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Adventures in Indonesia

As already mentioned, at around the same time as Graham was building the railway in his garden the engineering company he then owned, the LH Group (now owned by Wabtec), acquired the Hunslet Engine Company. As many railway enthusiasts will know, in 1971 Hunslet built the last industrial steam locomotive to be built in the UK, which was exported to the Trangkil sugar mill on the Indonesian island of Java via Robert Hudson Ltd of Leeds.

Railway enthusiast folklore in Britain had always held that, although visitors were usually welcome to photograph the steam-powered operations on the many rail-served sugar estates in Indonesia, it was also one of those countries from which “rescuing” locomotives for preservation was just not possible.

Seeing this as a challenge, Graham negotiated by e-mail via Hunslet’s agent in Jakarta to secure the return of TRANGKIL No.4 to the UK and in July 2004 travelled to Indonesia to conclude the transaction and supervise the loading. Graham’s visit to Java also enabled him to visit a number of sugar mills and to witness the great variety of early 20th century European-built locomotives still in existence, some working on a daily basis, others stored but steamable and some so decayed that they were only fit for scrap. At the time of Graham’s visit locomotives were rapidly being scrapped so he was determined to rescue as many as he practically could.

The story of that visit to Indonesia could fill a book by itself, but for now a few highlights will have to suffice to capture the essence of the adventure. While they were travelling from mill to mill, word of Graham’s party preceded them via the local grapevine so that when they stopped at a roadside stall the local shopkeeper instantly recognised them as “the ones taking the engine from the mill”! Mill staff were generally welcoming and took great pride in their factories, while security guards at closed sites could generally be relied upon to provide access to locomotives stored in locked sheds in return for an appropriate quantity of cigarettes.
Of the mills visited two stood out as having particularly interesting locomotive collections, Pakis Baru and Sragi.

Pakis Baru had recently been modernised but was mothballed. The locomotives there were in good condition and well cared for, although unlikely to work again. Two 2’6” gauge Orenstein and Koppel (O&K) locomotives were ultimately purchased from Pakis Baru; No.1, a diminutive 0-4-0 tank engine and No.5, a substantial 0-4-4-0 compound Mallet articulated tank locomotive.

Both are described in more detail later in this book. At Pakis Baru Graham caused alarm to his Indonesian hosts by jumping in to an inspection pit to examine the Mallet without following the local practice of first checking for any snakes, spiders and scorpions which may have been lurking.

Sragi was still fully operational, with steam locomotives in daily use on the 2’0” gauge system there. Two further locomotives were selected from here, O&K 0-6-0T No.14 and No.1, a Krauss 0-4-2T.

Before any of the locomotives could be shipped to the UK they had to satisfy an Indonesian Government regulation forbidding the export of scrap metal by being put into steam to demonstrate that they were leaving as working locomotives. All passed that test, a tribute to the men at the mills who had maintained them over the years. Subsequently two further Mallets, both built by the German firm of Jung, have been acquired from other sugar mills.
Having ensured that the ‘last’ steam Hunslet had been preserved and that examples of other builders’ work would also be saved to be restored to haul trains once more, Graham’s next challenge was to create a railway for them to run on, as these substantial working locomotives were really too large for the lake railway in his garden.


 

Statfold Barn Farm
The Hunslet Connection
Adventures in Indonesia
A Garden Railway
The Railway Described
The Loco Shed and Workshops
The Hunslet Museum

 
 
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