2017 Java Steam & Sugar Tour: The Humble Return Part 2

9th September 2017 is our second day of the tour. Thanks to the tipoff by the lever crossing operator on yesterday, we decided that we will check out from the hotel at 8am to check out the outbound field train. Everyone badly wants to photograph them as they pass the Sampeyan river bridge, to compensate yesterday’s loss.

I and my brother woke up early in the morning and head to the restaurant to have breakfast. I’ve stayed in Rosali hotel for several times, and I knew that their breakfast is one of their weak points. They have poor quality, and even quantity!

But when I found out in the restaurant, I was surprised to see that they have made some improvement by turning the breakfast into buffet style. So you can take as many as you like. The taste also seems to have improved too!

In the past, the breakfast was served in a la carte fashion, and the portion was very small. So this is quite an improvement.

While we were having breakfast, Geoff and Joop came over to have breakfast too. I can’t recall what we discussed during breakfast. We were just keen to revisit in Wringinanom’s field lines, as well as visiting the mill.

This day will be a long one as the itinerary will be very full, first we explore the field lines, and then we head to Wringinanom sugar mill, before moving to Jember.

Upon finishing the breakfast we quickly head back to our room to have shower and packed up our belongings before checking out from the hotel.

Once we settle all of the outstanding bills with the receptionist, we speed up to the same level crossing as yesterday.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by different flagmen than yesterday. Thankfully they’re also as hospitable as the previous crew. When wee asked about the outbound train, they politely replied that the trains haven’t arrived yet. Although empty trains normally pass at around 08.15 or 08.30, in reality they might came much later than that.

We thanked the flagmenr, and head to the bridge once again. My brother choose to stay in the level crossing.

We searched for the best spot around the bridge to take the photo of passing train. Eventually Geoff and I decided to settle at one spot where we can take the photo of the passing train, with the backdrop of mount Ringgit.

Despite of its scenic look, the spot is actually an unpleasant one. It is located right next to an illegal rubbish tip. Besides that, the noise of passing vehicles would interfere with my video recording, and threatened its quality.

Joop found this place rather unpleasant one, so he decided to look for another better spot. First he crosses the bridge.

Then he went into the trees on the left to see if there are any good spot.

Eventually he found one at the bottom. He stood and waits in that open spot before the train arrives.

Our wait turned out to be longer than what we anticipated. It really testing our patience, as we had to endure unpleasant moments while waiting. Although my spot is under the shade, it is next to the rubbish tip, and main road so it was smelly and noisy. Joop even had to endure even worse scenario where he had to wait under the sun.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait that long and right around 10 o’clock the level crossing gate was closed, as a train is about to pass.

Our patience is finally rewarded with this sight. It’s just superb.

I believe the view would have been much more spectacular had the steam locos still plying this route.

Once the train left, we return back to the car park. Joop also return back to the gate short time later, and he was seen exhausted but happy. Once everyone back, we decided to resume chasing after the train to Kendit.

However, as we’re about to go, suddenly we caught a glimpse of oncoming train. We quickly got out of the car again, and took the picture of this train as well.

Once the train passes, we return back to the car and head to Kendit. The drive from level crossing to Kendit may be a short one. But it is very scenic.

In fact the presence of mount Ringgit gave wonderful scenery of this place.

However, upon arriving at Kendit, we found no train it all. Not even empty wagons were sighted. The train may haven’t arrive yet.

While they wait for the train, I decided to walk to a level crossing and curve to the north of Kendit.  Despite of the heat, I could still enjoy the beautiful countryside scenery in here.

This scenery reminds me with my childhood days, where narrow gauge sugarcane railway still plying the roadside of most of Javanese countryside.

I imagine, this place must be really wonderful place to photograph a train that head to the mill.

As I walked further, the scenery becomes even more fantastic.

Just near to that place, the road turns to the north, while the railway track kept heading to the east.

The scenery must have been very surreal had the steam locos were still in operation.

Just a few hundred meters from the previous spot, there is a railway junction. The track on the left is the one that goes to Kendit, while the other one has unfortunately been dismantled. I believe it was removed long time ago.

I was about to resume walking when I caught a glimpse of oncoming train in the distance.

I decided to return back to the level crossing and curve to photograph this train. When the train about to pass the level crossing, there was a hilarious moment when the driver jumped off the loco and ran ahead and act as flagman, and then jumped back again. Such scene reminds me to the “Gods Must Be Crazy” movie.

Since the train traveling slowly, it was quite easy to chase after this train.

The even gave me free ride onboard one of the empty wagon.

While I was riding, I my brother phoned me. He said that both Geoff and Joop want to quit waiting and head to the mill. But when I informed that the train is coming, they jumped out of the car and resumed the trainspotting!

The train finally arrives at Kendit, and my brother parked the car under the shade.

When the empty train head to the loading point, Joop and Geoff followed the train while I waited in the car with my brother.

You can watch the video of the field working in here, which include the recording done on the previous day.

I have to say that it is a very pleasant place to relax. The rice field and hill scenery is just awesome.

In fact it is quite a peaceful one. So much that I spend my waiting time by sleeping in the car. It was so serene.

Sometime after midday, both of them returns back again to the car. They were exhausted, yet happy that they can get to see the working in the field. Geoff said that I have missed one of the most spectacular scenery, because the place is quite near to mount Ringgit.

We head back to the town to have lunch at the famous Malang Restaurant.

The restaurant is a Chinese restaurant that is quite popular because it sells great food, liquors, and also traditional snack which is normally bought by visitor for souvenir.

But today, it seems that we didn’t have enough luck. The food that we ordered tasted rather plain. Even when compared to the breakfast at Rosali hotel, our lunch doesn’t taste even better.

While we were having lunch, I make some discussion with Geoff over the Kendit line’s potential for tourist train. I was thinking about running a steam train from Olean, and then goes all the way to Wringinanom’s field lines, before crossing the bridge and head to Kendit siding. Geoff said that would be an interesting challenge, and would surely draw some interests.

After we finished the lunch, I looked at Geoff and Joop facial expression, and was wondering if they still want to see Wringinanom sugar mill? Even Joop looks a bit sleepy too, possible after being exposed by the heat. In addition that we still need to travel long to Jember afterward.

Surprisingly, they’re still highly motivated for the visit. So once we paid our lunch bill, we head to Wringinanom sugar mill.

Since it was Saturday, the reception goes rather slowly. It was already 3’o clock and administration personnel had all gone home for the weekend. Upon arriving, I reported to the security about our intention to visit.

A few minutes later one female management staff turned up and receive me. After I explain to her about the plan to visit the mill, she return back to see her boss. When returning back, she mentions the price. I was hoping that they still stuck with the old rate, but it didn’t work out. Although only one person carries DSLR, in the end both were charged for “carrying camera”, despite the fact that the official rules only charge for anyone who carry DSLR, not small pocket or video camera. Even worse, they also charge me as well! I think this is the first time that tour leader must pay entrance fee. In other sugar mills, or in any non-railway tourist destinations, tour leaders would normally be exempted from this. I was furious over this extortion.

When I double check with my friend who works at PTPN XI management, she said that I’m not supposed to pay for that. But the mill employee insists that I must still pay for my entrance. She even gave suggestion, in threatening manner,  that if I refuse to pay, my group can just go to Olean sugar mill. That is a very vile answer!

In the end, I grudgingly accept the term and paid Rp 600,000,- for entrance fee! Very expensive fee when compared to last year’s fee which was quarter of that, and tour leader wasn’t charged for fee at all.

Once the administration matter was settled, I called Joop and Geoff to start the mill tour. Before we proceed, I dumped some empty bottles in in the middle of the car park, outside rubbish bin. Joop reminded me to be clean and put the empty bottles “in the right place”. But I choose to do this act as a form of revenge for the extortion perpetrated by Wringinanom sugar mill’s management.

Just for note, a few days later (after I concluded this tour) I heard from my friends that some sugar mills are known for being greedy. They would try to take as much money as possible from tour group, using any legal loophole. Sometime it is the security staff who would also charge photographer who wants to take photos of steam locos. Even if we have settle the payment in the company headquarter in Surabaya, it wouldn’t guarantee that tour group would not encounter “additional fee”. However, not all sugar mills are that greedy, but being assertive would be very helpful.

First destination is the railway yard; we were greeted by the sight of large locomotive in the yard.

This loco would do some shunting before heading to the field later in the afternoon to pick up loaded wagons. (Note the mill employee who extorted my group can be seen on the right).

We went inside the locomotive shed to see if there are any interesting locomotives inside.

Upon entering the shed, we found out that indeed there are some interesting locomotives inside.

In here parked the two out of the 3 remaining steam locomotives in Wringinanom (the third one is displayed at the entrance road).

The number 6 is an Orenstein & Koppel product, manufactured in 1911.

Behind it is the rare DuCroo & Brauns built no.7, slightly younger than no.6 as it was built in 1927.

I took particular liking to this Dutch built locomotive. There are many DuCroo & Brauns built steam locos in East Java, but the overwhelming majority of them are Mallet articulated locos. This loco has Klien Lindner 0-8-0 wheels arrangement.

One senior shed employee told me that these steam locomotives last saw service back in 1997 (although later research found that they last saw full working back in 2001).

It’s inconceivable that in the space of 15 years, the locos could be reduced into this very poor shape.

I also chatted with them about the possibility of running Olean’s steam loco to Kendit. Although both networks are connected, it is now impossible to run big locomotives pass Sampeyan river bridge. Indeed the last time big diesel loco passes the bridge was back in 2007. Since then the lines to the south of the mill are exclusively served by small locomotives.

This means any idea to run steam locomotive tour to Kendit is basically impossible without proper track upgrade program, which would be very costly to undertake at the moment.

Aside of the steam locomotives, there are also some diesel locomotives stored in the shed. Including the diminutive number 1, which I believe can fit inside average house’s living room!

Just like many sugar mills that have field lines, Wringinanom actually have an inspection railcar.  But unfortunately, it is now out of use.

Once we finished exploring the shed, we head out to see the yard activities.

I took the photo of the mill’s entrance, and found a unique track arrangement in here. The track that head into the distance is a stub end, while field lines go to the right.

These days in majority of sugar mills in Java, the track beyond entrance gate have largely been removed. But thankfully in here, they’re still in regular use during harvesting season.

Wringinanom sugar mill’s yard is not particularly big. It reflect the size of both the mill and also the field lines coverage.

There is one diesel loco which seem to be solely used for shunting in the yard. Its shape is completely different when compared to other locos in Wringinanom.

As it got closer, I can see “RUHAAK” name plate on its side.

Joop said that the loco was manufactured by Dutch company of the same name. Humm, then this loco must be a very rare breed because it must be the first time I see a Dutch diesel loco in Indonesia.

However latter research found that this “RUHAAK” loco turned out to be British built loco, manufactured by Baguley.  I was really overjoyed with this finding, because I’ve been looking for this loco for some time. The loco was previously used in Kedawung sugar mill in Pasuruan, before being relocated to here in late 1990s. Despite the fact that it is rarely used for field working, the loco works perfectly fine.

You can watch the video of Baguley loco at work, as well as shed activities in the video below.

From the yard, we entered the mill to see the sugarcane processing activities, using steam engines that dating back from Dutch colonial era.

I have to admit that although I’m a big fans of narrow gauge steam locomotives, I actually dislike exploring the inside of sugar mill because we had to endure dusty and noisy environment. I’m also not really interested with stationary steam engines.

While exploring the mill, I get to know one supervisor in this mill. His name is pak Nasirudin. He has been working in sugar industry since 1996, and only work in this mill since 2016. He showed us around the mill and also some machinery inside. I also found one interesting fact that this sugar mill heavily depending its electricity from the outside, as they don’t have their own electric generator.

He also told me that sugarcane harvesting season has been quite short one for this year. Indeed almost all of sugar mills in Madiun have ceased crushing, with the exception of 2: Rejosari and Pagottan. But even both of them will also conclude their milling that evening. Many other sugar mills will also conclude their milling in late September. Semboro and Jatiroto, which is traditionally known for their lengthy harvesting activities which can last all the way until January, will also conclude their crushing in October. The cited reason for Jatiroto is due to major overhaul that will be undertaken in the mill.

After some chatting, I bid farewell to him and resume our exploration.

While Joop and Geoff enjoying the activities inside, I decided that I had enough and left the mill building as soon as I spotted the exit door. When I walk back to the car park, I saw this small turntable which is only big enough for one wagon. My brother is chatting with one security staff in the car park.

While we waited for Geoff and Joop to return, I spend the spare time by photographing the meeting hall.

I believe this building was probably the mansion for the owner of this mill, or could be the clubhouse for the affluent Dutch landlords in Situbondo.

They even still use old bell that dating back from 1862. The security staffs said it is normally used to command mill employees to muster at the car park, in the event of emergency.

Once the Geoff and Joop returns back, we conclude our visit at Wringinanom and head to Jember. The visit was satisfactory for both of them. For me, it is actually not really impressive, considering the absence of steam locomotives working, as well as the extortion during the entrance.

The trip from Situbondo to Jember went on smoothly. It is also the first for me and my brother to ply this route.

Joop also tell a story about how he had a road accident a few years ago during similar railway tour, just to the south of Situbondo, where his minibus was hit by a truck from the back. They were traveling from Jember to Situbondo. Many of the tour participants were injured, and they had to be hospitalized (including Joop himself).

Along the way we also passes through Prajekan sugar mill. This mill is still a very busy one. Although it still has some narrow gauge railway lines in operation,  its field lines was closed decades ago due to the dangerous nature of operating sugarcane trains at steeply graded lines. Despite the fact that they used to operate large Luttermoller steam locomotives, it didn’t helped much.

These days, the only railway operation left is just the transport of molasses between one site and another.

At one time after the closure of field lines, there used to be cane transfer operation as well, but this seems to have ceased.

The remainder of the journey wasn’t really special, and by the time we reached Jember, it was already dark.

Although Jember is a small town, finding our hotel is a bit tricky. And despite its status as “the most luxurious hotel in Jember” the hotel is actually located hidden in Jember’s southern suburb. Thanks to our GPS, we could find it.

The check in went on smoothly, and we proceed to our comfortable room. I’m happy to say that this comfortable hotel will be our lodging for the next 3 nights.

\ \

We settled in to our room and taking shower. Joop knocked our door and suggesting about having dinner in the city. He knows some good restaurant that has the best food, and also beer for him. The name of the restaurant is “Lestari” and it is located near the city square (“Alun-alun”).

After preparing ourselves, we went out to visit this restaurant. Thanks to the Jember’s small size it isn’t really difficult to access the place…..or is it?

Unfortunately, as we are getting near to the restaurants, many of the main roads are closed! Apparently there is a major carnavel event in the town where performance stages are erected on the main road, all the way until Alun-alun!

Eventually,  we found one parking spot which is quite near to the restaurant. From there we still need to walk to access the restaurant. It wasn’t very far, but it made a good exercise.

The restaurant is an ethnic-themed eating establishment which sell traditional Indonesian foods and beverages. Although they also have some western menus as well.

We ordered our foods and drinks. Probably due to the road closure, not all items were available that night. Unfortunately, the beers were also absent too. So we settled down with whatever menu available. I ordered this Satay Bumbu Rojak, or satay in spicy rojak sauce.

Once we finished our meal and paid the bill, we head to the town’s square to see what sort of event is going in here. We had no idea what the event is all about, all we found is people gathered in the concert and some even wearing fancy costumes.

We also sample some local snack, such as this “Lekker” cake, which is actually the local derivative of crepes.

As we get nearer to the Alun-alun, the sound of the music has become increasingly loud. Apparently there is a “Dangdut” concert, complete with some sexy dancers!

The concert is very loud, so much that Geoff couldn’t stand being in the concert. He said that he might have boarded some of the loudest steam locos, including riding on its footplate, but this one is way too loud for him.

Eventually, we decided to return back to our hotel for sleeping. Tomorrow will be a hectic day for us, because we will explore Jatiroto sugar mill, which has the biggest field lines network in Indonesia.



About bagus70

I'm an adventurous railfans who love to seek out the world of railway, beyond the border of my office.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s