Our first day’s failure at Sumberharjo wasn’t a total disappointment after all. We have another day to make up what was missing on the first day.
But apparently the second day at Sumberharjo doesn’t work like the day before. When we arrived at Sumberharjo, we weren’t greeted by the sight of steam locomotives in action. Even as we went to the double track yard near the mill, no train or locos were sighted. So we decided to head to the weighbridge.
As we walked along the track, local school kids happily greeted us.
No steam locos visible near the weighbridge.
But we see two diesel locomotives.
One of them head straight to the field. While the other one returned back to the mill.
Geoff and Paul explore the weighbridge while me and Hayden just stay across the road. A few minutes later a shrill of whistle can be heard from inside the mill compound. Both of them quickly ran to find the best vantage point to photograph the loco.
Apparently it is number 6 is working on a train of empty wagons.
It seemed that now they employ different set of drivers than yesterday.
We following the train until it stopped at the double track section, where the loco just left the empty wagons over there.
Soon, it returned back to the mill.
When we returned back to the mill, we found that the number 10 is back.
Although this time it is driven by different crew than yesterday.
And just like yesterday, it stayed for a prolonged period near the weighbridge before it started its duty.
We went inside the mill to find out if there are any actions inside. Apparently there is one in the “bush” section of the line, where we came across the diesel number 8 hauling empty wagons to the field.
We went further where we were greeted by the number 3 doing some shunting at the departure yard.
The row of derelict locos is really a sad sight.
One of the loco has sad message written on its tank.
The number 6 is idle in front of the shed.
The vicious shed master is nowhere to be seen, so I use the opportunity by taking picture of the Alco steam loco.
As I went out, Geoff told me that he want to explore the interior of the mill. The mill might be cleaner than Pangka, but it definitely need some cleanup work.
I wasn’t too interested with the mill crushing engines, so I decided to have a rest near the security post. The security guards, already familiar with me, greeted me in friendly manner. We chatted a lot, while I took a rest over there.
Some senior security guards (one of them seemed to a Eurasian as he has hazel eyes and brunette hair) told me about their tale as a former loco drivers themselves. They said that back when they were younger, train activities around the mill were busier than what it is now. Back then there were as much as 5 steam locomotives deployed for field working. That doesn’t include the number of diesel locomotives who also worked in the field.
Number 7 will always be a favorite loco due to its massive size (not very apparent to newcomer), and its ability to haul long train of loaded wagons over long distance. Sometime they had to be careful when they drove the locomotive across the big bridge to the west of the mill, as it would cause the bridge to rumble heavily when the number 7 passes.
But change came when the new management took the office in the past 4-5 years. In the name of “efficiency” the management decided to cut the funding for railway operation. As a result the number of trains in the field dwindled, and the drivers would sometime receive delayed payments. Only the absence of proper road access to the sugarcane field that prevent the closure of field lines. This drove them to change division from railway to security, so they can earn a much more reliable salary.
While we chatted, I often rubbed my eyes who got intruded by ashes of bagasse. Apparently the mill complex always get showered by bagasse dust from the main smokestack.
After we finished chatting I returned back to the double track section where number 3 shunting some empty wagons.
I followed the loco all the way to the weighbridge.
Not long afterward, the number 6 is seen hauling a train of empty wagons.
I later learned that not all empty wagons destined for field working. Some are actually used to bring canes that were transferred from the trucks into the mill.
Once it completed its duty, the number 6 reversed back to the mill compound, while it crossed next to the number 10 which is waiting for its duty.
Today’s crew are much more friendlier that yesterday’s crew. The leader even showed me around the loco, and some stories behind the number 10. He said that since the loco is often employed on night duties, he once bought a truck battery and placed it at one corner of the locomotive, so it can lit the headlamp. But one day, while he parked the locomotive at weighbridge, somebody stole the battery! This mentions why the steam loco never turn its light on in the evening.
When I mentioned about late arrival on the day before, he said that the problem with the previous crew was their slow pace of work, and lack of coordination with the farmers, which led to the late loading and arrival. He promised me that he will speed things up, so the train will arrive back before dark.
While waited, we did several things. I took the picture of firebox’s builder plate.
Geoff mingled with the local kids.
As it gets nearer to the loco’s departure time, we decided to go to the bridge near level crossing.
We waited until the loco passed through, where we were able to capture the image of the loco as it passed through the bridge. Unfortunately, due to improper camera setting, the image looks too bright.
But the second image looks better, although by this time the loco is already partly obscured.
I stayed on my place to photograph the loco as it traveled in the distance. Had the rice field was green, and the sky is blue, it would have been a perfect picture.
A few moments later we followed the locomotive, where it went to the same spot as yesterday.
The loading process went quicker than yesterday. By 5’o clock, 9 loaded wagons had already been attached, and the loco will depart once a train of 12 loaded wagons is completed (as what the driver promised).
So we decided to return back to the spot near the bridge.
We waited for the train at the bridge, like in the previous day. Paul choose a different spot near the field.
A few minutes later, Paul is running towards us. Does the train finally arrived?
Apparently there is one sugarcane wagon loaded with rice, which is manually pushed by farmers.
The local farmers truly benefited by the presence of field lines, as it allowed them to transport their produce without using the trucks. Sometime they would attach their wagon to the sugarcane train.
After the farmer’s wagon left, we returned back to our position.
Well just like yesterday, we waited quite long. And the sky already grew darker. But before it became completely dark, the train eventually turned up in fashion.
The driver didn’t lie when he said that he will turn up before dark. Before it become “completely dark” to be precisely, as there were much more ray of lights than yesterday, when we photographed the train coming.
We chased after the train with my car, where it stopped just before the junction near the weighbridge.
I asked the drivers, why did they stop? They said that the receiving yard is full, so it cannot receive more canes until 9pm. It was still 6.30pm when we took this photo!
Moments later there was a truck passing through which provide some lighting for the picture.
That really give me some idea! So I decided to turn my car to the locomotive direction, and flashed the locomotive with my car’s light.
Well it worked!
While I busy photographing the train, I saw a very bright light from the westerly direction. I initially thought it was just a truck light. But why the truck moved slowly? Only when the steam driver loco warned me then I realized that it is actually the light of oncoming train! Apparently one of the diesels was deployed for western field working. Since I parked my car on the tracks, I quickly moved my car to give way to the train.
But that train too also stopped just short of the junction, due to the clogging in the mill. So we decided to conclude today’s hunting and head back to the hotel.
How did I rate our visit to Sumberharjo? We were really satisfied that we can see the steam locomotives in action, some of them at the field lines. But honestly, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t see the steam locos working on the outlying field lines, including those to the west of the mill.
TO BE CONTINUE