condition while her twin sister is still going strong until now.

Near the steam locos, there is a unique coach. This coach is formerly used to take school children to the school.

And behind it is a smaller, but taller, coach which was once reserved for the adult (either the teachers or parents).

Although it looks like average passenger coach, it has a rather short ceiling that render it rather uncomfortable for tall persons to go in.

I can only imagine the days when local school kids had a journey hauled by steam locomotives. It must have been a really fun trip. Even if it was taken daily!

Inside the coach, the seats are mostly still in place.

I believe back then, it was thronged by school children, enjoying their journey either by watching the scenery or playing around with their friends. But those days is now gone as they’re now traveling by school bus or motorcycles.

Right nearby is this vehicle with unassuming appearance. Joop said that this small inspection railcar was built by Simplex Company in Netherlands. The company itself is probably a subsidiary of similarly named company in England.

Joop said that only a handful of them survive in modern era. And the one in Jatiroto is the sole survivor of its type. That shows how much historic artifacts littered the railway yard in Jatiroto sugar mill. Indeed the area around the locomotive shed is full of wreckage of old steam locomotives that have been scrapped a long time ago.

The scrappers are mostly looking for valuable parts, such as boiler or the frame. While other parts like water tank or driving cab are left behind.

Seeing the disused steam locomotive chimney bringing tears to my eyes. I believe up until early 1990s this was part of a very active locomotive and used for heavy duty task hauling sugarcane trains along the vast field lines network. But not, it sits silently, never to be used again.

Some other may still remain in intact condition. Like this mysterious railcar, this was probably used either for school kids or inspection vehicle.

From the wreck, we return back to the shed to see the active diesel locomotives servicing activities.

Most of the diesel locomotives now consist of Japanese Hokuriku-built locomotives, where all are painted in yellow color.

These locomotives were introduced in 1970s and 1980s as part of Japanese economic aid for Indonesia.

However, in the back of the shed there are several disused German built Schoema locomotives.

They’re smaller in stature than their Japanese counterparts, and seem to have been in here since 1950s or 1960s. Possibly working in conjunction with the steam locomotives like what I have seen in Sumberharjo or Olean sugar mills.

Aside of old diesel, I also found this inspection railcar. Despite of its skeletal appearance, it was actually manufactured by reputable factory back in Europe before Second World War.

This white rail vehicle is quite a mystery for me. It looks more like track maintenance vehicle than just a plain inspection vehicle. I wonder what is it for?

It is parked next to a boxy rolling stock, which I assume a former locomotive tender.

Jatiroto also operate some newer inspection railcars. They’re mostly used to inspect track conditions, as the usage of road vehicle would be impractical.

Indeed prior to our visit, there were some British railway enthusiasts who hired them to compensate the absence of working steam locomotive in Semboro.

We move out from the shed and looking around the area. It seem that the adjacent shed is already in the process of being demolished, leaving its inhabitants in limbo. Like these boxcars, and one unidentified railcar.

I went into the shed master’s office to find out the whereabouts of the locomotive in the field today.

I introduced myself to him, and he kindly welcomed me to his office. I asked him about the locomotive operation on that day, and asking on where the locomotives have gone to.

While I was expecting him to mention the locations, surprisingly he only mentions the number of the locomotives that have gone out in the past 2 hours. He said that there are 7-8 locomotives that are out in the field at the moment, delivering empty wagons into the field. He honestly lost count on where have the locomotives have gone to, because there are many that go into the same field alone. And Jatiroto sugar mill have many sugarcane fields being harvested!

Basically, there are many locomotives that go into the fields in that hour alone.

Unlike in Kedawung sugar mill near Surabaya, whom I’m familiar with, where the pattern of their field lines operation are predictable: 2-3 locomotives delivering empty wagons in the morning and retrieving loaded ones in the afternoon, things goes in much more complex fashion in Jatiroto.

I bid farewell to him and return back to Joop and Geoff. Both of them said that they’re satisfied with locomotive shed exploration, and he think that it’s time to start exploring the field lines.

Before that, I need to return back the entrance pass and retrieve my ID card in the security post. Now, my nervousness returns back again. Would I still be required to pay the entrance fee this time? I’d found out soon. In order to reduce chance of being detected, this time I parked my car slightly further from the security post. I greeted the security officer there, and handed back the security pass. The officer promptly returns back my ID card without any questioning, and we’re free! Wow! How lucky I am today that I manage to save precious amount of money!

I happily return back to the car, and we start exploring the field lines. First, we follow the main road that plying a double track section that goes to the south west direction from the mill. Despite of the absence of villages, the road is amazingly busy. Mostly it was the trucks and tractors that use the road, although sometime we also see some villagers riding their scooters.

It doesn’t take long before we encounter our first train: a lone diesel engine running light engine back into the mill. Possible after dropping empty wagons somewhere in the field.

Once in a while the railway line crosses through some villages.

As we went further, we encounter many branches that go either to the south, west, or even north.

And very few of them are adjacent to road passable by anything bigger than motorcycle. It might be disadvantageous for us who want to hunt down and photograph the train, but that is the reason why this mill still retains large number of its field lines.

We followed the track that goes straight ahead.

And we followed them all the way until its end. Although the track originally looped back into the mill’s direction, when we came there the loop track has been removed, effectively converting it into a stub end. Indeed there are some lines that no longer in use and having their rails removed.

Since there are no other things to see, we decided to head back north.

As we go through, we came across one very pleasant neighborhood, consisting of classic stilt houses that surround one open field, which is also surrounded by coconut trees. It is called Rojopolo complex.

In one corner of the field, there is one huge banyan tree. The tree seems to have been planted since the opening of Jatiroto sugar mill itself.

Many of the houses in this area are built on stilts.

This design is commonly found in Sumatera or Kalimantan, but rarity in Java.

Such scene giving impression as if we’re in colonial era Sumatera, despite the fact that we are in moern day Java.

Some local kids found the presence of two Europeans here as amusing. Some of them tries to engage conversation with Joop and Geoff. This place must be a really fun place to live for this children.

Even better is the fact that it is just next to the field lines.

I believe that one of the destinations of the school train that we saw in locomotive shed was here.

We think that this scenic neighborhood might be a good place to photograph passing train.

But since the train’s arrival is uncertain, we decided to return back to see if there is an oncoming train. If we found one approaching, we will return back to Rojopolo to take photo.

As we move further to the mill’s direction, we saw a small yellow object in the distance. At first we were doubtful whether if it was a train or not, because once in  a while we saw some trucks or minibuses whose are painted in similar color.

Only when it gets near then we realize that it is indeed a train!

We quickly return back to Rojopolo to photograph the train.

Since there are several branches between the mill and Rojopolo, there are some doubts over whether if the train would go to Rojopolo direction. Indeed, although the train got near, it briefly stopped in the junction before Rojopolo.

Only when it gets really near that we can confirm that the train is indeed passing through Rojopolo.

We took some photos and video in here. It was really great place to take photo. Although in my opinion, it would have been even more dramatic had the train was loaded, and hauled by steam locomotive.

We wrap up our trainspotting session in Rojopolo and head into the main road, where we would search for trains on the northern sugarcane field. We drove along Jember-Lumajang main road where there are several level crossings of Jatiroto’s field lines. Some are in operations, but there are many that obviously no longer in use, either they’re covered in tarmac or even already have the tracks removed.

But somehow we caught not one, but two locomotives! They’re parked idle right next to the main road.

I quickly parked my car on the roadside, and then start finding spot to photograph the locos.

It’s quite interesting on why they park one of them on the bridge.

And this bridge is quite obscured if you’re driving from Jember direction, because it is blocked by the road bridge that connects to one village deep inside the plantation.

I also peek inside its cab, to see its driving console. Unlike Kedawung’s Keio Yashima locomotives, this one have forward facing desktop console.

While enjoying our time in here, Joop’s illness suddenly got worse. He vomited profusely, and nearly fainted.  But fortunately, he regained his composure, and able to recover. Still, we definitely need to take a break and head for lunch.

I drove around the area and looking for any eating places that may be suitable for us, especially to cater Joop’s special need. Since the area is rather sparsely populated, finding good eating place is rather difficult. There is one nice restaurant actually, but unfortunately it is fully booked for a wedding party. I wish if we can gatecrash it, had we wore more appropriate attire.

Eventually we ended up eating in one small restaurant who serves many seafood varieties. The owner, unaccustomed to foreigner, are all too excited to see Geoff and Joop coming to his restaurant, while somehow ignoring me.

The food in this restaurant is actually quite good. The taste may be slightly above average, but considering its low price, it is actually worth coming.

After we finished our meal and paying the bill, we resume our hunting. Joop also partly recovered. He seems to be in much better shape than before lunch, although he is not really fit enough for this tour actually.

We return back to the same spot where 2 locomotives are parked. This time the drivers are there. I talked to one of them about today’s activity. One of them told me that the locos will pick loaded wagons in the field just next to the village inside the plantation. They will also depart at 3pm.

So we decided to drive to the path that leads into the village.

The street is quite narrow and can only be passed through by one car at a time. Sometime in the middle, we also came across one junction, although the branchline seem to see no activity that day. After some arduous driving, we finally reached the end of paved road. Anything beyond that cannot be accessed by road vehicle, and we must walk. So we decided to park the car in front of a house. The owner doesn’t mind to have our car in front of her house, and she allows us to do so.

We waited for some time in the village, before the locos turned up right on time.

The villagers are amused by our activity in photographing the train.

Although many foreigners have hunted down sugarcane train in Jatiroto, their village had largely overlooked by visiting railfans.

We followed the locomotives all the way into the field.

Although predominantly a sugarcane plantation, there are some blocks that are planted with anything but sugarcane.

Just meters from that place, we also see another junction. This must be a really extensive railway network!

And the loco stopped just next to a quite scenic bridge.

We decided to wait in this spot, while the locos are working in the field. The place seems to be a good place to photograph passing trains.

But as we waited, we became increasingly curious because the locomotives don’t return back. When we go into the field, we found out that the locos, instead of approaching, are receding into the distance.

The reason why they waited in that spot remain a mystery, and obviously they’re not going to ply the same line again, even when they haul loaded trains, because they can go back to the mill through another line in the distance.

So we decided to head back to the mill’s entrance to try our luck there. Who knows if we may be able to caught one or two loaded train?

Once arriving at that specific spot, we waited on the junction, just at the starting point of field lines. We hoped that we might be slightly luckier this time.

While waiting, a couple of workers arriving at our spot. They introduce themselves as track maintenance workers. They’re going to start their night work shift. They’re asking about our purpose in this place. I replied that we’re waiting for the loaded train to arrive. Apparently, as they explain, loaded trains never arrive in the afternoon in Jatiroto. The earliest train would arrive around midnight, while the majority arrives between 3am until around 10am. Hmm, I remember I saw some loaded trains activity when we first arrive in Jatiroto. Could it be that it was actually a field working, instead of just ordinary shunting?

They also added that during harvesting season, the whole sugarcane plantation would be buzzing with activities for 24 hours, because there will always be activity. Even cutting activity may also be done at night. But outside harvesting season, the area is rather unsafe and crime prone.

Our conversation was suddenly interrupted when a pair of locomotives coming from the mill and heading to the south west direction.

Once the locomotives disappear, we bid farewell to them and return back to Jember. Along the way, we drop by at this locomotive monument to take some photos.

This type of locomotive was once ubiquitous. But now, she is the sole survivor of her type in Jatiroto.

We also try to find the remains of cape gauge connection to the mainline, as well as its associated locomotive shed. Although we did find them, we couldn’t trace the remains of the steam locomotive used on the service.

You can also see some video of our activity in here:

Upon returning back to the hotel, we took the shower. I also catch up with my brother, who spent the day by traveling around Jember and resting in the room.

We go for the dinner in the nearby restaurant, minus Joop who decided to take some rest. Although Joop couldn’t made it, he give some tip about one nice restaurant near the hotel. The name of Qunyit, an ethnic restaurant who sell variety of food.

I ordered this “Cap Cay” stir fried vegetable for my meal.

The drinks is “Es Campur” which tasted really nice.

It was a really enjoyable dinner. The portions are quite big, yet we don’t need to dig too deep on our pocket for it. And above all, we are really satisfied with the dinner.

Upon finishing our dinner, we head back to the hotel for overnight rest. Tomorrow will be the highlight our journey because it will involve field trip with a steam train.

TO BE CONTINUED

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2017 Java Steam & Sugar Tour: The Humble Return Part 2

9th September 2017 is our second day of the tour. Thanks to the tipoff by the lever crossing operator on yesterday, we decided that we will check out from the hotel at 8am to check out the outbound field train. Everyone badly wants to photograph them as they pass the Sampeyan river bridge, to compensate yesterday’s loss.

I and my brother woke up early in the morning and head to the restaurant to have breakfast. I’ve stayed in Rosali hotel for several times, and I knew that their breakfast is one of their weak points. They have poor quality, and even quantity!

But when I found out in the restaurant, I was surprised to see that they have made some improvement by turning the breakfast into buffet style. So you can take as many as you like. The taste also seems to have improved too!

In the past, the breakfast was served in a la carte fashion, and the portion was very small. So this is quite an improvement.

While we were having breakfast, Geoff and Joop came over to have breakfast too. I can’t recall what we discussed during breakfast. We were just keen to revisit in Wringinanom’s field lines, as well as visiting the mill.

This day will be a long one as the itinerary will be very full, first we explore the field lines, and then we head to Wringinanom sugar mill, before moving to Jember.

Upon finishing the breakfast we quickly head back to our room to have shower and packed up our belongings before checking out from the hotel.

Once we settle all of the outstanding bills with the receptionist, we speed up to the same level crossing as yesterday.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by different flagmen than yesterday. Thankfully they’re also as hospitable as the previous crew. When wee asked about the outbound train, they politely replied that the trains haven’t arrived yet. Although empty trains normally pass at around 08.15 or 08.30, in reality they might came much later than that.

We thanked the flagmenr, and head to the bridge once again. My brother choose to stay in the level crossing.

We searched for the best spot around the bridge to take the photo of passing train. Eventually Geoff and I decided to settle at one spot where we can take the photo of the passing train, with the backdrop of mount Ringgit.

Despite of its scenic look, the spot is actually an unpleasant one. It is located right next to an illegal rubbish tip. Besides that, the noise of passing vehicles would interfere with my video recording, and threatened its quality.

Joop found this place rather unpleasant one, so he decided to look for another better spot. First he crosses the bridge.

Then he went into the trees on the left to see if there are any good spot.

Eventually he found one at the bottom. He stood and waits in that open spot before the train arrives.

Our wait turned out to be longer than what we anticipated. It really testing our patience, as we had to endure unpleasant moments while waiting. Although my spot is under the shade, it is next to the rubbish tip, and main road so it was smelly and noisy. Joop even had to endure even worse scenario where he had to wait under the sun.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait that long and right around 10 o’clock the level crossing gate was closed, as a train is about to pass.

Our patience is finally rewarded with this sight. It’s just superb.

I believe the view would have been much more spectacular had the steam locos still plying this route.

Once the train left, we return back to the car park. Joop also return back to the gate short time later, and he was seen exhausted but happy. Once everyone back, we decided to resume chasing after the train to Kendit.

However, as we’re about to go, suddenly we caught a glimpse of oncoming train. We quickly got out of the car again, and took the picture of this train as well.

Once the train passes, we return back to the car and head to Kendit. The drive from level crossing to Kendit may be a short one. But it is very scenic.

In fact the presence of mount Ringgit gave wonderful scenery of this place.

However, upon arriving at Kendit, we found no train it all. Not even empty wagons were sighted. The train may haven’t arrive yet.

While they wait for the train, I decided to walk to a level crossing and curve to the north of Kendit.  Despite of the heat, I could still enjoy the beautiful countryside scenery in here.

This scenery reminds me with my childhood days, where narrow gauge sugarcane railway still plying the roadside of most of Javanese countryside.

I imagine, this place must be really wonderful place to photograph a train that head to the mill.

As I walked further, the scenery becomes even more fantastic.

Just near to that place, the road turns to the north, while the railway track kept heading to the east.

The scenery must have been very surreal had the steam locos were still in operation.

Just a few hundred meters from the previous spot, there is a railway junction. The track on the left is the one that goes to Kendit, while the other one has unfortunately been dismantled. I believe it was removed long time ago.

I was about to resume walking when I caught a glimpse of oncoming train in the distance.

I decided to return back to the level crossing and curve to photograph this train. When the train about to pass the level crossing, there was a hilarious moment when the driver jumped off the loco and ran ahead and act as flagman, and then jumped back again. Such scene reminds me to the “Gods Must Be Crazy” movie.

Since the train traveling slowly, it was quite easy to chase after this train.

The even gave me free ride onboard one of the empty wagon.

While I was riding, I my brother phoned me. He said that both Geoff and Joop want to quit waiting and head to the mill. But when I informed that the train is coming, they jumped out of the car and resumed the trainspotting!

The train finally arrives at Kendit, and my brother parked the car under the shade.

When the empty train head to the loading point, Joop and Geoff followed the train while I waited in the car with my brother.

You can watch the video of the field working in here, which include the recording done on the previous day.

I have to say that it is a very pleasant place to relax. The rice field and hill scenery is just awesome.

In fact it is quite a peaceful one. So much that I spend my waiting time by sleeping in the car. It was so serene.

Sometime after midday, both of them returns back again to the car. They were exhausted, yet happy that they can get to see the working in the field. Geoff said that I have missed one of the most spectacular scenery, because the place is quite near to mount Ringgit.

We head back to the town to have lunch at the famous Malang Restaurant.

The restaurant is a Chinese restaurant that is quite popular because it sells great food, liquors, and also traditional snack which is normally bought by visitor for souvenir.

But today, it seems that we didn’t have enough luck. The food that we ordered tasted rather plain. Even when compared to the breakfast at Rosali hotel, our lunch doesn’t taste even better.

While we were having lunch, I make some discussion with Geoff over the Kendit line’s potential for tourist train. I was thinking about running a steam train from Olean, and then goes all the way to Wringinanom’s field lines, before crossing the bridge and head to Kendit siding. Geoff said that would be an interesting challenge, and would surely draw some interests.

After we finished the lunch, I looked at Geoff and Joop facial expression, and was wondering if they still want to see Wringinanom sugar mill? Even Joop looks a bit sleepy too, possible after being exposed by the heat. In addition that we still need to travel long to Jember afterward.

Surprisingly, they’re still highly motivated for the visit. So once we paid our lunch bill, we head to Wringinanom sugar mill.

Since it was Saturday, the reception goes rather slowly. It was already 3’o clock and administration personnel had all gone home for the weekend. Upon arriving, I reported to the security about our intention to visit.

A few minutes later one female management staff turned up and receive me. After I explain to her about the plan to visit the mill, she return back to see her boss. When returning back, she mentions the price. I was hoping that they still stuck with the old rate, but it didn’t work out. Although only one person carries DSLR, in the end both were charged for “carrying camera”, despite the fact that the official rules only charge for anyone who carry DSLR, not small pocket or video camera. Even worse, they also charge me as well! I think this is the first time that tour leader must pay entrance fee. In other sugar mills, or in any non-railway tourist destinations, tour leaders would normally be exempted from this. I was furious over this extortion.

When I double check with my friend who works at PTPN XI management, she said that I’m not supposed to pay for that. But the mill employee insists that I must still pay for my entrance. She even gave suggestion, in threatening manner,  that if I refuse to pay, my group can just go to Olean sugar mill. That is a very vile answer!

In the end, I grudgingly accept the term and paid Rp 600,000,- for entrance fee! Very expensive fee when compared to last year’s fee which was quarter of that, and tour leader wasn’t charged for fee at all.

Once the administration matter was settled, I called Joop and Geoff to start the mill tour. Before we proceed, I dumped some empty bottles in in the middle of the car park, outside rubbish bin. Joop reminded me to be clean and put the empty bottles “in the right place”. But I choose to do this act as a form of revenge for the extortion perpetrated by Wringinanom sugar mill’s management.

Just for note, a few days later (after I concluded this tour) I heard from my friends that some sugar mills are known for being greedy. They would try to take as much money as possible from tour group, using any legal loophole. Sometime it is the security staff who would also charge photographer who wants to take photos of steam locos. Even if we have settle the payment in the company headquarter in Surabaya, it wouldn’t guarantee that tour group would not encounter “additional fee”. However, not all sugar mills are that greedy, but being assertive would be very helpful.

First destination is the railway yard; we were greeted by the sight of large locomotive in the yard.

This loco would do some shunting before heading to the field later in the afternoon to pick up loaded wagons. (Note the mill employee who extorted my group can be seen on the right).

We went inside the locomotive shed to see if there are any interesting locomotives inside.

Upon entering the shed, we found out that indeed there are some interesting locomotives inside.

In here parked the two out of the 3 remaining steam locomotives in Wringinanom (the third one is displayed at the entrance road).

The number 6 is an Orenstein & Koppel product, manufactured in 1911.

Behind it is the rare DuCroo & Brauns built no.7, slightly younger than no.6 as it was built in 1927.

I took particular liking to this Dutch built locomotive. There are many DuCroo & Brauns built steam locos in East Java, but the overwhelming majority of them are Mallet articulated locos. This loco has Klien Lindner 0-8-0 wheels arrangement.

One senior shed employee told me that these steam locomotives last saw service back in 1997 (although later research found that they last saw full working back in 2001).

It’s inconceivable that in the space of 15 years, the locos could be reduced into this very poor shape.

I also chatted with them about the possibility of running Olean’s steam loco to Kendit. Although both networks are connected, it is now impossible to run big locomotives pass Sampeyan river bridge. Indeed the last time big diesel loco passes the bridge was back in 2007. Since then the lines to the south of the mill are exclusively served by small locomotives.

This means any idea to run steam locomotive tour to Kendit is basically impossible without proper track upgrade program, which would be very costly to undertake at the moment.

Aside of the steam locomotives, there are also some diesel locomotives stored in the shed. Including the diminutive number 1, which I believe can fit inside average house’s living room!

Just like many sugar mills that have field lines, Wringinanom actually have an inspection railcar.  But unfortunately, it is now out of use.

Once we finished exploring the shed, we head out to see the yard activities.

I took the photo of the mill’s entrance, and found a unique track arrangement in here. The track that head into the distance is a stub end, while field lines go to the right.

These days in majority of sugar mills in Java, the track beyond entrance gate have largely been removed. But thankfully in here, they’re still in regular use during harvesting season.

Wringinanom sugar mill’s yard is not particularly big. It reflect the size of both the mill and also the field lines coverage.

There is one diesel loco which seem to be solely used for shunting in the yard. Its shape is completely different when compared to other locos in Wringinanom.

As it got closer, I can see “RUHAAK” name plate on its side.

Joop said that the loco was manufactured by Dutch company of the same name. Humm, then this loco must be a very rare breed because it must be the first time I see a Dutch diesel loco in Indonesia.

However latter research found that this “RUHAAK” loco turned out to be British built loco, manufactured by Baguley.  I was really overjoyed with this finding, because I’ve been looking for this loco for some time. The loco was previously used in Kedawung sugar mill in Pasuruan, before being relocated to here in late 1990s. Despite the fact that it is rarely used for field working, the loco works perfectly fine.

You can watch the video of Baguley loco at work, as well as shed activities in the video below.

From the yard, we entered the mill to see the sugarcane processing activities, using steam engines that dating back from Dutch colonial era.

I have to admit that although I’m a big fans of narrow gauge steam locomotives, I actually dislike exploring the inside of sugar mill because we had to endure dusty and noisy environment. I’m also not really interested with stationary steam engines.

While exploring the mill, I get to know one supervisor in this mill. His name is pak Nasirudin. He has been working in sugar industry since 1996, and only work in this mill since 2016. He showed us around the mill and also some machinery inside. I also found one interesting fact that this sugar mill heavily depending its electricity from the outside, as they don’t have their own electric generator.

He also told me that sugarcane harvesting season has been quite short one for this year. Indeed almost all of sugar mills in Madiun have ceased crushing, with the exception of 2: Rejosari and Pagottan. But even both of them will also conclude their milling that evening. Many other sugar mills will also conclude their milling in late September. Semboro and Jatiroto, which is traditionally known for their lengthy harvesting activities which can last all the way until January, will also conclude their crushing in October. The cited reason for Jatiroto is due to major overhaul that will be undertaken in the mill.

After some chatting, I bid farewell to him and resume our exploration.

While Joop and Geoff enjoying the activities inside, I decided that I had enough and left the mill building as soon as I spotted the exit door. When I walk back to the car park, I saw this small turntable which is only big enough for one wagon. My brother is chatting with one security staff in the car park.

While we waited for Geoff and Joop to return, I spend the spare time by photographing the meeting hall.

I believe this building was probably the mansion for the owner of this mill, or could be the clubhouse for the affluent Dutch landlords in Situbondo.

They even still use old bell that dating back from 1862. The security staffs said it is normally used to command mill employees to muster at the car park, in the event of emergency.

Once the Geoff and Joop returns back, we conclude our visit at Wringinanom and head to Jember. The visit was satisfactory for both of them. For me, it is actually not really impressive, considering the absence of steam locomotives working, as well as the extortion during the entrance.

The trip from Situbondo to Jember went on smoothly. It is also the first for me and my brother to ply this route.

Joop also tell a story about how he had a road accident a few years ago during similar railway tour, just to the south of Situbondo, where his minibus was hit by a truck from the back. They were traveling from Jember to Situbondo. Many of the tour participants were injured, and they had to be hospitalized (including Joop himself).

Along the way we also passes through Prajekan sugar mill. This mill is still a very busy one. Although it still has some narrow gauge railway lines in operation,  its field lines was closed decades ago due to the dangerous nature of operating sugarcane trains at steeply graded lines. Despite the fact that they used to operate large Luttermoller steam locomotives, it didn’t helped much.

These days, the only railway operation left is just the transport of molasses between one site and another.

At one time after the closure of field lines, there used to be cane transfer operation as well, but this seems to have ceased.

The remainder of the journey wasn’t really special, and by the time we reached Jember, it was already dark.

Although Jember is a small town, finding our hotel is a bit tricky. And despite its status as “the most luxurious hotel in Jember” the hotel is actually located hidden in Jember’s southern suburb. Thanks to our GPS, we could find it.

The check in went on smoothly, and we proceed to our comfortable room. I’m happy to say that this comfortable hotel will be our lodging for the next 3 nights.

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We settled in to our room and taking shower. Joop knocked our door and suggesting about having lunch in the city. He knows some good restaurant that has the best food, and also beer for him. The name of the restaurant is “Lestari” and it is located near the city square (“Alun-alun”).

After preparing ourselves, we went out to visit this restaurant. Thanks to the Jember’s small size it isn’t really difficult to access the place…..or is it?

Unfortunately, as we are getting near to the restaurants, many of the main roads are closed! Apparently there is a major carnavel event in the town where performance stages are erected on the main road, all the way until Alun-alun!

Eventually,  we found one parking spot which is quite near to the restaurant. From there we still need to walk to access the restaurant. It wasn’t very far, but it made a good exercise.

The restaurant is an ethnic-themed eating establishment which sell traditional Indonesian foods and beverages. Although they also have some western menus as well.

We ordered our foods and drinks. Probably due to the road closure, not all items were available that night. Unfortunately, the beers were also absent too. So we settled down with whatever menu available. I ordered this Satay Bumbu Rojak, or satay in spicy rojak sauce.

Once we finished our meal and paid the bill, we head to the town’s square to see what sort of event is going in here. We had no idea what the event is all about, all we found is people gathered in the concert and some even wearing fancy costumes.

We also sample some local snack, such as this “Lekker” cake, which is actually the local derivative of crepes.

As we get nearer to the Alun-alun, the sound of the music has become increasingly loud. Apparently there is a “Dangdut” concert, complete with some sexy dancers!

The concert is very loud, so much that Geoff couldn’t stand being in the concert. He said that he might have boarded some of the loudest steam locos, including riding on its footplate, but this one is way too loud for him.

Eventually, we decided to return back to our hotel for sleeping. Tomorrow will be a hectic day for us, because we will explore Jatiroto sugar mill, which has the biggest field lines network in Indonesia.

TO BE CONTINUED

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2017 Java Steam & Sugar Tour: The Humble Return Part 1

Last year was a major disappointment as I fail to run the Java Steam & Sugar tour. Despite of the high hope that I would run similar tour like what I did in 2014 and 2015, my advertisement went unnoticed. There were some interests, and some even booked their place for tour in August or September. But alas, they either cancelled the tour in last moment, or went silent forever.

But it doesn’t mean that there were no railway themed tours in 2016. The very first month of the year saw me taking a group of Malaysians visiting Tasikmadu sugar mill and traveling onboard DMU on street running in Solo. Then in April, a Frenchman wants me to take him to search for tractors in sugar mills in Central and East Java, which opened new insight on narrow gauge plantation diesel locomotives (whom some are dating back from prewar era).

Based on these two successful tours in early 2016, I was really confident that I could run Java Steam & Sugar tour for the year. I created the itinerary and advertised it extensively on the internet. The fact that several people showing their interest gave some hope that I will certainly run another Java Steam & Sugar tour for this year.

Alas, that was not to be. About a few weeks prior to the starting date of their selected tour, as when I asked re-confirmation of the tour, the bad news came. Some decided to cancel the tour due to variety of reasons, while some went silent. This made me upset.

On the other hand,  Geoff Warren, a friend of mine whom I guided on the successful Java Steam & Sugar tour in 2014 made an inquiry in late 2016 about tour to Sumatera. He asked me to arrange tour to visit several places around Jakarta, Banten, mount Krakatoa, Southern Sumatera, and lastly a ride on jungle narrow gauge railway in Bengkulu. All of them will took place in late August until early September. Geoff said that he will travel with Joop Versluijs (whom I have known him for almost 10 years, and went on a small tour at Kedawung with me in 2016), as well as his son and many more of his friends.

I did compile an itinerary and submitted to him. Geoff’s response was generally positive, although there were some revisions that need to be done to perfect the itinerary. I did some intensive research on his grand tour.  His request was very complicated as it feature inter island crossing, visit to a rather violent volcano, and a visit to what is probably the most isolated railway network in Indonesia.  So it require some extensive research and planning.

Unfortunately, as the year progresses my plan to go on grand tour with Geoff and his group did not materialize. A combination of personal problems (mostly related to failed railway tour sales) led to nervous breakdown on me. In addition at around the same time there was a series of cyber bullying by local railway enthusiasts in South Sumatera that directed towards me due to disagreement. Since I’m not familiar with the area, a trip to an unknown place accompanied by hostile host wouldn’t count as safe journey for me. In addition, around mid-year, a Dutch railway enthusiast who has been to Bengkulu isolated railway suggesting me against going there, as he look at my shortcomings.

Based on that, I regret to inform Geoff and Joop that I cannot accompany their group on their Sumatera tour. Despite of my rejection, apparently Geoff and Joop didn’t mind about that.

On a contrary, upon knowing that I also have steam tour package, they requesting me to arrange such tour at the end of their Sumatera one. They requested the tour to be held in early September for around one week. They initially mention several dates. But after some discussion, they eventually settle on the 8th to 12th September schedule. Since there are no confirmed booking for the original itinerary on Java Steam & Sugar tour, I decided to go ahead with the tour.

Initially, I offer them the eastern leg of my Java Steam & Sugar tour. But Geoff said that he is not interested to visit Olean sugar mill. He said that he had been there for too many times, and had seen the mill in its better days.

After I made some revision, I submitted the final itinerary which cover visit to sugar mills like Wringinanom in Situbondo, Jatiroto and Semboro in Jember area (including steam train ride), and Kedawung near Pasuruan. This itinerary is the one that is approved by both Joop and Geoff. So  we are good to go.

Just as the tour is about to proceed, I receive some bad news from PTPN XI (the owner of all sugar mills that we are going to visit). It’s not that they reject my permit; on a contrary they happily accept my party. But the problem is, the entrance fee to the mill has quadrupled! Up until last year, the entrance price for sugar mill was $5 or Rp 65,000,- per person. And that was only applicable for foreigner. Locals can enter the site for free. These days the entrance price is for foreigner is Rp 250,000,- per person. Locals must also pay too: Rp 100,000,- !

I was totally shocked and dismayed upon learning the price hike. Because when I submitted the itinerary, the pricing was based on the 2016 price. If we decided to enter all 5 mills, there is a good chance that I might make loss for this tour, something that I resented.

I decided not to inform them regarding of the price hike, due to the fact that they travel on a very tight budget. Any request for additional fund may lead to tour’s cancellation. Something that I tries to avoid.

Another factor that also led to cost increase is the accommodation in Jember. Although Joop suggesting one hotel in Jember with good quality and reasonable price, I found that this hotel is not available for 3 consecutive nights. Their standard room are available for first 2 nights, but not for the last one. I tried other hotels of good reputations in Jember, yet the result are the same: none are available for 3 nights. There are other cheap hotels that were available, but their reviews are poor.

Eventually, I settled with Aston Jember hotel, which is considered as the finest hotel in town, but not without problems. After some negotiation, I eventually able to book 2 rooms for 3 nights, at corporate price (which is lower than published ones). I even saw that they have one type of room that are not displayed on their website, but available in contract rate: the Standard Plus. Its price is not very far off from the hotel that Joop suggested earlier, so I dully choose that room. Only when I made the payment, I realize that the room is not suitable for my group: apparently it consist only 1 bed per room and don’t even have window! Of course, I must upgrade to Superior room which jacked up the price even further. But this is necessary to prevent major troubles.

This cost increase saga worrying me so much that I was overwhelmed with that. So much that I sluggishly preparing my clothing and camera for the tour, and almost forgot to bring my tablet and even forgot to bring my tripod altogether!

As their Sumatera tour commenced, I briefly lost contact with them. For a few weeks prior to the start of the tour, I was completely in the dark about their presence. That slightly worrying me because some payments are due. Namely payment for hotel and several other things.

Thankfully Joop’s wife did transfer some money to settle some important payments, so that reduce my anxiety a bit.

Finally, a day prior to the start of the tour, Joop resume the communication contact. He said that he and Geoff have just arrived from Bandung, where they transited after concluding their Sumatera tour. He said that he will stay overnight with Geoff at Pop hotel in Jalan Diponegoro (a main street in Surabaya). But he asked me to pick him up from his in law’s house in Ngagel Dadi, a low class suburb in southern Surabaya.

I would love to meet them, as well as collecting the remainder of payment. But since I was busy and tired after doing a day tour at mount Bromo, I decided to go straight to picking them up on following morning.

I woke up on Friday morning 8th September. Feeling slightly tired but also excited to go. I’ve prepared everything two days prior, in order to avoid chaos and confusion that would happen if I do everything on last minute. So this measure truly helps.

Still, due to anxiety and partial nervous breakdown resulted from worries about financial feasibility of this tour, as well as personal problems (like what I mentioned earlier), I almost forgot to bring some important things. First, when I arrived at Ngagel Dadi and tries to contact Joop, I realize that I forgot to bring my Samsung tablet! So we rushed to return back home and tries to retrieve it. But when we resumed the tour later, I realize that I forgot to bring my tripod along! Unfortunately, it was too late so I had to make up things by improvised.

When I went to Joop’s in-law house, I was greeted by the whole family. Apparently they held a farewell party for Joop’s brother because he is going to return back to Netherlands, possible after long stay in Indonesia? Geoff was also there. He greeted me and saying that the tour in Sumatera has been a big success. He never hinted any disappointment over my refusal to assist him on his Sumatera tour. On a contrary, he still kept his praise on me by saying that “The only missing on this tour is your presence. You would have been a valuable asset on our Sumatera tour, because your ability to sort out the problems” says Geoff. I thanked him for that.

Once we bid farewell to Joop’s family we proceed to Situbondo. For this tour, I’m accompanied by my brother who does most of the driving. The journey from Surabaya to Situbondo proceeded normally without any traffic jams or serious incident. We also got to try the new tollway that connect Gempol to Pasuruan, enabling us to avoid congestion at Bangil, which is nicknamed as “Bottleneck” due to its narrow main road.

As we approached Situbondo, we felt rather hungry. Geoff said he “wants some coffee”. For me and my brother, we saw this as a signal for lunch stop. Since I didn’t eat a lot in the morning, I felt a bit of migraine as a result of my hunger. So we stopped by at Handayani Restaurant in Paiton to have some break and meal. Once we finished our lunch we resume our journey again, feeling refreshed.

We resume our journey again. The drive from Paiton to Situbondo is not very far, and soon we arrive at the entrance of the town, where we encounter the level crossing of Wringinanom’s field lines. We stopped by at there, parked the car near the level crossing guard post, and start exploring. My brother stayed near the car as he is not interested to do so.

We went to the bridge that crosses over Sampean river.

This bridge is currently the largest narrow gauge railway bridge that remains in operation. There used to be bigger bridge somewhere, but none remain in operation as railway bridge.

The current bridge structure is actually quite new. The original bridge which had different design, was obliterated by flooding in early 2000s. The wreck of the outer spans can still be seen underneath, while the middle span was scrapped at the nearby scrap metal dealer.

It’s hard to believe that the river so calm like this can unleash such fury.

Since we didn’t see any train movement, we decide to return back to our car and made some inquiries at the level crossing gate guards. Upon meeting them, they told us that a few minutes ago, there were 4 locomotives heading south to the village of Kendit. They mention the location is near a high school.

We wasted no time and head straight there, where upon arriving we were greeted by the sight of 2 small locomotives parked on the street side.

The train crews were amused upon seeing foreigners taking train photos. One of the friendly crew asked me on where I’m from. I answered that I’m from Surabaya, and my guests are from Britain and Netherlands. He told me that a few weeks ago there was a group of British railway enthusiasts who visited the place. They went around and also chartered steam train at the nearby Olean sugar mill. I guess he might refer to John Raby’s group who went for similar Steam & Sugar tour.

When I asked him on where the remaining locos are, he told me that both had gone to the west to retrieve loaded wagons. He said that the place is “not very far” from the siding. I have to be aware of his description because city goers like me have completely different perception of distance than him.

I and Joop decided to walk following the line. Before that, I took the photo of this loco. I initially thought this loco was the rare British-built Baguley. Only when I read the “DIEMA” sign in front of it, I realize the loco was built in Germany.

We walked along the railway line to the west. Our place is actually quite near to mount Ringgit.

This heavily eroded extinct volcano is known as the icon of Situbondo, due to its unique craggy shape.

We walked further and we can also see hills in the distance. Not quite as good as mount Ringgit apparently.

The walk to loading point turned out to be long one. We got really exhausted.

Joop said he wants to photograph the train from a “nearby” bridge. “Near” is obviously relative, especially if you look at this picture. Do you see any bridge in the photo?

As we walk along, we also came across some wagons being dumped on trackside. Thanks to their lightweight, retrieving them is not a very difficult task.

We went further, and Joop said the bridge is only a “few meters away”.

But as the aforementioned bridge came in sight, we suddenly see the loaded train approaching us!

The train travelled at walking pace, so it is very easy to follow

But if you want to get ahead the train, you must run quickly. And that proved to be quite difficult as we had to run through sandy and difficult terrain.

I was extremely exhausted and losing breath as well. I also sweated profusely, so much that my shirt becomes wet!

I struggled to follow the train, but thankfully it wasn’t long before I was able to return back to the Kendit siding and catch up with the loaded train.

The locos were detached from the train. Apparently this was done to allow one loco to pull the train into the siding, while other waits on the adjacent track.

Once the loaded train fully entered the siding, the other 2 locos (which we saw earlier) reversed, and then entered the same line where they will retrieve additional loaded wagons.

After two other locos went into the western line, the crew cut the train into two 10 wagons train.  This measure was done due to low axle load clearance on the bridge at Sampean river.

As soon as the loaded train departed, we speed up to the level crossing that we went earlier to catch up this train.

We did arrived before train and prepared ourselves to take photo of loaded train passing over the bridge. But as the sun goes down, we realize that our effort is futile. Even if the train passes, it would probably be too dark to be photographed or recorded on video.

So we decided to called it off and return back to our car…..except for Joop who went further to the south to investigate.

While waiting for Joop, I chatted with young level crossing guards and asked whether if the train had overtaken us. They replied that we didn’t. None of the loaded trains have arrived. They said that although the journey from Kendit to Wringinanom took less than 15 minutes by car, loaded train can take as long as 2 hours to reach the mill. That is due to its very slow speed, and occasionally worsened by derailment.

Upon Joop’s return, we bid farewell to the level crossing guard and head to the town for dinner. Situbondo have very little to offer when it came about culinary. But we still found one “Ayam Goreng Pemuda” who sell variety of fried and grilled chicken.

Once we finished our meal, we head to our hotel for checking in and overnight rest. The hotel selection is, inevitable, the Rosali Hotel Situbodno. The best hotel in Situbondo….unfortunately.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

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2017: What Does The Future Hold for Us in Railway Tour?

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2016 have gone and now we are moving into the new year of 2017. Of course many people in Western society thinks 2016 was cursed as many public figures (namely from entertainment world) passed away in that year. It was the year that few seemed to enjoy.

For me it was also a major disappointment as I fail to run my Java Steam & Sugar Tour, despite of some railway tours held earlier that year.  So this year everyone is expecting to be brighter and much better than the previous one. In light of some progress and news that came in 2016, many wondered what will happen in this year.

2016: A Brief Review & Planned Mills Closure Controversy

2016 was actually not much different with what was happened in 2015. Steam locomotives still run as usual, some mills still operate their field lines. Some steam operation still going on as usual. For further details, you can check to this link.

But the biggest upset of 2016 has to be the news regarding of the planned mills closure, which causes uproar and disappointment among railfans and steam locomotive communities around the world who normally made pilgrimage to Java to see them.

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According to the news, many historic mills in East and Central Java will be closed in phases from 2017 onward (for the detail you can refer to the link above). Some of them are among favorite destination for steam enthusiasts, such as Olean sugar mill.

But will the closure ever took place at all?

Clarification from PTPN XI

The PTPN XI plantation company, which owned majority of the mills in the “hit list” of closure plan, gave some clarification during a visit which I made in December 2016.

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They said that that many of the mills will remain in operation for 2017. Including Purwodadi sugar mills, which is known as the last place to see regular conventional steam working in Indonesia. But they did not elaborate whether if this mill will retain its steam working, or abandoned them (like what was done by sugar mill in Northern Central Java like Sragi, Pangka, and Sumberharjo in the aftermath of news about planned closure in late 2014).

As they stated (which I also posted in my previous blog posting) those mills will run as usual, pending the financial result. If they posted profit, they will resume working for the following year. While those who fail to do so will likely to be closed.

However, one mill will surely close. That is Kanigoro sugar mill in Madiun. Since 2014, I’ve heard rumor about its planned closure due to the urban expansion of the town of Madiun. After some period of uncertainties, it is now confirmed that 2016 become its last crushing season. Although the fate of its locomotive collections will remain to be seen.

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Olean sugar mill, which Rob Dickinson suggested to be candidate for World Heritage site, will remain in operation, including its fleet of steam locomotives and field lines. Both the mill and plantation company managers began to fully understand its historical value and now made several efforts to ensure its survival.

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They have renovate Olean sugar mill into tourist friendly space. Entering mill premises no longer require lengthy process, which in the past require written letter from company headquarter. The former manager’s mansion will be converted into exotic traditional sea food restaurant. And the front yard will be converted into theme park like what is done at Tasikmadu sugar mill, including building railway tracks into the front yard.  In addition they will also build a kindergarten in mill premise. All of these measures are done to ensure Olean sugar mill’s survivability.

I also discussing the future of the steam locomotives (of the same gauge of Olean) that may went out of use in the future, and the prospect of having them relocated to Olean or Semboro. The PTPN XI says that they’re welcome to such idea, as long as someone can help with the funding.

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There is one interesting topic that I learn from some of the managers in PTPN XI. They said that they’re keen to reopen De Maas sugar mill in Besuki in the future. But instead of using it to process sugarcane, it will probably be used to process coffee beans. There is a rumor said that in the mountain area near Besuki there is a coffee and cacao plantation where their products have distinct taste, thanks to its unique mineral content on its soil. Including in the plan is to build narrow gauge railway lines that connect the plantation with De Maas. It is remain to be seen whether if the project will ever materialize. Or even if they do make De Maas into coffee processing plant, there are some doubts on whether if they would built the narrow gauge lines, considering that De Maas have removed its railway lines since 1999. Not to mention the difficult terrain.

Despite all of the pleasing news of PTPN XI, no similar things came from other plantation companies whom some of their historic sugar mills is in the hit list. I care nothing about Merican sugar mills, as they care nothing about historic preservation and happily dumped their railway system. Gondang Baru is the sole sugar mill in PTPN IX which will also be closed.And sign of impending closure seem imminent, as the mill had a very short crushing season in 2016. Its tourist steam loco (the former Rendeng no.8) is now dumped. The future of its museum seem to be endangered.

When I suggesting about relocating of some historic sugar mills in PTPN IX into Olean and Semboro, the PTPN XI management apologize that such thing is beyond their control. Despite the fact that PTPN XI currently control PTPN IX mills operation, their role is purely to assist the sugar mills to be back to good operating condition. Nothing more.

Steam Loco Repatriation Controversy

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Photo by: Bert v.d. Kruk

Worried by the recent plan of mill closure, which could see some rare steam locomotives in storage ended up in scrap yard some railway enthusiasts in Europe badly wants to purchase them and repatriate them. The problem is under the current law, the purchase or bringing historic artifacts out of Indonesia is forbidden. While on the other hand, no efforts were done to preserve them. And each year some were/are scrapped without any prevention effort from the mill company or local historical society.

This is where the controversy started.

From what I hear from PTPN XI there has been some lobbies in 2016 from European preservation group about the purchase of some locomotives. Apparently this lobby was met with resistance. So much that some mills barred foreigners from visiting their locomotive shed like what have been done by Cepu logging railway, notably in Tasikmadu.

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So what is the way out from this problem?

Actually there is. One suggestion is to work together with any sugar mill management or creating preservation movement with local groups. That is what was advised by both PTPN XI and also one British railway enthusiast who live in South East Asia. So far such join venture has yet to materialize.

Progress in State Railway and Others

The State Railway steam preservation efforts seem to show some progress too. This is quite unusual considering the curtailment of their Heritage Division, especially since the departure of Mrs. Ella Ubaidi from Indonesian State Railway, as well as the stepping down of Mr. Ignasius Jonan from Minister of Transport (himself is a former chief of Indonesian State Railway who turned the company around from loser into a profit making company).

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Aside of reopening of Ambarawa rack railway line, they also bring 2 steam locomotives from Transport Museum in Jakarta to Surakarta for reactivation. And in addition the E10 rack steam engine in West Sumatera have also undergone repair, although its rack gear is said to be removed…. Ironically, in January 2017 there is news that the funding for reactivation of D14 and D52 in Surakarta seem to have been withheld.

Cepu teak forest railway has also see resurgence of activity. It is said that the line to Gubug Payung has since been reactivated. This is quite good news, considering that this tourist railway network had fell into hard times since the collapse of the railway overpass in 2011. During their downturn period, the company has been involved in legal troubles with disgruntled tourists which led to prohibition of accessing loco shed. And at one point the company worked together with an incompetent tour agent who ended up feuding with the plantation company who own the railway system. But all of those are now history, and the recent positive development is good news.

While mechanic with the expertise in steam locomotive operation in Indonesia is like endangered species, it is worth to know that the operator (especially those who run steam tours) kept recruiting new personnel to do the job. Younger generation of steam loco engineers are being recruited by both State Railway and PTPN XI to run their tourist steam locomotives.

Although unfortunately similar measure is not done by the likes of PTPN IX (with the exception of Tasikmadu sugar mill) and PTPN X, as they left their fleet of steam locos rotting in the shed.

Mainline Trains

Prior to 2013 I was pretty much the mainline train, state railway, type of train enthusiasts. And my preference of motive power was (and sometime is) diesel, preferably of General Electric or Krupp marquees.

Things began to change when Indonesian State Railway began to install trellis on the locomotive’s windscreen in early 2013. Such move made the locomotives looks like something that came from backward country, which is too disgusting to photograph for me.

I often had to work hard how to either avoid photographing trellised locos, or finding those whose are free of them. It was quite a challenge to find one that is free of trellis, a stark contrast to the period before 2013 where trainspotting event were always a pleasure.

It was during this period that I turned my attention to narrow gauge sugarcane railway, which truly opened my eyes and widened my perception of railway in Indonesia. And the rest is, I can say is history.

Thankfully throughout that difficult period, trellis installation never fully implemented. At any given moment we would encounter one trellis free loco. And since 2014, the trellis would be replaced by polycarbonate bullet proof glasses. By 2016, the population of trellised locos only amounted 40% of total number of locomotives in Indonesia. It seems in the next couple of years the trellis would extinct completely and I can return to the good old days of mainline trainspotting.

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However, the trainspotting scenes have change a lot since 2013. We felt that more often than not, trainspotting is not as fun as it used to be. Thanks to the restriction imposed for railway photographers. The rule was initially introduced to curb unruly minor railfans who have a habit of taking photos in danger zones such as the middle of the track or trespassing into locomotive depot. But some managers misinterpret it as total banning of photography. So much that sometime people who took photo with DSLR camera would be reprimanded, even if he or she is a train passenger who took photo from the safe distance in the platform!

Security on railway premises has also been tightened. Back in the old days, we could just go into the locomotive shed or small station and took photograph as much as we like, as long as what we do don’t break safety rules. But these days, that’s not enough. I recently see “no photography” sign in some locomotive depots. Even more worrying, small stations are now patrolled by security guards! Sometime they will turn away photographers.

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So in order to achieve maximum satisfactory in trainspotting we tend to evade major railway station, and we do trainspotting on the mainline. Sometime we would tune in into the radio (if someone brought one) to find out train’s actual location plus its locomotive number.

In the past couple of years, government have made some effort to reopen closed lines, and even building new ones. Such as reopening of Kedungjati-Tuntang line (which would reconnect Ambarawa railway museum with mainline), and also the construction of railway line in Sulawesi. It is the part of government’s ambitious nationwide infrastructure project. Such measure does bring some hope to railfans that there might new trainspotting places in a previously unheard of places.

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Although there has been some progress, complete with track laying, the whole thing turned out to be false dawn as the progress grind to a halt in 2016. The cited reason is lack of funding. But in my opinion it is due to mismanagement of the project, especially related to the financial feasibility of it. Apparently the transport ministry believing in the idea that railway must not make profit. That is despite the fact the projects are funded with loan money, and failure to repay the debt could (and does) lead to project suspension.

Train ride has now becoming a very much sanitized experience, when compared what we had in the past. Yes, now railway stations and coaches are cleaner, all trains are air conditioned, and security has improved. But on the other hand, it can be a bit unpleasant journey too due to brighter interior light (this can cause discomfort for overnight journey) and tighter seat in newer economic coaches.

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Train ticketing has also become an issue too. Since 2016, State Railway began to ditch the old blue ticket in favor of “boarding pass”, a thermal printed small piece of paper. While in the past you can have your ticket printed as far away as 3 months prior to the departure, now you can only print your boarding pass in a space of between 12 hours until 10 minutes before departure.  If you have ample of time, this shouldn’t be an issue. But if you don’t you will not be able to print your boarding pass in time and join the trip. And if the station is fully packed (as in the case of major public holiday), chance of missing your train due to long queue to print the boarding pass does exist.

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During transition period, things were much even more ridiculous as we must posses both of them in order to be eligible to board the train!

As a travel agent myself, who regularly sell airline tickets, Indonesian State Railway ticketing system is the most impractical and odd one. While airline ticket, and even boarding pass, can be printed at home or office, State Railway seem to live in their own narrow world.

To worsen the matter Indonesian State Railway manager seemed to be filled by group thinking people who turn deaf ear to positive inputs, and getting offended or incensed easily by criticism. The days of improvement under Mr. Ignasius Jonan have obviously diminished.

In the end I’m happy that I found mainline trainspotting returning back to its former glory, despite the fact that Indonesian State Railway’s effort and progress to improve obviously have gone astray.

Conclusion

Despite of the declining number of real steam workings and field lines mileage, there are still plenty to offer for railway enthusiasts in here.

Although elderly generation of railway enthusiasts lamented the disappearance of “real steam working”, steam locomotive attractions will never die in Java and Indonesia. There will always be something new to see and enjoy.

It is good to know that plantation company finally realize the historical value of steam locomotives or engines, and also classic architecture of the mills. Although they have made serious effort, in the end we must realize that they are not as big as Indonesian State Railway and most of their preservation effort does not receive the same kind of support from  central government in Jakarta, like what Indonesian State Railway privileged to have.

They have very limited funding to do all of those preservation efforts, so donation is actually needed. The best way to donate is by hiring their steam locos, for excursion running. In this way the profit generated can be used not just to maintain steam locos, but also bringing others back to live.

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2016 Java Steam & Sugar Tour: What’s Happened?

At the beginning of 2016, I did have a high hope that I would repeat the same success with the Java Steam & Sugar tour like in 2014 and 2015.

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Back then I had successfully organized a tour visit sugar mills and railway museums to see working steam locos in action. Some of them were regular working locos, a novelty in 21st century to see steam locos doing regular work instead of tourist service.

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Participants and organizer were happy because we could see many rare workings, and we didn’t just seeing them but also riding and even driving the loco too! So for 2016 season, I had a high hope that I would run similar and equally successful tour.

The year 2016 started out nicely. Indeed the request for railtour took place not in the middle of the year, but right from the beginning!

It was in January 2016 that my first railway tour in 2016 happened, when I took a couple of Malaysian railway enthusiasts traveling to see mount Bromo and seeing steam locomotives in Solo.

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The trip was a success one. We didn’t just seeing sunrise at mount Bromo, but also riding on intercity trains, staying in opulent (but affordable) hotel, and of course riding steam train at Tasikmadu sugar mill. In addition, we also rode the Batara Kresna Railbus which plying the unique street running in Surakarta.

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Amazingly, just a few months after that in April, I also receive another railtour. Well actually not exactly a railtour, but rather a French tractor enthusiast is seeking relic of old tractors whose were presumably located in many sugar mills in Java. The route is similar to the tour in January, unless that instead of visiting mount Bromo, we went to visit some sugar mills in eastern East Java.

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The tour ended with mixed result: although we visited all places that we planned (except Gending sugar mill where we were refused entry, and Gempolkrep as it was too far from our position) and the tour went on without incident, my client was disappointed that he failed to found any old tractors that he has been searching for.  The only consolation was finding old Deutz locomotive which turned out to be the oldest diesel loco remain in existence in Indonesia. And I also learn that diesel locomotives in Indonesia have been around even before Second World War….

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Based on those 2 tours, I was very confident that I would run a successful “Java Steam & Sugar Tour” for 2016 season. By April and May, some tour requests have already appeared on my e-mail. So another Java Steam & Sugar Tour seemed to be certain.  And it was set to run on August.

But…..unfortunately, about a few weeks prior to the tour’s commencement in July, I suddenly receive e-mail from one of participant that he canceled the tour. The cited reason was the depleted number of steam locomotive in operation (which is not entirely true when compared to the previous year’s operation). When I also asked re-confirmation from another participant, the e-mail went unanswered. Another tour participant, who actually joined the 2015 tour, had also booked the tour. Unfortunately, his booking too was cancelled at the final moment.

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I tried to arrange similar tour for September and October. But trying to advertise such a long tour in short amount of time proved to be futile effort. And in the end, I eventually ran no Java Steam & Sugar tour at all.

The closest thing that I got to running Java Steam & Sugar Tour was taking my Dutch friend, Joop Versluijs, on a tour to see narrow gauge trains in Kedawung sugar mill in August. It was the first time I see him since 2009, where back then my car was brand new and I was still living in Bandung. His trip at this time is due to his participation a steam tour organized by other tour company.

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Although I have known Joop for long, this is the first time I learn that he have a wealthy array of narrow gauge trains archive of Java back home in Holland, thanks to my growing interest of narrow gauge steam locos since 2013. Since he has done trainspotting in Indonesia since early 1980s (and even met his wife in Java too) he obviously have many archives that would have wowed railfans in Indonesia.Such as this video of steam field working at Sumberharjo sugar mill which was taken in 2008.

He have many photos and even video clips from many sugar mills that no longer operate their field lines, or even in remain in existence in present days. I think he also mention that Tulangan was once a popular trainspotting place for narrow gauge fans, especially when they still operate their field lines. Especially due to its close vicinity to the city of Surabaya.

Kedawung sugar mill itself holds special meaning as I spend many occasions visiting the area and watching its field working. It was much more that what I did in previous year. I even saw many workings on almost every corner of its vast plantation.

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Although some lines looks as if they were not used and covered by asphalt, in reality when the harvesting time came, they would cut down any trees that blocking the way and removing the asphalt to give way for the train to get through. Some lines which I saw abandoned in 2015 (some didn’t have railway lines) were in full operation in 2016! It seemed that the engineers had gone extra length to reinstall some railway tracks.

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For example is the street running section that plying main road between Winongan and Gayam. I last saw this track in full use in 2014. By 2015 it was largely abandoned. And by the end of that year it was lifted, so much that some local railfans exclaimed that Kedawung had closed its field lines.  His statement actually came out of his ignorance, due to his lack of knowledge of railway in beyond those of Indonesian State Railway.

To everyone surprise, by mid-year, the track in this section is relaid and even saw some limited service. In fact Kedawung’s field lines network were in full service in 2016. Some moribund trackage would see some service. It’s no problem if it’s isolated: mechanics would install temporary tracks to connect it to the existing line.

Its vast network means a trip on a field line can last for hours. Often loaded trains would return back at night.

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But the large size of acreage can pose another threat to the survivability of the field lines as some crooks would steal the rails for scrap metals. Sometime, to make up lost rails, the mechanics would install temporary track on a roadbed. Although it is passable by big 0-6-0 diesels, the trip will be very bumpy and sometime prone to derailment.

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Seeing the field workings of Kedawung is a good consolation for the absence of Java Steam & Sugar Tour. But unfortunately the mill has long given up its steam locos, making the scene rather dull. The last time they used the steam loco was back in 2001, on a chartered service.

Talking about steam service, the pattern of steam locomotive works in 2016 is not much different than what was seen in second half of 2015. Ambarawa railway museum still provide their chartered service to paying guests, many sugar mills who does regular steam service still doing their works, and chartered steam at sugar mills in Semboro and Olean are still up and running.

In 2016 too we learn that there are good news and bad news about what may come in the future of steam locomotive, or even sugar mills operation.

I’ll start with the bad one.

In early October 2016 I receive notification letter from my friend about planned closure of sugar mills in East and Central Java. This news came as a great shock as I was still reeling from my failure to run Java Steam & Sugar Tour for 2016. According to the letter shown by my friend, several sugar mills are going to be closed by next year. Some immediately, some will be done gradually in the next few years.

The likes of Kanigoro mill will surely be closed by next year, confirming rumors among the plantation company management circle which have been heard since 2015. In fact its crushing season lasted very short in 2016.

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Gondang Baru’s milling in 2016 had also been a short one. They lasted only around 3 months. But why do they want to cull this mill is a something of mystery.

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One mill where its closure has long been predicted is Tulangan sugar mill, mainly due to the depletion of available sugarcane field around the mill. Although PTPN X Company often tries to advertise the mill as “historic mill with old steam engines”, in reality this mill does nothing to preserve its railway. They happily scrap their steam locos in 1980s, lifting their field lines in 2006, and demolishing the old buildings around the mill and replacing them with new buildings. So if they really want to create “heritage tour” in Tulangan it would be a major hypocrisy and quite a blasphemy too.

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And another mill that surprisingly made it into the “hit list” is Merican sugar mill in Kediri. This is quite unexpected, considering that the mill is a modern and busy one. I have been to this mill in 2014 and saw how modern it is and how busy production line is. But considering that this mill have dumped its railway in 2008, I don’t think I would miss it anyway.

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Another upset has to be the closure of Purwodadi sugar mill in Madiun. This sugar mill has a distinction of being the last place in Indonesia to see the last regular steam locomotives working, doing so in 2016.

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I remember the last time I held “Java Steam & Sugar Tour” in 2015, upon arriving at this mill (especially on the level crossing section), my tour participants jumped in happiness and quickly taking photos of the steam working. Alas, now it’s gone…..

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But the biggest upset is the planned closure of all three sugar mills in Situbondo, including the famed Olean sugar mill. This planned closure is met with rejection, not just from narrow gauge or railway enthusiasts, but also from the local farmers in Situbondo as well as the local and provincial government. Because had this ill-conceived plan gone through, it will cripple Situbondo’s economy which largely reliant on the sugar mills.

Fortunately, as for Situbondo, that malignant plan will not go through easily, or even at all!

Now this is where the good news begins.

There are several factors why Java Steam & Sugar Tour is still worthy tour to go beyond 2016.

First, Olean Sugar mill is now slowly being converted into a “living museum”, which means that it will become more tourists friendly. Going into the mill will no longer require permit from headquarter in Surabaya. Instead, you can drop by at the mill’s office and pay the necessary fees. They will even convert the former manager’s mansion into a lodging place for visiting customers. Although if you think about hiring the steam loco, you may need to inform the mill management several days in advance, especially if it’s outside harvesting season.

Even the steam tour in Olean will be quite different, as it will involve visit to see local culture and customs, which made it appealing to non-railway enthusiast market. Still, anyone who wants to see it hauling sugarcane trains will still be accommodated. The non-tourist regular steam sugarcane hauling service may still exist in the future, although chance of catching up with it will not be as plenty as before 2014.

Oh, and now there is a passenger coach for Olean steam train. Something that didn’t exist before.

Another good news is the fact that Semboro sugar mill, which is well known for its chartered steam locomotive tour, even before PTPN XI even think of doing the same thing in Olean, is spared from “death penalty”, and will see more railway service in the future.

Including its famed fireless locos, whose are rare railways artifacts remain in existence, its rarity even enhanced by the fact that they still do regular working.

Beyond steam locomotive workings in sugar mills, there are more good news to be heard.

After years of maintenance hiatus, the rack steam working in Ambarawa railway museum is now back in service. It will be hauled by the regular B25 steam locos, in which both of them have recently undergone major overhaul. With the reopening of rack service to Bedono, now Ambarawa  railway museum have more steam locomotive service than what it used to be, complimented by some diesel locomotives. In the future it will include diesel locomotives museum in Tuntang.

Although so far 2 things in Ambarawa railway museum have yet to materialize:

  1. The reopening of railway line between mainline station in Kedungjati, and Tuntang station. Due to poor planning, financing, and the unclear aim of reopening, the project went into a halt.
  2. There was a talk of bringing the B2501 rack steam loco back to the museum, and reactivate it. So far nothing materialize.

Two steam locomotives have also been brought from Railway Museum in Jakarta to Surakarta, in preparation for steam locomotive tour. Although it is doubtful if they will ever be used for the Wonogiri branchline due to their large weight.

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Another steam locomotive that is under repair is the E1060, which was initially repaired in Ambarawa, but after being repatriated back to West Sumatera fell into disrepair. The last reported progress was posted sometime in mid-2016. Unfortunately, the repair somehow include the removal of rack gear equipment from the loco, which is a shame considering the loco is a rack engine, and the best scenery in West Sumatera can only be found in its rack section.

And lastly, after years of mishaps and mismanagement Cepu steam train tour is now back in business. The service includes the full length journey into the Gubug Payung, deep inside the teak forest around Cepu.  No curtailment of train journey like what was predicted earlier this year, especially after the bridge that passes above the highway frequently got knocked off by passing oversized trucks.

Cepu steam tour is perhaps the second most expensive steam tour in Indonesia, after Ambarawa. But considering the length and duration of the journey, which is twice of what you find in Ambarawa, this might be worth the money. And since new and more modern hotels began to pop up in this formerly remote area, a visit to Cepu will become much more fashionable than ever.

Overall railway tour to Indonesia, especially Java, beyond 2016 will be worth it!

If you like to join our 14-days 2017 Java Steam and Sugar Tour, please check out our website HERE.

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Old Tractor Tour? (Part 4 – End)

It’s Tuesday 19th April 2016, and today we would like to spend the day exploring sugar mills in East Java area, especially those whose are within easy reach from Surabaya.

Our initial plan was to visit mills like Kedawung, Wonolangan, Gending, Gempokrep, and Tulangan. Since Tulangan have been visited yesterday, so we focus our time today to visit the remaining four. Christophe initially wants to visit the mills as early as possible, even asking if we can depart at 6 in the morning! While, I’m suggesting if we depart later at much more leisurely pace at 9am. After some negotiations, we eventually agreed that we will depart at 7am. So I picked him up in the morning at 7 am in his hotel. This time, his girlfriend does not join him. So it would just be two of us.

Unlike previous similar trips to sugar mills, on this occasion I did not (or more appropriate if I call it “fail to”) arrange prior permit with plantation company. The reason behind this failure was due to two things: the lack of time to prepare the tour, and the fact that I had other administration things to do in between the tour planning and execution.

The trip between Surabaya and Probolinggo was pretty much a breeze. There were very little serious traffic jams and overall it was uneventful.

The drama, as I expected would only took place once we made an impromptu visit to sugar mill’s management office.

First to visit is Wonolangan sugar mill, which is located right on the eastern outskirt of the town of Probolinggo. As I expected, upon arriving at the mill’s management office, they received us in nervous and hesitant manner, unaware that a foreigner (Christophe) would pay visit without prior announcement. In a mill with strict and tight management, they would deny us outright. But thanks to the relaxed culture of PTPN XI, they eventually gave us permission, with small fee to go with it. After arranging some personnel to help us, they escorted us to explore the mill.

It’s off harvesting season, so all of the activities are concentrated in repair and maintenance works. In the yard, there are many sugarcane wagons parked. Just like most sugar mills in Java, Wonolangan have also abandoned its field lines, sometime in mid-2000s.

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We went straight into its locomotive shed, where some maintenance works are being done.

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Although this mill no longer has its field lines, all of its diesel locos seemed to be repaired in preparation for upcoming harvesting season.

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It is also in this mill that Christophe encountered Japanese diesel locos for the first time. After seeing its Japanese built engines, he is not interested.

Instead we focused on the fleet of Schoema diesel locos in here.

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This type reminds me with the one that I saw at Kanigoro sugar mill, as well as those operated by Krebet Baru sugar mill in Malang.

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Christophe is also investigating its engine. This one is apparently powered by a variant of Deutz engine, although I can’t recall what distinct thing about this one.

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Not all diesel locos are maintained. Some of them are stripped of usable parts to be used by other locos.

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A move which I consider awkward considering that spare parts for Deutz engines are widely available in the market, unless if mill management is too stingy to purchase them.

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In the back of the shed, there is a number of steam locomotives stored.

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Although they haven’t been used for more than a decade, their external condition looks good. They are not rusted, and their paintwork hardly peeled off. Note a track inspection vehicle on the left, which also looks in good condition despite the fact that this mill no longer has field lines.

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It seemed that all of Wonolangan’s steam locomotives are of the same type: Orenstein & Koppel 0-8-0.

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In some locos, its builder and ownership plate still remain intact as if they are brand new, or installed in recent period.

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I was told by the crew that all of Wonolangan’s steam locomotives are largely intact. None of them have been scrapped. In fact one has recently gone into a museum in Probolinggo.

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But apparently not all of them in really good shape like this no. 4 which lost its chimney and driving rods, as well as parts of its boiler.

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But this one, which is parked right in front of track inspection vehicle, is probably in the best shape. The only thing that has gone from this loco is just….number plate!

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I assume that this loco was once used to entertain foreign visitors who want to see steam working, perhaps on chartered basis.

Not really satisfied by our visit at the locomotive shed, Christophe is asking whether if there are any old pre-war tractors in the mill. The mill crew said there are some old tractors in the mill, but whether if they belong to pre-war era is something we need to find out.

Upon arriving at the shed, we found some old tractors. Some of them are already wrecked, or just a bare frame. When Christophe investigated, he found that all of them are actually Ford tractors that dating back from 1970s or later, definitely not according to his expectation.

While we rummaging around there, the mill employees also showed us an English cemetery in this mill.  The tombstones are all written in English, with 19th century grammar.

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They said that this English family was the founder of Wonolangan sugar mill. Their descendants would sometime come and do some maintenance on this site, although when we came here this cemetery is in a bad shape. The surrounding area is akin to landfill, and even worse we can see some human feces in the area! Yuck!

Well, we think our visit in Wonolangan has been completed, and now it’s time for us to move along.

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Next stop: Gending sugar mill.  Christophe is excited upon hearing this, because according to his data there were many tractors delivered to this mill. He also added that this mill was among the first mill in Java to receive diesel locomotives; some were even delivered in period around First World War! So we have a very high expectation on our visit to this mill.

After a few minutes’ drive, which include passing through scenic backstreet (as this mill is located well away from main highway) we eventually crossed some narrow gauge lines which indicated that we are near a sugar mill.

Upon arriving at the mill, we were greeted by the same style like what we encountered in Wonolangan: the mill management looks a bit nervous when seeing a foreigner visiting their premises. They asked us to wait for a few minutes, because they need to phone and asking a clearance from the mill’s manager which is away in Surabaya at the moment.

We waited for some time, and when the mill employee returning back he delivered shocking news: we were denied entry! Much to my surprise, and Christophe’s disappointment! Apparently, unlike most PTPN XI mills, Gending management seemed to be a rather stiff one! He told us that we should have arranged the permit with the central office beforehand. But when I told them why no such fuss existed in Wonolangan, he blame Wonolangan management for being unable to handle foreigners properly (although in my opinion it is the opposite).

When we asked whether if there are any old tractors, steam locos, or old diesel locos in this mill, he replied that there are none of them. All of the mill’s road and rail vehicles are dating back from 1950s onward. To add the salt in the wound, he also said that starting from this season, the mill have also abandoned their field lines altogether.

Oh well, apparently there is no reason why we should stay longer in here. So we bid farewell and jump into the car and head back to the west to visit Kedawung sugar mill.

The rejection at Gending does let us down. It’s just unfortunate that they can be that stiff, despite the fact that it is not a vital military object and does not contain any sensitive items. And it is very unusual for any mill owned by PTPN XI which is known for its relaxed and cooperative culture.

Hoping that the same predicament wont befell us in Gending, we eventually arriving at Kedawung. I like visiting this mill because of all mills that we visited, only Kedawung feature field lines. But I don’t think that would be a plus point for Christophe.

Just like in previous mills, we had to undergo lengthy wait at the gate before eventually allowed to enter and meet the management. In the management office, we were greeted by usually nervous staffs. And just like what we see in Gending, they dealt with us with hesitant and slightly uptight mood. They called their boss to find out whether if we were allowed to visit. After a few minutes of tense moment for us, they deliver the much awaited answer: they approve our request! Yes! So we are finally allowed to explore Kedawung sugar mill!

After they make little preparation for us, we start exploring this mill, accompanied by some staffs and securities.

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In the main yard, the Japanese built loco no.1 is seen busy hauling engine part.

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Since it is off-harvesting season, there are not much visible activities outside the locomotive shed.

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But inside, there is a hive of maintenance works at locomotives.

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Some locomotives are stripped to almost bare metal frame.

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Christophe is quite disappointed by the fact that all of the Schoema locomotives have had their MWM engines  replaced by Mitsubishi truck engines.

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All of the German locomotives in this mill were delivered in 1951, and made by Schoema which at that time was part of Krupp business empire.

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The other half of Kedawung’s diesel locomotives were made by Keio Yashima, a Japanese engineering firm. These locos obviously do not draw Christophe’s attention.

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The shed staffs also showing us a Dutch era jack which is used to assist derailment recovery. It’s amazing that this small tool is still in working order despite of its age.

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But in the back of the shed there are remains of Kedawung’s once venerable fleet of steam locomotives. When I visited this mill in late 2014 with a group of Dutch steam locomotive experts, they said that this no.14 is in working order. That is despite the fact that the loco haven’t been used for more than a decade.

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The loco number 16 is parked in an awkward location, right in the middle of the door. I later learned that this locomotive was built by Breda, the same Dutch engineering firm who built “Si Mbah” at Gondang Baru and “Doon” in Tasikmadu.

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I also found out on that this locomotive was originally delivered to work in a tin mine at Bangka island near Sumatera, before being transferred to Kedawung sugar mill.

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The rest of the locos in the shed are mostly identical to no.14 which is an Orenstein & Koppel built 0-8-0 loco.

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Contrary to what we saw in Wonolangan, the shed at Kedawung is muddy and dirty. The locos, although outlived their colleagues in Wonolangan by several years, are seemed in poorer conditions.

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This locomotive looks slightly different as it has shorter cab. I later learned that this loco is O&K 0-6-0 type.

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But the Dutch language sticker in the cab looks curious for me. Looks like a logo of a Dutch tour company. It seemed that a long time ago this locomotive was used to haul chartered tourist train, carrying Dutch tourists, across Kedawung’s still present field lines.

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One of the mill staff added that back then the reception for this Dutch tourist group was elaborated and rather grandeur one. The Dutch tourists were greeted with traditional dance and many local art performances.  They were invited to see the old houses here, as some of them were actually born here and spending their childhood here.

They rode the tourist train hauled by this steam locomotive along its field lines, before being picked up by their bus somewhere along the line where they visited hot water spring which is located near the field lines network.

Considering the mill’s close proximity to Surabaya and even the famed Bromo volcano, I asked them why they did not continue to steam tourist train operation, considering that other mills in less strategic locations such as Olean in Situbondo and Semboro in Jember does run chartered steam tourist trains. They said that the reason for the suspension is due to lack of demands, as well as the management is not interested to run such thing.

A few weeks later I learned what is probably real reason behind the discontinuation of such popular service was the failure of the last tour operator to pay the fee. Apparently the success of the first tours had led to a strong mutual trust between the mill management and this tour company. In turn the mill relaxed its payment policy to this tour company, which allows them to complete the payment after the tour. But I assume that in the latest tour, things didn’t go well. Perhaps the tour company fails to settle the debt due sudden bankruptcy. In fact when I searched this tour company on the internet, I found that it has long gone out of business.

Not all of the retired steam locos are grouped together. This rare Maffei built 0-4-2 loco is parked right in front of the shed.

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And one loco is parked inside what is now a storage room, full of disused items.

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One of the diesel engine in here caught Christophe’s attention, and he stayed quite long to study it. He said that the type of this Deutz diesel reminds him to one of the old tractor that he saw back in Europe. The staff who learning about this suggesting us to see a diesel pump engine that is being run in the nearby pond. However upon reaching the engine, we found out that it is a different engine.

Kedawung sugar mill is an impressive one, it has a huge machinery and all of its associated facilities. But unlike Tasikmadu, this sugar mill still retains its network of field lines (although the number of its mileage has dwindled in recent years).

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We kept searching around the mill, and somehow we came across this giant Deutz generator engine.

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Obviously it’s too big for a tractor engine, and probably won’t fit in a locomotive either. It’s even bigger than the GE 7FDL8 engine that is normally used on mainline diesel locos!

Since there are no more things to be seen, we decided to conclude our visit at Kedawung and bade farewell to the (somehow) hospitable mill management.

As we are returning back to our car, Christophe was stunned by this big sign. He is totally perplexed on how perfectly formal the grammar of this French language sign. An oddity, considering French people hardly visited this place.

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We’re getting hungry, and decided to sample the local cuisine at Pasuruan. One famous menu in this town is “Sate Komoh” which is lean beef grilled on skewer. Very tasty, although sometime it is full of fat.

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Since it’s getting dark, and the distance to Gempolkrep is very far (not to mention a rather strict PTPN X management), we decided to call off our plan to visit that place and head back to Surabaya. We have already felt tired after a long journey today. I feel that Christophe was quite right in asking us to depart as early as possible, due to the fact that it took the whole day just to explore 3 sugar mills whose are not very far from Surabaya.

 

TOUR CONCLUSION

On the following day, on Wednesday 20th April 2016, it’s time for Christophe and his fiancée to catch the return flight back to Bangkok.

I picked them up from their hotel and took them straight to the airport. Along the way, Christophe said that last night, after I delivered him to this hotel, he and his fiancée had a very long walk from Pakuwon City, all the way to the hotel, which is probably 10-15 km away! That was because they were running out of money to hail the cab, so they decided to walk!

Christophe said that he is actually disappointed, because he couldn’t find any single old tractors throughout his trip. Unlike in Eastern Europe where he could find old tractors easily, finding them in South East Asia is a merely impossible task.

Unlike previous specialized tours that I ran, I have to admit that this tour is a flop. But it doesn’t mean that Christophe doesn’t want to hire me anymore. He said that if I can find any old tractors anywhere around, he would be glad return back to have another tour with me.

Considering my complete lack of knowledge regarding of this subject, I found his request a rather tall order…..

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