Regular Steam & Light Railways

Light Railway Diesel in Java: 15.7 – 28.7.2012

Steam in Indonesia: 24.7. – 12.8.2012

smoky Asembagus

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 in front 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.

Less than a handful of 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 arrange things to get shots of steam trains in the fields. We can travel on these trains, although this can be a bit dusty.

In addition we’re offering a number of 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.

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.

diesel in Asembagus

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 erupted last year, 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.


The length of the tour and its intensity is unique, and we’ll not repeat this programme at this length. 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, because once it’s over it will be too late. The tour is hence a bit more expensive than ever before, but we think it’s worthwhile doing it now, 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 which can even be used during Ramadan.

Sragi - a 0-10-0 Schwartzkopff engine



Diesel Steam Itinerary
15.07.   (Sunday) Individual flight to Indonesia (can be booked by FarRail Tours if required)
16.07.   Arrival in Jakarta in the afternoon, by taxi to our hotel in Jakarta
17.07.   Transfer to the airport and flight probably with Garuda GA 292 11.20 – 12.50 hrs to Malang, charter bus to the sugar mill Kebonagung with eight Schöma and three O&K diesel locos. According to unconfirmed information the mill stopped using their railway, so in the afternoon we’ll continue to the active system of Krebet Baru. Probably hotel Pelangi Klojen in Malang
18.07.   Full day visit to the mill at Krebet Baru with almost 30 diesel locos, among them three Motorail, a Diema and an O&K, the rest are from Schöma. The mill still operates a field line and is hence especially interesting to us. Hotel in Malang
19.07.   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 and Java’s only known Baguley. Their former steam fleet of seven locomotives is dumped in the depot. Hotel in Probolingo
20.07.   After a brief visit to Wonolongan where only two Japanese locomotives and maybe one Schöma will be in use we’ll head for Gending. Here we’ll see three Diema, two Schöma and two Japanese locos. The afternoon we’ll spend in the sugar mill of Pajarkan. Besides two Japanese locos they have two Schöma and one O&K. Hotel in Probolingo
21.07.   In the morning we’ll go to Jatiroto, the mill with the largest network on Java (almost 200 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 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.
22.07.   Visit to the sugar mill Semboro. In 2011 three 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
23.07.   On our way to Situbondo we’ll pay Prajekan a brief visit. We expect to see two 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
24.07.   Full day visit to the sugar mill of Wringinanom. Wringinanom still operates a field network on which the smaller diesels (three Diema and one Schöma) are used to bring the empty trains into the fields while the four heavier Japanese locomotives pick up the loaded trains to bring them back to the mill. 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
25.07.   In the morning we’ll go to the sugar mill Asembagus. The mill still uses one or two steam locomotives for the field work, but enthusiasts often overlook that there are a couple of interesting diesels that work field trains as well. In 2011 they used six diesels, not a single one looks like another … There are several photogenic field lines and often loaded trains which are running during daylight. In the evening we’ll continue to our hotel in Bondowoso.


If you want to finish here you can go by bus to Surabaya and stay in a hotel next to the airport. Arrival not before midnight.

26.07.   Flight home from Surabaya. Arrival in Europe on the next day (July 28th).


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 raises into the sky – and sulphur collectors carry heavy loads (about 70kg) of sulphur over the edge of the crater to sell it on the market. They do an incredible heavy, dirty and dangerous job, only by seeing it can you believe it. Get an impression of how this may affect your camera (BBC, English) or see a self-experiment in German language here (Pro 7). 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 back to our hotel in Situbondo.

  24.07. Individual flight to Indonesia (can be booked by FarRail Tours)
  25.07. Evening arrival in Surabaya (direct flights to Surabaya are available from Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta), transfer to a hotel next to the airport
  26.07. By charter bus to Situbondo (six to eight hours). Meet the rest of the group. After lunch we’ll go to the sugar mill at Olean. In the shed you’ll find four serviceable steam locomotives and we expect to see at least one of them in steam doing the line work in the afternoon. We’ll chase the afternoon train coming from the fields to the mill. Hotel in Situbondo.
  27.07. The full day is reserved for Asembagus with their interesting field work which is one of the last two mills left with frequent daylight steam into the fields. 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” here either. Late afternoon we’ll return to our hotel in Situbondo.
  28.07. Another day where we’ll take the chance to see a steam hauled train either on the network of Olean or Asembagus. Hotel in Situbondo.
  29.07. Today we’ll visit the mill at Olean, which was always known as the only mill with almost guaranteed loaded daylight 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). Hotel in Situbondo. In the late afternoon we’ll continue to Mt. Bromo (about five hours driving). The famous Gunung (mountain) Bromo is an active volcano which offers spectacular views to other volcanoes. The last time Bromo erupted was last year, however, 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.
  30.07. 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 climb to the view point at the top of the volcano for the best view. You can also hire a seat in a 4WD Jeep for some 9 Pounds to avoid a walk of about 500 yards upwards and two miles in length. In the afternoon we’ll continue to Kediri (about five hours driving). On the way we’ll stop in Krembung, where we expect to see five Schöma and one O&K diesel. Hotel in Kediri
  31.07. Today we’ll visit the mill of Merican. Here we’ll meet either the last 0-4-2 locomotives of Indonesia or the last non-tourist Mallet, used for heavy shunting operations. They have over 100 years of service! Around 10am the participants with a general interest in light railways will take one bus to go to Mojopanggung were we’ll find three O&K, a Schöma and last but not least a Baldwin! In the afternoon we’ll continue to Rejoagung. This mill owns six Diema, nine Schöma and three dumped O&K. In the evening we’ll continue to our hotel in Madiun, were both groups will meet again.
  01.08. In the morning we’ll make a brief visit to Kanigoro, where for several years now only one 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. Just around the corner is the sugar mill 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.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 the mill 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 made it to the stationary steam engines. Hotel in Madiun
  03.08. 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. After a long break the management decided to use steam from 2009 again. The first locomotive in use is one of the beautiful inside frame 0-6-0 tender locomotives. They want to add a second loco in 2012 but still have no working injector for this locomotive. 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.
  034.08. 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.
  04.08. It will take us about a bit more than 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 has a six axle tender! 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
  05.08. In the morning we’ll pay Tasik Madu another brief visit, because the morning light shines on the depot and the weigh bridge. Around 10am we’ll continue to Yogyakarta were those who are interested in culture can visit the Sultan’s palace while the diesel enthusiasts will continue to the El Dorado of locomotives of the “Lokomotivebau Karl Marx”, Babelsberg (GDR) to Madukismo. Madukismo owns all together 18 LKM-locomotives! In the evening we’ll continue together to Borobodur.
  06.08. In the morning we’ll visit the impressive temple of Borobodur before we continue to the rack railway in Ambarawa. After visiting the railway museum we’ll board our charter train with a class B25 rack locomotive and steam up in 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 make pictures in this section. Hotel probably in Bandungang
  07.08. In the morning we’ll return to Ambarawa and enjoy a charter train with the fantastic, freshly overhauled 4-4-0 locomotive on the flat section of the museum line of Ambarawa. In the afternoon we’ll continue to our Hotel in Pekalongan. On the way we’ll stop at Cepiring. Here they’ve plinthed all their steam locomotives (in a very sad shape and painted green). We should also find some diesel locomotives dumped in the former depot.
  08.08. In the morning we’ll visit the mill in 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 or six steam locos in service (in 2011 we saw eight in steam). They also use a very few diesel locomotives. Hotel in Pekalongan
  09.08. Because it’s one of the best mills regarding line operation with steam we’ve planned the full day in Sumberharjo. 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 Tegal
  10.08. In the morning we’ll again 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 you can either stay in Pangka or continue to the sugar mill at Jatibarang were two diesel locomotives should be in use. Besides you’ll find some steam locomotives dumped in the depot. A sight of Jatibarang is the colonial roundhouse. Hotel in Tegal
  11.08. By train we’ll go to Jakarta, transfer to the airport and return flight home.
  12.08. (Sunday) Morning arrival in Europe


Small Print

the gear inside the mill of Olean

Jung locos in Pangka

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 the truck was and is the only way for a mill to survive.

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. Three 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 and Asembagus 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 last tours we’ve always been lucky to get the pictures we wanted. Please check the recent trip reports for additional information.

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-1980/1990ies. But there can be found some rare diesel locos as well. LKB 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.

Diesel in Gending

Wringinanom meeting

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.

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 chilly. Just let us know your preference when booking the trip.

We will choose our hotels by their distance from the next steam 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 half past six 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.

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 and partly during Ramadan. 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.

Forestry line Cepu

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.

For the few mills with the best chances for line steam we have planned sufficient time. With one exception we haven’t planned to go to sugar mills with dumped locos only.

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 to make do with 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 cooling box aboard the bus.

Diesel in Rejoagung



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 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.

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 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 or delay. We suggest you take out a comprehensive overseas accident and health insurance policy.




Sweet Saturated Steam 11 to 24 participants £2,420
24.07.2012 – 12.08.2012 7 to 10 participants £2,515
  Single room surcharge £295
Registration Deadline: 05.04.2012
Light Railway Diesel 11 to 24 participants £1,725
15.07.2012 – 28.07.2012 7 to 10 participants £1,840
  Single room surcharge £185
Registration Deadline: 05.04.2012

Please deduct 150 Pounds when booking both tours together.

The price includes:

Not included are:

Ambarawa rack railway


As 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.

Semboro: ready for the shift


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