The International Steam Pages

Gula Java - Historic Sugar Mills of Java

There have been sugar mills of some kind in Java for over 200 years and many of today's survivors are living dinosaurs, a relic of the time when Java was the second largest producer of sugar in the world after Cuba. Back in the 1920s into the 1930s, these mills were full of state-of-the-art equipment and the fact that this same equipment can still be used today is a tribute both to the original manufacturers and the mill staff who keep them in day to day service during the annual sugar season.

No-one pretends that the smaller, older mills in Java can ever be economic in any sense, but they serve an absolutely vital role in providing employment for many rural communities and in areas like Situbondo in the far east of Java, any closures would hit extremely hard. 

This feature is part of an ongoing project to document the surviving steam powered machinery in the sugar mills as well as their overall operation. It celebrates their survival into the 21st century and hopefully it will encourage more visitors to the mills (both from Indonesia and overseas) and also generate interest in the industrial heritage of Indonesia. It is essentially a snapshot of the scene in 2002/3.

Rob Dickinson