Part 4 : Mojokerto

Mojokerto was an area filled with so many sugar mills. In total, there were 5 sugar mills, which were Brangkal, Bangsal, Sentanen Lor, Perning and Gempolkerep. Out of the 5, the only one still in operation today is the Gempolkerep Sugar Mill. Gempolkerep did not have a smooth start when this year’s (2012) milling season arrived. As a bad start, they were accused of polluting the nearby Brantas River by throwing their wastes straight into the river without processing it first. So the local city council (with the help of non government funded organizations) pointed their fingers at Gempolkerep Sugar Mill and told them that they were not allowed to operate on the early months of the milling season. As a consequence, many cane farmers held massive demonstrations on the gate of Gempolkerep Sugar Mill. And when they tried to clear up the case, it turns out that there was an inside man who was trying to get his revenge on the Gempolkerep Sugar Mill. But anyhow, I am not going to go much into details on the politics, so back on the milling season. They eventually allowed to have their milling season in the beginning of July, 2 months late after the other mills started their milling season.

So I will begin my journey in Mojokerto with a little heritage walk of my own accompanied by Cahyana Indra, a local enthusiast who has inside connections to Gempolkerep sugar mill. Before I went in to Gempolkerep sugar mill, I decided to see what was remaining of one of the shut down sugar mills, the Sentanen Lor Sugar Mill. I also decided to see what was remaining of the Spiritus Factory in Wates, an area on the outskirts of the Mojokerto main city. So first, let us start with the Spiritusfabriek Wates.

Map of Mojokerto, dated 1938 courtesy of, and present map (dated 2012) courtesy of Google Map images, showing the locations of the Sentanon Lor Sugar Mill and the Spiritusfabriek Wates (Chemical Plant Wates) marked in red. The blue lines represent the 1067 mm tramline used to be owned by Oost Java Stoomtram Maatschappij.

Along the banks of Brantas River in the North side of Mojokerto, I found what seem to be the site of the ex Spiritus Factory in Wates area (Spiritusfabriek Wates). Although in the Google Earth the photo the ex chimney still remains, when I came there however all of the remains of the building have been bulldozered to the ground. So there were not any evidence left on the scene, although I think I found the 1067 mm trackbed used to be owned by OJS that has been turned into a small alleyway by the local residents.

A zoomed version of map of Mojokerto, dated 1938 courtesy of and a comparison with the Google Earth map dated 2012, showing the location of Spiritusfabriek Wates (Wates Chemical Plant).
Moving further West and still along the banks of the Brantas River, my feeling of curiosity got bigger when I found an old art deco style house with a plate saying, “Properties of Gempolkerep Sugar Mill.”, at the front of it. So I thought that this must be the location of the ex Sentanen Lor Sugar Mill. There weren’t any much traces left since the site has been turned into a very packed and crowded residential area, but I managed to find the ex engine shed somewhere between the houses. Cahyana Indra told me that the mill used to function as a hiding place for the Indonesian soldiers during the Indonesian Independence War. So the main mill building has been destroyed during the war marking the end of the Sentanen Lor’s Sugar Mill era.
A building with art deco architectural style, which I thought used to be the engine shed of Sentanen Lor Sugar Mill, judging by the roof section of the building. It has turned into a house now, which is owned by a retired worker of Gempolkerep Sugar Mill.

All the heritage walk is done, let us move to the main site, the Gempolkerep Sugar Mill. For Cahyana Indra, visiting Gempolkerep Sugar Mill was a stroll down memory lane for him, as he spent two periods of his life inside the mill. He spent his childhood and his late teenage years inside the Gempolkerep Sugar Mill, watching his dad which used to be the loco shed foreman supervising the activities of the narrow gauge cane locos wondering around the siding and the cane fields. He was telling me where all the narrow gauge lines used to go out and according to him, the last activities of the Gempolkerep Sugar Mill field narrow gauge  lines were seen in 1986. He also told me that at that time, his father did his best to persuade the directors of the Gempolkerep Sugar Mill to keep and maintain the narrow gauge lines for many logical reasons, but they just would not listen to him. They already did a long term plan to move the cane transports from narrow gauge trains to trucks. So after the 1986 milling season was over, all the narrow gauge field lines were lifted and all the cane train activities were seized to only in the inside siding of Gempolkerep Sugar Mill. I got there just two weeks late after the last milling activities ended however, and out of the predictions of Cahyana Indra, who predicted that Gempolkerep’s milling season would last until December. So I only came in and checked out the engine shed.

Ex Gempolkerep Sugar Mill's narrow gauge field line bridge which spans over the width of Brantas River. The bridge has now been converted into a road vehicle bridge by the local residents.

The No. 14 O&K 0-8-0T steam loco with its new red, black and green stripping, which is now used as a display on the gate of the Gempolkerep Sugar Mill.

I was quite surprised to find out that Gempolkerep Sugar Mill still had a lot of steam locos in intact conditions, including the two Luthermoller No. 12 and 4 steam locos. I had a small conversation with the engine shed foreman, and he told me that a lot of the steam locos can still operate. The axles were taken of the wheels however, for safety reasons so that they will not get stolen by the scrap metal vendors. The reason why the steam locos have not been operated for two years running is due to their inefficiencies. There were not many tracks remaining, and yet it takes a lot of money to buy the teak firewoods to fire up and run the locos. The spare parts were also hard to get if they had to run the steam locos and got damaged, so they thought it was better for them to run the diesels. The shed foreman told me that to operate one steam loco, it would cost the mill Rp 250 000 000,- (25 000 USD) a year and yet for one diesel it ‘only’ costs them Rp 100 000 000,- (10 000 USD) a year, which is half the cost to run one steam loco. So Gempolkerep Sugar Mill now only operates the diesels on the inside siding of the mill.

The No. 4 O&K 0-10-0T parked beside the No. 12 O&K 0-10-0T "Luthermoller" steam locos of Gempolkerep Sugar Mill, with their new stripping of black and green with red stripes.

The No. 2 Hokuriku diesel loco of Gempolkerep Sugar Mill, still with its old stripping of yellow and orange colour, parked inside the shed of Gempolkerep Sugar Mill.

The no.1 Schoema diesel loco of Gempolkerep Sugar Mill, with its old stripping of yellow and orange colours.

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