2014 JAVA STEAM AND SUGAR TOUR. DAY 5 (24th August 2014)

Something that I forgot to mention on my previous travelog entry, had I not seeing the picture of below, is the fact that there was a Dangdut party when we arrived back from Pangka.

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The parking lost was so packed that I had to park my car in an awkward manner. They even have one pretty looking hostess who was on standby to greet visitors who want to join Dangdut party on the top floow. But since we were tired, we just skipped the opportunity.

During breakfast, both Geoff and Paul mentioned that since the closure of Sragi’s field lines at the conclusion of 2003 harvesting season, the railway operation at Sragi sugar mill is different than the one we saw in Pangka. Now the role of locomotives is to haul the empty wagons into the receiving yard, then pushing the loaded wagons into the mill. If we’re looking for steam locomotives hauling loaded sugarcane wagons, Sragi is not a right place to be.

Long before the commencement of this journey, I was already felt devastated when I learned that Sragi no longer have its scenic rural field lines in operation. Added to this, the boring kind of railway operation would probably add my misery. However, I later learned that despite all of these adversities my visit to Sragi turned out to be one of the most memorable one! For further details, keep reading this travelogue!

After we had shower and breakfast, we head to Pekalongan to visit the Sragi sugar mill. The initial part of the trip went smoothly. But as we approached Comal, we did encounter some line up at the infamous Comal bridge. But like what Geoff predicted yesterday, it turned out that it’s not as bad as when we went from Plabuan to Pemalang.

When we approached Comal bridge, we did see the remains of Sragi field lines right of way. The rails had long been removed, but the embankment is still largely intact. It is a shallow bump near a petrol station to the west of Comal.

After deviating to the south of highway, we eventually arrived at Sragi sugar mill. I parked my car under the tree near the yard entrance.

Aside of some empty wagons, the yard looks empty. aAd there doesn’t seem to be any activity at around this time.

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We walked down to the southern part of the yard, where after a long walk, we came across this locomotive!

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Wow! This is quite a catch! I’ve been looking for this Hartmann-built locomotive.

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And not just that, even its sister can be seen brewing nearby!

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This is feel like threesome or something like that. Hahaha. I am glad that I finally able to see this former Dutch East Indies state railway loco.

Just a bit of history of these Hartmann-built locos, the locos were originally used on Balung-Ambulu narrow gauge line in East Java. But when the track was widened, the locos saw very little use. Some of them (including those in Sragi) were eventually relocated for dam construction work in Tegal, Central Java. Once the construction work completed, the locos were purchased by Sragi sugar mill where they (amazingly) still work until now!

Moments later, a column of smoke approaching from the mill. Apparently number 20 is hauling a train of empty wagons to the yard.

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But stopped short from where I stood as the track ahead is occupied by some locomotives.

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Once the track cleared, it moved forward for a couple of meters before it stopped again.

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I moved across the track to photograph the no.17. While it wait for something.

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No 17 is moving further to the remains of Sragi’s field lines. There are some empty wagons parked in the distance.

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Number 20 eventually moved a bit further, although some of the wagons are detached, where it will be taken by number 17.

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Once the number 20 parked the empty wagons into the receiving yard, number 17 began to handle the final half of the train.

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I went to the spot where number 20 parked next to number 16.

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I went to the other side, where apparently number 16 still retain the original “SS” plate!

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The “SS” in here is not Nazi-related, but it means “Staatspoorwegen”, or state railway as it is originally belonged to Dutch East Indies state railway.

I also found one unique locomotive: the BMAG/Berliner-built number 5.

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This locomotive is essentially identical to logging railway locomotives in Cepu, although it runs at much narrower gauge.

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It also has similar 0-10-0 wheel arrangement.

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Just as I finished photographing the number 5, Geoff and Paul poked me. He said that the security officers asked me (as their tour leader) to come the office. One of the security officers was surprised to learn that I am an Indonesian. He initially thought that all of the group members are “bule” as all of us has fair skin. He introduced himself, and told me that I must arranged permit in the office. When I asked about the permit fee, he said “150.000 rupiahs”, so I collected the money from everyone before following him with my car.

Once we arrived at the modest looking administration office, he offered me to sit on the couch in the lobby and waited until he can find anyone who can help arranging the permit. It was Sunday, and every administration personnel are having their day off, so it take time before an office boy turned up accompanied by the security officer.

The office boy represented the employee who normally handle visiting tourists. He then called his superior who is normally handled the visiting tourists. He then asked me to talk to him by phone. We talked about the permits, and he said that the fee for each foreign tourist will be “250.000”. What? That means I’m not carrying enough money. How am I going to compensate this?

Then I came up with one idea: I told them that one of the “bule” is actually my uncle-in-law. I told them that he actually came on family vacation with his friends. If I came and asked for additional money, I told them that he would be upset and “complained to my parents”. Feeling a bit compassionate, the management eventually relented and accepts the 450.000 rupiahs that I carried.

Once the matter settled, the security escorted me back to Geoff, Hayden, and Paul. And he also directed me to park in a much safer and shadier place.

Before he left, he apologized to me (with a worried facial expression) for providing wrong information. In return, I also apologized to him for paying fewer than required money (which could probably endanger his career too). As a consolation, I gave him two packs of cigarette which he happily accepted.

When I walked to see everyone, I came across the number 20 is seen erupting.

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Paul can be seen socializing with the locals while resting with them in a small hut in the yard, which made them very happy.

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When I returned back to Geoff, Paul, and Hayden, I mentioned my “uncle in law” story, which made them laugh really hard. Apparently the “uncle in law” trick really worked, and allowed us to save some money.

Meanwhile, the number 16 is moving along to the yard.

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Some worker told me that the yard was slightly smaller when Sragi’s field lines were still in operation.

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But when they closed down their field lines in 2003, they need more rails in the yard to accommodate more parked wagons. So they decided to place the rails on the former football pitch in the railway yard.

I went to the car, to pick up my drinks. Upon walking to the mill’s gate, I came across the number 12 which is reversing to the yard.

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A few minutes later, the number 19 passing through while it hauls a train of empty wagons.

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Unfortunately, the first wagon derailed soon after I took the photo.

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While they rerailed the wagon, I hop onboard the locomotive. The young driver was happy to see me onboard.

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He is a local villager who stay near the mill. He has just graduated from high school, and currently working as a train driver at the mill to earn money before going to the college.

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We had a bumpy ride onboard the loco. It is quite hot in the cab, but it’s still a nice journey.

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From the cab, we can see all the activities in the yard.

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The loco hauling a long train of empty sugarcane wagons.

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I believe, had the field lines is still in operation, we would have had a nice journey.

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After the loco dropped the wagons and reverse, I bade farewell to the driver and set off from the loco.

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As I walked to the mill gate, the number 12 is seen stationary near where I parked my car.

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I met the rest of the group, where we went to have a lunch in the food stalls near the mill entrance.

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While we had a meal, we also enjoying the sight of the locomotives traveling between the mill and the yard, and vica versa.

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Just near the mill entrance, there is a group of trucks loaded with sugarcanes ready to unload their produces.

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This is how the sugarcane is now carried from the field into the mill. Very impractical, very manpower extensive, it increase the traffic jam, and the sole reason why the Sragil mill management choose this method is solely due to the cheap subsidized diesel fuel price.

While we sat and relaxed at the food stall, we came across Peter, a Hungarian railfans who actually joined Farrail tour, but somehow he got lost and ended up at Sragi. We chatted with him, and despite of his improper English language knowledge, we got to know that Bernd and his Farrail group is approaching. But he didn’t mention the timing.

After we paid the bill, we returned back to the car to retrieve something, when we suddenly came across some Farrail tour participants!, We did saw him when we visited Ambarawa. Wow, I was really happy that we met again.

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I didn’t remember what they did at the back of my car.

Since Farrail participants in here, I am happy to learn that Vina is back! So I asked Hayden, whether if she have “love bites” marks or not. Bit a flashback, several days after our Ambarawa trip, we Hayden kept asking me in joking manner whether of she have “love bites” mark, to prove her chastity.

It wasn’t long before I eventually found Vina (and her fiancée of course). I greeted them in the yard, and they’re happy to see me again. They’re documenting track maintenance work, complete with no.17 moving in the background.

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The number 17 went to push some wagons, while my car can be seen in the background.

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This part of the yard looks very leafy, thanks to the large array of pine trees.

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I went to the mill entrance, where I catch the no.16 pushing the loaded wagons into the mill.

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This loco still have “SS” plate on its side. Note Vina in the background.

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So far, none of the German visitors are dismayed by “SS” letter on the locomotive side.

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Some participants are seen interacting with the locals.

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I went inside the mill compound, where I visited the locomotive shed.

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Most of the locos (including all of the Hartmanns) are returning to the shed for refueling.

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Inside the shed, we can see some dumped locos. Including this Hanomag built loco, which seemed to be the largest loco that Sragi have. Right behind it is the Decauville-built number 15.

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Not all workable locos are operated today. The Orenstein & Koppel built number 8, and Berliner-built number 7 is seen idle in the shed.

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BMAG/Berliner number 6 is probably the only Berliner loco not in a working condition. It’s still painted in the old livery. And it was probably withdrawn when Sragi still had their field lines, as it sporting warning sign in the cab that discourage people from hitching a ride on the loco.

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Ironically, although Sragi’s diesels are much newer than the steams, none of them remain in operation.

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I also browse around the mill where I see Sragi’s steam locomotives, which are not in use today.

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Apparently the German railfans who tried his hand on B51 locomotive in Ambarawa also made similar attempt in Sragi, although this time it bear no fruit.

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I made a brief return to the shed where I took the picture of BMAG no.6. If you look closely on its tank, you can see where the builder plate was once located.

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In fact very few of the builder or identification plates remain at Sragi’s locomotives. Most of them have been taken as a souvenir by visiting foreign railfans.

The Hartmanns have been replenished, and ready for another duties.

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As the Hartmann locos moved away, I could see the derelict locos in the shed. The number 9 looks very beefy. It’s just pity that this loco is no longer in operation.

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The number 15 also sporting the same warning as in the number 6.

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I assume that the loco was withdrawn long time ago, when Sragi still have their field lines.

I went back to the mill entrance, where the Berliner number 5 pushing loaded wagons.

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Number 12 backed into the yard, where I followed the loco until it stopped near the spot where I parked my car.

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The BMAGs are really nice looking locomotive.

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Its 0-10-0 wheel arrangement is well suited for heavy haulage on lightly laid sugarcane railway network.

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It was built by the same manufacturer who built the BMAG at Cepu logging railway network, unless this one ran on much narrower gauge.

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It’s just pity that since the closure and lifting of Sragi’s field lines, this great loco is now condemned to work as a shunter in the mill compound.

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While I marveled at the number 5, the number 12 is seen passing through, pushing the loaded wagons.

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Now I’m happy to see this beautiful locos by myself. And I’m glad that it’s still in full working condition.

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Even happier is the fact that I also see the Hartmann loco still sporting the “SS” plate.

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I hang around with Vina (and her fiancée) where we joked about the “SS” letters. Being Germans, Nazi-related topic is actually taboo in their home country, but we made joke about it nevertheless.

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These two locos are definitely the highlight of our journey to Sragi.

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It’s good to know that Sragi no.16 still showing its original owner identity.

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Well, it turned out that Bernd is inspecting the loco.

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Anyway, I truly marveled these German beauties.

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Including the one in humanoid form, hehehehe.

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Not long afterward, there is a sugarcane train approaching.

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Frank is busy recording the train as it passed through.

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The following train really giving us a surprise.

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Apparently Bernd is having a cabride while documenting the whole action.

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That truly looks outrageous, but nice. As Bernd returned to the cabin, the driver poked out to see where the train is heading into.

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Apparently, Bernd still can’t get enough of the previous one.

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Moments later the number 16 joined her sister number 12 in the mill entrance area.

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Apparently there was a clogging at the mill. Due to the sugarcane crushing engine shutdown, all canes cannot be processed and the loading process had to be put on hold.

While waiting for the sugarcane traffic jam to be cleared, I paid attention to this curious looking disused track alignment.

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Apparently this was the start of the field line to Comal direction.

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I traced the alignment, but apparently only a few of the tracks left.

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Beyond the village gate, there doesn’t seem to be any trace of the field lines left.

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Indeed, newcomer will never believe that the space to the left of the asphalt road was once the right of way of Sragi’s field lines.

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I met Paul who also looked at the former lines. He told me that during his visit to Sragi in early 1980s, he did saw the field lines operation. He even hop onboard one of the locomotive and had a long journey on Sragi’s field train.

As the sun went down, the yard activity increases.

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But, the sugarcane traffic jam has yet to be resolved. Number 16 is seen idle.

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I look around, and apparently the Farrail tour participants have left the mill, heading to Semarang before returning back to their home countries.

Just behind the number 16, its sister is seen brewing.

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The low light allowed us to see its glowing firebox.

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The receding sunlight didn’t reduce our excitement. Instead it allowed us to make some great night shots.

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As the night grow darker, the picture become more dramatic.

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It was already dark, and due to the clogging no further actions were observed. So we decided to call it a day and returned back to our hotel in Pemalang.

TO BE CONTINUE

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About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
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