2015 Java Steam & Sugar Tour Part 5 (20 September 2015)

We woke up to a very rousing Sunday morning!

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Apparently the main street in front of our hotel is closed for Car Free Day program!

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So, instead of traffic, the main street is packed with pedestrians who wants to enjoy their Sunday morning with family and friend.

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Some people are also spending their Sunday morning by paddling their bicycle, like this group of people who drove their bicycle in front of the lavish Aston Solo Hotel.

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After enjoying the Car Free Day, me and my brother returning back to our room to have shower and dressing up for today’s tour.

Robert have fully recovered and ready to enjoy today’s tour. We gather in the hotel’s restaurant to have breakfast. Although the breakfast menus seemed to lack with variety, but their sausage and Lyonnais Potato taste really nice.

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Robert wants to know the Batara Kresna train schedule. I initially thought that he wants to ride the train. But it turned out that he just wants to see the train while plying the street running section in Solo. I told him that there is an inbound train from Wonogiri that will arrive at 10 am.

So after we finished our breakfast we walked out into the street running section of Jalan Slamet Riyadi which is only a few meters away from our hotel.

Upon finding the good spot, we prepare ourselves to photograph the train. We waited for long. Sometime we saw headlights in the distance, but it turned out to be false alarm as it was just buses.

But about 10 minutes before 10’o clock we saw a bright and tall headlight in the distance. Apparently it is the Batara Kresna train!

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We took a lot of photos of this rare working.

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Up until 1970s, street running working can be found at many places in Java.

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But since of the closure of many branch lines, street running work are reduced to just 3, Madiun and Malang petrol branch, and this one.

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The hotel in the background is actually a nice hotel. Just right in front of the street running section! I initially want to stay in that hotel. But thanks to the uncooperative and uncommunicative marketing staffs, we decided to stay in the current one.

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The train gradually recede into the distance before turning into Purwosari station.

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After we finished the trainspotting, we returned back to our hotel where we pack our bag and check out from the hotel Except for Robert who will stay for another night before taking the train back to Surabaya on following day.

The reason why I choose Sunday to visit Tasikmadu is because the theme park will normally be in full swing. And that translate as cheaper steam locomotive ride.

Due to the traffic jam on the intersection near Palur station, we decided to travel through the back road to the north of the main highway to Tasikmadu, just to the south of Air Mancur herbal drink factory.

We encounter very little traffic. In fact the road is a scenic one. Along the way, I also see some lean street curves on the street side, a sure sign that it used to be a railway line. In fact we did see a former railway bridge just ahead. We were wondering if the road that we’re traveling with was once a railway track, and converted into a road upon the closure of field lines?

After a few kilometers driving we eventually arrived at Tasikmadu’s grandeur sugar mill.

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Yes, the theme park is in full swing, and the train is busy too.

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Before we entered the mill, we catch the glimpse of this antique coach. This inspection coach was once used by the Solonese royal family to inspect the sugar mill’s vast estate.

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Some said that this coach is haunted, which mentioning why that there is a sacred offering, just underneath the coupling.

Upon entering the theme park, we also see this 3ft 6in locomotive displayed just next to the theme park entrance gate.

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This loco was once used to haul packed sugars and sugar molasses tanks from the mill compound into the Kemiri railway station, several kilometers to the North West of Tasikmadu. But with the cessation of such working in late 1980s, this locomotive was withdrawn from service.

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Now the northern part of Tasikmadu sugar mill have been fully converted into theme park that attract large number of visitors, thanks to its close vicinity to the city of Solo.

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The theme park which is aptly named “Agrowisata Sondokoro” utilizing many locomotives and wagons which no longer deployed for field working.

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Rob Dickinson who called this mill “Schizophrenic” as all of the fanfare happening inside belies the fact that this mill is the shadow of its former self.

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This locomotive is one of a very few diesel locomotives built by Orenstein & Koppel.

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Being a small narrow gauge loco, it is also restricted to just 20 km/hour maximum speed limit.

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While we busy rummaging the area around there, we suddenly hear steam whistle and chugging. Apparently it is Tasikmadu 1 working on an excursion train.

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This old steam loco is still as fit as when it was still working on the field lines.

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Near where the Tasikmadu 1 is parked, we also see this old tank engine.

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This loco is one of 2 cape gauge (3ft 6in) steam loco still intact at Tasikmadu sugar mill.

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Nicknamed “Doon” this loco was used to haul Solonese royal family train from Solo Jebres station to Tasikmadu sugar mill. Rumor has it that this loco is also haunted.

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Of course it will be a total waste if we don’t ride the steam excursion loco. And since its ticket is extremely cheap, we gleefully purchased its tickets and hop onboard.

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While waiting for the steam train to depart, we meet the manager in charge of tourism and excursion train of Tasikmadu. He is happy that I bring along some foreign tourists. He also explaining that in the future parts of the lines around the compound will be reactivated for tourism, even including parts of the field lines near the mill.

But the downside is the fact that regular locomotive working (obviously the steam) have ceased, owing to its expensive operational cost.

After finished chatting with him, we returned back to our train which soon departed.

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Since the mill’s management seemed to hesitant to utilize the former field lines for excursion trains, they decided to build a new track that traveling around the mill compound. Like this one which travel through employee housing complex.

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We also see this old steam roller which is parked nearby.

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Soon our train is on the outside of the mill, while another train is seen approaching the mill entrance.

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The track where our train is traveling may not be original, put the track partly buried near the road is probably the remains of the old field lines.

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I have to say that even in the mill itself there is a huge railway network that accessing storage area and warehouses.

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Unfortunately the ride is not entirely pleasurable. Sometime we passed through the disgusting looking area with an overwhelmingly putrid smell.

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Our train also passing through the huge receiving yard (the largest that we see throughout our journey) and it looks very busy.

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Even the sugarcane receiving station building is so huge that it probably almost as big as Olean sugar mill building.

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Not long afterward, we eventually arrive back to the theme park.

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From there, we decided to visit the locomotive shed. Along the way, we came across this incomplete locomotive with unclear identity.

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Had the field lines still in operation, the track on the left could actually go all the way to the field lines to the North of the mill.

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We eventually arriving at Tasikmadu’s art-deco locomotive shed. Just at the back of the shed there are two tourist wagons that lay derelict. Both of them seemed to have same design as the one displayed in front. I wonder if they once formed a single train?

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One of them has 6 axles. One of my friend later commented that it might be a former tender of Tasikmadu VI converted into coach.

We went to the shed, hoping to see some steam locomotives in action, including the famed Tasikmadu VI. Upon arriving at the shed, we eventually find the aforementioned loco……cold!

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It was truly disappointing to see such magnificent beast sits cold! In fact this is the first time I see this loco dead. On my previous visits, this loco would always work shunting the wagons in the yard.

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Not just that, the other loco which would normally accompany her is also sits cold.

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A stark contrast to what I saw in 2014 when at least two steam locos would be deployed for working, not just for tourist excursions. Even in 2012, there were some diesels employed for shunting works too.

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Now all workings are done by tractors which provide the motive power for the wagons.

We entered a small shed nearby and greeted by the sight of this wrecked loco.

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There is also a small Schoema loco in a much better shape, but seemed to haven’t been used for decades.

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I’m still curious about the identity of this wrecked loco. Is this the Tasikmadu II which was wrecked in 1990 fatal accident that led to the closure of eastern field lines?

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We later entered to the main locomotive shed building.

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This Tasikmadu XIV has inside frame wheel configuration. It probably also have flexible axle (like Luttermoller) to negotiate tight corners in the field lines.

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This sloped tank locomotive is possible the most artistic loco in Tasikmadu.

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Aside of the steam, there are also some diesels in variety of conditions.

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This 1951-built Ruston diesel is quite a historic one as it is actually the very first diesel to arrive in Indonesia after Indonesian Indepence, not like what most Indonesian railway enthusiasts believe where most didn’t know that there are some diesel locos that arrive in Indonesia prior to the arrival of GE CC200 shovel nose in 1953.

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This mounted diesel is probably the last Tasikmadu’s diesel to see regular non-tourist service. It was last seen working in 2002.

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This ever present Schoema loco is similar with what I see in most mills in Java. Some of its distant sisters can still be seen working in other mills in East Java.

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In my opinion, Tasikmadu has the most exotic and beautiful steam collection on their disposal. It’s just pity that none still working in their natural habitat.

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Aside of locomotives, I also see some brand new inspection coaches parked inside the shed.

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They really have a comfy seating, so much that it would be a waste if they’re only used to run around the mill compound.

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It’s ironic that while Tasikmadu have no field lines left, they have some of the most comfortable narrow gauge passenger coaches. While the mills in East Java who still operate their vast field lines have none like this.

Up on the wall near shedmaster office, we also see the locomotive table board which detailing all of Tasikmadu’s locomotive fleet, except for those who arrive beyond 1970s.

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While exploring the shed, me and my brother chatting with the shed supervisor who is doing some paper work in the office. We talked about many things in here. From him, we learned about several things.

The reason Tasikmadu closed down its field lines is due to the fact many farmer on the surrounding area no longer planting sugarcane and opted to plant something else (namely rice). Even worse, some areas have been converted into a built up area, such as housing or factories. He also told us that back during Suharto presidency in 1990s, there was a plan to relocate this mill to somewhere outside Java (such as Kalimantan or Sumatra), and repurposing the land for industrial use. But these plans never materialize and Tasikmadu remain as it is until now.

He added that Tasikmadu’s downfall is not entirely related to 1998 economic crisis. Indeed its decline have begun since early 1990s, long before that crisis happened.

We later bade farewell to him and returning back to the theme park.

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Before we resuming our journey, we would like to photograph some of the steam locos in action, as well as making videos of it. In fact it was very tiring for me as I had to do some running to chase after the train!

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After we completed our visit to Tasikmadu, we returning back to our car. But somehow, along the way, I can’t resist the temptation of photographing this cute looking diesel.

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From Tasikmadu, we went to a restaurant in Solo which sell “Selat Solo”.

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Unbeknown to us, despite of its huge popularity, this restaurant is actually located in the middle of alleyway which is very tight for a car to pass through! But we finally made it anyway.

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Selat Solo is a fusion food. It encompasses element of Western and Indonesian culinary. The food is essentially stewed beef (or beef pate like what I ordered) served with carrot, beans, potatoes, and boiled egg, washed with sweet and spicy sauce (I have to admit that the taste is more too sweet than savory).

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After we finished out lunch, we return back to the hotel to drop Robert and bade farewell to him. From there, we head east to Madiun.

It’s just a short journey, and it’s a bit like déjà vu where just like our previous westbound journey to Salatiga, we also had sunset moment on this journey, unless that it goes dark while we were on our way to south from Ngawi to Madiun.

But this is the real deal; since it is already dark it makes our visit to Purwodadi memorable.

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In fact you can make dramatic night shot in here too especially when the sparks coming out from the locomotive’s funnel.

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I didn’t take much photos at Purwodadi, while Stephen did take much more than I do despite the fact that his camera is a rather modest phone camera which lacking with slow speed capability of DSLR.

From Purwodadi sugar mill we had leisurely trip to Madiun. It wasn’t very difficult to find our hotel. It is the tallest building in Madiun, and the name billboard light on the top of it seemed to illuminate the surrounding area.

The first impression upon arriving at its lobby was “WOW!” It definitely is a hotel with the class of its own! In fact it reminds me to the 4-star hotels that you normally see in Jakarta. Unless that it is located in a small and serene town of Madiun.

Our room is definitely an excellent one.

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But the funny part has to be the shower which have transparent window. Fortunately it has blinds too.

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The chair is good enough for relaxing while enjoying the scenery on the outside.

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After settling our belongings and taking shower, we go out for dinner.

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The bar and lounge area looks very exquisite.

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The lobby area is just splendor. In fact it reminds me with those in Indonesia Design magazine.

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We go out to look for dinner. But since it was rather late, most of the restaurants have already closed. We initially wants to eat satay, but unfortunately it was closing down. So we decided to eat Nasi Pecel on the nearby restaurant.

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TO BE CONTINUED.

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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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2 Responses to 2015 Java Steam & Sugar Tour Part 5 (20 September 2015)

  1. Felix Brun says:

    Hi Bagus

    I read your reports with interest. I was in Java with Bernd Seiler in 2007. It breaks my heart to see what became of Tasik Madu! When I was there a lot of Steamers were still working. I liked best the unit with the sloped tank. I think its the former Colomadu 7 a Henschel Loco.

    • bagus70 says:

      Hi Felix, thanks for dropping by. Yes, it’s really sad to see such decline. Back in 2012 and 2014, there were real steam workings. But now, only chartered.
      You would have been even more saddened if you had been to Tasikmadu in 1980s as its field lines were still around.

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