LAND OF FIRE AND STEAM
With steam operations in Cuba now little more than a parody of what they once were, the mantle of 'Steam In Paradise'
was passed on to the Indonesian island of Java. The common factor between the two countries is that the steam
operations are seasonal, bringing harvested sugar cane into the mills for processing. In the case of Java the season lasts
from early June until September and whilst much of interest still remains, the frequently repeated adage once more
applies, in that the present operation is a shadow of what it once was. In 2004 only 14 mills were still using steam and in
most cases the locomotives were only being used to move cane wagons from the road delivery yards into the mill.
Honourable exceptions were Asembagus and Olean where cane trains from the fields were still steam hauled. Here it was
possible to see the temporary points laid into the main tracks with more temporary track lines laid out across the fields.
Wagons loaded with cut sugar cane were then hauled to the main lines by buffalo working in teams of two or four -
sweating and straining under the load. It was certainly not a scenario which would have found great favour with animal
A further bonus for lovers of steam power is that many of the mills retain steam powered stationary engines to operate the
crushing plants inside the mills themselves. Many of these engines are of Dutch origin as well as some produced by British
manufacturers and all are of considerable vintage and enormous interest. It is difficult to describe the sights, sounds and smell
inside a sugar mill - a mixture of sweetness mingled with steam and the smell of hot oil. The heat is also ferocious as furnaces
are used to heat the sugary mix to create the crystals which are the ultimate end product. To gain access to this industrial
scene it is usually necessary to pay a fee to enter the mill - a system which is generally well regulated and honestly managed
with official receipts being issued. Usually the visitor is then free to wander around the mill and mill yards at will. The (in my
mind) highly satisfactory system that allows you take personal responsibility for your own safety rather than being subject to
a raft of over-zealous regulations prevails. So far I have not been required to wear a hard hat or steel capped boots!
The pictures in this section of the site have been organised geographically from west to east - starting in the central north
coast with a number of mills in the Tegal region, moving to the central southern regions around Solo, Madiun and Kediri and
finishing with the eastern mills of Olean and Asembagus. Exact details of the mills covered are shown below together with an
introductory picture which will hopefully whet the appetite for Javan steam!
|Photographing steam in Java can
often require a great deal of
patience as it can take several
hours or more for a train of loris
to be assembled ready for the
journey to the mill - in some cases
the whole daylight hours are
spent in this way with the trains
only returning to the mill at
sunset or even after dark. The
wagons are brought from the
fields by buffalo and then chained
together as conventional
couplings are rarely used. One of
the least pleasant and more
dangerous duties for the loco
crew is to crawl under the
wagons to attach the chains -
usually an indication of imminent
The pictures on these pages were all taken during three independent visits to Java in August 2004, 2006 and 2008.
Full trip reports with travel and accommodation details for both 2004 and 2006 appear on their own separate pages.
The 2008 trip was mainly for tourist purposes but travel and accommodation details were very similar to the previous two
For a comprehensive overview of remaining steam operations in Java, both in terms of locomotives and mill machinery it is
essential to see Rob Dickinson's pages on his International Working Steam website. Rob is the acknowledged expert on
steam in Java and my own solo trips, which I did mainly using public transport to access the various mills, would not have been
possible without his help, advice and guidance, for which I am totally, and probably eternally, indebted.
|Du Croo & Brauns 0-8-0T No.6 working a short train at Sumberharjo mill in August 2006
|Orenstein & Koppel 0-8-0T No.V running through the streets at Tasik Madu
|A pair of Orenstein & Koppel 0-8-0T stand in the transfer yard at Purwodadi - August 2004
|Orenstein and Koppels 0-10-0 No.4 and 0-8-0T No.18 in the yard at Gempolkerup
|Orenstein and Koppel 0-8-0 No.4 'Semeru' on fieldwork at Olean in August 2008