Regular Steam & Light Railways

Light Railway Diesel in Java: 2.8 – 16.8.2014

Steam in Indonesia: 7.8. – 26.8.2014

steam and sparks in Pangka at night

Almost a century old and a few even older, German, Dutch and Belgian steam locomotives are still in extremely hard daily use in the sugar mills of Indonesia. They need to earn their daily bagasse, water and oil with hard work at the head of overloaded cane trains. But, this living museum of steam is not the only reason to make Indonesia worth a visit. Feel the even beat of the ancient stationary steam engines inside the mills, some of which have been working for more than 120 years. Experience their vibration, their warm breath while driving giant flywheels and moving cane crushers and other ancient machinery in the mills.

Only two mills still use steam locomotives on their remaining lines in the cane fields. To get some authentic photographs and videos from a bygone era we’ll sometimes have to arrange things to get shots of steam trains in the fields. We can travel on these trains, even though this can be a bit dusty.

In addition, we’re offering three steam charters on the Cape gauge. We’ll see steam trains with different state railway locomotives and the forestry line in Cepu. In Ambarawa, we’ve planned two charter trains on the scenic line, which is partly a rack railway.

A Tangye stationary steam engine

Besides the mills with steam locomotives, there are still some mills which operate large light railway networks into the sugar cane fields. The variety of such railways on Java can’t be found anywhere else. The operation pattern of the diesel trains is almost the same as it used to be in the days of steam, efficiency is not a target for these railways. Apart from the approximately 25 years old boxy Japanese diesels, many of the German locos are over 50 years old. Despite their age, the diesels will be driven as hard as the steam locomotives. The two parts of the tour do not overlap much from the point of view of a steam loco enthusiast, but they overlap quite a lot for those with a general interest in light railways and diesel locomotives. Therefore we’ll use two charter buses to meet the needs of both groups of interest. The two buses will also allow us to send one bus to a tourist hot spot, while the other one heads for the next railway.

Our visit to Mount Bromo will give us the chance to enjoy a fantastic view over two active volcanoes, including the highest one on Java, Mount Semeru. If we’re lucky, the latter spits ash clouds high into the sky at infrequent intervals. We can see Mount Semeru from a sugar railway line too, possibly forming a spectacular backdrop for one of our pictures. Mount Bromo last erupted in 2011, however, seeing it active is a very rare, unlikely sight. Spectacular in another respect are the sulphur collectors in the crater of the volcano Kawah Ijen. We’ll spend a morning with these workers on one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

Schöma no. 20 in Semboro

Time is working against the steam trains, the stationary steam engines in the mills and the light railways in general. That’s why we’ve put almost everything possible into this tour, before it’s too late. It’s possible to book only parts of the tour. A transfer to the next airport is possible from all our locations.

Many of our hotels offer a swimming pool.

Kawa Ijen: sulphur porter


Date Itinerary Diesel Itinerary Steam
02.08. Individual flight to Indonesia. FarRail Tours can book the flights for you
03.08. Arrival in Surabaya where the group meets. Charter bus from Surabaya airport to our hotel Pelangi Klojen in Malang. If you fly via Jakarta, you can take a direct flight to Malang and then go by taxi to our hotel.
04.08. Charter bus Krebet Baru. On the way we make a brief stop at the sugar mill Kebonagung. All locos are stored in the shed. We’ll continue to the active railway system of Krebet Baru. The line was cut-back to less than ten kilometres and it’s likely that this will be our very last visit to Krebet Baru with its enormous fleet of Schöma diesels and some dumped Motorail Simplex locos. Hotel Pelangi Klojen in Malang
05.08. In the morning we’ll continue to Kedawung. The field line of this mill still uses a level crossing with the state railway. Besides three Japanese locomotives, they own seven Schöma. Their former steam fleet of seven locomotives is dumped in the depot. Hotel in Probolingo
06.08. After a brief visit to Wonolongan where two Japanese Keio locomotives and maybe one German Schöma (out of three) will be in use, we’ll head for Gending. Here we’ll see three Schöma, two Diema and two Keio locos. In addition they use some nice stationary steam engines in the mill. The afternoon we’ll spend at the sugar mill of Pajarakan. Besides two Japanese Fuji HI locos they have one Schöma, one self assembled and one O&K locomotive. Hotel in Probolinggo
07.08. In the morning we’ll go to Jatiroto, the mill with the largest network on Java (almost 150 miles). Here we’ll find the tiny Schöma-locomotives which are doing the job of the water buffalos on other systems. They collect the loaded sugar cane wagons on temporary tracks and haul them to the main line. On the main line, a large fleet of very similar looking Japanese diesels (Hokuriku Juki Kogyo/Keio) will haul the, sometimes impressively long, trains to the sugar mill. In the mill, one can still find a number of dumped steam locomotives, among them many Mallets. In the evening, we’ll continue to our hotel in Jember. Individual flight to Indonesia. FarRail Tours can book the flights for you
08.08. Visit to the sugar mill Semboro. In 2012, four of the small 0-4-0-Schöma diesels did the work on temporary tracks while eleven of the Japanese locos did the line work. In the depot we’ll find quite a number of dumped steam locos while two fireless O&K locomotives are hustling and bustling in the cane yard. In the large field network, there are usually two or three trains starting off to the sugar mill before sunset. At one of the numerous level crossings, we’ll photograph these trains. Hotel in Jember Arrival in Surabaya airport where the group meets. In the evening, charter bus to a hotel in Probolinggo.

Early morning start to reach the sugar mill at Semboro around 8 am. Visit to the cute fireless locomotives shunting, hustling and bustling in the yard. In the afternoon, we’ll charter a steam locomotive (probably the Mallet no.15) and try to haul a train from the fields to the mill. Travelling by our steam train means you’ll also see several diesel trains in the fields which are often not accessible when travelling by road. Hotel in Jember.

10.08. On our way to Situbondo, we’ll pay Prajekan a brief visit. We expect to see one Schöma and three Japanese diesels. In addition, we’ll see three larger 0-10-0 Luttermöller steam locomotives dumped in the depot. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the sugar mill Panji. On 600 mm tracks, they haul long and heavy trains. Japanese diesel locomotives predominate on the line service, but they also have Schömas and Diemas. Besides this, the whole steam fleet is still there, in the depot at Panji. Hotel in Situbondo Before sunrise, we’ll drive and walk up the crater of volcano Kawah Ijen. From the bottom of the caldera of the active volcano sulphur, steam rises into the sky – and sulphur collectors carry heavy loads (about 70kg) of sulphur over the edge of the crater to sell on the market. They do an incredible heavy, dirty and dangerous job, only by seeing it can you believe it. When the visibility is good, we’ll have amazing views over the eastern volcanoes of Java. In the late morning, we’ll go down and drive to our hotel in Situbondo. We might be in time to see a loaded train from the fields of Olean coming back to the mill. Hotel in Situbondo.

Today we’ll visit the mill at Olean, which was always known as the only mill with almost guaranteed loaded daylight steam trains. Nowadays there is no guarantee as the mill may use one of their two diesels for line service. However, the sugar mill is an absolute must because they use some of the oldest stationary steam engines (the gems are more than 130 years old). This day will suit steam- as well as diesel-enthusiasts. Hotel in Situbondo.


The full day is reserved for Asembagus with their interesting field work which is one of the last mills left with frequent loaded daylight trains from the fields to the mill. The lines are framed by palm trees and volcanoes forming interesting backdrops. Together with some little bridges there are plenty of photographic opportunities. However, there is no “steam guarantee”. They had two serviceable steam locos in 2013, but they didn’t use them since 2012. We need to charter steam here. This is a nice opportunity to go out into the fields and see the diesel trains. We’ll charter the steam loco for one empty train in the morning and one loaded cane train in the afternoon. In the evening, we’ll return to our hotel in Situbondo.

13.08. Full day visit to the sugar mill of Wringinanom which still operates a field network on which the smaller Japanese diesels (Kyosan Kokyo) and a smaller Schöma are used to bring the empty trains into the fields and haul the loaded back from the southern line while the four heavier Japanese locomotives operate the northern lines. One plinthed and two dumped steam locomotives can be seen here as well, not to forget the stationary steam engines inside the mill! Hotel in Situbondo Visit to the nice stationary steam engines in Wringinanom. In the afternoon we’ll chase the, hopefully steam hauled train, from the fields in Olean. Hotel in Situbondo.
14.08. Morning departure from Situbondo. In the late morning, we’ll reach Krembung, where we expect to see five small Schöma and one O&K diesel. The machinery inside the mill is worth looking at. In the late afternoon, we’ll reach Gempolkrep, where besides a number of Japanese diesels about four Schöma might be still active in the huge yard. In their large depot, you’ll still find dumped steam locomotives. Hotel in Mojokerto In the morning, we’ll continue to Mt. Bromo (about five hours drive). The famous Gunung (mountain) Bromo is an active volcano which offers spectacular views into the caldera and to other volcanoes. The last time Bromo erupted was 2011 and chances of seeing such an eruption are very slim. Hotel in Ngadisari, the last village before the edge of the crater. Nights can be fresh here, you may need a jumper.
15.08. Transfer to Surabaya airport and individual return flight, arrival in the same day (Australia) or the next day (16.08. Europe, Americas) If you’re going to Java, you should not miss the spectacular view of Mount Bromo at sunrise. To experience this, we have to get up very early. We will hire 4WD Jeeps to get close to the favourite sunrise viewpoint. We’ll leave Mt. Bromo around 11.00 and continue to Madiun (about six hours drive). Hotel in Madiun
16.08. Arrival in Europe or the Americas In the morning we’ll visit Pagottan, where we’ll probably see the last active inside framed Luttermöller locomotives in the world – and these are now fireless locomotives. Of special interest is the level crossing where it might be possible to get a locomotive and a horse cart together in the same picture. Pagottan is a Mecca for diesel enthusiasts too. The small diesels are not strong enough for all duties which is why you can sometimes see a double or even triple headed train. Just around the corner is the sugar mill Kanigoro where for several years now only one steam locomotive is left in service. They also use a diesel locomotive for shunting in the mill. The blue locomotives are used in the yard with beautiful, large trees and, sometimes to bring trains over the weigh bridge.In the afternoon we’ll continue to Rejosari. They use one loco in shunting service in the yard. If the unique geared locomotive “SALAK” no.10 is still serviceable it’ll be steamed up for our group. Rejosari also has a unique diesel locomotive and uses about two diesels in daily service. The mill has several interesting stationary steam engines inside as well. Some of the machinery in the mill is still driven by steam powered transmissions. It’s always a challenge to get admission to the mill (although we have the paper from the Headquarters), but we almost always make it to the stationary steam engines. Hotel in Madiun
17.08. Before sunrise, we’ll go to Purwodadi where all trains have to pass over a photogenic girder bridge between the loading point and the yard. Steam and diesel locomotives share the work. Almost all trains are banked and offer good photographic potential.After lunch, we’ll continue to Soedhono. They have a beautiful inside frame 0-6-0 tender locomotive which we’ll charter for our visit. It will haul some three regular trains on the way from the loading point to the stabling yard. The fleet of diesels is very active at the loading point next to the mill. They’re using at least four – and none of them looks alike. In the evening, we’ll continue to Cepu where we’ll stay in the guesthouse of the forestry line or a nice resort.
18.08. Today, we’ll enjoy our charter freight train with one of the massive Schwartzkopff 0-10-0 tank locos on the cape gauge of the forestry line at Cepu. We’ll take pictures in the extensive log yard as well as in the teak plantations. We’ll stay another night in Cepu.
19.08. It will take us a little over three hours to get to Tasik Madu. The afternoon, we’ll spend here between interesting diesels and steam locomotives. We’ll probably meet the largest Luttermöller engine on Java. The impressive 0-10-0, 150 horse power engine shunts the heavier trains around the mill! In the evening, we’ll witness the sparks the locomotives cause when working hard. Tasik Madu offers a railway and agricultural museum. Hotel near Solo
20.08. In the morning, we’ll pay Tasik Madu another brief visit, because the morning light shines on the depot and the weigh bridge. Around 9.30 am, we’ll continue via the museum at the mill Gondang Baru and Yogyakarta to the impressive temple of Borobodur. Late afternoon continue to our hotel either in Ambarawa, Bandungan or Salatiga.
21.08. We’ll enjoy two charter trains in Ambarawa. In the morning, we’ll enjoy a charter train with the fantastic, freshly overhauled 4-4-0 locomotive B51 12 on the flat section of the museum line of Ambarawa. After visiting the railway museum, we’ll board our charter train with a class B25 rack locomotive and steam up into the mountains. In the rack section, they do not like to stop for runpasts, that’s why you should take our bus which will run parallel if you want to take pictures of this section. In the late afternoon, we’ll continue to our Hotel in Pekalongan (about four to five hours driving).
22.08. We’ll spend the full day in the mill of Sragi. Besides up to seven steam locos, Sragi uses a few diesels as well. The morning light offers the best conditions for photography in the depot. Heavy trains are pushed from the large loading area in the mill’s yard. Sometimes two locomotives are necessary to do this hard job! Such a spectacle can bring together locomotives from Hartmann, Schwartzkopff (0-10-0s) and Henschel. We expect to find five to seven steam locos in service (in 2011, we saw eight in steam; in 2012, seven). They also use a very few diesel locomotives. Hotel in Pemalang
23.08. We’ve planned the full day in Sumberharjo. Around 8.30 in the morning, all steam locos will be prepared for the daily duties. They are fired in or in front of the shed, usually causing really photogenic sunray games when smoke is rising from the chimney and spreading under the roof of the loco shed. In the late morning, trains of empties leave the factory, usually three to four of the trains are steam hauled. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the lines around Sumberharjo in search of loaded steam hauled cane trains, again. We’ll also see the fleet of diesel locos here. About three of them are used for line service. Hotel in Pemalang
24.08. Today, we’ll visit Pangka to see the usual hard shunting operation between the two yards. They have two of the rare Moes diesels and the last 0-6-2 steam locomotives in a non-tourist operation built by Jung. A visit to the sugar mill with all their stationary steam engines is planned as well. In the afternoon, we can either stay in Pangka or return to the sugar mill at Sumberharjo were we would search for steam trains on the line again. Hotel in Pemalang.
25.08. By charter bus, we’ll go to the airport of Semarang. Individual flight home. The domestic flight to your Indonesian airport Jakarta or Surabaya is included in the tour price. Arrival the same evening in Australia/Asia and the next day in Europe and the Americas
26.08. Arrival in Europe.

double header towards Wrinin Anom

Small Print

Indonesia has changed rapidly over the last decade. Quite a lot of the sugar mills – in former times well protected from the international market – have had to give up or try to be more cost efficient. This is the reason why some of the sugar mills have closed and why others have converted from railway to road transport. Although the present government introduced new taxes to protect the domestic sugar industry and save labour for the workers in the mills, many mills have changed their system of bringing in the cane. Given that the farmers around the mills are free to decide which kind of crop to grow, the system of field lines to the sugar cane fields has had to be abandoned. At many places, it’s more profitable to plant other crops than cane. So it was necessary for the factories to switch to road transport anyway, to reach sugar cane fields far away from the mill. Because new lines to other fields will not be constructed anymore, truck hauled was and is the only way for a mill to survive.

PG Sumberharjo in the morning

Despite all the losses over recent years, you can still experience the largest variety of steam locomotives in the world in daily use during the harvest season. Two mills still use steam to bring cane trains into the mills while others offer interesting and, sometimes, very extensive shunting in the large yards. However, in Olean, steam might not be in use. This is the risk when you’re travelling in search of steam at the end of the age of steam-driven industries. There is no compensation possible – even not in parts – if we don’t find what we’re looking for. On our previous tours, we’ve always been lucky to get the pictures we wanted. Please check the recent trip reports for additional information.

A Schwartzkopff in Sragi

The mills using diesels usually have a fleet of elderly German products from Schöma, Diema and O&K and newer ones from Japan. While the first group is often 50 years and older, the Japanese diesel locomotive are usually from the mid-1980/1990s. But you can find some rare diesel locos as well. LKM Babelsberg from the former GDR or the immaculate Moes locomotives in Pangka to name only a few. Diesel locos often do some line work which will be one of our focuses when we’re visiting these mills.

On the steam part of the tour, we will probably experience a Mallet locomotive as well as Luttermöllers or Klein-Lindner axle locos. A special highlight is the geared locomotive built by Orenstein & Koppel in Rejosari. If still serviceable, we will hire it for an afternoon of shunting operations. While Orenstein & Koppel seem to be omnipresent on the island, other producers, mostly non-existent any more, are still part of the greatest narrow gauge steam show in the world: Decauville, Schwartzkopff, Maffei, Jung, Ducroo & Brauns, Hartmann and others.

The word “delay” is almost unknown in Indonesia. A train will start once it is ready. The railwayman will hardly understand that we need the train running in daylight.

Fireless and diesel in Sumberharjo

Our route may differ from the above itinerary in order to get as many good pictures of trains as possible. On the way, side trips to historical or other places of interest are possible, if not even planned in the itinerary. If agreed, the group may separate and meet together later. We will travel by two charter buses. If you prefer a maximum of flexibility you can also travel in a chartered jeep. However, our bus has the advantage of a cool box to keep beverages chilled. Just let us know your preference when booking the trip.

We will choose our hotels by their distance from the next mill, not only according to the offered standard. All our hotels offer air conditioning (exception: Mount Bromo, where temperatures can drop below 5°C (40°F) in the morning) and a private bath room, many offer a pool as well. European style toilets are not common in Indonesia. The chosen hotels will all have a European style toilet but in small restaurants on the way or at railway stations for example, you should expect Asian style lavatories.

On many days, we’ll get up early (around 6.00 am) and may even leave without breakfast occasionally. The best time for photography is the early morning between quarter to seven and nine and the late afternoon between three and sunset around 17.45 hrs. The time in between is, because of the high sun, not rewarding for photography, even the dedicated video film maker wouldn’t be happy with the results during the noon time. You can enjoy a bath in the sea when we’re close to a beach. Because of the active volcanoes on the island the beaches offer black instead of white sand. The sea itself is quite polluted near the bigger cities.

Forestry railway Cepu

The climate is tropical with high humidity and temperatures around 28 to 32 degrees Centigrade (around 90 Fahrenheit). Our jeeps/buses are fitted with air conditioning but you’ll do better if you acclimatise and accept the need to sweat a bit if you have to move quickly to get a photo.

The electrical system is compatible with the European (230V/50Hz), but you need an adapter for the outlets, sometimes. Short trousers are a no-no because we’re travelling in an Islamic country. Short trousers are ok at the poolside of our hotels but not in the streets of cities and definitely not in the villages and sugar mills. In addition, you should avoid colourful clothes or highly visible colours because we’re on a tour for photographers and video film makers. If you get in the picture of others, it’s important that you’re not wearing clothes with intense colours.

Please understand that in a country like Indonesia not everything will work as planned and/or paid for. The Indonesian (better to say the Asian) way to repair things with the help of primitive tools is amazing and will help us to fix some of the technical problems which may occur. However, you never can be sure that the most important switch of the yard isn’t blocked by a derailed train or the mill hasn’t run out of fuel a day before our arrival and so on. The whole traffic could be stopped by such a problem. In such a case, we’ll try to head for another mill. Sometimes it might be impossible to get pictures and the only thing you can do is to relax and drink a cup of tea or a beer.

We haven’t planned to go to sugar mills with dumped locos only.

Japanese diesel in Jatiroto

The tour is planned with the dedicated photographer and video filmmaker in mind. The itinerary is designed for those who think it more important to get the perfect shot in the morning sun than a substantial breakfast (which is hard to get anyhow). Meals are not included in the tour price. In addition, meals are a matter of time. Sometimes it might be necessary to postpone a meal or even cancel it. In such cases we’ll have some cookies or bananas. Meals are cheap with the exception of beer and other alcoholic drinks (a bottle of beer costs about £1.70). You should calculate on around two to twelve Pounds Sterling each day for food (an Indonesian dish is often less than a Pound while a pepper steak costs a mere three Pounds Sterling). Please remember that we are guests in a mainly Islamic country where alcoholic drinks (including beer) are not available everywhere. Chilled beer is another matter … but we have our cool box on board the bus.

Charter vehicles and trains represent the standard of our host countries, which may deviate from European expectations. While we will try to avoid long walks, some photo positions may require a bit of an extra effort. Travelling on trains, buses and driving cars is at your own risk. The charter trains will look like real trains did some years ago. So we will not attach coaches to the trains. Please remember that the exhaust of the steam locos contains sparks which may harm your clothes or skin.

Gending no. 4 shunting in the mill

Please opt for travelling in the group bus (driven by a local driver) or in a self driven jeep while booking the tour. If you choose the option of travelling in a Jeep and would like to drive it, in Indonesia you should be over 25 years old and the holder of an international driving licence. In addition you should be willing to accept the Asian way of driving which is quite different from that you learnt at the driving school. On the main trunk roads the traffic may be very fast and dangerous while on minor roads you may be the only motorised car amongst ox carts (without any kind of illumination during the night, of course). However, most visitors will learn very quickly how Asian traffic works and will have additional fun driving a car without the restrictions you have to care about in Europe or North America. There is no insurance for the cars available, so we have to pay for dents ourselves. Please consider this while driving. The one and only rule of the traffic seems to be not to touch any other traffic.

Please bear in mind that accommodation and transportation in Indonesia falls short of EU/US/Australian etc. safety standards. Always use common sense when crossing roads and railway tracks. FarRail Tours cannot be held responsible and will not accept any liability whatsoever in the case of any accident, damage, delay etc. We suggest you take out a comprehensive overseas accident and health insurance policy.

Steam and diesel on the 600 mm gauge railway of Soedhono



Sweet Saturated Steam 11 to 18 participants £2,540
07.08.2014 – 26.08.2014 8 to 10 participants £2,770
  Single room surcharge £275
Registration Deadline: 02.05.2014
Light Railway Diesel on Java 11 to 24 participants £1,870
02.08.2014 – 16.08.2014 6 to 10 participants £1,960
  Single room surcharge £275
Registration Deadline: 02.05.2014

Please deduct 215 Pounds when booking both tours together.

The price includes:

Not included are:

Line service in Sumberharjo

DISCLAIMERAs a service to our UK-based clients FarRail Tours accepts and will continue to accept payments made out in Pound Sterling until further notice. However, please note that all prices quoted in Pound Sterling are indicative only and are subject to change without prior notice. This measure was taken by FarRail Tours due to the unprecedented volatility in the international foreign exchange markets and its impact on the valuation of the Pound Sterling versus other major currencies, namely the Euro as FarRail Tours' accounting currency.

Night sparks in Olean


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