Wū-wū Kaʻa Ahi Kahului
Ke alahao a i Wailuku
Wū-wū Kaʻa Ahi Kahului
Chūkū-chūkū mua o Hawai`i
Woo-woo! Kahului Railroad
Tracks all the way to Wailuku
Woo-woo! Kahului Railroad
The first train of Hawaiʻi
(Kaʻa Ahi Kahului; Palani Vaughan)
Less than a decade after the construction of the first transcontinental railway in the US, the first steam railroad line in Hawaii was established. (Akinaka)
On July 17, 1879 Captain Thomas H Hobron ran the first train line from Kahului to Wailuku; the 3-foot-wide was eventually extended to over 15 miles in length along the north coast to Kuiaha with a number of branch lines. (AASHTO)
That year, Hobron issued in 12 ½ cent copper tokens bearing the initials ‘T. H. H.’ and ‘12 ½’ on the obverse. In the same year he also issued a 2 ½ cent copper token, intended also for use on the Kahului railroad.
Within a year or two the line was extended eastward from Kahului to Pāʻia. The enterprise was incorporated, July 1, 1881, as the Kahului Railroad Company.
Since then, railroad lines have been built on the four larger Islands connecting the sugar plantations and other industrial communities with their shipping points. (Akinaka)
But passengers were not the primary part of the rail’s business. The isthmus between Haleakala and West Maui contained rich soils ideal for crop cultivation. Within a few short years, the region soon supported one of the largest sugar plantations in the world.
In 1876, following the Reciprocity Treaty, other Westerners gained interest in Maui’s agriculture potential, including Claus Spreckels (who came to Hawaiʻi from San Francisco.)
Spreckels leased land from the government and obtained the water rights needed to build a large irrigation ditch that provided water for crops. These events set the stage for the establishment of Maui’s first railroad system. Rail transported cane from the fields to the harbor.
The Kahului station was located southeast of the harbor at Hobron Point (the east side of the harbor (which includes Pier 1) and tracks extended through Spreckelsville as well as to the sugar mill at Puʻunene.
By 1889, the company reported more miles of track plus three locomotives, two passenger cars, one baggage-mail car, 14 platform cars and 60 boxcars. (JoDorner)
By the turn of the 19th century, Kahului supported a new customhouse, a saloon, a Chinese restaurant and a small but growing population.
In 1901, Kahului Railroad purchased its first tugboat, the Leslie Baldwin, to tow lighters to and from vessels. The railroad company was instrumental in Kahului Harbor development.
The final stretch of line even included a steel bridge over the Maliko Gorge which, at nearly 230-feet, was the highest railway bridge in Hawaiʻi. (AASHTO)
Besides rail equipment, “the Kahului Railroad Company owns and operates the steamer Leslie Baldwin, two wharves with the necessary appliances for handling freight, and nine lighters of 65 tons capacity each.” (Report of Governor, 1903)
Hobron, who also was postmaster of Kahului, allowed mail to be sent free over the railroad. Later, in 1884, a subsidy of $25 per month was paid for hauling mail. Mail carried on the railroad was in closed bags for delivery to postmasters along the route. Probably loose letters were also carried. (HawaiianStamps)
In 1894, the Kahului Railroad decided to obtain a set of stamps and turned to the American Bank Note Company to produce lithographed stamps for special use on the railroad to pay freight and packages sent outside the mail. (HawaiianStamps)
Hobron also owned Grove Ranch Plantation in Makawao. (Hobron Drug Company, that was based in Honolulu, was owned by TW Hobron, the son of Thomas H Hobron.)
Steam locomotive No. 12 was built in 1928 for the Kahului Railroad Company in Hawaii by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Kahului Railroad hauled sugar from the fields to a mill and then took the finished sugar to the port of Kahului. Later extensions of the line allowed it to haul other commodities, such as pineapple, to the port. No. 12’s Hawaiian background has earned it the nickname “Pineapple Princess”. (MCRR)
Trains hauled goods to stores and mills, pineapple from field to cannery, and passengers to school or work. The military took over the rails during World War II, transporting everything from food to amphibious vehicles. (Engledow)
The Kahului Railroad outlasted its fellow railways in the state, in addition to the honors of being the first railway, it was also the last public railroad in operation. Today, some of the tracks and equipment are used for a tourist train that was constructed on the west side of Maui. (AASHTO)
Engine No. 12 made its last run on May 24, 1966 and in 1967 was sent to the mainland. Eventually, Silverwood Theme Park in Athol, Idaho purchased the engine. Now Engine No. 12 is a part of Colorado history and has been returned to service as part of the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park. (JoDorner)
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