Up until our arrival at Pemalang, we still didn’t put priority on which mill we would visit first, second, third, etc. After some discussion, we eventually decided that Pangka will be the first to visit, considering its furthest distance. And since the following day is Sunday, Geoff suggested that we must visit the mill on that day as he predicted that the traffic will be quieter, and we would encounter less severe jam at Comal Bridge (his prediction proved true).
On the morning, our breakfasts were delivered to our room. I have to admit that since we stayed in a cheaper hotel than those in Salatiga and Semarang, the quality of our breakfast is definitely not comparable to our previous hotels.
After we finished our breakfast, we took shower and dress up for our adventure today. It is also the first time I wore my Sritex army trouser, which turned out to be oversized!
We departed soon after, where the journey to Pangka seemed to be normal. There were no traffic jams along the way. But as we turned into the main road to Pangka, we were greeted by the sight of motorcycle-packed main road. Motorcycles, mostly driven by incompetent villagers whom mostly disobeyed traffic rules, truly dominated the main street.
After winding through the country road, we finally made our way at Pangka sugar mill.
Once we arrived, we start to unload our camera and provisions.
Our eyes were directed to the yard to the North of mill. Apparently something is steaming over there.
We approached the smoking object, which turned out to be a steam locomotive.
This 99 years old Jung-built steam locomotive is ready to haul a train of loaded sugarcane into the mill.
The steaming locomotive really amazed us. And not long afterward, it departed into the mill direction.
Just as we finished photographing and recording the steam loco, security personnel approached us. He asked me, whether if we have permission to do photographing, which admittedly we didn’t. So the security asked us to obtain permission from the administration office, which we dully obliged. We went to the administration office, where they directed me to the public relation office.
I met one of the public relation staff in his room. Unlike the Cepiring, we had to pay administration fee. It cost Rp 200.000,- for each foreigners. Apparently I, as their local tour guide, am exempted from the fee.
While settling the bill, I also heard some news from the staffs over there. They said that back in the old days, they used to run tourist trains out into the field. Pangka’s field lines were used four tourist trains well beyond the end of field working (which ended sometime in 2000-2001). But lack of fund, as well as encroachment by local people, led to the demise of field tourist trains, sometime in 2009. They would only reintroduce the service if anyone interested in providing the fund.
Once we settled the administration matter, we started exploring the mill.
We start by walking along the railway track to the south. This track really split the mill complex into the half.
We went inside the mill, where to sugar crushing process are done.
It’s so amazing that they still employing steam engines that dating back from Dutch colonial era.
Despite all of the efforts in some sugar mills to make the mill’s interior swanky clean, Pangka mill’s interior still look rather dirty and dilapidated.
We went to the locomotive shed to see some of its locomotives.
The number 3 and 10 are steamed and ready to do some duties.
I went inside to see other locomotives. Some shed worker is seen slicing the logs into smaller pieces, so it would be easier to burn in the firebox.
Number 9 is seen parked in the shed. Probably surplus to the requirement.
Number 5 and 7 are also visible, as well as some diesel locomotives.
Number 7 looks quite unique, if not cute. It has a rather small size.
Other diesels in Pangka seemed to be not in a ready condition.
I went outside to look around. Right under the trees near the shed, there are some loco tenders which seemed to be in derelict condition. Their locomotives might have long been scrapped.
A few minutes later, the number 2 left the shed and goes into the yard to retrieve some wagons.
Several minutes later number 1 is seen steaming in full power, approaching my position, hauling loaded wagons.
But just several meters later, the train is seen slowing down, while some of the train crew looking at the front of the locomotive.
Something doesn’t look right…..
Apparently its driving rods fell off its mounting.
Some train crew tries to fix it.
Geoff, look at the incident closer, while tries to communicate with some train crew. Somehow, just behind the train, there is a thick smoke puffing.
Apparently, number 2 is working on a loaded train.
One of its crew tries to give assistance, but decided to postpone it for later on.
I ran to further to get a good shot of the train, while it hauled the loaded wagons.
Back to the scene, the driver seemed to be still busy working on the driving rods.
He later returned back to driving cab, probably waiting for spare parts to arrive.
We withdrew to a small coffee stall near the mill to have a coffee break. Paul did a good job in interacting with the locals, which seemed to be very impressed to have their stall visited by foreigners.
About an hour later, we returned back to our photo hunting activity.
As we came to the level crossing, a steam locomotive can be seen ready for departure to the mill.
It turned out that the number 1 have been repaired and resumed its normal duties.
We returned back to the locomotive shed to see other locos being steamed for late afternoon peak period duties.
I wandered south to look at the southernmost terminus of the tracks. Along the way, I came across derelict steam locomotive tenders.
I really like to scenery just to the south of the shed. It is like in an arboreal tunnel.
Moments later, a small diesel locomotive approaching.
The loco reminds me of similar loco which is preserved at Cepiring sugar mill.
A short time later, another locomotive backed into the shed. This time the steam loco number 10.
It is a scenic photo, indeed. And I was very happy that I can compensate the lack of field working photo that I may never be able to get in here.
The yard looks busy, and there are sugarcane wagons parked in its yard.
I wandered to the south, to see where the track would terminate.
There is a short stretch of double track line, just outside the mill entrance door.
The track ended only a few hundred meters from the gate.
Beyond this point there are no traces of railway line.
I initially thought that back in the old days there might be railway line beyond this point. Only after I learn the railway operation, then I realize that there has never been any railway line beyond this point.
I returned back to the mill. Along the way I came across the sight of Pangka weightbridge, where all of the loaded trains must pass through it. One of the line is seen inactive.
I believe back when their field lines was still in operation, both weightbridge lines were in operation simultaneously.
I went back to the shed, where all of the locos are steamed, ready for action.
While waiting for the locos to start working, I suggesting to everyone to explore the former field lines to the East of mill. Paul agreed to join, so both of us eventually went to the east.
The line used to branched off from this point.
And it crossed the main road to the east.
Just near the exit door, there is a mansion which belonged to head administrator of the mill. Quite an impressive mansion!
This is what remained of the level crossing.
The track seemed to be in a good condition, although it need repair.
I remember when we traced this line, there are some villagers who were excited upon seeing Caucasian person like Paul wandering around their village. Some kids following us, they keen to interact but too shy to do so. Some other villagers were happy to wave at him.
In some places, the track has been paved over, although the owner of the house seemed to have left parts of the rail exposed.
Further to the east, we can see a new bridge being built.
Apparently the new bridge will replace the old bridge, which is a combination of rail and road bridge.
The old bridge is so narrow that it can only be passed by one car or truck at once.
The rails on the top of the bridge seemed to be in good condition.
Right after crossing the bridge, the rail would go into the embankment.
We didn’t wander further, and decided to take several more photographs of the bridge before returning back to the mill.
The track that crossed the main road next to the mill compound have been partly tarred over.
We decided to have a look at the former field line to the north of mill. Along the way we caught the glimpse of this impressive Dutch-era mansion.
We passed through the administration office, which is now empty as most of the employee have returned back home.
But the transfer yard is getting busier now. Unfortunately, the point had to be repaired due to some damage.
The amount of the loaded wagons in the receiving yard is twice of what we saw earlier in the morning.
Paul seemed to pay attention to some of the wagons in the yard.
This is how the sugarcane made their way into the mill, after the truck passed the weightbridge, it will go under the crane, where its content will be lifted.
Then once the truck moved, the sugarcane will be placed on the sugarcane wagon. Note a Moes diesel locomotive is passing through.
The northern half of the yard is empty; apparently most of the sugarcane wagons have been used.
There are some empty wagons just near the crane, waiting their turn to be loaded.
We walked further to the north.
This is the beginning of the field line….or what is left of them.
The track on the right would continue further to the north.
While the other track to the left, used to go to the North West direction. But it is fully overgrown now, probably it is the first field line to be closed.
As we went further North, the track become increasingly overgrown. The rails are still in place, just to the left of the path.
I have to say that this place is truly scenic.
It’s quite difficult to see where the track is, as it is overgrown with the grass.
As we moved further, the track becomes visible again.
Paul explored further, but I decided to stay in a small hut on trackside, as I became tired.
I sat and relaxing at the hut, while enjoying the scenery.
Moments later, Paul returning back to the hut. He said that the track actually goes further north, but next to the a soccer field there are remains of ashes dumped on the trackside. It seemed that this portion of field lines was last used to haul ash train.
We walked back to the mill. As we get nearer, we caught a glimpse of a loco shunting the empty wagons.
But since it traveled further out, it gives impression as if it’s working on the filed lines.
Apparently, the number 3 is now ready to haul loaded wagons into the mill.
Just as we went further, we came across the scene where track maintenance gang tries to lift a derailed wagon.
We met Geoff and Hayden, which were still busy photographing other steam locos. Hayden is waiting for the number 2 to move.
It later joined number 3 to work on the main yard.
But as I was busy photographing the train, suddenly the low battery warning in my camera flashed! I can’t take any pictures anymore! So I decided to withdrew to the car have a brief nap, while others are taking pictures.
As the sun set, they eventually returned back to the car and ready for journey back to our hotel in Pemalang.
Along the way, I dropped by on a petrol station near Pangka to fill up my car. I was really shocked on how disorganized the petrol station is. All of its lines are occupied by motorcycles, despite the presence of dedicated motorcycle line. Most of the riders wore no helmet. And the worst of all, they seemed to unable to line up properly.
Once I completed the refueling process, we resumed our journey back to Pemalang. Just as we entered the main highway, we stopped by at one restaurant next to the highway. It is called “Pring Sewu” restaurant, which serve local delicacy.
The last time I visited this restaurant was back in 2006, when I went on a college outing. I did have a fond memory, where I sat alone with my, then, girlfriend. Time has passed so quickly, as she is now married to another guy.
While we went to the toilet, we did come across this hilarious sign.
It eventually becomes a popular joke throughout the remainder of the journey.
We ordered our meal. The beverages come first.
Then the meal.
The restaurant has plenty of gimmicks whose are unusual for the restaurant of their level. Probably it is part of their marketing campaign.
Once we finished our meal, we returned back to our hotel to have a rest.
TO BE CONTINUE…