I woke up to one beautiful sunny and windy day in Madiun. Upon opening my window, I can clearly see mount Wilis in the distance. It’s truly a majestic view.
I went down stair to 2nd floor where they serve the breakfast. Since the hotel is a budget one, I expect the breakfast variety to be rather minimum. I’ve stayed in another Amaris hotel before and the food variety was slightly disappointing, so perhaps this hotel is no different. Yet, when I tastes some of its food, I found it quite delicious.
I enjoyed my breakfast on the outside, and I was really surprised by how strong the wind is. And the temperature was quite cool too, maybe in mid 20s. Perhaps the town’s close proximity to mountains made it susceptible to strong wind. But normally by midday the strong wind would subside and the temperature gets warmer.
While enjoying the breakfast, I also try to establish communication with contact person at Pagotan sugar mill, using Whatsapp. His name is “Fallen”. Quite a funny sounding name, but I guess it is related to “Valentino”. I asked him whether if I can get permission to visit the Pagotan sugar mill, and whether if they still do the milling and running the fireless locomotives.
His answer is quite shocking: Pagotan have ceased its crushing since a week ago! Obviously we will not see the fireless, and missing all of the steam workings at Madiun for this year. Fallen added that this year’s milling season has been unusually short. The competition with newly opened private sugar mills like KTM in Lamongan and GMM in Blora means the sugarcane supply from Madiun doesn’t just go to the sugar mills in Madiun, but also to those aforementioned mills. This is the reason why sugarcane supplies in Madiun runs out quicker than in previous seasons.
I was dismayed upon hearing this. What will Paul and Haden think about this? Would they get upset? I think it would be a good idea to conceal this first. I know Australians are not like Germans: while German hates (bad) surprises the Australian are generally more tolerant. And Paul’s good sense of humor often softens the tension caused by the troubles we faced. But still, I’m thinking about the right way to say this to Paul and Hayden.
No wonder why the government plans to reduce sugar mills in East Java. Combination of competition with private sugar mills and depleted farming lands means that in the future the number of sugar mills in Madiun would be much fewer than what it is now. There have been talks about upgrading one of the sugar mills in Madiun area to boost its production capacity. But this could mean the demise of other sugar mills and end of steam locomotive workings, making the place no longer attractive to steam locomotive enthusiasts.
So far one sugar mill in Madiun have fell victim to this: the Kanigoro sugar mill.
Not long afterward, Paul and Hayden turned up for breakfast. Apparently they have actually waked up earlier than I do. Paul has walked into the station to see the activities over there. Hayden visited one mall and tries to buy memory card for his phone. Although there are plenty of mobile phone shops who sell what Hayden needed, none of its employees understand English. This communication breakdown prevented Hayden from getting what he wanted.
Up until then, I decided to keep silent about the milling cessation and keep making small talks with them. I don’t want to ruin their breakfast, so I just try to make do the situation.
After breakfast, Paul returns back to his room while I accompany Hayden to the nearby shopping mall where we buy memory cards for his phone. Upon buying his memory card, we return back to the hotel where start preparing our stuffs before we go exploring sugar mills (and whatever left for this year).
In our planned itinerary, our driver on yesterday will pick us up at 10.30 and then we will start exploring sugar mills in Madiun. In our initial plan, we supposed to visit no less than 4 sugar mills, but since the milling season have already ended we would probably visit just one.
Once our driver came, we board the car and head to Pagottan. It was during the journey that I began to open up to Paul and Hayden that Pagotan is no longer crushing for this year. In fact they have stopped milling a week earlier than Purwodadi. Both of them are obviously disappointed, but surprisingly not upset and even able to make joke about Fallen’s funny name.
Upon arriving at Pagottan, we tried to enter through its back door near the road yard and level crossing. But we found that the gate is tightly locked and there is no way to enter through here. Although we can clearly see the parked locomotives from this spot, they’re far deep inside the mill. So we have no choice but to enter legally through the front entrance.
We went into the front entrance, where from there we were directed into the main office. Once there I finally able to meet with Fallen. “Fallen comrade” in Paul’s joke. He greeted us and once there we discussed about the state of current sugar industry in Madiun, and how the changing trend can threaten the future of sugar mill, and obviously the rare steam locomotives operation in here.
Personally, I’m already saddened by the loss of field lines operation in Madiun area. And the news about the threat to the sugarcane railway operation in Madiun already saddens me further. This means that the piece of my childhood days will disappear.
I remember when I was kid in 1980s I frequently visited Madiun as my father’s extended family lives here, and I could see how extensive the narrow gauge railway lines network was. But then upon returning back again in mid 2000s, after a long break due to my study in Australia, I notice all are gone now (in case of Pagottan, according to Fallen, they closed down their field lines in mid 1990s), so hearing the threat of the total closure of railway operations is just heartbreaking.
Alright, enough of the story. Upon clearing all of the administrations, we start exploring the yard where we see all of the fireless locomotives are parked.
Back in 2014, the loco no.6 was not used. But I believe that this year, the loco was used extensively. The loco, along with no. 7, is unique that it has inside frame.
Normal Luttermöller axle locomotive, like no.8, normally has outside frame, to make it easier to arrange this unique configuration.
These 3 locos are probably the last Luttermöller axle locomotives still in use in Indonesia.
Up until in 2014, Tasikmadu VI was the only other Luttermöller axle steam locomotive in use outside Pagotan, and probably the last conventional one as those in here have now been converted into fireless locos (they were converted in 2011).
And next to the steam locos are Pagotan’s fleet of diesel locomotives.
Unlike many sugar mills in Java, where their diesel traction are Japanese made, it seems that all of Pagotan diesels are German built, making Pagotan fleet of locomotives as all-Germans.
But perhaps the most unique of their diesel is the number 2.
Pagotan diesel no.2 is one of very few built by Orenstein & Koppel.
The builder have produced many steam locomotives for narrow gauge sugarcane railway in Indonesia, but very few of their diesels are seen in here, let alone in working condition.
Its driving console is unique as it features large levers normally seen on steam locomotives.
The locomotive still retain its builder plate, although it is partly covered in paint.
And just like many German industrial diesel locomotives in Java, it is powered by Deutz engine.
But uniquely, this engine was built in collaboration with Mitsui, a famous Japanese engineering firm. Other Deutz engines are either built by Deutz themselves or in collaboration with MWM.
We walk to the shed direction, where along the way we came across wreck of locomotives.
The diesel number 3 is one of the disused locomotives in Pagotan. And it is probably sidelined either due to irreparable damage or to provide spare parts to its siblings.
And next to it is steam locomotive no.1
This loco is not among those that converted into fireless steam loco. And it was probably retired around the same time when Pagotan closed down its field lines.
In the nearby hut, I found a locomotive tender is stuffed next to it. It’s just a sad sight.
And I also notice one locomotive buried under the thick vegetation.
Upon close inspection I realize that this is actually the steam locomotive no.3
Pagotan’s locomotive shed has unassuming appearance, and can deceive newcomers as it is located in a rather awkward position, as the track that lead to it has a very sharp curve and on our visit it is buried under the ashes. From the distance, you would mistake it as tractor’s garage.
But as we get closer, we can clearly see that it is a locomotive shed.
The shed is largely empty, and only one lone diesel loco is inside.
The diesel no.1 is one of the diesel locos that I saw at work during my visit in 2014. But now it seem to be in disused condition.
Generally there were very little to be seen in the shed. Even there are no locomotives roster board in the shed. So we decided to go out to see the locos again.
Paul wanted to see where the steam filling station is located, but our minder warned us against visiting the site, because it is cordoned by police line due to recent workplace accident.
What is not visible in the photos that I took at Pagotan is ashes that flying around caused by cleanup activity in the mill. It truly made us uncomfortable.
A few minutes later, Paul and Hayden returns back, and then we bid farewell to the mill management (including Fallen/”Fallen behind” in Paul’s word), and going out to have some lunch. We decided to have a lunch at a famous Nasi Pecel 99 restaurant in the town.
This restaurant is quite famous as it is frequented by public figures and dignitaries.
While we were having lunch, we discussed about how we will spend the remainder of the day in Madiun. Obviously there is nothing to be seen now as all sugar mills with steam locomotives have stopped crushing.
Then I remember something that we missed on yesterday: Purwodadi sugar mill now opens a new theme park in its premises. I’m suggesting to Paul and Hayden about visiting the place. After some discussion, they agree on that. Once we paid our food bill, we return back to our car and head to Purwodadi.
The theme park is located on northeast corner of the mill complex, right on the corner of the road junction near the entrance. Going in is not extremely difficult as now they open up some of the gates to make it easier to get into the park. Our first destination is to see Purwodadi no.1 which is displayed near the new theme park entrance.
This loco is among those that were withdrawn early. I believe it was probably retired around the same time as when Purwodadi closed its field lines.
Indeed, some remains of the field lines can be seen just next to the locomotive right next to the main road. When I visited the mill in 2015, this point was largely intact and it was even passable. But not it has largely been dismantled.
There is also a railway bridge near the locomotive monument. I wonder if this used to be an entrance for field trains who came from the north?
Just like in Kedawung, the presence of theme park allows visitors to go into the yard without too much bureaucracy. I believe this would have been a great place to photograph train movements, had the crushing season is still on.
The concept of the amusement park is quite simple, it is just a leafy corner of the mill complex that is added with gimmicks to make it “Instagrammable”.
There is also a food court at one corner of the theme park where visitors can have meal or drinks before exploring the theme park. They even have amusement train which travel along some lines inside the mill, although when we were there it didn’t run.
We walk deeper into the theme park where we found out that they have also built some “Tree houses” to allow visitors to see theme park from above…..for railway enthusiast this is really beneficial.
The theme park ends where the old weighbridge is located.
We climbed up there we can see this weighbridge building which was probably built in 1950s.
From above, you can see the theme park and the yard clearly.
The mill building can be seen in the distance. Although the sugarcane traffic have ceased for this year, I can clearly see that the mill machineries are still at work, even the smokestack still emitting some smoke.
I also catch the glimpse of where the locomotive shed is located. A tender of locomotive no.10 is now parked there. I last saw the loco at work in 2015, because when I visited Purwodadi mill again in 2017, it was not working.
Underneath the tree near the weighbridge, there is one diesel locomotive preserved in the theme park.
This locomotive was favorite workhorse in here during early days of dieselization.
But due to mechanical problems, it was eventually sidelined.
Indeed, I’ve never seen this loco at work throughout my visits at Purwodadi. I believe decades ago, she had passed through this spot too, hauling sugarcane trains from the field.
Although it is no longer serviceable, its driving cab interior seem to be largely intact. Even the builder plates are still there.
Now the days of field workings at Purwodadi are over and the weighbridge sat abandoned. All of the sugarcane are now weighed at the truck weighbridge in the road yard.
Even its interior looks almost empty. Only one weigh scale left in inside.
While I was busy looking at the weighbridge, Paul and Hayden suddenly jumped the fence and wandered inside the yard. I wonder if it’s okay as we didn’t “knock the front door” first.
As I walk along the yard, I can see some mud wagons parked near the weighbridge.
I believe when the field lines were still open, they frequently used these wagons to carry the mud to be dumped somewhere in the field.
But a few meters from the mud wagons, I came across the surprising sight of dumped locomotive boiler.
I wonder where does this boiler originally belong to? I know Purwodadi have scrapped some steam locomotives in the past, so this boiler must belong to one of them.
Paul and Hayden walked really quickly, so much that I struggled to keep up with them. They’re heading to the shed direction where the amusement train coaches are parked nearby.
The place is so quiet, and I don’t even see any security officers around. I was just hoping that we would be alright.
I’ve been to Purwodadi sugar mill before, and seeing their steam locomotives in action. But this is the first time I see their locomotive shed (albeit from the outside) and seeing their locomotives sitting cold.
Like this number 10, which was working hard in 2014 and 2015, but when I revisit the place in 2017 it was already out of action.
And other regular locomotives were there too.
Like no.16 and 15 which have been repainted into dark green color.
This is the first time I see them in the new livery, although unfortunately too late to see them in action.
Next to those locos, there are also other locomotives in blue livery that seem to have been out of action for long. One loco even only have the cab roof and cowcatcher left. But the loco on the right intrigued me: it is also numbered 15! It means that Purwodadi sugar mill have 2 locomotives numbered 15.
While we were busy enjoying the sight of locomotives, someone poked our back. It’s the security! Well, unlike in the road yard where you’re free to go in and out as you like, in the main mill compound it’s a bit stricter. He told us that we’re not allowed to be in here. And the presence of foreigners would surely add the drama, as some Indonesian sees them as “cash cow”. He quickly reported our presence through the HT radio.
But since his English is poor he only confronts me while paying very little attention to Paul and Hayden. So he didn’t do anything when both of them slowly returning back to the theme park. Paul said “C’mon Bagus. Leave him alone, it will be alright”. I replied “No Paul, I don’t think it’s a good idea. What if he reports this to Police? It’s okay Paul, I can handle this. I’ll see you later in the theme park.”
He asked me whether if I have permit to be here. And I show him the letter. I believe must be quite stunned to see an intruder like us turned out to have official letter from headquarter in Surabaya. Well, honestly, I do have official permit from PTPN XI headquarter in Surabaya. But since coming in officially means that I would have to pay hefty entrance fee, I decided not to do that. Is it worth spending IDR 250K per person just to see these silent locos? Especially since the shed crew are nowhere to be seen, it would be a ripoff to spend any money for entrance fee.
The wait for the security staff from main entrance is quite long. And I also notice that this security guy seem to be a bit slow and occasionally lapse to daydreaming. I was thinking about escaping slowly by pretending to act like making leisurely walk and seeing around the shed. At first nothing goes wrong, he doesn’t seem to mind when I walk into the shed and paying little to attention to what I do. Since I acted normally in relax manner, he didn’t put any suspicion on me and probably thought that I wouldn’t go anywhere. I’ve done similar trick in the past (notably during my high school days to escape unnecessary and tiring ceremonies) and it was normally successful.
But as I was getting further from him, his superior from the main security post arrived. Oh well, now I can’t escape!
He introduced himself, and then asking me to ride with him into the main security post in front entrance. Trying to be a good citizen, I just follow his instruction. While riding, I can see all of the activities inside the mill. The security guy said that although all of sugarcane has been crushed, they still do some activities where they process sugarcane juice into processed sugar.
Once we arrive at the main post, he asking about my companies: who are they, where they come from, and what is their purpose of coming. In order to avoid from divulging too much information that would reveal my status as tour guide who escort a pair of Australian railway enthusiasts, I told them that they are my friends from railway enthusiast community, they came from Bali, and their purpose is just for vacationing in here. I have to be really careful to avoid from going into further details and revealing to that I’m a paid guide who traveling with foreigner.
Amazingly, they’re satisfied with my answer, and decided to let me go. I wasn’t even required to fill “guest book”, normally mandated by any visitors. I bid farewell to them and walk in relaxed pace to avoid impression as if I’m trying to get away from them.
Upon arriving back to theme park, I found Paul and Hayden enjoying coffee in the food court. They’re asking how it has been. I replied that thankfully it went without further incident. It told them my story on how did I dodge the security by giving them “honest answer”. Paul and Hayden laughed upon hearing my story. Paul said “Well at least you’re telling them the truth. Selected truth that is!”
Once we finished our drink we return back to our car and head back to Madiun for overnight rest and relax and also saying goodbye to our drive that have been really helpful throughout our visit in Madiun.
TO BE CONTINUED.