Sweet Spot: The story of Olean Sugar Mill in Java

Code: CM009
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The sugar mills of Java are unique in the world for two reasons. Firstly, many have a huge amount of working traditional steam powered machinery; the greatest and most varied concentration in the world today. Secondly, some still operate steam locomotives not only within the mill areas but also in a few cases into the surrounding cane fields.

Olean mill is just north of Situbondo in East Java has both features and still operates in a manner which would be instantly familiar to anyone who worked there 50 or more years ago.

Olean is the 'jewel in the crown' of Java's sugar mills. Alone among all the fifty or so mills, it completely retains its colonial atmosphere.

Within its walls almost all buildings survive in their original state, the mill itself retains much of its original structure and the majority of the machinery inside is more than 70 years old.

In addition, even in 2006, it still brought in a significant proportion of its cane by steam hauled train on a narrow gauge railway.

The Olean catchment area is small, but the fact that it relies almost totally on irrigation rather than rain means that cultivation can be closely controlled and the cane yield per hectare is by some way the best on the whole island.

Opened in 1860, typically the mill will process less than 1000 tonnes of cane a day with a maximum output of SHS quality sugar of just 60 tonnes. This makes it by some way the smallest mill on the island.

As such its survival can only be as a result of acceptance by the authorities of its essential role in preserving the communities in this largely rural area.

Many feel that Olean should be retained as a working (museum) mill so that future generations of Indonesians can appreciate their industrial heritage.

We hope that this film will not only entertain in the short term but help make it more likely that there will be a happy ending to this story in the long term.

Special features include:

  • Detailed coverage of mill operation including many of the nearly 40 stationary engines in the mill and other traditional machinery including belt driven centrifugals
  • Planting, hand cutting and loading of cane
  • Laying down and use of the temporary railway track (Decauville system) with water buffalo hauling the cane cars ('loris')
  • Operation of the railway - shed scenes, empty and full trains, on board shots
  • The mill in context showing life in the local villages including mosque scenes and children studying the Koran.

Produced by - Camden
Running time - 55 Minutes
DVD only

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