People on the mainland are always surprised to hear that I’m involved in the advocacy of rail transportation. They hear about this blog or they learn of my active involvement in NARP, and then they ask how I managed to get to the U.S. mainland by train (yuk, yuk). The next question, almost invariably, is “Are any trains in Hawaii?”
Yes, I have always replied, there’s the “Sugar Cane Train” that’s run for tourists on Maui. But there were a lot of trains here for many years. They were on most of the islands and were used to haul pineapples to the canneries and sugar cane to the mills. They also carried people: workers to and from the fields, and ordinary passengers, too.
I’m not really into the details, but I do know that the locomotives were made by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania and, in fact, my wife and I saw one on display in the Smithsonian Museum. About ten years ago, it was moved to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA.
I’m not sure when trains were last used for hauling sugar or pine — that’s how we refer to pineapple here in the Islands — but it was probably in the 1940s. But for some 45 years here on Maui, two of the old steam engines have been lovingly cared for and used to haul some 15 million tourists through the cane fields and along a highway on scenic West Maui.
I regret to report, however, that today, August 1st, our very popular tourist train, the Lahaina, Kaanapali & Pacific Railroad, ceased operations
. According to the owners, it simply cost too much to keep the old locomotives and all the equipment running. They’ve been trying to sell the operation for several years, but no takers. What a shame. But who knows? Maybe someone with a lot of kala
(money) will show up and keep this wonderful old train running. Spread the word, OK?