中国火车模型 Chinese Model Trains - Trip #15
Indonesia (Java) 2022
Planning for Indonesia was a fairly rushed affair compared to my usual overseas adventures. This was in part due to a very narrow window with work commitments and family affairs. I hadn't been overseas since Israel two years prior and coming on four years before my last dedicated railway, largely in part to Covid-19 and the travel restrictions that went along with that. I decided to take a crack at Indonesia for a number of reasons, first and foremost for its very rich railway heritage, particularly on the island of Java. Indonesia had also recently relaxed travel rules and had the added benefit of being geographically close to Australia as well as being one of the best value destinations one can visit. For a couple of thousand Australian dollars, I instantly became a multi-millionaire in the Indonesia currency!
Being a railway based trip, I attempted to compile the best spots I could find on the island via Google Earth and attempt to squeeze them all into twelve solid days. After much hair pulling and endless study of train timetables, I had the perfect itinerary sorted. That was of course until the weather forecasts were updated which showed I would head straight into a thunderstorm and spend the rest of my time following it around. As there were some parts of Java which would be enjoying the sun, I decided a few days out from departure to completely scrap the order of locations and zigzag across the country to avoid the worst of the weather. Looking back, this seemed to have done the trick as there were very few days where rain, or at least heavy rain, would show up.
My main goal was to see sugar mill workings, if possible steam and if possible again with some field workings - a tall order for 2022. I also wanted to visit some of the huge viaducts on the main network, such as Cirahong, Nagreg and Cikubang to name a few.
I was looking forward to seeing some working (albeit preserved) steam in the city of Surakarta (Solo), although this was assumed (correctly) that this would most likely not occur due to my visit on a weekday. An attempt would also be made to visit the two railway museums at Jakarta and Ambawara.
To get around, I would primarily employ trains between the larger cities, and then find more local means for the specific places I wanted to visit. Train travel is cheap, clean and comfortable and easy for non-Indonesian speakers to book tickets (www.tiket.com).
The order of travel would be as follows
Jakarta - Harbour, local railways, Taman Mini transportation museum
Malang - colorful village of Jodipan
Bangil, Kedawung - sugar mill plantation with field railways in use
Madiun - Purwodadi and Pagotan sugar mills plus record local railway scene
Banyuwangi - Climb Mount Ijen - an active volcano and record local rail scene
Yogyakarta - Airforce museum, record local railway scene, Prambanan hindu temple
Solo - Working steam, steam workshops
Bandung - Various railway locations to the west and east of the city
Nagreg, Ciawi, Ciamis - Record local railway scene
Purwokerto - large river viaduct and curvacious track section
* Only lines applicable to my trip shown
The island of Java is the most populous of Indonesia, hosting some 150 million people in an area 1332 times smaller than the world's largest country Russia, yet populated by around 10 million more souls. It lies in the Pacific ring of fire and is therefore very mountainous and has no less than 45 active volcanoes. The land is extremely fertile and with a long wet season and high temperature and humidity year round. It has some of the greenest landscape one could ever find. Most of the habitable land, asides from housing, is used for farming and there are millions of tiny rice paddies neatly arranged over most of the landscape.
August 29 - Melbourne - Sydney - Jakarta
I departed Melbourne to Jakarta via Sydney on the Monday morning, bravely choosing Qantas to get me over. I was hoping to travel direct to Indonesia with Garuda Airlines, however Covid and the associated low passenger numbers saw these axed some time ago. On the plus side, I was able to use my Qantas points to greatly reduce the cost and even enjoyed a business class upgrade for the domestic sector, making good use of the Qantas lounge before boarding a 737 for the first leg followed by an Airbus A330-300 for the six and a bit hour flight to Jakarta. Despite all the problems Qantas are currently facing, both flights were very pleasant with the usual friendly staff and my bag even arrived in one piece.
Boeing VH-VXF 737-800 arrives at the gate for my flight 416 to Sydney
Once bags had been retrieved, it was off to line up for a Visa. Indonesia has a Visa-on-arrival system for a great number of countries including Australia. First payment is made for the Visa at one counter at a cost of 500,000IDR (around $AU50), then processed and collected one a receipt is presented at the next counter. Passing through immigration was also reasonably fast and after multiple temperature checks and checking to see if I had installed the mandatory and completely unusable Peduli Lindungi app on my phone, was released into the sweat box of Java.
The sun sets over Java just prior to my arrival on QF41 aboard A330-300 VH-QPH
Before I left the airport, I sorted out a local SimCard with a data plan sufficient enough for me to last for two weeks to ensure immediate and constant connection to the Internets. The price for this was clearly grossly inflated, but is absolutely a timesaver as finding a shop that will install/register the SIM on the local network takes far too long. To get to my hotel in Jakarta, I decided to try out the local train system, at least into the city center. I first took the free sky-train from the international terminal (2) to the airport terminal one where the train station is located. Being late at night and missing the previous sky-train by less than a minute, I was lucky to get the last train from the airport to BNI City station in downtown Jakarta. The airport train requires a ticket to be purchased from a vending machine and for foreigners, the only way to do this is to use a debit/credit card at a cost of around $AU7 - cash is not accepted. The airport train is very quiet, smooth and fast and took around 40 minutes. Seating is in a 2 + 2 arrangement and there are USB chargers for each seat. Had I understood the rail system in Jakarta, I would have probably stayed on the train until the next stop at Manggarai and then a connecting train to Jakarta Kota, where my hotel was. But because I'm an imbecile, I took a taxi from BNI city to the hotel. I was prepared to be totally ripped off by my driver like so many times in China, but my ride was metered, very fast and affordable. In fact, had I known this, I would have saved myself a lot of time and grief and just taken a taxi from the airport to begin with.
Onboard the automated sky-train which runs between terminals at Soekarno Hatta International Airport
My hotel was located within walking distance to Jakarta Kota Railway station. I chose this area as I had a free day in Jakarta, used as a buffer in case Qantas took a wrong turn somewhere along the way over. It was fairly central to a few spots I wanted to visit with lots of railway lines and even a freight terminal to check out. It was also close by, geographically at least, to Jakarta Gambir railway station where I would take my first overnight train to Malang the following day. I stayed at the Mercure Jakarta Batavia hotel, a 4-star affair with very polite and professional English speaking staff. It is very clean and comfortable with horrendously overpriced and sub-standard quality room service, which I had little choice but to utlise given the lack of local options at that time of night. The hotel's restaurant is amusingly called the "Malaka Restaurant" and they offer "Malaka" wedding services also.
Paper ticket for the airport train
Interior of airport train carriage
August 30 - Jakarta
I awoke at a reasonably early hour and had a quick breakfast in the Malaka restaurant, all the while hoping no one would see me. There was a choice of local or western buffet of reasonably good quality. Despite the so called 'accuweather' telling me there would be rain, storms and plagues of locusts, the sky outside was beautiful and sunny with some scattered high cloud and everything seemed perfect, until I stood outside and experienced wrath of south east Asian tropical heat and humidity. I have only ever experienced these conditions once before in southern China on the border of Vietnam, but this was only for a day and it suddenly dawned on me I would have two whole weeks. In jeans.
Early Dutch style architecture near Jakarta Kota
I had three goals for the day. The first was to get the drone up for some video of the railways in north Jakarta in an area of currently vacant land near Jakarta Kota station. The second was to see the traditional Indonesian Pinisi sailing ships in the old port of Sunda Kelapa and the third was a visit to the Taman Mini transportation museum to see the railway exhibits.
205-5000 series on the Cikarang Line
A typically overloaded truck in north Jakarta
I set off to an open area I found on Google Earth just east of Jakarta Kota railway station surrounded by railway yards, a freight terminal and a handful of suburban railway lines. The walk would usually take around 5 - 10 minutes, but this proved be slightly trickier than first envisaged due to the humidity. I will try not to bang on about this too much during the report, but it was a major factor in not being able to move around as quickly as I usually would. It took just over an hour to reach my chosen location but almost immediately trains were coming in from all directions. This tract of land I imagine will be developed very soon, but at the moment is used unofficially for truck drivers to park their rigs and locals to fly kites or their pet pigeons, the latter of which seems to be a national sport which is taken rather seriously. I set up as far away as I could from the locals in an effort to reduce the risk of turning one of their prized birds into red mist with my drone, and was able to get around an hour worth of decent footage, burning through most of the batteries I had brought along.
A view of Jakarta Gudan freight depot
CC201 class diesel locomotive departs Jakarta Gudang
Jakarta Gudan freight terminal was close by where I had seen a train depart and arrive while at my drone spot. Here I was accosted by the friendly security guards who were happy for me to hang around as long as they were able to get a selfie with me. I had my first taste of a Indonesian diesel locomotive with a CC201 which arrived light engine and then departed with a small rake of flat cars and maintenance containers. The CC201 class is the earliest of three of the major classes of mainline diesel locomotives operating in Java. These are classified as U18C and were built by General Electric in the United States and imported in three batches over 15 years. Despite their small size, 8 cylinder engine and light weight of 84 tons, they put out an impressive almost 2000hp and can run up to 120kph. Like all of KAI's three main classes, they are used in passenger and freight service. The CC refers to the wheel arrangement in having a pair of three axle bogies.
GE Diesel locomotive CC201 83 06 departs Jakarta Gudang with single box car laden with a pair of modified containers
In an effort to get out of the sun, I headed off to Jakarta Kota to have a quick ride on the suburban rail network. I decided to move south a few stations to Jakarta Gambir - where I would take my overnight train from later in the evening, but quickly discovered that all suburban passenger trains just pass through here. Instead, I got off at the next stop at Stasiun Juanda, just to the east of the main city square, where after walking around aimlessly for another 20 minutes ended up in a KFC with four large drinks where I could ponder my life choices. It was still not even 10am, but rather than head back and tackle the harbour, I instead found the first BlueBird taxi that came along and settled in for a lovely air-conditioned ride to Taman Mini museum. This took some 40 minutes and I soon discovered the museum was closed for two weeks for major renovations. Taman Mini has a number of museums and theme parks and I had only wanted to visit the transportation museum, but sadly this was not to be this time around and I headed straight back in a taxi to a nearby train station where I would take a suburban train back to where I started at Jakarta Kota.
Facade and concourse of Jakarta Kota station
The suburban railway system in Jakarta is call KAI Commuterline and comprises of six lines. They are all color coded and easy to navigate around. The daily ridership is some 1.2 million people and travel is very quick and very cheap, costing only 3,000IDR (AU$0.30) for up to 25 kilometers then slightly increasing for every 10 kilometers of travel. Some of the trains, particularly during the peak times have female only carriages. All trains are patrolled by military-clothed security staff to ensure patrons are wearing masks, not sitting on the floors or acting like morons.
Tokyo Metro 6000 series (ED303) KAI Commuterline train approaches Duran Kalibata Station
If the rolling stock looks strikingly similar to Japanese trains, that's because it is. The entire Jakarta fleet is made up of ex-Japan Rail (specifically JR East) fleets imported over the past decade. Evidence of their previous lives in Japan is clearly visible on all of the carriages with Japan factory plates still attached and shadows of where Japanese characters and JR logos once were. Even on the interior, passenger information labels are in fonts typical of those found in Japan.
Jakarta Commuterline comprises of seven types of train :
Tokyu 8000 series (ED201)
Tokyo 8500 series (ED202)
205-0 & 205-5000 series
Tokyo Metro 7000 series (ED301)
Tokyo Metro 05 series (ED302)
Tokyo Metro 6000 series (ED303)
203 series (ED304)
I was able to see most types on two of the rail lines in Jakarta and they don't appear to be dedicated to any one line. The trains are very clean, well maintained, quiet and have very strong air-conditioning. Cars are all interconnected with broad passage ways between and soft bench seats are fitted against the walls for those lucky enough to find a vacant one. Ridership etiquette is very evident with many young people offering seniors their seats.
Most of the Jakarta suburban rolling stock still shows its Japanese origins
Most of the train stations on the lines I visited have raised platforms; however some platforms at the main station of Jakarta Kota do not, instead using mobile or large semi permanent stairs which can be moved by staff. This doesn't necessarily mean the train doors will match up with the stairs, nor is there a guarantee a platform exists at all in some cases where doors may open on both sides of the train simultaneously, so it is up to passengers to exercise a modicum of intelligence when disembarking.
Platforms at Jakarta Kota, with an approaching 205-0 series train
Once I arrived back at Jakarta Kota, I had only a few hours left in which to pick up my bags from the hotel and make my way to Jakarta Gambir for the overnight train. I therefore decided to skip the harbour until next time and spend the remaining time around the Jakarta Kota railway station and surrounds to get some more videos and photos of the local rail scene. As peak hour was approaching, the trains drastically increased in frequency and after getting my fill of suburban trains took a taxi back to the hotel to retrieve my bag and then off to Gambir station.
A view of the tracks leading into Jakarta Kota with signal box on the right
A view of the canal just east of Jakarta Kota. The trains are too long for the platforms, but all doors open onto footpaths below
Gambir is an elevated railway station right next to Merdeka Square in central Jakarta, home of the 132 meter tall obelisk called National Monument. It is located on the double track Bogor-Jakarta Kota line, but serves only intercity passenger trains, with all suburban services passing through. There is a pair of passing loops and a total of four platforms. There doesn't seem to be any particular platform choice for intercity trains and all platforms had at least one departure with the suburban trains diverting around them, however typically suburban trains pass through the center platforms.
Tokyo 6000 series and 205 series train sets pass each other at Gambir railway station.
Once I had stocked up on refreshments and printed out my boarding pass, I had access to the platforms which seems to be an unusual practice with staff at most other train stations not allowing passengers onto the platforms up until a few minutes before departure. I was able to see many intercity arrivals and departures as well as the constant stream of commuter services.
205 Series train set with full train advertising livery passing through Gambir railway station
All three mainline diesel locomotive types used in Java were seen on the various intercity trains departing Gambir, with the premier services generally in the hands of the more modern twin cab CC206 class diesels. Merdeka Square is visible from the platforms, or at least the National monument thats juts into the sky and the sun set seen from the platform was pretty good too.
CC206 locomotive with an impending departure
Sunset view from Gambir railway station platform
My train to Malang was "Gajayana 72" and would take just over 12 hours to complete. It was hauled by a CC206 diesel locomotive and I was given a warm welcome by the car attendant. For my inaugural train ride in Indonesia, I opted to travel luxury class, the only time I would travel this way during my stay. The seating arrangement of the luxury class cars is in a 1+2 seating arrangement. The seats all face direction of travel and can be put into an almost lie flat design without impeding on the passengers behind as it cleverly changes position in a large shell. As this was an overnight train, a lie-flat option was preferable and by Australian standards was still very cheap at around $100AU for a 12 hour journey. On the back of each seat is a television, very similar to what you would find on an airline with play on demand movies etc. There is also personalised lighting, multiple power sockets - which proved very useful for me to recharge all the drone and video batteries I had gone through - blankets, headphones, eye patches and bottled water. Once underway we were all given a 'luxuries' box with some snacks and food inside. Dinner is also included in this class and was of high quality and very satisfying. My state of exhaustion saw me rocked to sleep reasonably quickly, despite being directly behind the locomotive with a very horn happy driver.
Onboard train "Gajayana 72" from Jakarta - Malang
August 31 - Malang - Bangil - Kedawung
There are far worse views to wake up to - approximately 40 minutes south of Malang
I woke up about an hour away from my first destination, Malang. I would spend only the morning here before heading north to Bangil to meet up with local rail enthusiast and guide, Bagus Widyanto for a drive out to the Kedawung sugar plantation before ending up at Surabaya for the night. The drawcard for Malang was a visit to the colorful villages of Jodipan, a draw card in its own right, but which also had the added bonus of a train line running behind them which would provide an interesting back drop for some drone footage, as long as the weather was decent.
CC203 class diesel locomotive shunts fuel tankers at Malang Kota Lama station for the nearby fuel depot
Our train arrived on time at Malang station just after 7am. From the station, I headed immediately on foot to the colorful villages of Jodipan and Arema. The colorful villages are located just a three minute walk south of the main railway station. I was unaware of an entrance fee as I had arrived too early, however I was picked up by the ticket collectors on the way out a few hours later.
Jodipan village as seen from the opposite river bank
Some of the local artwork at Tridi village
Blue (or Arema) Village
The rainbow villages have turned out to be a very successful idea started by some university students in an effort to save them from being demolished. The local government agreed to the deal and a local paint manufacturer joined in and created what would be probably one of the largest tourist sites of the city. The narrow alley ways are covered in art work and there are plenty of shops to sell well needed refreshments. I believe there are three villages here. The colorful one on one side of the river is named Jodipan and the other is named something else (I believe Kampung Tridi). They are divided by the Brantas River and connected by a large pedestrian cable bridge. It appears the village facing both of these two on the other side of the main road wanted to get in on the action and decreed that all structures be painted blue. This is simply referred to as "Blue Village" or "Arema" village, in homage to the local soccer team of the same name who wear the same color blue on their uniforms.
CC201 class diesel locomotive departs Malang station heading south
The drone provided an excellent bird’s eye view of the entire area and I was able to capture three of the four passing trains seen including a fuel tanker train. Like many of the lines in Java, this is a bi-directional single track with passing loops provided at stations. Typically a train will pass through every 30 - 60 minutes. At this particular section of the line outside Jodipan village, the mainline is also used as a shunting neck for passenger trains terminating at Malang station.
CC201 class diesel locomotive departs Malang with an 'ekonomi' train
I arrived back at Malang station for my train "Jayabaya 105". I had around half an hour before departure and again after printing out the boarding pass from the self-service counters, I was able to get onto the platforms where I found a south bound economy train departing the city. I then boarded my train for the quick dash north to Bangil. I was in the more up market 'eksekutif' class which features 2+2 seating arrangement and wider seats than economy. Each seat has a pair of power outlets for charging and very cold air conditioning.
CC206 departs Bangil station with train "Jayabaya 105"
I ran past the station exit to photograph my train departing Bangil station, much to the bemusement of the local security guard and soon met up with Bagus Widyanto who I had arranged to meet to take me to Kedawung sugar plantation in his new Toyota van. The air-conditioning was as always a real blessing, although mercifully the weather wasn't as muggy as it had been in Jakarta, although this was not to last. We took the main road east for about 25 kilometers where Bagus was able to point out many points of interest along the way.
Magesari street with railway, entrance track into sugar mill
Kedawung is one of the largest sugar mills in the area and one of only a handful in Java to retain its field rail line operations. Many of the buildings around the mill date back to the Dutch colonial era and the cane railways, like most in Indonesia, use the uncommon Dutch 700mm gauge. Steam ended some time ago here and it appeared that the harvest was in its final weeks. Many of the fields had already been cut and the remaining crop we saw initially was being loaded onto trucks, rather than trains.
A farmer cultivates the land near Kedawung sugar mill
Eventually we stumbled across a field some two kilometers to the west of the sugar mill where a single wagon was being loaded with sugar cane. Bagus parked the car up and we walked down the line to see what else we could find. Hidden in the shade was a small twin axle diesel locomotive #06. The crew was out of the locomotive and waiting under a tree for a relieving crew. They were happy for us to stick around and take some photos.
Manual loading of a sugar cane wagon
This diesel is a 1955 built twin axle diesel hydraulic locomotive by German (Bremen) company Christoph Schöttler. It has been remotored sometime during its life to a Japanese four cylinder motor made by Kiki. Amazingly this old banger still bears all of its factory plates, and there are quite a few of them inside the cab and on the external side cab walls. The panels around the motor had been removed for extra cooling. We soon found a few more wagons down the line and the crew told us they would all be collected sometime in the late afternoon, but not before they would return to the mill to shunt some wagons there.
Kedawung's #06 diesel locomotive
The crew was also helpful in pointing out the general direction of another locomotive working further south towards the small village of Winongan. Bagus and I decided it would be best to try and locate this locomotive as the smaller one may not move for some time. After a few attempts, we finally found it with a reasonably long train, albeit with wagons loaded with rails rather than cane. Not quite the grossly overloaded train of sugar cane I was hoping for, but with so few field line trains, I was happy to get anything.
Three axle Japanese diesel hydraulic
I was very happy to be able to launch the drone and get some beautiful late afternoon video of the train moving slowly through the fields. As the train approached us, some of the wagons derailed, a supposedly common occurrence given the rough state of the tracks. Eventually the fouled wagons were re-railed and the train slowly moved off, but not before one of the drivers clambered on to the roof of the locomotive to take part in evening prayers.
Japanese hydraulic works a train through the fields for Kedawung Sugar Mill
Diesel #02 is a larger triple-axle locomotive with coupled wheels. It is of Japanese origin, but I wasn't able to get close enough to get any information more than this.
Workers disembark #02 to assist with a wagon derailment
It took some time before this train moved again and as it approached my position, the wagons were detached and left in a siding. Diesel #02 ran light engine back towards the mill which given its slow speed, was able to chase it with the drone for some distance.
Japanese Diesel #02 heads off light engine for crew change
Train movements were very light during my visit here, which was not unexpected and I consider myself fortunate to have seen anything at all. As the light started to fade, we headed back to Surabaya for the night. I stayed at the Swiss Belinn Manyar in a fairly basic room with seemingly faulty air-conditioning.
Track work with point levers
Army of ducks used to remove insects from fields
September 01 - Madiun - Purwodadi - Pagotan
I met up with Bagus again for my second and final day touring the remains of the Java sugar trains and he had planned a pair of systems in close proximity to each other on either side of the city of Madiun - Purwodadi and Pagotan. These were chosen as there was a good chance to see some steam locomotives which had been largely retired from Java in recent years with the closure of a number of sugar mills and dropping global sugar prices. Many of these locomotives date back 100 years or more and the recent reports that Purwodadi had reactivated at least one of these old work horses was motivation enough. Pagotan still uses a small fleet of fireless steam locomotives so this was an obvious choice as well.
A plinthed MiG-17 outside Iswahjudi Air Force base
Preserved steam locomotive near the main gate of Purwodadi sugar mill.
After a couple of hours on the express way from Surabaya, we arrived at the very pretty city of Madiun and opted to visit Purwodadi as it was the least likely to have its steam locomotive in service. Purwodadi has seen a great number of steam enthusiasts visit over the years and steam was stopped shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019. Purwowdadi is situated some 14 kilometers west of Madiun city and the mill sits right under the approach path of the large Iswahjudi airforce base where a constant stream of F-16 falcons and KA50 fighter jets pass at low altitude over the mill. An old Mig-17 fighter jet is mounted at the intersection of the main road into town and the one heading towards the mill. We arrived at the large rail yard on the opposite side of the main road to the mill complex where we found nearly every track filled with loaded cane wagons, all being shunted with a tractor. The mill no longer uses field lines, instead trucks bring the cane into the yard where it is loaded onto wagons. At the east end of the yard the tracks cross over a local road to where the field lines once were and occasionally it is used as a shunting neck for the yard, but this only extends some 100 meters up the road before the rails have been removed. A very helpful local lady said that the shunting work and delivering wagons to the mill is rotated between a locomotive and the tractor and she had seen the steam locomotive working here yesterday but it had suffered a failure and the tractor was on duty instead.
Purwodadi's tractor shunts rail wagons around the yard outside of the mill
We stopped at the level crossing to watch a string of loaded wagons get pushed across the main road with the tractor and after taking a handful of photos was ready to head off to the mill, until an overzealous security guard told us photos weren't permitted, even from a public road, and we must follow him to fill out an incident report. So off we went to the mill where we had to wait 20 minutes for the boss to return from the mosque and in the meantime were entertained by a good number of KA50 Golden Eagle and F16 air force jets performing circuits over head. When the manager arrived back, he had the same security guard escort us to the locomotive shed to show us around! Perhaps not quite the response he, or we, were expecting.
Level crossing blocked for the passage of cane wagons
Outside the shed we found steam locomotive #16 sitting half out of the shed, still simmering away under. What a site! My first Indonesian real steam. I never found out what the nature of the problem was, but it was confirmed she had suffered a fault of some sort and it would be back in service very soon.
Purwodadi #16 on shed
Inside the shed are another three steam locomotives in various states of condition. Another tender locomotive, #15, looks ready to go, as does #10, but sitting without tender and some obvious minor work taking place. #14 on the other hand is in need of a full overhaul, and work has already begun on this with rust removal taking place on the cab section. We were told this one would also join the fleet which sounds very promising for the future of steam here. Unlike many mills around Java, Purwodadi mill is still clearly very busy, although devoid of the field lines, and there should be enough work to keep their small fleet of four steam locomotives going for the foreseeable future. The locomotive shed also houses some passenger carriages that were built for tourists in an effort to generate more income for the mill, however this permanently shut down during the Covid pandemic. One of the workers alluded that this may restart again with steam used as motive power, although this is purely speculative and their primary use would most likely be for more industrious work.
Purwodadi's steam locomotive #16 (right), #15 (center), #10 (far left)
Purwodadi's #14 undergoing restoration
Water tower and #10's tender
Mercedes 4 cylinder diesel engines stored
As well as the steam locomotives, Purwodadi has at least one diesel (#2). We were unable to get too close to it to find out the particulars, but it looks to be in very good condition. This locomotive spends most of her shunting wagons from the level crossing into the mill which runs parallel to the main road for a short distance. It would make for some good photos/video here, if not for the security guards. There is a pair of diesel motors stored inside the locomotive shed, which are most likely donor motors for this locomotive. From what I understand, it shares a split roster with steam locomotive #16, alternating work days.
Purwodadi's diesel locomotive
With our photographic opportunities exhausted from the part of the mill we were allowed to see, it was time to head out and move on to Pagotan, stopping off in Madiun for a delicious meal of Chicken sate along the way.
Plinthed steam locomotive near main entrance of the Pagotan sugar mill
Pagotan Sugar mill is around 20km south east of the Purwodadi mill. They have somehow managed to retain their steam services for work around the mill as well as a fleet of small diesel locomotives. These now ancient machines were converted some time ago from standard wood burning machines to a fireless system where a finite steam supply is pumped in from an external source before heading out to work, making them much simpler machines to maintain and operate.
A tractor is used to move wagons around the loop in the loading yard before locomotives take over to into the mill
Like Purwodadi, Pagotan also no longer uses field lines to bring the cane to the mill. The economics of maintaining a huge rail network through the countless fields of sugar cane can't compete with having it trucked in. A fairly constant stream of trucks arrive into the loading yard south of the mill complex and it only takes a few minutes for each truck load to be lifted up by a crane and lowered onto a wagon.
A pair of three-axle diesel locomotives shut down in the loading yard outside Pagotan sugar mill
The diesel fleet appears to be all German built. We saw a pair of three-axle locomotives #3 and #4 shut down in the holding yard. A third diesel, #2, is a very rare Orenstein & Koppel twin axle example, one of very few diesels to be manufactured by the company. Unlike the other two, this one was in operation and was seen bringing empty wagons into the loading yard before returning.
Orenstein& Koppel twin axle diesel
Bagus was very helpful negotiating with the local crews to ask when or if the steam locomotives would make an appearance and the young site supervisor quickly arranged for them to be brought out just for us. Pagotan have three of these old girls still in service, although only two were serviceable on my visit as the third was having steam supply issues. We had a brief glimpse of #7, easily identifiable with its corrugated rear cab panel, but this one quickly retreated back into the mill before it got to us.
Fireless steam locomotives #6 and #7
They have all recently been repainted from orange into a dark green livery, and while clearly very old are in seemingly very good order. These locomotives were built in Germany by Orenstein & Koppel and for their size they are (or were!) very powerful locomotives being an 0-10-0 wheel arrangement. They employ the unusual Luttermoller drive system where the front and rear axles are driven by cogs on the axles located inside the frames, rather than the usual side rods. They are also able to pivot to a degree making it easier for them to negotiate tighter curves.
Fireless 0-10-0 with three axle diesel in the background
The crews then spent the best part of thirty minutes pissing off the locals repeatedly activating the level crossing while it zipped in and out of the mill into the loading yard. I covered as many different angles as I could in such a limited space and very happy with the results.
Onboard Pagotan #6
Pagotan #6 returns to the mill
For the finale, we were invited into the locomotive for a quick cab ride. The interior cab was especially spartan for a steam locomotive with only a couple of gauges and water level remaining after their conversion process to the fireless system. The sign on the cab wall reminds drivers that she is an old girl so please don't be too enthusiastic with the regulator (throttle).
Pagotan's loading yard
Trucks arriving with cane for the trains to move inside the mill
Fireless steam locomotive 0-10-0 #6 in recent dark green livery
To finish off the day, we headed back to Madiun city to watch the afternoon fuel shuttle from the mainline to the Pertamina fuel supply depot and a visit to the museum adjacent to the INKA rolling stock works, both right next door to Madiun station.
Henschel 0-6-0t C2606 outside Madiun station
There are a couple of preserved locomotives around the town. A 1921 built Henschel 0-6-0t C 2606 is on the outside the station on the south west corner and not far away on the same street outside the KAI headquarters is a beautiful 4 axle D301 class diesel hydraulic by Krupp.
B1602 steam tram, Madiun INKA museum
The museum has a few exhibits outside; most notable is the B1602 steam tram by Backer & Rueb which was used on the Pasuruan steam tram network. This old girl is now 127 years old! It has been moved around a lot over the years and now sits out the front of the museum visible from the main road. There is also a mock steam locomotive display and a passenger car, a product of the INKA works. Inside the museum is a large model railway setup showing the layout of the INKA factory as well as a few other scale models, photographs and a cafe.
CC204 0305 works the fuel train down busy Yos Sudarso street, Madiun
Around 3pm, the fuel train arrived from the mainline. This 1km spur line crosses over the main road just north of the station and goes to the Pertamina fuel storage site. There is typically one train per day in daylight hours and offers 600 meters of rail/street photography. The locomotive used on this days working was a rare CC204 class locomotive #0305, one of only seven units rebuilt from the CC201 class and almost aesthetically identical. The move takes less than an hour to take the loaded wagons in and return with empties, requiring a well synchronized effort of rail staff and traffic police to hold the hundreds of impatient scooter drivers at bay! This was the last train of the for us and we headed off on the expressway back to Surabaya for Bagus to return home and where I would take a train the next day to the far east of Java island - Banyuwangi.
Many thanks to Bagus for taking me around the places over the past few days, especially while recovering from illness. The Indonesian tourism industry on which so many rely for income has been hit very hard over the past couple of years and they can do with as much business as possible. For Java rail and tourism tours in the Surabaya area, Bagus is your guy and for those wishing to book a customized tour with him, you may contact him at : firstname.lastname@example.org or +62 822 33 55 8301.
September 02 - Surabaya - Banyuwangi
I had a much better night sleep from the long day yesterday, mostly thanks to me figuring out the air-conditioning system and by visiting Pizza Hut the night before (although not as good as China's, who hold up Pizza Hut as fine dining!). Today was a scorcher and even at 8am, the hotel windows were hot to touch. I had a quick repack and breakfast before heading out into the big city of Surabaya. There are plenty of things to do in the city, but as this was a designated rail trip and I was on such a tight time schedule, I didn't spend as much time here as I could have. I had marked a number of places to choose from for the morning before my early afternoon train departure and as it was too hot for my liking and with all my luggage in tow, decided to stick close to the station.
Surabaya skyline from my hotel looking east
A taxi took me to a preserved Whiskey class submarine in a designated park on the west bank of the Mas river. The Pasopati was one of a fleet of twelve Whiskey class submarines acquired by the Soviet Union in the early 1960's during a period of military cooperation which saw some pretty serious hardware arrive into south east Asia. The Whiskey class are based off the WW2 era German class XXI U-boats. The Soviets launched this particular boat in 1955 as S-290 and was transferred to Indonesia in 1962 with eleven others. Prior to the handover, she was involved in the Indonesian/Soviet military operation ‘Trikora’ a year earlier to bring West New Guinea under Indonesian control, much to the displeasure of the Dutch. Pasopati remained in service until 1990 before being removed from service and has become a museum since 1998.
Whiskey class Submarine 410 "Pasopati"
During my visit, the submarine was undergoing an extensive exterior overhaul to repair many rust spots with fiberglass matting prior to giving her a new paint job. The museum was thankfully still open to the public and one of the small shops within the park was kind enough to look after my bags so I could take a walk inside the submarine itself.
The museum was very quiet with only a handful of visitors during my time, and this was great for moving around and through the very small hatches which were clearly not designed for overweight Australian train drivers to traverse. Apart from the superb air-conditioning, everything inside was original and incredibly well preserved. Most of the gauges and switches are still in Russian. The boat can be walked from one end to the other, but some areas such as the conning tower are sealed off. A fascinating time capsule! After I had finished here I had an hour to spare and made my way to Gubeng station to stock up on drinks for the long train ride ahead to Banyuwangi.
Surabaya commuter train arriving at Gubeng station
Surabaya Gubeng railway station is a large through station with six tracks and sees intercity and commuter services. After I printed my boarding pass for train "Sri Tanjung 288", the staff allowed me onto the platform to take some photos before the train arrived (getting access to platforms in Indonesia can be hit and miss). I was able to see a few trains passing through before the arrival of mine, which was amazingly behind the same very rare type CC204 class locomotive I had seen a day earlier in Madiun shunting fuel tankers - this one numbered 0303.
Surabaya Gubeng station with my train to Banyuwangi arriving on platform 6
We departed right on time and I endured the most uncomfortable six and a half hour train ride in my 24 years of long distance travel. These economy cars are apparently to be soon retired and can't come a moment too soon. The seats have the same effect as medieval torture devices with a vinyl wrapped hardwood bench with a straight 90 degree hardwood back rest (and I use the term 'rest' very lightly). Being squished against the window with very little leg room and five other passengers added to the discomfort, but at least I had a window seat and I was able to occasionally use the power outlet to keep my phone charged for the only remaining luxury I had left.
Preserved Il-28 bomber near Juanda airport
An old box car seen en-route
It wasn't all bad however, on the plus side the trip cost only $10 Australian dollars for the 300 kilometer journey and the scenery is really special. I have never seen a 'greener' country. The track itself was mercifully smooth (take note, Australia!) and the driver took every opportunity to hang off the beautiful sounding Leslie air horns.
Stunning rural scenery which lasted for hours made the train ride bearable
I arrived at Karangasem station two stations before the end of the line as it was the closest to my hotel. Incredibly sore from the train ride, I opted to walk to the hotel rather than risk my life and my travel insurance on the back of a scooter with my heavy camera bag on the back, although the scooter drivers did make a compelling argument that "I wouldn't make it". Neglecting their advice, I set off on foot and it turns out I did make it, although I had in the process all remaining skin from my inner thighs from the chafing of my jeans and had also managed to step in a huge pile of dog excrement on the way which I didn't notice until I arrived at the hotel. I immediately went to bed for three hours and set an alarm for midnight when a pre-arranged driver would meet me outside the hotel and take me to an active volcano for a pleasant eight hour hike.
September 03 - Banyuwangi
It turns out something was lost in translation somewhere to visit Mount Ijen and my driver Michael was under the impression I meant the next day midnight. It didn't matter to me so much, asides from getting not nearly enough sleep, as I had two days in Banyuwangi - one for the hike and one for the trains so I was able to easily swap them around. After scrounging a few hours more sleep before sunrise, I walked back to the railway line near where I had arrived with my camera equipment and drone to do some exploring. This took a bit longer than I could have made it, however I was intentionally taking it slow, lest I work through my thigh/leg flesh (literally) to the bone. I was unable to find a taxi, and my refusal to use scooters saw me on foot for all of my time in Banyuwangi. At least I was able to avoid all the animal turds on these daylight walks.
Semaphore signals on the Banyuwangi line
There are currently some six trains in each direction per day which use this which was a good enough amount to warrant spending a day on. With the gaps between the trains, I would be able to reposition along the line without rushing about. The line, like most in Java, is a single track bi-directional line which still uses semaphore signaling and passing loops at stations.
A CC201 class locomotive takes a train towards Probalingo
I was able to photograph and video seven of the trains, with fairly long waiting periods between each one. During these times I would try and find some shade and send the drone off to scout out the scenery and trains. All trains seen were passenger services with either GE CC201 or CC206 class diesel locomotives at the helm.
Houses and rice/farm fields adjacent to the mainline
The drone really proved to be a valuable asset for recording the trains and I was able to follow them for a good distance as they slowed into and out of stations. Access to the line is quite easy with service tracks running right next to the line for most of it, however there are also plenty of curves and trees giving only a very limited time window to take photos from when the train appears before the train disappears around a corner or vegetation.
Train behind CC206 diesel departing Karangasem station
After I had my fill and exhausted my batteries, I headed back into town for an early tea on foot, once again avoiding the barrage of dog turds. I had an early night to be well rested for my hike up Mount Ijen in the very early morning. Walking around Banyuwangi is safe and there are plenty of food stall open on most of the town center streets. As I still had a long way to go, including the long walk up Mount Ijen, I opted to go as safe as possible and eat at a popular chain restaurant instead.
September 04 - Banyuwangi - Yogyakarta
After a slightly better six hours, my alarm went off and I headed downstairs to the lobby for my hike up an active volcano, a seemingly very popular attractions for visitors to Indonesia, specifically Bali which lies only short distance across the bay. I do tend to avoid a lot of the touristy things as I'm often too busy chasing trains and generally don't like the commercialism of it all, but it did look interesting enough even for me to give it a crack. Within a few minutes my driver Michael had arrived in his small minivan with two other travelers, a pair of young ladies from Poland. After exchanging pleasantries we headed off to another hostel to pick up a French couple before the long twisty road to the base of the mountain. Michael is a very friendly gentleman who takes great care of his guests and we spent the next hour following a long convoy of taxis, minibuses and tour coaches up a very curvy, steep and narrow road. Being up the front, I spotted a beautiful Malayan Krait (known locally as the Weling snake) making its way across the road which was almost immediately run over by another car.
Sulfur miners have right of way on the jagged path in and out of the crater
While Mount Ijen is a tourist location, there are also two competing companies mining for sulfur. This is all done by hand and taken out of the crater by some extremely tough laborers who will typically make two trips up and down the mountain each day with a pair of baskets over their shoulder with weighing upwards of 90kg. Sadly many of these guys have a very short life span due to the noxious sulfur gases that seems to linger around constantly. The lucky ones become guides and some make a little side income from selling some beautifully hand carved pieces of sulfur as souvenirs. All climbers (tourists, that is) are given a bottle of water, a gas mask and a torch.
Success! The interesting phenomena of blue flames rising out of the ground
Yours truly smiling while surrounded by noxious fumes
After meeting our guide, we began the ascent with the goal of making it up and then down into the crater before 3am in order to see the major attraction of the naked blue flames from escaping gas that ignites as soon as it is exposed to the atmosphere. My younger and clearly fitter companions were off and well in front of me fairly shortly, but thankfully there are porters along the way offering to take the elderly and Australian train drivers up the rest of the way for a price (It was worth every cent!). I succumbed with about 1km to go as I couldn't keep up the pace to make it on time before the blue flames would disappear. Descending into the crater is perilous with extremely steep and down very sharp and uneven rock steps. Injuries are common and there was an incident with another group making the descent. The miners have right of way on the paths up and down which can become a little tricky in places barely wide enough for a single person, but overall the system works quite well. We were all lucky to be able to see the blue flames on this day as it doesn't happen every night and is quite a spectacle, a bit like when I come home to find the gas stove still turned on, only with a lot less swearing. This can be hazardous as the wind in the crater is constantly changing enveloping most of us in huge clouds of thick sulfuric gas. This caught me out a few times and even with the gas mask on, my eyes were stinging and it became almost impossible to breath for a short while until the wind would send the cloud of gas into another group.
Inside the crater of Mount Ijen with huge amounts of yellow sulfur clearly visible
Before long, the sky started to turn deep purple and then pink as day broke. Most people spend a few hours either inside the crater or at the edge of it to watch the sunrise, which provided the day is not completely overcast, is worth the wait. Very soon the brilliant blue lake comes into view and there are plenty of spots along the way back up to the crater's edge.
A view from the top of the crater with tourists seen at the edge of the lake
Before long it was all over and we were due to meet back at the car park at 10am to be back at Banyuwangi before 1130am for my train out. It actually didn't take too long to scramble out of the crater before the long steep ascent began. This should have been a lot easier coming down, but the path is very steep on loose stones and gravel and with my weight, I would have looked like an ice skater with Tourettes syndrome to most people.At the halfway mark there is a small rest area with bathroom (which is paid for, although I suspect it should have been the other way around given the state of them). But I made it back (unassisted this time) and got back into the minivan wondering if my feet would ever forgive me. My inner thighs still hadn't.
A large pillar of sulfur left for tourists to view
After dropping the other guests off at the hotel, Michael kindly waited for me to gather my bags and check out of the Banyuwangi Aston hotel to get to Banyuwangi train station, this being right at the end of the line, for the long train ride to Yogyakarta. Many thanks to Michael for your hospitality shown to myself and the others and for getting me up and over the volcano. Michael is regarded as one of the best for this particular tour. He speaks English and is very accommodating to specific requests. As he also works with solo travelers such as myself, unlike most others who want a minimum amount of people, he is in high demand so very advisable to book with him early. He can be reached via his website at https://ijendriver.wordpress.com/
The Surabaya train departs Banyuwangi prior to the departure of mine to Yogyakarta
My train was "Wijayakusuma 115" and as the number indicated, would take 11.5 hours to complete the journey from Banyuwangi to Yogyakarta. Although this one was almost double the distance and duration from the last one, I was in executive class with excellent air-conditioning, comfortable seats and a very nice dinner to go with it. Once again I treated to some superb scenery and the entire journey was thoroughly enjoyable. The locomotive hauling us was CC206 1314.
Winner winner chicken dinner
My failed attempt of photographing Mount Bromo from the train which was almost completely obscured by clouds
As I was arriving late, I had booked my hotel as close to the train station as possible finding one opposite the terminal on the south side so I could check in quickly, although I couldn't help but stop for a photo of another of the incredibly beautiful D301 class Krupp 4 axle coupled diesel hydraulics preserved in the station car park of Yogyakarta station. It is a real shame none of these machines are still operating. Once checked in, I quickly headed out for a bite to eat before everything shut up shop for the night.
D301 class 4 axle diesel hydraulic locomotive
September 05 - Yogyakarta
Some old relics around Yogyakarta station
I had a few things planned for my two days in Yogyakarta and Surakarta (otherwise known as Solo). Surakarta is only a one hour train ride away to the north east. The usual KAI intercity trains operate non-stop services between the two cities, but most people use the more frequent and much cheaper Commuterline trains which use the same KAI Commuter card as in Jakarta. This would come in especially useful as I would do some station hopping the next day to try out different railway locations between both cities, all while using my old Commuterline card from Jakarta. My first goal for the day however was to visit the huge air force museum located at the joint Yogyakarta International airport/ air force base. I decided against using the bus because I can barely figure them out in the local language and I hadn't had time at this stage to figure out the trains at this stage, although no matter - I would have chosen a taxi anyway. Like most major cities in Java, Yogyakarta uses Bluebird taxis, however these tend to be few and far between, so I opted for a private taxi instead for a negotiated price. The driver was very courteous and was nice enough to drop me right inside the museum, rather than at the gates of the air force base to fend for myself. Once a ticket was purchased, I had many hours to savour one of the best air force museums I have ever visited.
Tupolev Tu-16 bomber
The air force museum claims to be the largest in Asia, however I believe one of the two in Beijing, China is significantly larger. Having said that, this one has an incredibly impressive array of aircraft with some very unique types. There is a distinctly Soviet flavour to much of it given their military cooperative years which has lasted for decades, however there is still a good amount of exhibits originating from all over the rest of the world thanks to Indonesia's colorful aviation past. The star of the museum is without question, the heavy twin engine Tupolev Tu-16 "Badger" heavy strategic bomber. These were introduced in the early 1960's and used in the previously mentioned operation Trikora to annex West New Guinea into Indonesia. Indonesia acquired 26 of these aircraft and they were about to be used against a Dutch aircraft carrier during this conflict, but was called off just in time. They had a surprisingly short service life and were all out of use by 1970. It is said Australia purchased its fleet of F111 strike bombers to counter these, but by the time they were delivered, Indonesia's strategic bomber fleet was almost completely out of service. The example at Yogyakarta is thankfully under cover, but is still fairly exposed to the elements and has supports to hold the wings up. There is a pair of early cruise missiles fitted to the wings.
Indonesian N250 prototype regional airliner
The stunning Lockheed JetStar quad engine business jet A-1645 "Pancasila"
Some other notable exhibits include the N250 prototype Indonesian turbo prop airliner which stalled in the mid 1990's. Two prototypes were built, the one here named "Gatotkaca" was the first. The program has since been reactivated and construction of new aircraft has begun.
The Ilyushin-14 was built as a replacement for the large fleet of Lisunov Li-2 aircraft in the Soviet Union, a license built DC-3. They were designed for use as both military transport and civilian airliners with a number of improvements, although they suffered from poor reliability. Unlike the Li-2 and DC-3, these had a tricycle wheel arrangement, rather than using the older 'tail-dragging' wheel layout which improved visibility during take-off. Indonesia ended up with 22 of these birds and they lasted less than 20 years in military service. The one here is actually an Avia Av-14(P), the same aircraft built license built in Czechoslovakia.
The Lockheed Jetstar was the first true business jet and one of my favorite aircraft of all time, the museum's example being the first one I have seen. Unusual for business jets, they feature four engines mounted on the rear fuselage and large fuel pods incorporated into the middle of the wing. The very rich and famous such as Kenny Rogers and Frank Sinatra owned Jetstars and Elvis Presley had two of them at different stages of his career. The Indonesian government was clearly a big fan of Elvis, probably less so of Kenny Rogers, and they ended up with a couple of their own from 1965 which were used for government and VIP flights.
ex-Israeli A-4 Skyhawk
Cessna OV-10 Bronco
A total list of aircraft at the museum is as follows, not including other equipment such as radars, missiles, etc :
A Mitsubishi Ki-51 Type 99 "Guntei" or "Sonia". This one was captured at WWII's end and used to attack the Dutch in 1947
The legendary North American P-51D Mustang
A gorgeous North American B-25J Mitchell
Aero L-29 Delfin
Auster E AOP.3
Avia Av-14(P) (Ilyushin Il-14)
British Aerospace Hawk
Beechcraft T-34A Mentor
Beechcraft T-34C-1 Mentor
Boeing Stearman PT-13D Kaydet
Commonwealth CA-27 Sabre
Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina
de Havilland Vampire T.11
DIRGANTARA NAS-332 TT Super Puma
Douglas A-4E Skyhawk
Douglas B-26B Invader
Douglas C-47A Skytrain
Douglas C-47B Skytrain (rear fuselage)
FFA AS202/18A3 Bravo
Grumman HU-16A Albatros
Lipnur Gelatik 32
Lockheed C-130B Hercules
Lockheed L-1329 JetStar 6
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-15UTI
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-17F
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-19S
Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21F-13
Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero Sen Model 52
Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa
Noorduyn Harvard IIB
North American B-25J Mitchell
North American OV-10F Bronco
North American P-51D Mustang
Northrop F-5E Tiger
Piper L-4J Cub
PZL TS-8 Bies
Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse
Vultee BT-13A Valiant
Wiweko WEL-1 (replica)
Yokosuka K5Y1 (replica)
The museum has a huge range of aircraft for those interested in historical and modern aviation. The vintage aircraft on display is nothing short of incredible including British, American and Japanese examples. The Japanese aircraft are particularly important and most were captured examples from the retreating Japanese army. As well as fighters such as the Mitsubishi Zero and P-51D Mustang, there is a good fleet of light and medium bombers such as the Mitsubishi Ki-51 and American B-25 Mitchell and B26 Avenger. Inside the covered exhibits is a very impressive array of early jet fighters of both Soviet and western origin and a handful of more modern jets such as the Northrop F-5E Tiger, BAe Hawk and A-4E Skyhawk, although there are a couple of notable omissions as well, particularly the early Il-28 jet bomber of which Indonesia was an operator. To date no F-16's or Sukhoi's Su-27/30's have found their way inside, but may be not too far away once a new fleet of French Dassault Rafale's arrive and possibly US F-15’s arrive.
Interior of a Douglas C-47A Skytrain (military version of the DC-3)
Visitors are able to climb in side some of the exhibits, such as a Douglas C-47A Skytrain and the large Sikorsky S-58 Seahorse as can be seen below. These exhibits appear to be remarkably intact and in good condition. One of the more recent additions is a recently retired licence built Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma, built by Dirgantara and designated NAS 332.
Dirgantara NAS 332, a license built version of the Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma
Replica of the Wiweko WEL-1, designed and built by Indonesian Air Force officer Wiweko Soepono
Mobile SA-75 surface to air missile with Russian built GAZ truck
Once I had my aviation fix sorted out, I headed back to Yogyakarta station for a quick refresh. I was unable to locate a taxi anywhere in the immediate area so headed straight for the main road and jumped onto a small bus pointing in the right direction. Fortunately I got it right and after a change from my sweat soaked clothes, headed back to Yogyakarta railway station for some afternoon railroad photography using the Yogyakarta Commuter Line trains.
CC203 pushes a rake of passenger cars into Yogyakarta depot, with an Imperial class car
I spent a little time inside Yogyakarta railway station to record some of the arriving and departing passenger trains as well as some movements in the passenger yard and locomotive depot adjacent to the railway station. A particular so-called "imperial" passenger car was found, these being super luxury passenger cars with only 20 seats and are equipped with a private toilet as well as, of all things, a karaoke bar! They are not overly common, although I would see these a handful of times during my stay in Indonesia. The depot was quite full of locomotives, where CC201, 203 and 206 classes were seen.
A view of Yogyakarta Locomotive depot seen from Yogyakarta station platform
The local trains are electric four car train sets and usually a pair of these make up an eight car train. They are very new, quiet and comfortable and recently replaced the diesel powered Prameks trains. They stop at all stations between Yogyakarta and Surakarta. I would only visit one of these stations for the remaining daylight hours, this being Branbanan, which is the railway station many self-guided tourists use to visit the famous Pranbanan temple a short distance away. I decided to pick this one as there are many open fields a short distance from the railway station which would give me a change to get the drone up and possibly get the famous Pranbanan temple in the background, although this proved to be a little too far away to be noticeable.
New INKA/Bombardier EA202 train on the Yogyakarta Commuter Line
I found a nice open area of rice fields very close by to the railway station and witnessed a decent number of intercity trains and suburban services which were all captured on the drone. The intercity trains are at speed on this section so I kept a good distance to allow me to take smoother and longer videos of the passing trains.
A CC201 races towards Brambanan station on the way to Yogyakarta
The light wasn't the greatest and by late afternoon it was clear things weren't going to improve so I decided to head back to Yogyakarta for tea and a well earned rest. I was happy to get a few final photographs from the railway station of an intercity train led by a CC201 class diesel racing towards us just before boarding.
An intercity train with a CC201 class locomotive at the helm passes our EA202 commuterline train at Branbanan station
For dinner I decided to take a walk down the main street of Yogyakarta, known as Malioboro Street. This is very popular with tourists and is a safe place, however scams are common, particularly those relating to local Batik art. Very friendly people will make small talk before telling you that there is a special art exhibition that closes soon and you should definitely visit. These are nothing more than shops that have huge amounts of mass produced pieces of art which they attempt to sell at the same prices as original pieces. I had done some reading on these places prior to visiting the city, but decided to check one out in any case. These guys are very convincing and while some of the pieces are quite pretty, there was no way I was going to fall for their BS! There are plenty of department stores, good quality restaurants, street performers and even horse drawn cart rides. The street is very well manicured and has a distinct European flavour to it. After a nice meal I headed back for my final night in Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta is a city very popular for tourists and students and there is certainly enough sites here to warrant a few days at least, alas not this time around.
A view of the very popular Malioboro street
September 06 - Yogyakarta - Solo
EA202 Commuterline trains meet at Srowot station
Today I had planned a solid day of railway photography along the very busy line between Yogyakarta and Solo, using only the local rail services. Yogyakarta Commuterline shares the same twin tracks as the KAI network and there are a total of thirteen stations between the two cities. The section of line which Commmuterline uses is fairly unusual for Java in having electric overhead, unlike most of the rest of the island. While I would have to eventually make my way to Surakarta for my overnight train to Bandung, due to the frequency of local trains, I didn't have to be burdened with carrying all my luggage around for most of the day as I could very easily zip back to Yogyakarta to my hotel opposite the railway station to collect my baggage and then back out again.
Rent-a-duck! Ducks are released into the rice fields to remove pests from the crop
Farmland surrounds much of both sides of the line and farmers were very busy working the land providing many great photographic opportunities of rural life and a nice backdrop for the railways I had come to record. I spent time around Srowot, Klaten, Ceper and Delanggu stations, all of which required only a very short walk to an acceptable photograph location – a much welcome change from the long hikes I had been undertaking nearly every day since I began. I was however, very difficult to find even any form of shelter and the sun was particularly strong today, again with high temperature and humidity. I had brought from Australia an umbrella which I thought may have come in handy, but hadn't thought to pack it for today’s outing. As such I only spent an hour or two at one spot before retreating to a comfortable air conditioned carriage to begin the process all over again.
A daylight freight train heads north from Yogyakarta with tarpualin covered loads on flat cars
Asides from the suburban trains, there were plenty of intercity KAI passenger trains and even a pair of KAI freight trains with fuel tankers on one and loaded flat cars to keep me busy. A couple of interesting finds was EM102 rail car made by Plasser & Theurer and a green diesel powered rail sets on the airport service.
A fuel tanker train led by a CC206 diesel locomotive heads north through Delanggu station
After spending time along the line, I headed further up the line to Purwosari station at Surakarta to see if I could find any of the steam locomotives which are stationed here for charter and tourist trains. On arrival I found one of the diesel rail sets which work the Wonogiri branch line ready to depart the station.
The Batara Kresna Railbus which runs from Solo to Wonogiri
Diesel Adi Soemarmo Airport train
I had initially planned to spend a couple of days in Surakarta to indulge in the steam scene here, but I was simply not able to plan the time for a weekend when I would have the best chance of seeing one of the steam locomotives in action. The steam services seem to run with little or no notice and it seems I made the right choice regarding this as no trains would run until the day after I flew out of Indonesia. There are two operational steam locomotives positioned here which rotate to work trains along the Wonogiri branch line as far as Solokota station 5 kilometers east of Purwosari, with most of this section running right down one of the main roads of the city. The two operational locomotives are #C1218, a 126 year old 2-6-0t built by Hartmann which was previously based at Ambarawa and was the only steam locomotive working here until the much larger #D1410, a 101 year old 2-8-2t built by Hanomag in 1921 was sent down from the Taman Mini transport museum in Jakarta. It has been in service here for only a couple of years, presumably to give her older sister a break for rebuild. Both locomotives were stored under a new large canopy.
Preserved (operational) 2-8-2T at Purwosari
1951 built Krupp D52099 2-8-2 at Purwosari for reactivation!
Prior to arriving in Indonesia, I heard a third locomotive was sent here to be restored to operational condition but didn't pay much attention to it until I stepped off the train and it was literally right in front of me next to my platform. The locomotive is a huge 2-8-2 tender locomotive built by Krupp and delivered in 1952 as part of a large batch of steam locomotives. The D52's were based on the D41 German steam locomotives. It is covered in a blue tarpaulin to protect it from the elements, but from my research since have ascertained it is D52099 which was recently sent down from the Taman Mini Transport Museum, presumably during its shut down for renovations. After taking only a couple of photographs, railway security approached me and asked me to stop taking photos with no explanation given. I had heard that certain stations had an active anti-photo police presence and this was the first and only time I would experience this. I had thankfully already taken all of the photos I needed and could happily wrap up for the day. I returned to Yogyakarta for tea and to collect my belongings from the hotel before heading back out to Solo Balapan station for my overnight train to Bandung, Malabar 119. Thankfully the station staff at Balapan, which is undergoing a major rebuild, were much more photo-friendly and I had a couple of hours to photographs some of the trains before my late night departure.
A CC201 runs express through Purwosari station, Surakarta (Solo)
September 07 - Bandung (West region)
A most uncomfortable sleep onboard train Malabar 119! I only managed to get a couple of hours as I was constantly trying to re-adjust my thin wool blanket to protect me from the ice cold air-conditioning (I never thought I would have said that in Indonesia!). I arrived at Bandung and wanted to get some photographs before attempting an early check in my hotel to refresh before somehow finding a driver to get me towards the west of the city for a more hardcore approach to my rail fanning. I was unable to arrange a guide prior to arriving in Indonesia and hinted the idea to Bagus to see if he would be interested, but it is understandably a very long way for him to travel for such luxuries! Being a huge city, I was confident that I would be able to find and persuade a local driver to driver through small villages and almost downright jungle to some of the harder to reach places.
CC201 class diesel departs Bandung westward with passenger train long end leading
A taxi wasn't found anywhere near the level crossing that I had arrived at and after doubling back to the station to get one from there, found that as there were no more waiting taxis there either! So I decided to make a walk for the hotel and perhaps find one on the way. While no blue bird taxis were seen anywhere and with the streets still dead quiet with nearly every shop closed, a Toyota minivan pulled over and the driver, Adie, offered me his private taxi. After pondering what I could be getting myself into, I accepted and this turned out to be one of the best chance encounters of my time in the country. I negotiated with him a daily rate and in fairly broken English was able to tell him the places I wished to travel to with a stop at the hotel on the way. The early check-in attempt failed due to the hotel being fully booked, but I was allowed to drop off one of my bags off and use the more public hotel bathroom to quickly refresh. My wish for the day was to explore a multitude of locations along the mainline up to 30 kilometers west of Bandung city. Adie was quite excited to have me on board as one of his passengers, although I couldn't help but think I was developing a habit of taking an overnight trains and then subjecting a poor guide/or taxi driver to my body odor from sweaty clothes!
CC206 passes through Rendeh with a Jakarta bound express train
Adie drove along the motorway for most of the way before peeling off and taking the road up to the town of Cikalong. This wasn't before we had a scooter ram straight up the back of us putting a decent dent into the bumper of Adie's brand new Toyota Innova minivan. Adie seemed to shrug this off as a minor inconvenience and the very embarrassed scooter driver was soon on his way. Our first stop was a tiny village near Rendeh. I walked off a bit further up the line, and due to the very thick vegetation, my only option was to send the drone up and pray there were no flight issues that would bring about a forced landing. The view from above was nothing short of stunning and I could follow the line for a great distance as the line made seemingly endless twists and turns negotiating the hilly landscape. I could have stayed in this position for a lot longer than I did, but after two trains and down one and half out of eight drone batteries, decided to push on as the day was still young and the main attraction would most likely require a lot more flight time.
High speed railway under construction near Maswati
Heavy frequent rain bursts were common in the area
While driving through the next town of Maswati, I got my first sighting of the new Jakarta-Bandung high speed line under construction. This controversial project is being built by a Chinese consortium as part of China's aggressive belt and road initiative. When a new high speed line is built in China, the railway line doesn't go around mountains, it simply goes straight through them and any village in its path is simply razed to make way – this project was no exception. At this stage there was no tracks laid in this area, but it can’t have been far away.
CC203 approached Cikubang viaduct
The main attraction I had been most looking forward to was a visit to the gigantic steel Cikubang viaduct to the east of Sasaksaat station. Adie did an admirable job squeezing through some impossibly narrow village lanes and we eventually made it to a level crossing on the east side of the viaduct. There is a nice little open restaurant/convenience store here with good shelter and while took photos of the bridge, Adie had ordered for both of us some noodle soup which was incredibly delicious. As we arrived, rolling showers were passing through the valley. The sun would occasionally pop out for a few minutes, followed by another rain shower. Being from Australia, when I say shower, I actually mean a bloody great down pour. For this reason Adie and I spent the next four hours under dodging rain and chasing trains from the same spot. Adie was actually becoming very interested in the railway and was clearly very happy to be out in the countryside rather than searching for whatever customers he could find to make short distance rides around the city.
Westbound train with CC206 crosses the spectacular Cikubang viaduct
By some stroke of incredible luck, the rain paused just long enough every time a train passed. The overcast, fog and clouds made for perhaps less than idyllic photographs and videos, but I was far from complaining. To be able to get any trains at all not hampered by rain was truly a blessing. No less than eight trains passed by in both directions, all of which were passenger trains. It will be a great shame when the high speed railway takes a good percentage of rail traffic from this line and perhaps even eventual closure, as this may be one of the greatest scenic rides in the world.
Another view of Cikubang viaduct with CC206 leading an east bound train
We tried a few more photo spots along the railway line, but access was extremely limited in parts and in some cases completely cut off for new construction works and we ended up abandoning the area and moved onto the next town, Cilame.
A small viaduct just east of Sasaksaat station, prior to the massive Cikubang viaduct
Cilame is only a few kilometers south east of the Cikubang viaduct. The car ride to reach the station is almost as impressive as the rail line itself with charming houses lining the steep twisty road towards the station. The beautiful station building is typical of those found in Java, although most trains no longer stop here, just the same as many other smaller stations on the line. A good number of bridges and viaducts are in close proximity and on both sides of Cilame station and I was able to capture a pair of trains before the rain returned and didn't stop for the rest of the day.
A CC206 passes over a smaller viaduct just east of Cilame station
September 08 - Bandung, Leles, Cikalengka
After yesterday's great success on the west side of Bandung, I was very excited at the prospect of exploring the eastern side, which I had been told was even better. Adi picked me up at the hotel and we set off down the motorway towards Cibatu, some 50kms east of Bandung. The idea was to head out and gradually work our way back towards the city as we had done yesterday. Cibatu is where the railway line splits with the east line heading towards Yogyakarta and the south line heads off to Garut, a recently rebuilt line. I had wanted to visit Garut as the line offers some incredibly picteresque scenery, however I was kept busy enough on the main line and with few trains showing the timetable, decided to give it a miss this time around. The drive took almost two hours as the main road traverses mountains and passes through many towns where traffic can be quite heavy.
Horse taxis are common in Nagreg
Rice paddy fields near Cicalengka
The motorway south of Bandung we used to head out of time shares the same path as the currently under construction high speed line for many kilometers with an almost endless line of huge concrete viaduct piers typical of elevated Chinese high speed rail lines. Not soon after, the unmistakable shape of a Chinese DF4B locomotive followed by another and then a Chinese railcar. These all belong to STECOL, a Chinese construction conglomerate which is tasked with construction. At least five of these awesome locomotives were imported into Indonesia as the new line will be 4'8" standard gauge, rather than the common 3'6" gauge that Indonesia use on its regular main lines. They are all manned with Chinese crews. With nowhere to stop on the expressway, we continued on and I remained in hope that I would have a chance to see and photograph them again.
A CC201 class diesel pulls out of Leuwigoong in a picture perfect rural setting
We unfortunately missed one of the trains near Cibatu just as we arrived, but headed slightly east and spent some time around the village of Leuwigoong. Still photography didn't seem to provide anything special and once again I sent the drone off to check out other positions along the line and was treated to a stunning backdrop of green fields, palm trees and pretty houses - of course this could only be improved with a train running through the middle of it and we didn't have to wait long before a CC201 diesel arrived. A very lovely family brought out some chairs for Adi and myself and we shared some tea before moving on towards Leles.
A passenger train led by a CC203 class diesel rounds the horseshoe curve at Leles
Leles is one of those places which the drone is perfect for. Heading north along the railway line there is a 180° curve followed by a series of left and right bends as the trains gain height up the mountains. Like most places, I could spend a very long time here as they move along at a moderate speed, alas we could only stay for one which came along mere minutes after we arrived. I chose a spot on a nice concrete path which cut through a number of rice fields right in the middle of the horseshoe curve of the railway line and waited for the first train to come by, a CC203 class locomotive which crawled out of the station into the sharp curve and then slowly powered up away into the mountains.
Long end leading CC201 at Cicalengka, east of Bandung
There was a great lull in traffic, but travelling further north we were able to find a lot of exceptionally good photo spots, particularly at the summit. After 90 minutes with no trains and with the weather setting in, I decided to head back towards Bandung. Adi suggested we stop off at Cicalengka as the station was just off the main road. Cicalengka appears to see slightly more traffic as there are a few local trains running between Bandung and here. Sure enough, in a period of 40 minutes we had four trains pass by. Cicalengka is another great spot for the drone as there is a giant sweeping bend heading into the station. The depot for the new Chinese built high speed railway is also very close by and I could very easily make out the new depot under construction.
An aerial view of Cicalengka station with a pair of trains. Note the turntable on the right
Cicalengka has three tracks through the station and a turntable. The turntable seems to be in good condition but it's unlikely to see much use these days. One of the trains we saw arriving simply uncoupled, ran around her train of carriages and headed back to Bandung long end leading. Only passenger trains were seen here during my time with all three major classes of diesel.
A CC203 departs a train of passenger cars from Cicalengka station
The overcast and rapidly the darkening skies indicated there was not much time left, and so we headed back to Bandung. As we passed the huge construction site of the new high speed depot, I noticed a pair of the DF4B's I had seen earlier were no longer there which could only mean they were further down the line. Not long after, they both came into sight on each end of a rake of Chinese ballast hoppers. Without even having to ask, Adie pulled the car over on the side of the busy motor way. I still had one good battery on the drone and I launched it from the roof of the car capturing the works train dropping ballast on a section of newly laid track. I was able to follow the train slowly for a few different passes as it changed directions and got some great footage. The two DF4B's seen were #9129 (Ziyang) and #1295 Dalian. As mentioned earlier, there are at least three others in service (#'s 7549, 7553 and 7552) although one appears to have been destroyed in an unfortunate accident in early December 2022 (a few months after my visit). DF4B 6385 and DF4C 4151 have since arrived in Indonesia to assist with works trains (January 2023). Adie was very patient and told me not to worry about the traffic cops and to spend as much time as I need, which just happened to be the exact amount of time it would take for my drone battery to expire! Once back at the hotel, I said farewell to Adie.
Chinese DF4B diesels work a ballast train on a slower section of the new highspeed railway south of Bandung city
September 09 - Nagreg, Ciawi, Ciamis
Busy roads through one of the villages near Nagreg
Road sign warning of much unpleasantness
I had a train booked for the morning from Bandung to Ciamis, where I planned to walk from the station to the huge Cirahong viaduct about 5 kilometers away, however it dawned on me the night before that not only was I starting to get extremely run down, I would also be racing against an impending storm over the area not to mention I would have to walk around ten kilometers in five hours in order to catch my evening train from Ciamis to Purwokerto, if I was unable to locate a taxi. In a lot of smaller towns, there is no guarantee of finding taxis, so I asked Adie if he would like to take me to Ciamis instead and he was as usual more than happy to oblige. This meant abandoning my rail ticket to Ciamis, but was absolutely the correct decision. This would also mean we could stop at a couple of new locations along the way, the first being the Citiis viaduct at Nagreg and the town of Ciawi before reaching Ciamis for the incredible road/rail viaduct. Adie was already at the hotel by the time I checked out and once again, we hit the road for Nagreg.
A truck struggles up the steep road near Nagreg
A cat. Meow.
The Citiis viaduct is located approximately 2.5kms from Nagreg city center. It crosses the main road/s, which are interesting in themselves as the eastward traffic lanes run on a separate road from the west bound traffic, about 600 meters apart on average. There is a rest area on the west bound side which also gives a good view of the bridge, but it does mean doing a bit of a dog leg to reach if coming from Bandung. The rest stop is on the opposite side of the viaduct which will require crossing the road and there just happens to be a very steep valley right on the other side, so do be careful! I decided I didn't want to be careful and instead wanted to risk rolling my ankle or becoming a truck hood ornament in order to get some nice footage. Due to the topography, the trains give no notice before rumbling over the viaduct and I missed two due to this, but I was successful on the third attempt. In the photo below, you can see how steep the road is just above the fourth passenger car.
CC206 with passenger train approaching Nagreg, rolls over the large Citiis viaduct
Next stop was to Tjiawi, commonly spelled Ciawi. Distance wise this is only some 30 kilometers further east, however due to traffic and roads with sharp and steep curves, travel time took well over an hour. The drive is just spectacular in certain areas.
A CC206 diesel with long distance passenger train arrives into Tjiawi
We waited only for one train, an east bound express service behind a CC206 class locomotive. The station staff here are very friendly and were more than happy for me to walk around taking photos. Like most of the national network, mechanically operated semaphore signals are still used. Ciawi also still has its old freight shed, although in a decrepit state.
Signaling equipment at Ciawi
Old freight shed at Ciawi
Before long we were back on the road to the final location, Ciamis which was another 30 kilometer drive and despite this taking another hour to achieve, I can't say I was unhappy with the view out the window! Adie pulled over for a snack on the way for me to try called Cilok rebus, tapioca balls on a skewer with sauce. This type of food is quite foreign to me, but most satisfying. I'm admittedly not the most adventurous when it comes to trying local foods, but I'm glad I did this time!
Scenery to die for
The Cirahong viaduct is a superb three arch steel viaduct which was built to cross the Citanduy river. It is located about halfway between the towns of Ciamis and Manonjaya, approximately five kilometers from either. The viaduct is a shared road/rail bridge with the train line running on top and the road traffic running inside the box girders. Cars were only fairly recently banned from travelling inside and it is now open only for scooters, bicycles, motorbikes and pedestrians. Access is very narrow and it is manned on both ends to collect a toll and to alternate the travel direction.
A look inside the Cirahong viaduct
The bridge has become a very popular visitor site and there is a beautiful rest area on the northern edge of the bridge with some small open restaurants. Adie had arranged lunch for me at one of these with a simple, yet fantastic plate of rice with egg and salty fish. Road traffic wasn't overly busy, being a weekday, that was until school finished and a fairly constant stream of high school students passed through. They took great interest in me and I became the subject of a number of recorded high school interviews.
Scooters wait for the change in traffic direction
Some very friendly high school students
The railway line here is spectacular and the drone once again earned its keep very nicely. I was able to record a total of four trains in both directions and as they are not travelling particularly fast, it was very easy to chase them with the drone as they negotiated very sharp curves. Unfortunately, the day was ending all too fast and soon I had to ask Adie to get me to Ciamis station for my evening train to my final location, Purwokerto. I left myself with a good 90 minutes and after saying farewell for the final time to my new friend, he headed back to Bandung and I printed out my boarding pass. Despite being a very sleepy station, I was denied access to the platforms so I decided instead to go for a quick walk west to the level crossing to see if any trains would come past. This meant I would have to drag all my luggage with me again. Unfortunately none would pass me by and God also thought it would be amusing to park a very strong rain storm suddenly over the top of me. I still had some time prior to my train departure so after a quick dash back to the center of town, took refuge in a restaurant at the local shopping mall for a meal in the hope the rain would ease up. Of course it didn't and I decided to unpack my umbrella buried deep inside my luggage. Amusingly, for the locals as soon as I opened it, the canopy flew completely off the handle landing a few meters away in a puddle before being crushed by a bus. Now completely soaked, I made a dash for the train station and almost surgically removed the sodden boarding pass from my wallet withour destroying the QR code and boarded with only two minutes before the train pulled up, and yes - you guessed it - the rain stopped as soon as I made it on board!
Cirahong viaduct with CC203 class diesel moving a train towards Ciamis
I'm so grateful for being able to cover as much ground as I did with such terrific results and would never been able to achieve even close to what I did without a driver like Adie. I think I turned him into a rail enthusiast by the time our three days were up! Anyone in the Bandung area who wishes to employ his services can contact him via Whatsapp on +62 813 6385 9938. Like most Javanese, he is extremely friendly, very professional and able to improvise. His car is very clean and comfortable, asides from the massive scooter-shaped hole in the rear bumper bar. He completely understands what rail fans are after, not to mention his recent experience in how to get to many of these hard to reach places!
My train to my final location of Purwokerto was on board train Serayu 302. I was back in the uncomfortable old economy class cars, mercifully only for three hours though. The train ran on time and the train was practically empty once we arrived at Kroya, one stop before Purwokerto. The train changes direction here and in the darkness towards Kebasen I was able to make out a number of landmarks I would pass through the next day on my final day of trainspotting. I was relieved to find a huge amount of taxis at Purwokerto as I didn't fancy the five kilometer walk to the Surya Yudha hotel.
September 10 - Purwokerto
I had originally planned to take a taxi out to Notog station about eight kilometers south of Purwokerto then begin on foot for another four kilometers to the large viaduct near the next station of Kebasen before returning in the afternoon via any means possible. However in light of the weather forecast predicting afternoon thunderstorms, I was now against the clock as well. In my experience over the past couple of days with Javan storms, these appear in the mid afternoon and appear almost out of nowhere and incredibly hard. So instead to avoid any unnecessary nonsense, I found a taxi driver who took me straight to the viaduct at Kebasen, and asked him to pick me up at 2pm from the same spot when it became obvious I wouldn’t be able to find a taxi at short notice from this spot.
The Serayu river
The railway crosses the Serayu river, a major river that flows from the mountain ranges to the southern edge of Purwokerto then south until it reaches the Indian ocean. The railway line through Purworkerto is double track all the way from Jakarta to Yogyakarta and beyond with light signals. It sees a very high volume of rail traffic, predominantly passenger trains.
A man dressed up as a cowboy working as a traffic light
New cafe facing the viaduct
The bridge can be viewed from either side of the Serayu river and I decided to stay on the eastern side which, as it turned out was a good thing as some of the local pigeon enthusiasts decided to bring their birds out on the western side. There is actually a pair of bridges here, both huge steel designs around 280 meters in length. The single track bridge has been abandoned recently in place of a new double track single span steel bridge. The double track bridge has a walkway which is used unofficially by many of the locals, but I stayed under the bridges for shelter from the sun.
Some welcome shade underneath the Kebasen rail bridges
I was able to find a total of eleven trains in only a few hours. Using the drone almost exclusively allowed me to take some very good video footage from a number of different angles and in between trains some friendly locals took the time out to have a chat to me about where I was from and what I was doing. When there were no people around, I had the company of a family of gorgeous Common Sun or Golden Skinks.
Eutropis Multifasciata, which goes under the more common names of Golden Skink, Common Sun Skink
Very satisfied with my footage, I made it back to the main road where my driver had just arrived. Right on cue, the heavens opened and a torrential downpour touched down bringing traffic to an almost standstill. We came across a pair of very bad scooter accidents on the way back, one of which had gone through a roadside barrier and down an embankment with scores of other scooter riders already scaling down the hill to assist. I spent my time in the hotel repacking for the next day’s flight and was lucky to find a small break in the weather to go out for tea.
A bird's eye view of the viaducts over the Serayu viaduct
September 11 - Purwokerto - Jakarta
Filling the water tanks at Purwokerto station
Train Taksaka 81 arrives at Purwokerto
I woke up with enough time to walk to Purwokerto station if I needed to, but once again found a taxi at the front of the hotel to get me back to the train station. As I was now early, I had plenty of time to load up on drinks for the four hour dash back to Jakarta and after printing my final boarding pass, recorded a number of trains arriving and departing from the station. Station staff here were once again very relaxed and were happy for me to enter the platform early. Purwokerto has three main platforms which are covered by an enormous canopy and there is a large locomotive depot and rail yard next door. There were a few locomotives visible in the depot, but it seems fairly quiet. Five trains were seen in just under an hour which is probably one of the busier lines in Java. There are still some antiquated things to be found around the station, and of particular interest was an ancient brass geared platform bell still in use. All of the arriving trains had their water tanks refilled by employees who would climb on to the roof and attach a harness to insert the hose into a small hatch on the roof.
East bound Purwokerto arrival
The journey back to Jakarta was possibly the best I have seen. Despite purchasing a window seat ticket, this was already occupied when I embarked, but regardless my camera was well packed away for the flight home. Without question I would make this line a priority if I make a return trip. The section between Purwokerto and Karanganjar which runs around the southern base of active volcano Mount Slamet is just incredible as it passes on the top edge of a valley for much of the way. No trains were seen en-route, asides from one passing in the opposite direction, although a few aging railway freight wagons were seen in a siding.
Eksecutif class interior
A semi-covered gondola
At Jakarta, I decided to get off the train a stop early at Jatinegara station, then a local train to the next suburban station, Mangerrai for the airport train. As per my arrival, these are purchased from a vending machine with a credit card. The airport train was approximately 30 minutes from departing but I was able to wait on the platform for this and then sat back as we raced through the western suburbs of Jakarta.
Rail workers cutting up old rails for scrap
A suburban train at Duri station
I made it to the airport in good time for my flight home on Qantas QF42 to Sydney and they were nice enough to allow me on board with my slightly overweight camera bag, on the grounds that my check in bag was only a quarter of the allowed weight and I was simply not interested in contributing my camera kit to the ongoing Qantas lost baggage crisis. Taking off out of Jakarta was stunning with the pilot making a bank to the left showing the millions of lights of Jakarta below.
A Garuda Airlines Boeing 777-300ER in retro livery
Arriving at Sydney was on time and Qantas had made the booking for my onward flight to Melbourne about 3 hours later, however as this was a domestic flight I had to first collect my bag and clear customs. Unfortunately my bag hadn't arrived until a few minutes before its departure and the customs line was snaking out of six queues for hundreds of meters. It took almost two hours to get seen to and by the time I arrived at the domestic counter, this flight had already landed in Melbourne. Qantas booked me onto the next flight with the wait alone being more than the flight time from Jakarta! But I made it home eventually, exhausted, sunburnt and devoid of large swathes of inner thigh skin ready to start work again the day.
Coastline south of Sydney
My Boeing 737 home (flight QF419)
Indonesia greatly exceeded my expectations in what I expected to see and set out to achieve. It is a truly amazing place, and once I found myself out of the large cities and in the rural areas chasing trains, I had a blast. The people I met along the way were truly wonderful and my two weeks here will remain with me for a very long time.
The rail scene is brilliant. Despite having only a handful of different types of mainline locomotives in service, I was never bored by any of it and the unique scenery between locations made every encounter with a train a unique one. The use of aging semaphore signals and high dependency on rail staff to make the whole system work flawlessly is a real spectacle to behold and is disappearing all too fast from the rest of the world as technology and automation takes hold.
That's not to say that it wasn't a challenge, although many may disagree with my reasons for thinking so. Absolutely the biggest challenge was the oppressive heat and humidity. Those not used to this type of weather doing the type of solo trip I have done will probably struggle with this the most - so don't wear jeans and pack light!
I found local transportation to be rather hit and miss depending on the location, which saw me on foot a lot more than I would have liked. Many towns appear to be completely devoid of taxis and local bus services are certainly not geared towards foreigners, granted most of the places I visited were not on the typical tourist trail. The fact is I simply wasn't able to figure it all out in the time I had prior and during my visit. Rail travel between cities was however very simple to book and understand and represents excellent value. It was only by chance that I met a few select taxi drivers who were incredibly helpful and key to accessing many of the places I had planned to visit.
I personally struggled with a lot of the food, predominantly out of a fear of getting food poisoning along the way. My trips are typically very tightly planned and being bed/toilet ridden for a day or two could severely affect my plans. I have no doubt a local guide would have greatly enhanced my experience of Indonesian cuisine and I did open up towards the end!
This was my first time in Indonesia and I believe I would be much more comfortable a second time around, however this will probably be some time off as I have a whole list of countries I'm eager to explore in the future. Although there were a few disappointments, such as not being able to visit the museums and some regrets in not visiting Jakarta harbor or the Pranbanan temple inYogyakarta, I will of course be able to fit these into the schedule next time.
Some videos of my recent trip to Java can be found here. To assist with my YouTube channel, Pete's World Railway Videos, please consider subscribing to the channel, sharing with your friends and commenting & liking my videos. This greatly helps with YouTube's algorithm.
September 2022 Monthly Drone Compilation
Duration 8:01 minutes
October 2022 Monthly Drone Compilation
Duration 6:19 minutes
November 2022 Monthly Drone Compilation
Duration 6:13 minutes
Passenger & Cargo trains around Jakarta
Duration 8:50 minutes
Fireless Steam Locomotives in service at Pagotan Sugar Mill
Duration 6:29 minutes
Kedawung Sugar Mill's field lines
Duration 6:26 minutes
Chinese Diesels in Indonesia! High Speed Railway Construction
Duration 6:43 minutes