On the previous afternoon, we did actually explored Olean’s tiny field lines network. Yet, we only came across one loaded train hauled by a German locomotive (back in 2013 I didn’t see this type of loco). Other than that, we didn’t see anything but a spectacular sunset. So we were still uncertain whether if regular field working of the steam loco exists after all.
We woke up in the following morning to very beautiful morning sunshine.
I have to say that the hotel where we stayed is actually a nice hotel, although it seemed that it receive very little update since early 1990s.
The breakfast menu is rather a modest one. We were given choice of either nasi goreng, nasi pecel, or soto. I choosed nasi goreng and tea.
I also looked on the outside. It was truly beautiful weather out there. And what’s more interesting is the fact that the airspace above Situbondo seemed to be very busy that morning.
I know that planes that travel from Australia to Singapore often overflew Situbondo.
Right after breakfast we returned back to our room to have a shower and preparing our stuffs for today’s tour. After we all ready, we head straight into Olean sugar mill, which is located to the north of Situbondo.
Upon arriving at Olean sugar mill, we were received by management and asked to sit and wait at one of the corner in the office.
While the other waits, I was invited to meet the mill’s manager. Upon arriving at his office, I greeted him and submitted the permit letter that was issued by PTPN XI head office in Surabaya. Although he is used to receive impromptu visitors, he was a bit surprised to learn that I came with letter from head office. He said that the head office never gave him copy of the letter to the mill’s management.
Overall, we were allowed to explore the mill. But the manager also informs us that some information provided in the letter is outdated. He said that now regular steam working into the field lines have ceased, which means that if we want to hop a ride steam loco into the field we must hire the loco. The price to hire the steam loco is actually quite cheap, but not that cheap if I had to include that into the tour package cost.
So I told him that I can pay the mill entrance fee straight away, but for the fees of chartering the steam I must discuss it with the participants. The mills manager added that he will steam the loco anyway, even if we don’t pay the charter price for the loco. Unless that if we wants to see it running into the field we must pay the remainder of the fee.
While we were still discussing, suddenly some managers from head office in Surabaya (whom I met earlier when I arranged the permit in Surabaya) turned up! I greeted them, and said that I am happy to see them again.
They were in Olean to see on how this sugar mill can be converted into a living museum. So they’re keen to know on what should they do to polish the old mill into a working museum. They’re also open for inputs from anyone (including from overseas visitors).
After chatting, they invited us to see the sugar mill compound. Compared to sugar mills in Central Java, those in East Java tend to be cleaner and tidier.
They invited us to visit the locomotive shed. Along the way we saw the yard which seemed to be empty. All sugarcanes are being harvested, and yet to be brought into the mill.
Upon arriving at the shed, we were greeted by the sight of number 4 being steamed. They said that it took 4 hours for the loco to build up the steam.
We entered the shed, and this is the first time that we (including myself) entered Olean’s locomotive shed.
Although Olean used to have wide variety of steam locos, which include Mallets and 0-10-0, it seemed that all of the remaining locos came from 0-8-0 variety, including this number 5, which identical to number 4 except for its chimney.
The number 2 looks a bit different. The cab reminds me to O&K’s Mallet, yet the underframe seemed to be designed for 0-8-0 wheel arrangement.
This “B22” is also looked different. The rounded windows remind me to DuCroo & Brauns locomotive cab, but I later learned that this loco is a Maffei-built no.4247.
The number 7 looks quite large. But since it is surrounded in the corner, I cannot judge its size when compared to other O&Ks.
The dusty locomotive shed does give us some eerie feeling, even in broad daylight.
The B22 cab is graffitied with some messages. It seemed that the writer is amused by the foreign visitors, especially the Britons.
I found that sometime the employees expressing their feeling by writing their opinion using chalk on the locomotive. Like what I saw at Sumberharjo sugar mill last year, where they expressed their anger and dissatisfaction over poor wage, which eventually translated into field lines closure on the following season (2015 season that is).
The B21 is probably the one in worst condition. It’s already been dissected, to the point where only the underframe is virtually intact. I later learned that this loco is identical to the B22.
That concludes our tour in the shed. It’s just pity that the neither the Mallet nor the 0-10-0 are to be seen. Both types had probably been scrapped a long time ago.
We also visited the crushing plant, where they’re still employing steam piston powered crushing engine.
Judging by the letters, the engines seemed to be built in 1926.
I was told that this steam engine is using a low pressure technology, which means that they relying on wood as fuel, as they’re too weak to accommodate coal fuel.
We took a rest at Besaran, or old Manager’s mansion.
This big mansion is where the mill managers of the past used to reside with his family.
Some say that the paintings on the upper wall look mysterious: if you kept staring on their eyes, you will feel as if the paintings are staring back at you!
The design of the interior seemed to allow wind to pass through the building easily, making the interior felt cool even without the presence of air conditioning unit.
The bedroom is so big that it can virtually accommodate no less than two king size bed!
I have to say that Besaran mansion is truly a grandeur building in its own right. With the plan to renovate this mansion, I hope that it would be a great building again in the future.
While we were relaxing in the mansion, I discussed about the hiring of steam locomotive. This suggestion was initially met with resistance by Robert, but Stephen supported the idea. After I offered to offset the majority of the cost, then everyone agreed to hire the steam loco.
Since I didn’t bring the amount of money needed to offset the price, we decided to head to the town to withdraw money from ATM and also having a lunch (as we already felt hungry too). While we are on our way to the car, we heard steam whistle in the distance, little did we know that it was actually from the loco number 4!
Only after we head to the town to withdraw money and taking a lunch then I receive the phone call from mill manager which mentioning that the loco is now ready! He asked us to go immediately; otherwise the steam loco will waste too much fuel. It was less than 3 hour since we first arrived at the mill, and apparently the time it took to steam up the locomotive is shorter than we initially thought!
So we had to rush our lunch a bit, before heading back to Olean mill. Upon returning back to the mill, I head to the manager’s office to hand in the payment for the steam loco hire, as well as apologizing for our lateness in turning up.
From the office we head straight into the shed….
….where the number 4 is already waiting for us.
The shed master asked us about the invoice, which I showed it to him. After he gave clearance, he allowed us to proceed. I asked Robert, where he wants the loco to go to. He joked “Sideways!”
Instead of going “sideways” we head out into the field lines, tender first.
Apparently our loco head into the Tribungan loading point, which is located to the north of the mill (to the left in this photo).
We stop by to buy some drinks and cigarettes (for the driver) on the nearby shop.
After the purchase completed we resumed our journey.
Along the way, we stopped by on a scenic paddy field at Karangmalang village to take some photos.
The sky was perfectly clear blue, and even better, the rice and the landscape are predominantly green, allowing us to take many amazing pictures.
A few minutes later we arrived at Tribungan.
The loading point is somehow surrounded by rice field instead of sugarcane.
Apparently, aside of hauling loaded wagons; they also have to bring this wagon loaded with temporary track.
Since the protruding tracks could risk some damage to the locomotive, they must attach an empty wagon (visible to the right, just across the road) to act as a buffer behind the loco.
While waiting for the loading process to complete, I also went further to take a better angle of the locomotive.
It seemed that these days the sugarcane wagons are half loaded. I’m not sure the reason behind such awkward loading. (Note one of the driver had to duck to manually attach the coupler).
After the loading process completed, the locomotive backed to be coupled with the train.
Once we departed Tribungan is where the fun begins!
Stephen, whom himself is a train driver back in Australia, tries his hand driving this centenarian lady!
Stephen had longing to see real steam locomotive in Java, after seeing one inactive one in Bali. So this moment is a very special one, as he doesn’t just see a working steam. He even drive the loco too!
We stopped by at Karangmalang village to do some photo running. This time Derri does the driving. For him it’s a lifetime dream finally came true, in a very big way.
We resumed our journey back where we stopped by at the junction to photograph the train as it exited the curve and rejoin the mainline from west.
In my opinion, it is ridiculous that such as small mill estate is also served by decrepit trucks driven by madmen.
Our train keeps chugging along as we kept taking pictures.
Soon later our train returned back to the mill, carrying its rather modest load back to the mill.
Behind it, a diesel hauled train is already waiting to have its load weighed. If you look carefully, the loads carried by the diesel are obviously much bigger.
After detached from its train, our loco returning back into the loco shed.
Although the loco’s wood stock is actually more than enough to fuel our session this afternoon, it wasn’t long enough for another field run.
Prior to the commencement of the trip, I was actually requesting trip to Patek which is a much longer run than the Tribungan. But for some reason they swap it with the shorter run to Tribungan.
It’s late in the afternoon that it seemed that all of the sugarcanes have been harvested. The small diesel also returning into the shed.
For me, this is quite a déjà vu: the locos allocated for the field working are almost identical with what I saw back in 2013: the steam number 4 and diesel number 2.
Unless that for this season there is another German built diesel loco substituting the derelict Japanese built diesel in the shed.
We conclude today session, and decided to head for a dinner. Since there are very few choice available in Situbondo, we visited “Ayam Goreng Pemuda” restaurant, which sell fried or grilled chicken on their menu. I ordered grilled chicken in chili rojak sauce, and ice green bean for drink. The bean felt rather stale.
Despite some shortage that we encountered today, we regard the steam loco trip as the best moment of our journey. Everyone is happy, because their lifelong dreams have eventually materialized. Robert’s wish to see the live steam loco in Java is eventually fulfilled. Stephen’s dream of seeing live steam loco in Indonesia was more than just fulfilled, he even drove it! So does Derri who longing to drive a loco, where he didn’t just get a chance to drive an ordinary loco, he drives a steam one!
TO BE CONTINUED.