Two little locomotives that hauled cane for Pioneer Mill for generations came home Thursday morning after spending half a century in storage in California.
The older, named Lahaina, is a really old-timer. It replaced ox carts for hauling cane in 1882. It and the only slightly younger (1898) Launiupoko were donated to the Lahaina Restoration Foundation by the Allen and Lenabelle Davis Foundation of California.
Theo Morrison, executive director of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, said Allen Davis is an aerospace engineer who founded a company, Hydraelectric, and was interested in engineering and railroads. The Davises wanted the engines to come home to Maui.
Radyn Yap, 2, poses for grand-father Harry Yap while standing in front of the locomotive Lahaina on Thursday. Harry Yap said his father worked in the mill’s tractor shop.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
They are now on truck beds at the Pioneer Mill smokestack but will soon be set up on tracks and ties donated by the Lahaina, Kaanapali & Pacific railroad for permanent display there.
The formal presentation by Allen Davis will be at 7 p.m., next Friday as the annual Plantation Days kick off with music, food, games and memories.
The locomotives are quite small, almost toylike. Lahaina, old No. 1, weighs only 14,770 pounds, a little over 7 tons. By the end of the steam locomotive era, the biggest engines weighed 500,000 pounds, 250 tons.
The plantation engines had to be light and nimble, because they chugged on temporary tracks into the fields to pick up cane.
Mildred Kutsunai recalls, "One of my most exciting jobs as a teenager was working for Pioneer Mill and following the trains. The job was called 'brooming' and our responsibility was to pick up the sugar cane that fell off the trains and to throw it back on.
"These big machines didn't go fast, and we were able to keep up."
Until locomotives arrived, cane was hauled to the mill by bullock carts, and it took a whole day for the plodding beasts to deliver one load.
According to history written for the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, the first locomotive replaced 20 bullock carts, 150 oxen and at least 20 teamsters, not to mention the labor involved in growing food for the animals.
The railroad required an engineer and two helpers.
Since the plantations were very short of labor in those days, the savings were enormous, and the railroad paid for itself almost overnight.
Sammy Kadotani, who worked in the Pioneer Mill office toward the end of the railroad era, recalled that after hauling in the cane, the trains carried sacks of sugar to Kaanapali Landing for export.
Unlike the East Maui railroad that carried passengers, too, including children going to school, the Pioneer Mill railroad was strictly a work line, except for one day a year when Baldwin Packers held a "huge luau" at Honolua.
On that day, the rail cars were pressed into service to help carry the huge crowds to the sunrise-to-sunset party.
"That was something," said Kadotani on Thursday.
Also something was the racket when the cars unloaded. "I always knew when the trains arrived at the mill," he said.
"The cane was mixed in with big boulders picked up from the fields and when workers unloaded it, man, the sound was just deafening."
Pioneer Mill acquired a number of locomotives from America and Germany, but the Lahaina and the Launiupoko were both built by the leading American maker, Baldwin Locomotive Works (no relation to the Hawaii missionary family).
For unknown reasons, the gauge was 30.75 inches, which is not only not a standard gauge but doesn't even match the gauge used by other plantations.
The Launiupoko was somewhat larger than the Lahaina, about 20 tons.
They were designed to be fueled with wood or coal. Coal was used until 1919, when they were converted to oil.
At the end of 1952, Pioneer Mill converted entirely to trucks for hauling, and the railroad equipment was sold.
The engines were damaged in a huge fire in Bel Air in 1961 but have since been cleaned up and restored.
"They look nice," said Morrison.
"We are very grateful for this generous donation," she said."It's truly a gift that has come full circle providing us with a bit of nostalgia that many old-time residents still remember to this day."
"I am very pleased to return the Lahaina and Launiupoko steam locomotives to the site where they operated and connect generations to come with the rich history of Hawaii's plantation era," said Allen Davis.
Lahaina Plantation Days will be next Friday and Saturday.
There also will be a Family Movie Night on Thursday showing "Great Grandfather's Drum."
Tickets will be sold at the door. Cost is $3 per night or $5 for a three-day pass. For more information, call the Lahaina Restoration Foundation at 661-3262 or visit the website www.LahainaRestoration.org/plantationdays.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.