Friday, 18 January 2013


As a lot of you may already know, each year during the milling season when the canes are being harvested, many sugar mills around Java always get flooded by overseas tourists, coming either from Europe and Australia. And now the new comers of Java are the Japanese and the South Koreans. From these facts, rise a lot of questions. Why is it that foreign tourists bother to spend a lot of their money just to visit the sugar mills of Java? What is it about the sugar mills of Java that attracts their attention? What are they interested to see inside the sugar mills of Java that they are bothered to always visit Java every year? Well, all will be revealed here.

So what is it that interests foreign tourists to visit the sugar mills of Java every single year during the harvest season? What do they want to see inside the sugar mills of Java? Well, it is no other than the use of narrow gauge railways as part of their plantation railways built during the Dutch Government Era. Some of them are even interested to see the process of sugar making by using old steam machineries. Well, whether to see the operations of narrow gauge plantation railways or to see the sugar milling process by using old steam machineries, all of these are the vintage of Java, in which I personally think should be counted as Java’s heritage, since there are not many steam machineries and narrow gauge railways remaining in the world. And it is these Java’s vintage that has attracted many rail enthusiasts from around the world to come and visit Java during the milling season each year. For me personally, it is very understandable why so foreign tourists visit Java sugar mills each year. It is because in Europe, Japan and South Korea, they hardly have narrow gauge railways that still operate regularly as a means of transporting plantation products that survives until today’s modern day. In Europe, they have narrow gauge railways but they only operate inside a museum. Whilst in Australia, they still have narrow gauge railways up until today, but they do not have steam locos anymore that still operate regularly until today. And even if they operate diesel locos, Java has different diesel locos in comparison to Australia’s narrow gauge diesel locos. Australia operates American built diesel locos, whilst Java still operates German 50’s to 70’s built diesel locos up until today. So in a way it is unique and attractive.

There is sad news however. These narrow gauge railways which now have become very rare in the world do not attract the attention of Indonesian rail enthusiasts. Never mind the narrow gauge railways. A lot of Indonesian rail enthusiasts are not even interested in steam locos. They are too focused on the diesel locos and regular trains operated by the Indonesian State Railway Company. Only a tiny portion of Indonesian rail enthusiasts pay their interest to narrow gauge railways and narrow gauge steam locos. Oh well, at least there are some people who pays attention to Indonesia’s narrow gauge railways. It is better than not having anyone at all who pays attention to Indonesia’s narrow gauge railways. So it is for this reason, I decided to have my own narrow gauge journey around the island of Java, in which some of them I am accompanied by local enthusiasts. On some other occasions, I also travelled with foreign rail enthusiasts.

My Sugar Mills Journey

Since I visited the sugar mills in random order during my own spare time, I will take you through my journey from the East moving westward. I also put a map of Java, East Java and Central Java just to give you some ideas of the location of the sugar mills themselves. During my journey, I also did a little heritage walk, to see what was remaining in the unused narrow gauge or cape gauge 3 ft 6 in railways, the shut down sugar mills and to see whether or not if there were any locomotives remaining in these shut down sugar mills. So without any further I do, please enjoy.

A map of Java, showing the capital cities of each province, courtesy of 2012 Google Map Images.

East Java
A map of East Java courtesy of 2012 Google Map images, showing the locations of all the sugar mills in East Java Province.

Central Java
Map of Central Java and Special Province of Yogyakarta courtesy of 2012 Google Map images, showing the capital city of each provinces. 

Other related interesting sites you might want to see

The History of Orrenstein and Koppel (The most steam locos used accross Java's Sugar Mills)
The Industrial Railway Society site (British Industrial Railway Museum) 

More on Narrow Gauge Railways of Indonesia
Check out my Youtube Channel, it contains many videos of Indonesian Steamlocos, mainly from 2012, but there are some updated ones. Or alternatively, you might also want to check out my Flickr Photostream.

Although some of the mills I went there on my own during the 2012 milling season, but most of them I managed to get there with the help of some people. So my thank you's goes to them, which are listed below.

1. Scott Jesser (an Australian rail enthusiast)

2. John Browning (another Australian rail enthusiast)
3. Steffan Matthaus (a German rail enthusiast, who also travelled with Tjeng Chao, an Indonesian enthusiast who has years of experience of travelling to sugar mills).

Scott Jesser and John Browning travelled with me when I visited Madukismo, Gondang Baru, Tasikmadu, and all the mills in Madiun. Whilst Steffan Matthaus (with Tjeng Chao) took me to Pangkah, Sragi and Sumberharjo sugar mills.

3. Ahmad Arif

4. Ivan Dewanapria
5. Syaeful Hartono
6. Tjahjana Indra Kusuma

Credits also goes towards the local enthusiasts whose names are listed above. Syaeful Hartono also kindly took me to Sumberharjo and Sragi sugar mills, whilst Ahmad Arif and Ivan Dewanapria travelled with me to Gending and Pajarakan sugar mills. And Tjahjana Indra Kusuma gave me 'an exclusive access' to Gempolkerep Sugar Mill, although the milling season was over when I got in.

Last but not least, and the most important, thanks very much to Mr. Rob Dickinson for putting a link to my blog on his website. I'm really glad to know that. But on the whole, thanks to those who've participated, and my apologize for missing out any names who weren't mentioned.

If you have any questions or any queries regarding my photos or the operational of Java's sugar mills and its narrow gauge railways, feel free to send me a message on the contacts below.

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A non railway and non historical related blog. BEWARE!!, this blog may contain explicit and offensive materials.