STEAM IN THE CANE FIELDS
The inexorable rise of the diesel locomotive and the decline of steam means that opportunities to photograph steam hauled cane trains
in Java has dramatically reduced.   Not that it was ever easy - on many systems the returning trains of loaded wagons began their
journeys back to the mills at sunset or even after dark although those with the knowledge managed to find daylight trains on certain
systems.  The start of the 2004 season saw the end of field trains at Sragi, leaving only Olean and Asembagus mills to carry on the
tradition.  Photographing cane trains on the move is fairly easy since their rate of progress is severely limited by the state of the track.  
Indeed at Olean it was possible to travel on the footplate of the locomotive, jump off the moving engine to run ahead of the train, take
the photograph and get back onto the footplate again ready to move on to the next spot.  Its certainly a great way to keep fit!  The only
downside from a photographic point of view is that the locomotives make very little smoke or 'clag' as the bagasse burns very cleanly.  
Therefore it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a photograph of a train which is on the move and one which is actually
stationary!
Tersana Baru, Jatibarang and Pangka

Sumberharjo, Sragi and Tasik Madu
Steam in China
Steam In Zimbabwe
Steam in Cuba
Steam in Germany
Steam In Poland
Purwodadi, Kanigoro and Pagottan

Merican and Gempolkerep
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Java Trip Report
Olean (41)
If there is such a place as heaven for steam enthusiasts then it must be Olean.  The mill is located at the eastern end of the island close
to the city of Situbondo - where there are several perfectly adequate hotels - but for those in search of paradise the nearby beach
resort of Pasirputih offers hotel rooms with balconies opening straight onto the beach, spectacular outrigger sailing boats for hire and
dramatic views of the sun sinking into the ocean.  A short bus trip into Situbondo and a leisurely ride in becak (cycle taxi)  is an ideal
preparation for a day of steam action.  The mill itself has an incredible collection of stationary steam engines powering the mill
machinery and it would be entirely possible to spend a whole day wandering around the various buildings.  Early morning visitors are
likely to find the locomotive depot deserted as the four Orenstein and Koppels will have already taken long trains of empty loris out to
the fields running bunker-first.  However by about 10.30 most of the engines have returned to the yard where they are prepared for the
serious work of the day.  From mid-day onwards the locomotives begin to leave the yard and head off light engine along the Gelung or
Semiring lines to collect the loaded cane wagons.      
Orenstein and Koppel 0-8-0T
No.1 returns towards Olean
having taken a train of empty
cane wagons out to the fields
near Gelung
The locos operate according to
where the cane is being cut and
during my visit the Semering
line saw the majority of the
activity with cane being cut
very close to Olean mill on the
other line - which also happens
to face straight into the sun!  
Orenstein and Koppel No.7
'Hiyang' runs alongside the road
through the village of
Tribungan.
A rare display of smoke from
Orenstein and Koppel No.4 'Semeru'
as it comes round one side of the  
triangle between Tribungan and
Kerangmalang
No.5 'Bromo' standing in the
main mill yard at Olean.  As well
as cane brought into the mill by
the locomotives there is also a
continuous stream of lorries
offloading in the adjacent
sidings - a potentially ominous
sign for the future of rail
operation at the mill.
Another day and another train
passing through Tribungan -
this time it is No.4 'Semeru'
which is attracting the interests
of the locals as it makes its way
back to Olean.
Although the main railway tracks are permanent it is necessary to get the cut cane from the fields to the line.  To do this temporary tracks
are laid across the fields and the loaded loris brought to the main line by means of buffalo traction! Teams of four, six or even eight
buffalo are used to pull one or two wagons. (above left)

Inside the mill the cane is firstly chopped, washed  and then gradually crushed to extract the sugar from out of the cane.  Much of the
machinery inside the mill is still steam powered by large stationary engines of Dutch or British origin (above right)  
The bemused look on the
face of the local says it all
having just watched me jump
from the footplate of No.4
and run along the road in
order to get a shot of the
train running alongside the
road just north of Kerang
Melang.
Orenstein and Koppel No.1 stands
in the main yard at Olean having
just brought in a train of loaded
wagons from Duwet on the
Gelung branch
The becak is a standard means
of travel in many villages, towns
and cities across Java.  The
becak riders are willing to travel
quite long distances and it is an
excellent way to observe local
life at a leisurely pace.  Here a
becak passes No.7 as it waits to
move wagons near Tribungan
Having run alongside the road
through the village of Tribungan
the line then crosses the road   
and turns west, running along a
narrow lane towards Kerang
Malang - scenes like this and the
one below make Olean totally
unforgetable.
Having taken the shot above I
elected to stay on foot and run
on ahead of the train.  With legs
turning to jelly and lungs fit to
burst I was just about capable
of photographing No.7 as it
crossed a tiny river bridge
between Tribungan and the
triangle north of Kerang Malang.
Journey's end as No.7 brings its
train across the weighbridge at
Olean.  I had enjoyed an entire
afternoon on the footplate of the
locomotive and all for the price of
a couple of packets of local
cigarettes.  To my way of thinking,
avoiding corrupting the local
goodwill and ensuring that the
practices of the working railway
are in no way compromised is
essential.  Working steam iin
C21st is an endangered species
and needs to be treated with care
and respect.
No one can be certain how
much longer scenes like this
will continue to be enjoyed.  
The falling price of sugar on the
world markets makes the future
of the industry uncertain and
the steady inroads made by the
diesel salesmen adds to the
pressure on steam.  In 2005 at
least it has still been possible to
see No.5 hard at work but who
knows what the future holds for
Olean .........?
Asembagus (44)
Located some 20km to the east of Situbondo is Asembagus mill.  This is the only other mill in Java which still regularly uses steam to
collect cane from the fields during daylight although trains are far less reliable than at Olean with some days seeing no steam action at
all.  I waited for most of the day before an engine left the mill to collect loaded wagons and chose to ride the locomotive to take my
pictures.  After a pleasant run of some 6 - 7km we found the loaded wagons and I took up position ready to make my shots.  The driver
opened the regulator .... and with a sickening crunch the rails under the locomotive collapsed sideways!  With no chance of the engine
being re-railed before sunset I resigned myself to a long walk back to the mill but fortunately managed to find a young man working in
one of the trackside fields who had a motorbike ............. and the natives are very helpful!
Orenstein and Koppel 0-8-0T
No.10 standing in the fields at
Asembagus.  This locomotive is
something of a hybrid with the
frames of one locomotive being
paired with the boiler of another
to create a 'new' engine
No.10 stands at the head of its
train ready to haul the loaded
wagons back to the mill. Just a
few seconds after this shot was
taken,  disaster struck (see above)
and it was game over at
Asambagus!
Orenstein and Koppel 0-8-0T No.5
'Bromo' returning home on the
Semiring line just north of Karang
Malang on the Olean mill system
on 20th August 2004 (below)