2016 JAVA STEAM & VOLCANO TOUR (Part 4 (End): 25-26 January 2016)

This is our final night in Solo, and at this beautiful hotel. At last I finally can get a real and proper sleep! After dressing up a bit, I went down to the 5th floor to have a breakfast.

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Upon entering the restaurant, I found that both Waktong and Hafizul have already been in the restaurant.

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But what surprises us is the fact that we are the only customers in the restaurant for today! It seemed that last night we were the only guests in the hotel too!

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I took my breakfast which consist of stir fried potatoes and grilled sausages.

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I also ordered omelet as side dish too.

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That’s perfect!

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And as a dessert, I took some fruits and cheeses.

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After finishing our breakfast, we head back to our room to pack our belongings in preparation for check out. I also had shower too, before heading out.

Once we have prepared everything, we went down to the lobby to settle the bill and check out from the hotel. No additional expenses were incurred, and we are good to go. We have additional itinerary for today, and also since our return train to Surabaya depart in late afternoon, we decided to drop our bags here, and will collect them again after returning back from Wonogiri.

Soon, we head to Solo Purwosari station which is located very near to the hotel. I have to admit that the pavement is very wide, and amazingly no motorcycles ever intrude it!

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After a few minutes walking we finally arrive at the station.

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The station is busy as usual with morning departures.

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These days, this station is used to cater all economic class trains who arrive and depart from Solo, replacing Solo Jebres station which is located to the east of the city.

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What amazes Waktong and Hafizul is the fact that despite all of the modernization in Indonesian railway, they’re still preserving the old building!

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According to Waktong, in Malaysia such thing are rare as the Malaysians often consider old buildings (regardless of their historical value) are outdated and must be replaced with new buildings.

Just near the entrance door, we can see the remains of the original cape gauge platform of this station. This is where the train to Wonogiri were originally departed, as the tracks on the current platform were once laid to standard gauge.

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But with the arrival of Japanese, they regauge the track to cape gauge, and lifted this part to be used for Death Railway.

According to the schedule, our train depart at 10.00.

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As it was almost 10, we entered the platform immediately.

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It was still quiet in the platform. No trains are here yet.

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While waiting for the trains, I also spend time by marveling the original Dutch era architecture of this station.

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This station share similar architectural style as Ambarawa and Kedungjati station. And just like the other 2 stations, this one originally had island platform configuration, before the departure line for Wonogiri branch relocated to the present site during Japanese occupation era.

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And up until 2008, this station had no platform roof, other than for track no.1. But since then this large additional structure was added for the comfort of passengers. Such as these passengers who wants to board Prambanan Express train to Yogyakarta.

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Although officially count as intercity train, Prambanan express DMU service does actually act as a commuter train for Solonese who work in Yogyakarta or vica versa.

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Originally conceived as local trains served by Glossing und Sholler built DMU in 1960s, the Prambanan express train has since evolved into a popular commuter train service in here. There is even a firm plan to electrify the service too.

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At one corner of the station is a water crane used to replenish the steam locomotive used for Sepur Kluthuk Jaladara tourist train.

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Solo is currently the only place in Indonesia where real steam locomotive running alongside modern trains. The ones in Ambarawa ran at isolated railway line, which is not yet reconnected with the mainline.

The station is getting more crowded now, as more passengers arriving. Only a few of them took the train to Wonogiri. Most traveling with other trains either to Surabaya or Purwokerto.

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About 10 minutes before our departure time, the Batara Kresna train arrived.

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We boarded the train, and it was not really crowded inside.

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Unfortunately, it was rather hot too as the aircon system is not working properly.

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Me and Hafizul sat on the first coach, just behind the driver’s cab.

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Right at 10’o clock our train departed Solo Purwosari station.

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After passing through narrow space, we eventually arrived at the street running section, where our train already drew attention from motorists.

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Traveling with this train is also a great way to explore the city, as it is also passing through some landmarks in here, although unfortunately it doesn’t stop at all. But I was told that Sepur Kluthuk Jaladara does make some stop on interesting places.

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Although the city of Solo has strong traditional Javanese identity, sign of Westernization is already apparent in a form of McD restaurant.

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We also pass near The Royal Surakarta Heritage hotel. The hotel building was originally built as a bank.

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But when the bank went bankrupt, it was taken over by its creditor and converted into a hotel. Originally a Best Western hotel chain, but later replaced by Accor group and renamed The Royal Surakarta Heritage. Despite of its “heritage” tag, it is actually a new hotel.

Once the most luxurious hotel in Solo, it has since been overtaken by Alila Solo which offer better service. But still, this hotel has some advantage than its rival as it is located very near to the royal palace and downtown area.

After passing through that hotel and the royal palace, our train eventually exited the street running section before arriving at Solo Kota station.

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In Solo Kota station, a large number of schoolchildren and their teachers boarded the train. Making the train packed!

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Once we depart Solo Kota station, we crossed the Bengawan Solo Bridge where from there the crowded urban area are replaced by beautiful farmland and rural scenery.

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We stopped by at Sukoharjo station. When this line was reopened in 2012 after some period of hiatus, the service terminated in here. But it has since been re-extended further to Wonogiri.

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I remember when the last time I rode this train to here back in 2012, the train was brand new. The aircon worked. And of course there were no scratch marks at all on its exterior.

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After several minutes of stopping, we resumed our journey again. This is the first time I traversed this route since 2007. Back then I rode on the deck of a small shunter loco.

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The kids were restless throughout the journey. Some even trying to play around with the trash bin.

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We later arrived at Pasarnguter station.

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The station also has a siding that goes to a storage warehouse. Back in the old days it was used to distribute fertilizer from Pupuk Sriwijaya Fertilizer Company.

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Although fertilizer traffic have ceased since 1990s, the siding is somehow retained.

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It’s quite a long wait at Pasarnguter, which is strange as our train is the only train that plying this branchline.

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The scenery near Pasarnguter station is unbelievably beautiful. I even think passengers who waiting for the train in here wont get bored as they can enjoy the scenery of rice fields and rolling hills.

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The kids are growing restless as the lousy air conditioner failed, makes the train’s cabin felt rather uncomfortable.

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Thankfully, our waiting is finally over and our train is given clearance to go.

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Beyond Pasarnguter, the terrain becomes increasingly hilly.

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In fact as we approached Wonogiri, the driver revving up the train’s engine as we had to negotiate moderate gradient near Wonogiri. While the train is working hard, the passengers could see the beautiful teak forest scenery which encircled the town of Wonogiri.

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After several minutes, we finally arrived at Wonogiri station.

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All passengers start to disembark from the train.

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Meanwhile, there are another group of schoolchildren waiting in the station’s hall to board the train.

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Once we exited the station, the schoolchildren from Wonogiri boarded the train, while the ones from Solo Kota boarded the bus whose are prepared in front of the station.

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The small Wonogiri station is the current terminus of the branchline that started from Solo Purwosari station.

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Back in the old days, the railway lines used to go further to the south beyond this station, all the way until Baturetno station. But the service to Baturetno was suspended in 1976 when the Gajahmungkur dam was constructed, as it flooded a significant portion of the railway track.

I soon bought the return ticket back to Solo, although there are plenty of tickets, there were no seats available.

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Soon we return back again to the platform area.

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Although heavily modernized, Wonogiri station still retain the elements of the old building, including this classic looking guest room, complete with the old tiles!

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It’s quite an unique thing to see modern looking Batara Kresna DMU parked in front of classic looking Wonogiri station building. Since we had an ample of time before our departure, we spend it by taking pictures.

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Our train finally departs around midday. Unfortunately, since it is already packed with schoolchildren, we had no choice but to stood up throughout the journey back to Solo. I initially stood on the cab car. But since it is hot, I decided to move to the middle car where the aircon turned out to be in proper working condition!

I didn’t take much photos between Wonogiri to Solo Kota. But I did take some video clips along the way.

Once our train arrived at Solo Kota, all of the schoolchildren and their teachers disembark from the train. Leaving a plenty of seats for us!

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I also notice that some of the passengers have Arabic looking appearance.

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It is understandable as Solo have sizeable amount of Arab Indonesian community.

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The return journey through the street running section went uneventful.

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One of the hotel that we passed is this Novotel Solo. It is one of the earliest 4-star hotel in Solo, and it has been around when Solo was smaller than what it is now. Now this hotel has many rivals.

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Upon returning back to the hotel, we fetch our bag and called the taxi.

While waiting for the taxi, my local friend from Karanganyar, Ariawan Sulistya came to our hotel. Well, it is good that we can eventually met. We chat a lot while waiting for the taxi. He also mentioned about several railway activities around Solo, including the ones at Tasikmadu sugar mill.

Once our taxi arrived, we bid farewell to Ariawan and resuming the journey.

It was lunchtime, and we felt hungry. I asked suggestion from the driver about good and affordable restaurant around Solo. He suggesting Taman Sari, which is located on the main road to the airport. The food are good, and the price is also reasonable.

I ordered rice with shrimp satay, chicken rollade, and spiced tofu.

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And for the drinks, I take “Dawet”, a traditional sweet drinks made from coconut sugar and jellies made from rice flour.

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After we finished our lunch, we head straight to the station. It might still be long, but we think it would have been better if we wait at the station, rather than rushing ourselves later on.

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The main hall looks slightly busy. This Dutch era building is still perfectly maintained despite of decades of usage.

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Before entering the platform, we decided to have some coffee at one of the Rotiboy outlet in the station.

We concluded our today’s journey is a successful one. Admittedly, it could have been better had the train traveled faster.

As our departure time nears, we decided to enter the platform.

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Inside, there is a Prambanan Express train waiting in the station.

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It stopped for quite a long time, apparently waiting until its new schedule to commence.

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A few minutes later, the Lodaya train from Bandung arrived at the station. This train terminates here. But what surprised me is the fact that some of the carriages are formerly used by legendary express trains of the past.

Like this coach which originally started its life as a 1st class sleeper coach on Bima express train

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And then this coach which is amongst the very first air conditioned seater trains originally used on Mutiara Utara express train.

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Not long after that, our train arrived from Bandung.

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As soon as it came to a halt, we boarded our train.

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It’s quite a busy period now.

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Before I boarded the train, I was surprised when I see this. Back in the old days, you could go to the VIP lounge from here. The lounge is still there, but the access path to the platform have been walled.

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Our train is really packed today. And most of the passengers have boarded the train all the way from Bandung.

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Once the train departs Solo, I sat and tries to relax myself. I have to say that Argo Wilis seemed to be a shadow of its former self. It is not as comfortable as it used to be, since they decided the replace floor material from carpet into vinyl. Even the seats are now wrapped in synthetic leather. If that’s not enough, these days they decided to put the light in the middle, making the interior too bright and uncomfortable for night trip.

The sky is getting darker as we arrived at Madiun.

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Waktong and Hafizul are curious about INKA plant, as Malaysia have recently commence the operation of INKA built coaches. I tried to show them but they’re partly blocked by petrol tank cars.

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The remainder of the journey went uneventful, before we finally arrive back at Surabaya at 9pm. My brother picked us up, where we took Hafizul and Waktong to their hotel, and then I returned back home to rest.

FINAL DAY

It’s Tuesday, and it is business as usual in Surabaya. But it is also the last day for our tour. Waktong and Hafizul will catch their return flight to Malaysia in the afternoon.

Waktong wants to buy some souvenir which is typical of Surabaya. Since the number of souvenir shop in Surabaya are scarce and tricky, we decided to check out around 10 and head to some places to find souvenirs.

After traveling around the city, we eventually get our souvenirs in a shop at the southern part of Surabaya.

Once they purchased the souvenirs, we head for lunch. Since Hafizul is craving for another Bebek Putri Madura, we head to Bebek Harissa restaurant. I initially wants to take them to the one near the railway line at Surabaya Expo. But since we had very little time left, I decided to take them to the one in MERR nearby.

Of course we ordered Bebek Putri Madura. Very tasty indeed!

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After we finished our lunch and settling the bill we head to the airport.

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In there, I bade them farewell, and after 6 days of adventure, we eventually came to the conclusion of our tour. Everyone are happy and satisfied with the tour. Both of them promised that they will return back to Indonesia again to have another tour!

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That’s all folks! If you want to have similar tour or even better, don’t hesitate to contact me or check out my website at www.indonesianrailwaytour.com

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2016 JAVA STEAM & VOLCANO TOUR (Part 3: 24 January 2016)

After two very tiring days, which were marked with inadequate sleep hours, I can finally get proper sleep time in a peaceful and air-conditioned room of my hotel.

However, it seemed that it was still not enough. In the morning, I still felt like too tired to woke up. I felt like having a rude awakening when there is phone call. I initially thought it was a room service or just promotional call. Only after second call was made then I realize it was Hafizul! He was asking about breakfast, and I replied that it is available on 5th floor.

I woke up and looking out to window. As a railway enthusiast, I feel very grateful that I have chosen the right hotel and right room to stay. Just by sitting on the bed I could see the railway station below clearly.

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I could even see the passing Prambanan Express train easily from my room window.

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After having shower, I head to the hotel’s restaurant to have a breakfast. Apparently both Waktong and Hafizul haven’t come yet.

I took my first portion which consists of Beef Stroganoff, grilled sausages, and grilled potatoes.

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I have to admit that this is an excellent place to have breakfast.

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Moments later, Waktong and Hafizul arrived and start to have breakfast. Meanwhile, I took my second portion which consists of cold cuts and cheeses.

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The cheeses tasted marvelous.

Then I took the salad. Unfortunately, the corn tasted a bit sour. I was initially expecting sweet corn. The peas were also equally unappetizing.

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Then I took the next portion which consists of grilled sausage and fettuccini carbonara. The fettuccini tasted excellent! I love the cheese flavor.

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And finally the fruits for the dessert.

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After completing the breakfast, we went out to enjoy the garden.

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For some reason, they’re using fake plastic grass, instead of real one. I’m not sure why is that. At least other vegetation are real.

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The swimming pool is just a basic swimming pool that you would normally found on a 3-star hotels.

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But from here, you can get commanding view of Solo Purwosari station.

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We still enjoy our time in here, while I would like to explore the rooftop garden more.

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Well, I’m sure that this gonna be a perfect picnic spot.

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Look can be deceiving here. Despite of its lush greenery, the grasses are none other than just a plastic green carpet!

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Since this hotel is located in Solo, which is known as one of the most important Javanese cultural centre, the hotel owner decided to add “Pendopo” on its rooftop garden. Pendopo is a Javanese style guest hall, where it is normally used to receive guests or where the host uses to discuss with his/her guests. But somehow, this Pendopo looks out of place when compared to the hotel’s architectural style.

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We head back to our room to prepare our cameras. Along the way I took the photos of its stylish lounge and ballroom hall.

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While I was preparing my camera and equipment, I caught the glimpse of passing Malioboro Express train that travel from Yogyakarta to Malang.

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After taking my belongings I went to the lobby, where I meet both of them. It was around 09.15. I have actually booked a car hire (with driver and petrol). According to initial plan, it supposed to arrive at 9am. But it still haven’t arrive yet.

Rather than complaining we decided to go to the nearby street running section at jalan Slamet Riyadi.

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This street running section is one of a very few street running section still remain in operation in Indonesia.

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Back in the old days, the service were normally served by decrepit economic class train, hauled by small locomotives. But since 2012, it was upgraded into an air conditioned Batara Kresna DMU.

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The contrasting sight of a train traveling peacefully with road vehicles have become rarity in Indonesia, and Solo is the last place to see such thing.

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As the train slowly moved away into Solo Purwosari station, I decided to pack my cameras and ready to head back to the hotel to meet the driver.

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Waktong and Hafizul decided to stay and want to photograph the Batara Kresna train on its return trip to Wonogiri. So I decided to head back to the hotel alone to catch up with our hired car.

As soon as I made it back to the hotel, I was greeted by the driver of our car. He apologized for his lateness because apparently while attending a Car Free Day event he received additional impromptu orders.

I accepted his apology, and once I put all of the bags in the boot, we went to jalan Slamet Riyadi to pick Waktong and Hafizul up. Both of them are apparently waiting at the level crossing of Wonogiri branch, right at the starting point of street running section. Once they boarded the car, we resumed our journey to Tasikmadu.

As we plying jalan Slamet Riyadi, apparently we caught up again with the Wonogiri-bound Batara Kresna DMU.

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Waktong asked the driver to overtake the train. But apparently it won’t be that easy. Because whenever we encounter traffic lights, they’re always turned red. While on the other hand, the train is exempted from following the road traffic rule.

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A cheeky driver might want to run the red light, but not before being fined by traffic police!

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As the train approached Slamet Riyadi statue, it is the beginning of the end of street running section, and we had to bid farewell to the train for today.

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When we traveled near the famed Pasar Gede market, we came across an unique double decker bus.

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This tourist bus service was inaugurated during Jokowi’s mayoralty and proved very popular amongst the visiting tourists in Solo.

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It’s the Chinese New Year eve, and apparently everything have been prepared for the festivity.

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After several minutes driving, we finally arrived at Tasikmadu sugar mill.

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This grand looking mill was originally founded by one of the Solonese royal families.

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Right next to its entrance door you can see one of the former Royal inspection coach displayed.

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Built to 750mm gauge track, this coach was once used by the Royal family owner to inspect their vast sugarcane estate by traveling on Tasikmadu’s narrow gauge field lines.

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Of course the grandeur days of Royal visit to Tasikmadu have long gone. The internal dispute within the Solonese royal family, economic crisis, and poor space planning have reduced this once behemoth mill into an over-sized struggling mill. Even the once vast sugarcane estate have largely been converted into either rice field or built up areas. All of Tasikmadu’s field lines were closed at the conclusion of 1993 harvesting season.

Now locomotives are used mostly for shunting. But since 2007, they have also been used to haul recreational train that plying newly laid tracks around the mill.

Moments later we hear a sound of whistle. It sounds like steam whistle, but rather weak one. It turned out that it actually came from a diesel loco.

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What a surprise! This is the first time I see this Diema loco working since 2012.

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This loco is used to haul the train that plying the diesel route.

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Of course, being railway enthusiast, no one can resist the temptation of taking its pictures.

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Apparently, just near the spot where we photographed the diesel train there is a huge mansion. This mansion is normally reserved for the mill manager, or guest house for visiting Royals. But I have no clear idea on what do they use the building now for? For management office? Or perhaps VIP reception place?

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The design of the mill building is undoubtedly something to behold. It is looks much more like an office than sugar mill. Some said that during the last decade of Dutch colonial era, Tasikmadu mill was the most modern sugar mill in Java, exceeding other mills whose are still operating their field lines and receiving awards such as Semboro or Olean.

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Not long afterward, the thing truly attracted us to visit this place did eventually appeared: Steam locomotive!

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This Orenstein & Koppel built steam locomotive is one of 2 steam locomotives in operation for today. Unlike my previous visit in September 2015, this time some VIP coaches are employed for regular recreational train.

When we approached the theme park entrance, suddenly an elderly man with Agrowisata Sondokoro uniform approached us. He asked who we are. I answered that we are a group of railway enthusiasts on a railway tour.

The old man introduced himself as Megan, and we called him pak Megan (“pak” is a title or salutation used to address a man much older than us).

Pak Megan is the manager of Agrowisata Sondokoro. He is also the person who initiates the theme park program at Tasikmadu sugar mill.

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Although initially considered a side business , the theme park eventually developed into major source of income for the struggling mill.

Being a brainchild of him, he was glad to show us around the theme park (and somehow we skipped the ticket booth, unintentionally).

The first object is of course the steam loco that is displayed near the theme park’s ticket booth. Although it is part of Tasikmadu’s fleet of steam locos, this loco actually run on the same gauge as State Railway (1,067 mm / 3ft 6in).

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This loco was used to haul goods train that carried bags of refined sugar, and sugar molasses tanks, from the mill into Kemiri railway station. When the service was suspended in late 1980s, the loco was retired.

Pak Megan said that back in mid 2000s, during Jokowi mayoralty, there was a talk of using the loco for Sepur Kluthuk Jaladara steam tourist train. But the plan never materialized as the mill management couldn’t reach agreement with Solo city council. The city council wants to purchase the loco, while the mill management refused to sell it and would only accept the hiring scheme only.

In the end, Solo city council settled with a C12 steam locomotive which ironically is actually hired (not purchased) from Indonesian State Railway.

From there, pak Megan took us to see a steam roller which is parked near the employee housing area.

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This Kelly Springfield-built steam roller is probably the only steam road roller still in operating condition in Indonesia, although it hasn’t been lit for some time.

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From steam roller we moved into the theme park, where we see this Diema locomotive.

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This mid-cab locomotive still wearing standard Tasikmadu livery, and this is probably the first time it runs after several years of absence.

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This locomotive was built by this German engineering firm, based in Bremen.

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We later could smell burning log aroma, and later a steam hauled train eventually arriving.

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This Borsig-built Tasikmadu 3 is perhaps the only Borsig steam locomotive still in running condition in Indonesia.

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Not long after the Borsig loco passed, the Orenstein & Koppel steam loco is also coming.

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That was truly an impressive sight!

Pak Megan invited us to ride the steam train which we gladly accepted. Upon arriving, we were slightly surprised to find that the loco is nowhere to be seen!

Apparently it went to the refueling point to refill its water and logs supply. Once it completed its refueling process, it returned back to its train.

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Upon looking at its builder plate, I was truly amazed by how old the locomotive is. It was built in 1908, and still in running condition until now!

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It’s an example on how good the German engineering is. They’re built to last, as exemplified by this loco.

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We asked on whether if we’re allowed to ride the locomotive. Pak Megan allowed us to have a cab ride (and it’s free!). For Waktong and Hafizul this is once in a lifetime moment, as steam locomotives are rare in Malaysia, and riding them is generally forbidden in Malaysia.

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Not long, our train eventually departed.

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Hafizul using this moment to record the journey.

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Our train traveling around the mill premises, ranging from employee housing and into an artificial tunnel which is specifically built for this tourist attraction.

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Once we exited the tunnel, everyone are gasping to breath fresh air….

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We are now outside the the mill compound, traveling in front of the entrance door.

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This pathway was once part of Tasikmadu’s field lines. In fact the railway line that connects the sugar mill and Kemiri station used to be here too. Could it be a dual gauge line?

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As we entered the mill, we had to stop to allow the O&K to passed us.

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Once the train cleared our track, we resumed our journey.

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Our train also passes through the grassy looking main yard. This moribund looking yard looks as if it has been abandoned.

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In reality, it is not. It’s a common sight during off-harvesting season that the mill looks like abandoned property.

We returned back to the place where we started, and we disembark from the train and bade farewell to the driver.

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Pak Megan showed us around, including to this hostel, built in the mill premises. Right in front of it, there is one incomplete steam locomotive displayed.

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I’m not sure about its identity. But judging by its buffer, I believe it is former Tasikmadu’s loco.

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We wants to see the locomotive shed, and pak Megan is also keen to show some of the progress that has been made on the tourist train.

Unfortunately, upon arriving we’re a bit surprised to find that it is locked. Apparently the shed supervisor in charge of carrying the key is having off day. So we can only see the locos by peeking through the window.

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Right on the edge of the shed, I couldn’t believe what I see: the Tasikmadu VI having its cab panel removed. It probably underwent maintenance in preparation for the following season.

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But considering last year’s harvesting season, where the loco was only used on chartered basis, what will they do with the loco for this year anyway?

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Pak Megan told me that the loco will be used for recreational circular railway. It will be used on the line currently plied by Orenstein & Koppel no 1 loco.

Right behind it is Tasikmadu V. Aside of number VI, it was regularly used for shunting in the yard.

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I have to admit that the loco shed looks a bit messy now.

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There are more locos in the shed, including some large Japanese diesel locos. I believe the type was probably introduced in 1980s, during Tasikmadu’s last decade of field lines operation.

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And right next to it is another VIP coach which styled in similar fashion as Royal inspection coach. Pak Megan said that it will be used on the train currently hauled by the Borsig loco, replacing the current open air coaches.

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Slightly out of the picture to the left is a mechanized inspection vehicle. Last year I saw it dumped behind the second shed, but now it has been refurbished.

I also found the Orenstein & Koppel diesel loco which would normally be used for circular train. But it is being mounted on pedestal for maintenance.

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Right in front of the shed, there are 2 tenders whose are belonged to the number V and VI.

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Under the shed beside the tenders, I also found an old freight wagon in derelict condition. Judging by its size, I believe it ran on 750mm lines.

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But what surprised me about this wagon is the fact that it has roller bearing axles! It is a novelty for such operation.

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Behind the shed, we could also see some engine tenders being dumped. The lack of field working probably made them redundant.

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As we moved along, I was a bit surprised to find that there is another tender number V.

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I was told that some of the locos in Tasikmadu have identical number. Some may just be the Roman number version of other, The reason behind number mixed up is due to the fact that some locos in here were originally belonged to other mills, but transferred here for preservation after their former mills were closed.

We also see a plowing machine preserved here. This machine was used to plow the sugarcane field.

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But due to change of land ownership in 1980s, the farmer would plough the land using their equipment, rendering this machine redundant and eventually retired.

Right next to it is the weighbridge. This building is where all of the loaded sugarcane wagons arriving from the field weighed before being unloaded at receiving station.

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It is also acted as a gateway to the mill’s yard. Beyond this place, the field lines started.

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Up until 1993, the railway lines beyond the weighbridge used to go very far. Even all the way to Matesih, which is right at the foot of mount Lawu, 20 km away from the mill. But from 1994 harvesting season onward, the field lines activity were intermittent if non-existent after all. The last recorded field lines action was back in 2000, where a single short train ran to easterly direction.

Now only around 100 meters of railway track beyond the weighbridge left. The rest have been removed. Pak Megan told me that there is a plan to revive portion of field lines for tourist train where passengers could visit tourist villages around Karanganyar by train. Despite support from local government, the funding has yet to materialize.

We returned back to theme park to prepare our journey back to Solo. As we walk along, we suddenly caught a sight of the Borsig traveling through an open space in the yard.

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As it about to enter the theme park, it crosses with the Orenstein & Koppel train.

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The O&K loco stopped for an unusually long time. When pak Megan double checked with the crew, it turned out that it is running out of logs! There is a pile of logs at the other end of the park, but it is only enough for one loco. So they had to buy from somewhere else. Pak Megan was infuriated by this, and reprimanded them not to repeat the same mistake.

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As soon as we returned back to the mill, we bade farewell to pak Megan and hoping that we could return back again in the future.

But before we left the theme park, we photograph the Borsig as it departs for a single lap around the mill.

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You can see the video of the Tasikmadu steam actions here:

We return back to our car and our driver took us out back into the city. But as we crossed this steam locomotive, Waktong asked the driver to stop, so he can take picture of this loco.

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The traffic to Solo is busy, and along the way I caught up with this monument which is located at the junction with the main Solo-Tawangmangu road.

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I suddenly remember my friend’s photo. Ariawan Sulistya is my friend who is native of Karanganyar, and said that he grew up seeing Tasikmadu’s field lines action in his childhood days. His father once took the photo of the field lines action in this spot. Such photos are rare as very few people ever took the photo of Tasikmadu’s field lines action.

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It’s just pity that we couldn’t meet today as he had something else important to do.

As soon as we returned back to Solo, Waktong wants to change some of his Malaysian Ringgits into Indonesian Rupiahs, as he began to running out of rupiah. We were looking for money changer around the city, but couldn’t find any. So as a last resort we had to go to the airport.

Adi Soemarmo airport is the main airport that serving the city of Surakarta. It is located to the north of the city. Despite of its rather small size and quiet atmosphere, it is actually capable of handling Boeing 747.

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When we were there, we saw strong presence of military personnel around. Some even carrying automatic rifles. Apparently Mr. Jokowi, the famous former mayor of Solo which is now Indonesian president is visiting his hometown.

While Waktong and Hafizul changing their Ringgits, I walked around to see the airport the terminal. I found this amusing: why the stair leads to a wall? Were there any viewing hall where visitors could see the airplanes?

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Although opened in 2009, the terminal’s architectural design is akin to 1980s. I know that they’re trying to incorporate Javanese element into the architecture. But somehow, it doesn’t work.

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Despite of its shortcoming, overall the airport is good and perfectly managed.

After settling the money changer matter, we returned back to the city. Along the way we came across this steam locomotive. This locomotive was once part of Colomadu’s fleet of steam locomotives. Since the mill’s closure in 1998, this locomotive has been in derelict state before being relocated to its current place.

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Judging by its appearance, I have a feeling that the cab and the boiler’s front cover are not original.

On our trip to the city center, we also taking picture of this old Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive, displayed on pedestal in front of PTPN IX office.

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Named “Baletouri” this locomotive was built by Orenstein & Koppel, and it was originally part of Kalibagor sugar mill fleet. But when the mill closed, it was relocated to Gondang Baru mill before being preserved here.

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We felt hungry because we haven’t had lunch. So we are asking suggestion from the driver about the nicest eating place in Solo. He directed us to Tiga Tjeret restaurant which is located right next to Mangkunegaran royal palace.

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The driver said that it is owned by the eldest son of president Jokowi,(although some of my friend later disputed the claim). It sells traditional “angkringan” Central Javanese food. The food menu was originally a lower middle class ones, but polished to make it appealing to upper middle class.

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Even the rice has many varieties of flavor, with bombastic naming.

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Whatever we ordered, it will be heated on grill on the counter.

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The taste of the food is excellent.

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The atmosphere is also great.

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After finishing our lunch we returned back to our hotel for rest and relax, and also bade farewell to our driver and thanked for all of his effort in showing us around. Generally, today’s itinerary have been completed and the remainder of the day are free.

Waktong and Hafizul decided to spend the evening on their own, while I choose to take some rest in my room and wait until my camera battery fully charged. Once it is fully charged, it’s time to get something to eat.

My friend, Ariawan Sulistia, had actually suggesting several places to me. And all are located near the hotel. I picked Bestik Pak Mangun, which is located south east of the hotel. It’s a long walk to there. And upon arriving, I found the rather shabby looking restaurant, served by sour faced servants.

When the food served, I was quite surprised to find that it is pretty much a stewed chicken, served with fried potato.

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If that’s not enough, when I paid for the food, apparently there are some hidden costs which make me a bit upset. I give the mark for appearance: 6, taste: 6, service: 4. Not worth visiting the place again.

From there I walk to Solo Square to buy something in its supermarket. Apparently it is a very long walk from the restaurant, and I also had to cross the railway track too. Aong the way I caught the glimpse of Panti Waluyo hospital with its unique architecture.

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It’s quite a busy time at Solo Square, and apparently there are some fancy cars being displayed in front of it. All of them have Jakarta number plates.

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After buying some drinks and snacks that I need, I walk back to my hotel for overnight rest, passing through a quiet looking Solo Purwosari station.

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TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2016 JAVA STEAM & VOLCANO TOUR (Part 2: 23 January 2016)

BROMO TOUR

I have to admit that in the past couple of days I was totally exhausted as I had fewer than 3 hours to sleep. After completing the Surabaya city tour at around 9pm, I still had to prepare the provisions for the tour. And by the time, I completed the preparation, it was already 10.30pm. Still less than 2 hours before I must prepare for Bromo tour.

Thankfully, there are 2 things that actually eased my burden. Firstly, I had hired my driver to do the driving for this Bromo tour. Normally, I would do the driving by myself. But for this one I decided to save energy and asked him to me some favor. Especially since we would have additional itinerary by going to Solo by train in the afternoon. Secondly, we depart to Bromo at 1am, instead of midnight, due to the advice from my local friend there.

At 12.30am, I woke and preparing myself to pick Waktong and Hafizul from the hotel. Upon arriving at the hotel, I greeted them in the lobby, and afterward we went straight to Sukapura. The trip went uneventful, and I spend time during the trip by trying to catch some sleep. Upon arriving at Sukapura, we arrived at my friend’s home where from there we swapped to his 4WD jeep to go to the top.

Unlike previous visits, the jeep doesn’t go all the way to caldera floor due to the eruption. So we are not just barred from visiting the famed savannah and Teletubby hills or whispering sand, we can’t even access Penanjakan point (the highest point at Tengger mountain) as in order to do so from Cemoro Lawang we must go down to the caldera and enter the access road on the other side of the caldera.

Instead, he took us to the Penanjakan II point. This place is actually accessible from Cemoro Lawang, but due to poor road, it is rather difficult to access by ordinary car. Although this place is lower than Penanjakan, but you could still see mount Semeru clearly from there, something that you wouldn’t see from Cemoro Lawang.

The trip from car park to the top is difficult. As soon as we exited the jeep, we were greeted by a strong and very cold wind. As if there is giant air conditioners right next to us, in maximum setting. And from car park we must hike a long walk all the way to the top. Considering the steep gradient, long distance, the weight that we carry, and thinner air that makes the hike very difficult for unseasonal climber.

If that’s not enough, there are many horse owners who kept bugging us by offering their horses for ride. The problem with this service is the fact that it is overpriced. It cost around 200-400 thousand rupiahs for a return short ride between car park and the bottom of the stair. Beyond that we must walk up the stair (which is very difficult under the condition mentioned in the previous paragraph). The horse doesn’t go all the way to the top. I felt that such thing is a rip off, so not worth paying. Sorry about that. Had the horse could take passenger all the way to the top; it might be worth paying such amount for their service.

While we walked, we could hear the rumbling of mount Bromo’s eruption. Yes, the volcano is currently on Alert 3, which means that it is unsafe to go near it, but it is not yet in major eruption. Although it was completely dark, we could vividly see the smoke in the distance.

After long climb, we eventually arrived at a spot right below the Penanjakan II which despite of its lower position, it is actually less crowded. It was still dark when we arrive, so all the photos taken before sunrise were just plain dark. Although mount Bromo is erupting, since the eruption is phreatic eruption instead of magmatic, there was no lava glow or molten rocks to be seen.

Waktong told me that he is thankful that I had informed him to bring jacket along, because he didn’t expect the place to be this cold. He said that even Cameron highland mountain resort in Malaysia is no cooler than this. Well, I also add that throughout my visits to Bromo, this is the first time that I experienced high wind situation, where strong and cold wind blew furiously.

We waited for some time, before the sun eventually appeared in eastern horizon, creating the legendary sunrise moment.

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The rising sun allowed to take some photos of the volcano. Although I have to admit that it was still quite dark.

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Mount Semeru, the highest point in Java Island, can be seen in far distance, covered in mist. Just like mount Bromo, it also show some sign of increasing activity.

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But the funny thing is, it seemed that the wind in both volcanoes blew in different direction, as can be seen from the puff on from their craters.

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Although it was already bright, the strong gale force kept blowing.

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As the sun rose higher, it allows us to take spectacular photo of Tengger caldera complex, complete with erupting volcanoes.

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Although in some way it possesses danger to the nearby farmland, the volcano does actually provide rich and fertile soil needed to grow crops. Some of the crops planted here are delivered to major cities like Surabaya, Malang, Semarang, and even Jakarta! Even McDonald burger outlets in Java island sourced a large number of their potatoes from here!

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As the sun rose higher, we can clearly see that the ash clouds are falling to easterly direction, essentially showering the savannah and the B29 summit with ashes.

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Some visitors decided to conclude their visit and began to descend back to the carpark.

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But Waktong said that he wants to spend additional one hour in here as seeing such thing is rarity.

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Well, seeing an erupting volcano from such close distance is also rarity for me too!

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Since the access to the caldera floor have been closed, the scenery below looks much more natural as there are no jeeps or any vehicles flocked the caldera floor.

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I have to admit that standing at the edge of cliff can be scary. Especially since there is a 50 meters drop below.

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Upon finished taking pictures of the volcano, we decided to return back to the car park.

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Along the way we enjoy the scenery around here.

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We can even see the erupting volcano from the car park too.

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From there, we hop onboard our jeep and heading back to Cemoro Lawang. Along the way we stopped by at one of the potato and cabbage plantation nearby. For Waktong and Hafizul, it is the first time that they see potato plantation, and it’s quite a unique experience. I didn’t follow them as I was too tired and decided to have a brief sleep inside the jeep.

Once they’re satisfied we head to Cemara Indah hotel to enjoy the scenery of mount Bromo from slightly closer distance.

While we relaxing over there, an elderly man offered his massage service to us. I politely refused, but Hafizul and Waktong accepted, so they decided to have massage while enjoying the scenery.

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After they finished with the massage, we returned back to Sukapura to have lunch, and also to return back to Surabaya to prepare ourselves for journey to Surakarta (Solo).

TRAIN TRIP TO SOLO

Again, my rest time felt rather insufficient. I initially thought that we would return back home by midday. But due to the traffic jams on our way back we only made it back to home by 2’o clock! Although I have packed most of my belongings, I still haven’t prepared my cameras yet since I brought them to Bromo, and having had to repackaging them once again.

This only left me with around 30 minutes to sleep! Under such physical condition, I should have at least 2 hours of sleep. So I decided to make do with whatever the available time. Generally, I cannot sleep in such short space of time, and there is a fear that I might overslept and missed the train! So I decided to just lie in bed and do whatever I could to make myself relaxed.

At 3’o clock the alarm ring and I took shower and pack the remainder of my belongings before bade farewell to my parents. My driver took me to the hotel where I pick up Waktong and Hafizul, before we go to the Surabaya Gubeng railway station.

The station was rather quiet, and it seemed that not much people boarding the Turangga express train that we took this evening.

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We waited at the platform of the station.

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Judging be the number of people on the bench, our train would obviously be empty.

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Hafizul asked me whether if we can take picture? Considering that back home in Malaysia, taking pictures of the train is generally forbidden due to political reason. I said that it is fine, as long as we’re train passenger.

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Eventually our train arrived on time.

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Since our coach is located at the back of the train, we had to walk a bit to reach our coach.

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Upon entering, we were greeted by the sight of a rather empty coach.

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Seating is no problem, in fact I even get two foot rests!

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Our train departing right on time at 4.30pm. For me this is the first time I board Turangga express train since 2011. I have to admit that I never become a big fans of this train service, compounded by the fact that the interior design doesn’t look as nice as it used to be. Even the reclining lever is located inside the seat, which means that whenever you wants to adjust your seat, you must stand up do some adjusting. The most ridiculous and un-ergonomic reclining seat I’ve ever seen.

But since the train depart before sunset, we could see the scenery clearly. The sight of scenic countryside with the backdrop of volcanoes are just amazing sight to see.

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Beyond Kertosono, it became too dark for us to see the scenery, so we moved into the dining car nearby. Hafizul marveled on how neatly designed the dining car is. He said that dining car has become a history in most passenger trains in Malaysia, in fact there is a talk that loco hauled passenger trains in Malaysia might be on their way out.

They also lament on how bad the railway scenery has become these days. The deal between Malaysian state railway and Chinese company cost the company a lot, yet it was retained due to political reason. In addition, at one point Malaysian state railway was headed by a rather unpleasant person who had a habit of sending good rolling stocks into scrapyard purely for political reason. And also during his tenure, train photography in the station was outlawed. But since his removal from the office, things might have improved these days, but Malaysian railway will never be the same again.

At Wilangan our train stopped to give way to Argo Wilis express train from Bandung, bound to Surabaya.

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Once the train passes, our train resumed its journey to Solo. The trip went uneventful, and as we near Solo we returning back to our seats.

I tried to catch some sleep, but felt rather worried if I might overslept and overshoot my destination.

Near our seats there was one lady who sits solemnly. She asked us on where we are going. I replied that we will disembark in Solo. She smiled, and said that she will travel with this train all the way to Bandung. Waktong asked how far is that from Solo? I told him that it would be another 7 hours to go. Waktong was totally surprised upon hearing that as he felt that our journey from Surabaya to Solo itself felt lengthy for him.

At around 9’o clock in the evening our train finally arrived at Solo Balapan station in Surakarta.

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We disembark on the right hand side of the train.

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Such move is actually incorrect as the exit way is located to the left of the train.

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But we did it on purpose, as we want to explore a bit more of the station, as well as avoiding the hassle of having had to deal with the shady taxi drivers who preying on incoming passengers.

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Once the train departed, we exited the station.

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As I have predicted earlier, we get bugged by taxi and becak drivers who kept offering their service. I took out all of the tricks possible to put them away, ranging from saying false distant destination such as Karanganyar (works for the becak drivers) all the way until saying that we stayed in the nearby hotel that is within walking distance.

Well, admittedly since our hotel is actually far from station we STILL need a taxi nevertheless. I eventually hail one cab with reputable service on the main road ahead.

Once we boarded the taxi, I asked him to took us to our hotel: Swiss Bel Inn Saripetojo.

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This hotel is still brand new (opened in mid-December 2015), and still looks in mint condition.

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After paying the taxi fare, we head to the receptionist where we checked in into our rooms.

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I have to admit that although the lobby is rather small and lacking with gimmicks, it is still a stylish one.

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We went up to our rooms which is located on 9th floor.

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The corridor’s design just looks stylish and amazing.

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I entered my room which is located right next door to Waktong and Hafizul’s room. And I have to say that it is an amazing room.

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The shower room also looks equally nice too.

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Once I had shower and cleaned ourselves, we went out to have supper. We look around and although there are many choices, we eventually settled for Nasi Goreng stall nearby (note the picture was actually taken in another restaurant, and used for illustration).

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The taste is just fine, at least it is enough to quench our hunger. Once we settled the bill we returning back to our room for rest and relax.

Here you can see the excerpt of our journey in the video below.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

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2016 JAVA STEAM & VOLCANO TOUR (Part 1: 21-22 January 2016)

Intro

PRELUDE

2016 started off with a bang (or bangs), literally! Unlike previous years, where railway tour normally take place in later part of the year, this one goes on the very first month of the year. Even more interesting is the fact that it involves Malaysian railway enthusiasts. I rarely handle Malaysian tourists, let alone railway enthusiast! The last time I held railway tour with them was back in 2012 when I take my friend Johari around Java on a railway tour.

This tour origin is actually dating back from October 2015 when a person named Hafizul messaged me on my Facebook fanpage and making inquiry about railway tour. He said that after reading my previous blog postings he would like to have similar tour, sometime in December or January. His friend, Waktong, would also like to join with him. Eventually, it was Waktong who actually do most of the negotiating with me.

I initially suggest them to have a tour that covers Bromo and Situbondo. In this format, tour participants would go to Bromo volcano and then continuing onward to Situbondo where we would ride the steam loco at Olean sugar mill.

But on the second thought, I was wondering whether if such itinerary might suit them? Considering that Situbondo is a rather bland place to visit. As far as I know, sometime the tourists from South East Asia (especially Singapore and Malaysia) tend to be urban minded where they would value modernity over antique things.

So, I decided to arrange other itinerary as alternative for the first one. This time instead of going to Situbondo, we go to Solo! This tour itinerary, although lacking with narrow gauge trains field lines action, it allow participants to have mainline train ride, something that both Waktong and Hafizul are craving for. And it’s not just mainline train that we would ride, but also a ride onboard railbus that plying street running section in Solo. In addition, it provide us with more varieties, considering that Solo is bigger and more populated place than Situbondo. Although the catch is, we must visit Solo in Sunday, as Tasikmadu steam locomotives only run on Sunday or public holidays.

After completing the itineraries, I then submitted both of them to Waktong and Hafizul. They eventually choose Solo tour. And the date of the tour is set from 22nd until 26th January 2016. All is set for this great tour.

However, things might looks perfectly set for the tour, that is until Bromo volcano activities escalated into a major eruption (still ongoing at the time when this article was written). During my previous visits in October, the volcano did actually shown some sign of increasing activities, in a form of intensified smoke.

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This could potentially led to the tour’s cancellation. Something need to be done to ensure that it is still safe to visit Bromo. After some correspondent with my friend who live near Bromo, it was eventually confirmed that it is still safe to visit Bromo area. Unless that due to the eruption, visitors are barred from going down into the caldera, and instead are directed to a vantage point named Penanjakan II. This place is located below the famed Penanjakan summit, and accessible from Cemoro Lawang.

Another thing that almost sabotaged the tour is airline rescheduling. A few weeks before the tour commencement, AirAsia apparently changing the schedule of their flight. Up until early January, there was still no confirmation regarding of the actual flight time. There were even some worries on whether if the flight might be rescheduled to a completely different date! But thankfully, confirmation about new flight schedule was eventually received. There were no change for return flight, but the arrival date was moved to several hours earlier, which means that instead of arriving in the morning at 22nd January, they will arrive on 21st January midnight!

After receiving the down payment for the tour, I decided to pay for the hotels and train tickets for the tour. And once all of payments are settled, this tour is good to go.

ARRIVAL

Since their flight would arrive near midnight, it means that I had to have some sleep in the afternoon to compensate some reduced sleep hours that I would endure at night.

After completing my desk works in the evening, I went to the airport to pick them up. It was late at night, and the roads in Surabaya had already been deserted as most people have gone to sleep.

Upon arriving at the airport, I found that the parking lot was rather empty and there are  many spaces near the entrance door. And inside the terminal, there were not many people.

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Only after some flights began to arrive that is when the terminal gets crowded again. The last Garuda flight, since it is served by wide body airplane, would made the terminal a bit crowded. And Waktong and Hafizul flight turned out to be the very last flight to arrive in this evening (early morning).

After I greeted them, I took them to their hotel, where they will have a sleep and rest. Waktong initially wants to city tour to start from 8am. But since it would risk me for having too little sleep, I advised the tour to start from 9am, which they agreed.

SURABAYA TOUR

I have to admit that last night’s sleep was rather insufficient for me. I arrived back home at 3am, and had to woke up again at 7am to prepare for the tour. It was a bit struggle to me to wakes up, but after some breakfast and coffee, then I’m ready to go.

I pick them up at around 9.30 (yeah, I was still tired) and head to our first destination: House of Sampoerna. I have been to this tourist attraction for very often, so I don’t need to elaborate much about this place. Just like in my previous visits, we can see the history of the company, as well as cigarette production lines if you’re lucky.

Being a bus enthusiasts, they also took the picture of the unique city tour bus, owned by museum, which partly resemble a tram.

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From there, we drop by at Heroes Monument, which is known as one of the most famous landmark in Surabaya. Prior to 1945, there was a courthouse building in this spot. But after The Battle of Surabaya, which took place in 10th November 1945, the building was obliterated and eventually turned into an open space. A monument was erected on its place back in 1952, and still stood until today.

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Since it was Friday, and we’re all Muslims, we also visited a Mosque to have a Friday congregation. I decided to take them to a Mosque that have a rather different concept than what they would normally see back home in Malaysia: the Chinese Mosque (also known as Cheng Hoo Mosque).

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We also met my local railway enthusiast friend, Derri, who also hop along for today’s ride.

From the Chinese Mosque, we went to Telkomsel to purchase local sim card for Waktong and Hafizul as they want to save cost on interneting. They were a bit surprised on how cheap phone card in Indonesia is. For 4GB package it cost Rp 65.000,- which roughly equivalent to RM 20. Waktong told me that in Malaysia 1GB would cost RM 18!

After settling the phone card matter, we went to  Pasopati submarine monument, which is located right in the middle of the city.

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This Whiskey-class submarine was once part of Indonesia Navy’s large fleet of Soviet built warships purchased by Indonesian government in late 1950s and 1960s. And it was also the last Soviet-built submarine to see service with Indonesian Navy, being withdrawn in 1993.

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Visitors could also enter the submarine, and experiencing how does the life inside the submarine used to look like, and how cramped the space inside. Unless that these days, the interior is air conditioned, while back then such luxury didn’t exist!

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From submarine monument, we went for trainspotting. Since I want to show them a scenery that is unique of Surabaya area, I decided to take them to Sumari.

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In here trainspotters could photograph the train with the backdrop of fishponds.

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We also get to see the Jakarta-bound Gumarang express train passing through the area.

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After completing our trainspotting session we went to the Al Akbar Mosque in southern Surabaya to pray and have a bit of relaxation there.

From Al Akbar Mosque, we went to my brother’s BGH Coffee café in western Surabaya where we had dinner and some excellent drinks prepared by my brother.

We ordered meal for dinner at first I suggested Bebek Putri Madura (a spiced fried duck, served with vegetables stir fried in olive oil).

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While Hafizul love the meal, Waktong felt hesitant to buy that as he felt unfamiliar with duck. So he ordered the chicken version of the menu.

We also sampling my brother’s finest coffee, where he choose the best coffee bean in Java. It was totally excellent.

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After we finished our dinner,I dropped Derri at the same place as we met him earlier and then we head back to the hotel where we would have a brief rest before going to Bromo at midnight.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

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2015 Java Steam & Sugar Tour Part 7 (22-23 September 2015)

We have finally made it into the final part of our tour. After more than a week on the road, we have finally reached our final day on the road. We woke up to a very beautiful morning.

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The hotel’s lush greenery gave a homey feel into this place.

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It’s time for us to have a breakfast. Unfortunately, unlike all hotels that we have stayed before, where upon arriving at restaurant we will be greeted by servant or F&B manager; in here no one greeted us.

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There are some food served on the serving table, but we can only guess if it’s for us. So we took them anyway.

We choose the poolside seating area where we ate breakfast while enjoying the sight of (empty) swimming pool.

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The restaurant very quiet this morning. Other than us, there was just two other guests whose are having breakfast. The noisy oil workers that we encountered last night are nowhere to be seen. They might have either left or probably still asleep.

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The food variety is actually great. They have plenty of delicious menus on the table, although they actually need more cleaning.

The first course that I take is this Chicken cream soup with croutons. For the taste I rated 7 out of 10.

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Then I took a mixture of Beef Stroganoff and creamed potato with sausage. The potato tasted mediocre, but the Beef stroganoff is tender and delicious.

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So much that I decided to take additional Beef Stroganoff, served with toasted bread.

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While I enjoying food, I also see some unprofessional conduct shown by the hotel workers. Some servants can be seen sneaking into the smoking room, relaxing and reading newspaper. The cook who preparing the omelet and eggs couldn’t keep her stations clean and tidy, despite the fact that there were very little duties to do. Some servants tend to be ignorant towards guests.

After finishing our breakfast, we returning back to our room to have a shower and packing up. Then we head to receptionist to settle the bill and check out.

However on the receptionist, I also see another unprofessional conduct displayed by the hotel’s employee. Aside of the putrid smell on receptionist area, when they handed the bill to me, I was stunned to see that it amounted more than 4 million rupiahs! I protested, and after some investigation it turned out that they have made some mistake, and handed me the correct bill. After I made the payment, we head to our car and resumed our journey.

Our itinerary today is quite short: we would like to visit the Cepo logging railway to find out more information about their operation and price, before heading back to Surabaya through the North coast line, pacing with the trains (if we see any).

Although Cepu is a small town, finding the logging railway center is tricky. Our GPS couldn’t pinpoint the location as it is not listed. But after tracing the remains of former Cepu-Blora branchline, where along the way we saw the former Cepu petrol branchline which was closed in 2008 when a car accidentally rammed into a loaded petrol car causing huge explosions that burned almost the whole suburb; and former Cepu downtown station, we eventually find the logging railway depot.

Cepu logging railway is the only non-State Railway operation who operate on the same gauge as the mainline (3ft 6in). Unless that regular working have long ceased and now confined for tourist operations only.

Upon arriving at the locomotive depot, we were greeted with suspicion by the logging railway crew. When we requested permission to have a look at the locomotive, they denied this outright.

They said that if we want to see, we must write a letter requesting permission to see the locomotives. The letters would then be processed in a few days before the management grant permission. And upon inspecting the shed we would be accompanied by local policemen and soldier from the nearby army garrison.

We were totally shocked and perplexed by such lengthy and complicated procedure imposed, just in order to see the steam locomotive! In other places, a simple greeting might do the job. Beside that these are not military installations, nor vital objects!

Considering that our aim was just to see the locomotive, and we only have very little time allocation, I asked for leniency.

The Cepu logging railway crew responded by saying that we must head to the management office to ask the permission. So I decided to head to the office to meet anyone who might have authority to override the hostile crew in the locomotive depot.

Upon arriving at the rather quiet office, I was greeted by the receptionist. The receptionist staff is an elderly old man who seemed to have no clue on how to handle guest. Instead of directing my to anyone with proper authority, he kept on mumbling, either about lengthy permission procedures or the bosses who goes on holiday in Semarang.

I was asking whether if it’s possible to just pay some fees like what I did on sugar mills just to get access, instead of having had to endure lengthy permit process. It’s not a bribe, but it is a common thing in most railway premises, unless if it’s mentioned as free. Again he kept mumbling and can’t deliver clear and direct answer.

Feeling furious and disappointed, I abruptly left that jerk and returning back to the loco shed where Stephen and my brother waiting. I explained everything, and everyone was disappointed.

Although we have explained everything, and even trying to persuade the shed crew, it was no avail. The stubborn crew kept refusing us to see the locomotive. They even said that local kids are also forbidden to get near the locomotive shed.

Rather than arguing further, we excused ourselves to go to the toilet. But since the toilet itself is located next to the locomotive shed, we seized the opportunity to photograph the star locomotive of Cepu, the Berliner 0-10-0 “Bahagia”.

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This is the first time I see this loco in 10 years.

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Back in 2005 I was invited to ride a steam tourist train that travel between this place and Gubuk Payung, deep inside the forest of Cepu. It was a long and enjoyable 6 hours journey.

But the fortune of the railway operation seemed to fluctuate since then. The rail bridge that crossed on the top of main highway has been knocked off its mounting twice by passing oversized trucks, causing truncation of the railway operation. But I heard that a new lift bridge have been installed to prevent the bridge from being knocked off again.

Apparently our joy was rather short lived. The employee who kept whisking us away caught us, and booted us out of premises and locked out the gate!

Wow! That has been the most hostile host that we have visited. Our hope in finding more information regarding to tourist trains have virtually evaporated. So we returning back to Surabaya empty handed!

I later learned the reason behind such hostile treatment from one of my friend who lives in Cepu. He said that some years ago the company who operates the Cepu steam train facing litigation case, as one Dutch tour organizer who hired the train in the past suing the train operator. Although my friend makes no mention about the outcome of the court case, but since then they decided to lock down the shed and making it off limits. They have become paranoid towards strangers. And a presence of Caucasian person would only heighten the tension.

Now we got the clear picture of why they imposing such outrageously restrictive rule, which involve police and army. Those officers, in some way, are not intended to protect the tour participants from outside threat. But instead they’re actually tasked to protect Cepu train operator from being instantly sued by their unsatisfied customers. In case if the foreign customers enraged, these officers could easily kicked these people out.

Stephen guessing that there might be some accident in the past which causing injury amongst the foreign participants, while I’m guessing that there might have been some breach of contract, where instead of going to Gubuk Payung (as probably promised) they only go as far as the yard, yet still charging full fee to the customers. This doesn’t go well with the Europeans whose are known for being very perfectionist when demanding tour.

Whatever the reason was, this has been an annoying anticlimax of our tour.

The trip to Surabaya went on smoothly, without too much traffic jams on the road. We were happy that the main road is located adjacent to Surabaya-Jakarta North Coast mainline. But the downside is, we encounter very little train aside of some local trains in Bojonegoro.

Upon arriving at Surabaya, we took Stephen to his hotel so he can have rest and relax while me and my brother returning back to our home. I took early sleep as Stephen will catch a very early flight on the following day.

 

THE END OF THE TOUR

After I pick up Stephen from his hotel, we head straight to Juanda airport’s Terminal 2.

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Upon arriving at the airport I took him to the check in desk, where we bade farewell and Stephen continue his journey to Bali, before heading home to Australia.

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Upon reflecting on our tour, we think the tour has been a very successful one.

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I have also seen some positive changes in some places such as Ambarawa railway museum, where the museum has been upgraded into an international standard (although the placement of the locos under the roofs seemed to be unpopular among foreign railfans).

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Not all changes are perceived in a positive manner. The winding down of regular steam operation on most mills might be the biggest turn offs for everyone. Some mills have relegated their steam locomotive to chartered runs, such as what we saw at Olean, Kanigoro, or Tasikmadu. In fact we cancelled our plan to visit Sumberharjo sugar mill in Pemalang, largely due to this (and also the closure of its field lines).

But one of our biggest upset had to be seeing the giant Luttermoller Tasikmadu VI sits cold. The first time I see her stood still.

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But overall, we still held our head up high that the following year we will be able to have a better tour.

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We hope that you enjoy reading the story. If you want to have similar tour like this, probably in December 2015, or next year, don’t hesitate to contact me through my e-mail at bagus70@yahoo.com or bagus@indonesianrailwaytour.com .

THE END.

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2015 Java Steam & Sugar Tour Part 6 (21 September 2015)

After sleeping in the probably the most luxurious hotel that we stayed throughout our trip, we woke up to see a very beautiful vista on our window, with mount Lawu volcano looming in the background.

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Our hotel is definitely the tallest structure in the town of Madiun. Other than ours, there’s virtually no other tall buildings that hindering our view at all. In fact the hills at Pacitan regency, which is around 100 km away from where we stood, are clearly visible.

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We can also see the “Railway Academy” campus; a government owned vocational college which specializing in railway. Although founded by government, I heard that the only railway company exist in Indonesia, Indonesian State Railway (PT KAI), only partly acknowledging its existence, and it is doubtful if its curriculum are relevant to the railway operations outside Indonesia.

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Beyond the railway college is Iswahyudi Air Force Base. The air base premises can be partly seen as a small green clearings to the left of the picture in the background.

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The base is well known as one of the leading air force base in Indonesia where many advanced warplanes such as F-16 (or MiGs in the past) are based. There has been a talk of opening the base for civilian air traffics, but it has constantly been refused by Indonesian air force.

We are hungry, and it’s time to have a breakfast. The restaurant where we had the breakfast looks very lavish, reminds me of the hotels in Jakarta.

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For starter, I took the smoked beef cold cuts and some salad.

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The hotel doesn’t seem to be very busy, but it does provide nice backdrop for my food photo.

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After that I tried the crab, corn, and asparagus Chinese soup. Tasted really delicious!

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Then, I took that grilled sausages, Lyonnais potatoes, and baked bean.

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And lastly the dimsum menu, such as chicken foot stew and shrimp tofu balls.

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After completing the breakfast, we returned back to our room to have shower and packing our bags, before checking out from our hotel.

The hotel where we stayed is actually strategically located: quite close to Kanigoro sugar mill. And had the Madiun-Ponorogo branchline still in operation, it would have been very convenient as it is located a few houses down from where the railway line used to be.

Today’s route is from Madiun we will head North to Cepu, where along the way we will stop by at Purwodadi sugar mill or any sugar mills with steam loco.

But first, we would like to see the Kanigoro sugar mill nearby.

Upon arriving at the mill’s administration office, I head to the division which normally handles visitors. I mention our intention to see the steam working. To our dismay, they said that the regular steam working have ceased since last July. In fact no railway work are performed at all as now all of the sugarcanes are lifted straight from the truck, instead of being transferred to rail wagons like what they used to be.

They even say that in the next 2 years the mill will be closed as the demand of the Madiun’s town expansion made it uneconomical to keep the mill going.

Feeling slightly disappointed, we bade farewell and resumed our journey to the North. A few minutes later we eventually arriving at Purwodadi sugar mill where the steam whistle and chugging greeted us.

We had a high expectation to see some more actions in Purwodadi sugar mill. And upon arriving at the mill’s yard we pretty much got what we want. Today’s working is hauled by number 10 and 15.

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The number 16 is nowhere to be seen…….or is it?

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Apparently an F-16 buzzed overhead as it approached the nearby Iswahyudi air base. And unlike our previous visits where no air traffic were seen, today’s fighter planes traffic is quite busy.

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But on a contrary, apparently the first run that we see at Purwodadi turned out to be the only run that we see today. After the train disappeared into the mill, there were no more workings to be seen. Some of the employees can be seen giving hand signals to me which I couldn’t understand the meaning.

Only when one of them approached me, then I realize that it’s working shift break time. They said that the working will resume at 3 pm, once the replacement group turned up. It was around 11 am, and we think that it would be better if we conclude our visit to Purwodadi and resumed our journey.

As we left Purwodadi mill, we were wondering whether if it would be the last regular steam working in Indonesia that we encountered?

I was suggesting Stephen to visit Sudhono sugar mill, just a few kilometers to the North of Purwodadi mill, which was accepted by him.

This small mill is located just right next to the railway mainline. And just like most mills in Madiun, it has long gave up its regular steam locomotive working, as well as closing down its field lines. But unlike other mills in the area who operating on 700mm tracks, Soedhono is the only mill in Madiun area who utilize 600 mm tracks.

The security in the mill seemed to be the most relaxed one. In fact we saw no one on the security post, so we head straight to the locomotive shed which is located right next to the yard’s entrance gate to photograph this loco.

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This loco is the last steam loco in working condition at Sudhono.

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The loco is only used on chartered basis, where it will run around the mill area, as none of its former field lines are in existence anymore.

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From Sudhono mill, we went to Geneng station which is located right behind the mill compound.

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This small station is currently used as local train stop and passing siding.

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Back in the old days, the station was also used as a junction for branch line to Sudhono sugar mill, but that branch was closed back in 1980s.

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We politely introduced ourselves to the station crew. The warmly welcoming us, and allowing us to enter the signaling room of the station. Just like most rural railway stations in Java, this station still utilizing the old Siemens & Halske mechanical semaphore signal, which dates back from 1955.

Being a railway worker with more than 30 years of working experience, Stephen gladly exchanging his knowledge with the local railway worker in here. We also found that there are many similarities between the signaling system in Indonesia and Australia.

But the obvious difference has to be the token key system. The token system is completely unfamiliar to Indonesian railway workers, so much that they mistake it as signal error despite the fact that it was common to pass the key from one station to another on regular basis back then.

Soon, we hear vibrating noise from the signal equipment. Apparently there is a train approaching from Madiun.

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The train gradually appeared in the distance.

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It wasn’t long to realize that it is Malioboro express train that travel between Malang to Yogyakarta.

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After the train passes through the station, we resumed our journey north. The trip went without too much problem before we finally arriving at Cepu, after a rather leisurely and scenic drive through the hilly interior of Java island.

Finding our hotel is a bit tricky. Our GPS directing us to a place to the north of Cepu, but we found nothing! Only after asking some locals then we could found our way to our hotel. The hotel’s grandeur entrance contrasting to its rather rural backwater surroundings. So much that Stephen called it “oasis”.

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We arrived at its stylish lobby where the check in progress went smoothly.

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Stephen commented that the hotel reminds him with the resort hotels in Bali. He said it’s quite unusual to find such hotel “in the middle of nowhere” in Java.

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The backyard is also equally nice too.

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There are more rooms on the back side, but I would like to explore it later.

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They also provide bike hire service, in case if we want to explore the surrounding areas.

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It’s time for us to put our belongings into our room.

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Our room is apparently located down stair from the lobby, in a small garden in front part of the hotel.

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Our room looks nice, but unfortunately it’s a bit smelly.

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The working desk is not much of use if we turned the TV on!

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But what I like about our room is the “naughty” design of our room. It has an open roof where whenever you have a shower, you feel like being naked in the outdoor.

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The real benefit of such open bathroom design is it will allow the smell to dissipate immediately.

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While my brother and Stephen relaxed, I spend the afternoon exploring the hotel premises.

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I have to say that this hotel’s design closely resemble the resort hotels that you would normally found in Bali. Unless that in Bali you won’t hear the rumble of GE 7FDL engine, or the sound of Wabco AA2 or Nathan P3 Airhorn in the distance.

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The restaurant is rather unique, and has minimalist design.

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But what is good about the restaurant has to be the adjacent swimming pool.

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It’s probably the best place to throw a poolside party too!

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I went further to the back.

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Apparently there is another pool, with the fountain above.

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In fact this hotel seemed to have more than one swimming pool.

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There is also a “secret garden” complete with Balinese style hut too.

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There are also some VIP room ,which essentially came with their own garden…

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…..and even private swimming pool too!

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On the back there are also some newer rooms that are built above the artificial lake.

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This quarter with hanging chair looks very new.

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I decided to return back to the lobby while capturing some parts of the hotel that has ethnical beauty in it.

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But somehow, I also got the impression that this hotel is rather quiet. And the employees don’t seem to keep up the cleanliness level of the place.

I returned back to the lobby, and when I approached the receptionist desk, I was really surprised on how putrid the smell is!

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I asked some info about the local cuisine, souvenirs, and the most importantly, the info about the steam logging railway.

The younger employees couldn’t give exact info about that. Some says that they loco is still in operation, but only for short trip. Some said that it’s no longer running.

But there is one elderly employees who said that the train occasionally run all the way until the Gubuk Payung, the furthest point of the train journey inside the teak forest. He know this because his house is located right next to the logging railway line.

He also said that a few years ago, the steam train would also run to Pasar Sore, an area on the outskirt of Cepu to collect the harvested teak timber.

After I finish chatting with them, I returned back to the room to relax.

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At night, we want go out for some dinner. But since Stephen was too tired to go out, we decided to have a dinner in the hotel instead.

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Contrary to what I see a few hours earlier, the hotel is now looks very busy and lively as all of the oil workers returning back from their workplace. Their loud and noisy attitude makes the place slightly unpleasant for us.

Judging by their accent, according to Stephen, they are American, English, Scottish, and Welsh.

Just for your reference, Cepu is well known for its oil wells. In fact the Dutch Shell oil company started their oil business venture in Cepu!

We ordered the menu. This is one of the appetizer: a spring rolls with chicken ragout filling.

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This one is a grilled chicken and rice.

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One of the drinks which is a mixed of fruits and jelly, served with shaved ice and condensed milk.

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We think this hotel is a great accommodation for those who want to see and enjoy the steam logging railway tour. It has all of the amenities needed for tourists from western countries.

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But first, we must ascertain the fee and also whether if the train still goes all the way into the middle of the forest. That’s what we’re going to find out tomorrow.

TO BE CONTINUED

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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.