Extra Edition : The ‘Left Out’ Mills, Vintage Video Footages and Non-Narrow Gauge Railways

During the course of my travel around Java Sugar Mills in search of their narrow gauge railways, it was not up until recent times that I managed to visit a couple of them. A few reasons are behind it, such as lack of financial power, no time to visit them as I had to be more attached to my previous workplace, the places are too remote and I didn’t have any help at the time to get there, and some other reasons. Lucky me, in recent times, I made the effort on purpose to visit some of these places, before these lovely rich heritage values are swept away and gone forever. So as the title says, this is an extra edition page, where I will cover the mills that I missed out previously, a couple of vintage video footage I found on Youtube just to give you an idea of how canes were being transported during the times when the Dutch ruled over Java (and the whole of Indonesia), and also other interesting non narrow gauge railways in Java (these ones you might have already known or heard of).

The only remnant to remind us of the shut down and abandoned Gempol Sugar Mill in Palimanan near Cirebon, West Java, is this no.1 0-8-0T built by Henschel, today preserved in Taman Mini Indonesia, South Jakarta. Photo dated 2016.

Locomotive Specifications
  • Builder : Henschel & Sohn, Cassel, West Germany
  • Works No. : 10437
  • Year Built : 1911
  • Year Last Used : 1995
  • Weight : 11,5 tons
  • Power : 80 horsepower
  • Max. Speed : 10 km/hour

The ‘Left Out’ Mills
Whereas on the previous section I was moving Westwards (from East to West), this time I will go the other way round, from West to East. This section will only cover two mills that I found interesting in recent times, and these mills as time go by, become harder and harder to gain entry access. If you’re going at it alone, you literally had to do a battle with the very shambolic Indonesian bureaucracy, not to mention the fantastic entrance fees. But anyway, I’ll cover it up for you.

Just in case you are wondering where those places are, I have put up a map showing the corresponding places along with the numbers to give you a rough idea of the locations.

map of East Java (highlighted in red), courtesy of Google Maps, with the numbers correspond to the mill locations.

1.   Pessantren Sugar Mill (Kediri Region, East Java)
What was home to the mostly inhabited by Du Croo and Brauns steam mallets have become a thing of the past. It seems that the mill have absolutely no interest whatsoever in using these uniquely imported Dutch built mallets anymore. From the reports given by John Browning and Scott Jesser during their visit in 2012, the mallet steams were stored in the (old mill) shed. However, in 2015, there were news that the mallets have been taken out of the shed and dumped in the yard of the (old) mill. In 2016, I checked it out, after obtaining a permit by hard battling with the bureaucracy of PTPN X Headquarters in Surabaya, and what I found was that it was true. The mallets and all the steam locos are dumped in the yard of the (old) mill, and I couldn’t find the former building of the loco shed. So I assume that the shed had been torn down to the ground when the steam locos were taken out and dumped in the yard. The conditions of the former rulers of the mill were poor, as they are being subjected and exposed to direct sunlight, oxygen and carbon dioxide, and rainwater, the perfect combination for quick rust. Not to mention that a lot of the parts are missing. Here are some of them.

Before carrying on, note that the yard of the old mill have become so overgrown with plants, leaves and trees, that it turned into a heavily mosquito invested tropical jungle of its own. So you definitely need long sleeve shirts and trousers, and preferably shoes and socks, and of course, anti-mosquito creams to avoid yourself being bitten by them if you are coming here. I had to move my hands so many times just to shake off the afternoon mosquitoes.

The first one is this no.214 0-4-4-0T mallet built by Du Croo en Brauns dumped beside the mill's small mosque. Note that the locos numbered with 3 digits indicate that they were formerly the neighbouring mill's at Ngadirdjo. Photo dated 2016.

Another identical Du Croo en Brauns built mallet, the no.228 0-4-4-0T, saw a better fate as it is preserved in the front garden of the mill's administrator's house. Another D&B steam mallet is also preserved just on a nearby junction next to the mill. Photo dated 2016.

In the newly built mill, located just around 400 meters South East across the road from the old mill, some diesel activities existed. Field lines have been long gone, as the track beds have turned into narrow or small streets, and the cane fields have been buried underneath new houses and settlements. They also built another shed in the new mill, probably just to shelter the diesels. On my visit in 2016, only one Schoema and 2 Japanese Hokurikus were working the canes delivered by road.

No.13 0-6-0 DH Hokuriku awaits the next set of canes to be propelled into the cane table. Photo dated 2016.

A rather unique no.10 0-4-0 4wDM Schoema is seen here, as it is waiting for the cane wagons to be emptied. I must say, I never seen such Schoema loco with the driver's view being a 2 circled holes.

A little heritage shot just before leaving Pessantren, is this former Pessantren tramstop that was once owned by the Kediri Steamtram Company (Kediri Stoomtram Maatschappij). The tramstop and the steamtram rails are separated by the road seen on the photo, making me standing on the former position of the steamtram rails.

2.   Semboro Sugar Mill (Jember Region, East Java)
More like being located on the border of its neighbouring region, Lumajang, they still maintain tens or maybe hundreds of kilometers their field lines. Lots of diesel fleets are busy working the field lines, both far and close by cane fields. But of course, nothing would be complete in Semboro without the steam excursion. Besides of having 2 fireless steams busy with the canes that have to be processed by the milling machine, they have a no.15 0-4-4-0T O&K mallet and a no.29 0-6-0T Jung steam loco up for charter. I personally prefer the no.15 mallet loco rather than the no.29 Jung since I think that this mallet is the last working mallet in East Asia (including South East Asia).

On to the field workings first. Semboro have tons of these 0-6-0 DH Hokuriku diesels, as most of them are being out and about working the field lines. Photo dated 2014.

Still out and about with my motorcycle to find some more cane trains in the fields, I spotted this abandoned Schoema 0-4-0 4wDM which normally do the job of hauling the loaded cane wagons from deep inside the cane fields on the portable tracks onto the nearby permanent line. Photo dated 2014.

Back to the mill now, and with the Farrail group in 2016, is first we photographed this O&K 0-6-0F fireless loco. There are 2 of these in regular workings in Semboro, but I don't know how long these will last.

We had to tell the loco driver of these fireless locos to move them so that we could get a footage during my visit with the Farrail group. So yeah, plastic steam it is then, but at least it's still moving. So here's the video dated 2016.


Onto the steam excursions then, is first this no.29 Jung 0-6-0T being chartered in 2015 along with the ash tipper wagons.

A rumble in Semboro's tropical jungle, as the no.15 O&K 0-4-4-0T mallet is preparing for our afternoon charter with the Farrail group in 2016.

I finally got to see a mallet steam loco in action when I went with the Farrail group in 2016. However, again, things didn't go according to plan as another bunch of stupid Japanese pushed themselves in front of the queue and decided that it was their turn to charter the loco when it was supposed to be ours. As a result, and thanks to them, the loco didn't go far as it had to be refilled with water and restocked with firewoods, not to mention the 2 hours of derailment near the rear mill gate. But anyway, here's the 2016 video.


Overall, there are no more real steams at Semboro. Chartered ones are counted as plastics, as you can recreate any moments and you can have as many runpasts as you like. But such scenes already made me happy, since the mallet normally broke down and the mill shed crew had to do quick fixes. And if these quick fixes don't work, they replace the mallet with the no.29 Jung. So yeah, scenes of mallet steams are really rare in the world today.

Vintage Video Footages
Upon browsing the Youtube, which is where people upload video footages nowadays (myself being included), I found some interesting videos of sugar mills and their narrow gauge transportation dating back to the time when the Dutch Government was still reigning over Indonesia (back then it was the Netherlands East Indies). I decided to pick the good ones, well I think they’re good anyway, because for me, they show just how much of an important aspect they are to the once glorious sugar industry of Java and its huge impact towards the world. Note that since these are pre-1940 films, don’t be surprised if these are silent movies.

1. The Notorious Wonopringgo Sugar Mill
Located South of a small town of Pekalongan in Central Java, according to the book titled Sugar, Steam and Steel : The Industrial Colonial Project, written by G Roger Knight, this was a pilot project in the mid-19th century that was set to be the role model of how sugar mills should be in Java. It is believed that it was here (amongst other couple of smaller mills across Central Java’s Northern Coast) where the modern milling machines at the time were being imported from Europe and installed, including vacuum pans and the huge steam driven flywheels. So below is the video dated 1927, courtesy of Netherlands Film Archive Amsterdam, directed by Willy Mullens, which shows the complete process of growing the canes up to making them to sugar sacks, including how they are transported. Notice just how long the cane trains are.


2. Sugar Cane Transportation in Java (in Colour)
I found another interesting video in Youtube that does not show the exact date, courtesy of Timescape Indonesia, showing how canes are being chopped and transported, which involves a narrow gauge train. I can’t quite make out what steam loco it is, and the video also does not state at which mill it was. However, since it is in colour, I thought it’s another important archive that’s worth to be looked at. Just look at those canes that probably stand above 2 meters tall!!


3. Sugar Cane Transportation in Java (Black and White)
Another pre-World War II silent movie that I think is worth watching, dated somewhere in 1920's courtesy of Timescape Indonesia. It shows the typical cane cutting and cane transporting method in Java. Notice at the end of the video it features what looks to me like a coal train, most probably taken around the areas of Padang in West Sumatra, where it transports coal from the Ombilin Coalmine Company.


Non Narrow Gauge Heritage Railways
Java also has a cape gauge (Indonesian Standard Gauge) heritage steams, but they are only located in Central Java. Going from West to East as the previous section, I will briefly go through them. Also the places numbered correspond to the numbers in the Central Java map.

A map of Central Java (highlighted in red), which shows the numbers that corresponds to the places below being covered.

1. Ambarawa Railway Museum
Located South of Semarang, on the foot of Mount Ungaran and the twin volcanoes of Merapi and Merbabu, this was a line that connected the branchline from Kedungjati to Jogjakarta. In 2014, they restored the B5112 (former SS 600 series) 4-4-0T built by Hanomag steam loco for the flat section from Ambarawa to Tuntang. In 2016, we tried to charter the rack loco to go up to Bedono, but such thing never happened as the rack section was under maintenance during my visit with the Farrail group.

B5112 shunts at the Tuntang Railway Station during a charter in a cloudy and rainy day in 2016.

B5112 makes its way back to Ambarawa Railway Station from Tuntang, as it's making its way past the huge Rawa Pening lake on the same cloudy and rainy day of 2016.

A video of the B5112 loco making its way back towards Ambarawa from Tuntang


A video of the B5112 in action during the Farrail charter in 2016.


2. Slamet Riyadi Road, Surakarta/Solo, Central Java
Located in the city centre of Surakarta (very close from Tasikmadu and Colomadu Sugar Mills), amazingly this is the only surviving street running railway in Indonesia today, as the rest have been dismantled. It goes along the main road of Slamet Riyadi Road (formerly Poerwosari Weg), starting at the Purwosari Railway Station up to Sangkrah Station, and back. And today, the State Railway had reopened the line to put to regular use as they have introduced the railbus made by INKA (Indonesia’s State Railway Industry) to be used for passengers who want to travel from Surakarta to Wonogiri. The steam railway features a C1218 (former SS 400 series) 2-6-0T built by Hartmann steam loco.

C1218 steam loco eases its way past the Sunday morning traffic of Slamet Riyadi Road. Photo dated 2012.

A free of traffic Sunday morning is the usual scene here in Slamet Riyadi Road. Photo dated 2012.

C1218 on its way back to Purwosari Railway Station from Sangkrah Railway Station, as it pauses by a local souvenir snack store in Slamet Riyadi Road, since the group who chartered it wanted to take something home with them to give to their relatives and friends. Photo dated 2016.

A video of what the scene looked like in 2012 can be seen below.


3. Cepu Logging Railway, Central Java
Very similar railway as the one in Visser Valley, Romania, where it used to transport teak logs from the teak forest up to the teak yard. It features cape gauge Berliner locos, where now only 3 locos remained at Cepu and another one preserved at Museum Kehutanan (Forestry Museum) in Palmerah, West Jakarta. It also features an 0-6-0T Du Croo en Brauns loco, probably the only cape gauge loco to be built by Du Croo en Brauns. During my time with Farrail in 2016, the line had a major cutback. There was a bridge that was subjected to corrosion located just after the loco depot, therefore it was not safe for a train to go passed it. As a result, the charter was only a short one. There are plans of renovating it, but I’ll doubt it’ll be done in a near time. However, should it be done in near future, I’ll definitely let you know.

The 0-10-0T Berliner "Madjoe" (Move Forward) steam loco of the former Cepu Logging Railway preserved in Indonesia Forrestry Museum in Palmerah, West Jakarta. Photo dated 2016.

The identical twin, Bahagia (Happy), is being steamed during the 2016 Farrail tour.

A video of the Berliner in action in 2016. Not that much lines that remained, hence that's why the video is so short.


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