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The last haul

Tournahauler takes its place of honor at sugar museum

Holly Buland

PUUNENE — Its 750-horsepower engine firing up with a guttural rumble and belch of black smoke, the island’s last functioning Tournahauler began what was likely the final run of its kind Monday morning in Puunene.

The 14-foot-tall, 84-foot-long, 60-ton rig, once used to deliver harvested sugar cane from the fields to the mill, was driven the short distance from Puunene Mill to its new home on the grounds of the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum by Ricky Pojas of Field Service & Marine Repair by Ricky. A crew of mechanics from Hawthorne Pacific Machinery, some former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. employees, also had a hand in the move. After the cane hauler was backed into place in a prominent spot fronting Maui Veterans Highway, they all climbed on its wide hood for a group photo.

Museum Assistant Director Holly Buland said the massive vehicle is to be raised on stands to preserve its 8-foot-diameter tires and may never be driven again. If so, that closes a chapter in the legacy of the modified-for-Maui behemoths that could haul 60 tons of cane at once and operated around the clock during peak harvest season. When HC&S was in its final year of operations in 2016, the plantation had 15 Tournahaulers that were either in operation or under repair. The other rigs have been auctioned for use off island or scrapped.

Buland said the dozen or so people on hand to take photos and watch the brief drive may have seen history.

“If it’s never moved under its own power again that was the last time that anyone will ever see it.”

The Tournahauler, donated to the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, is backed into place Monday. That may be the last time a Tournahauler is ever driven on Maui. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Buland said the Tournahauler was donated by Clive and Pearl Drew of Kula. She said Clive Drew bought the machine at auction in 2017 because he just couldn’t bear to see such a unique and nearly indescribable piece of Maui history disappear. For three years, it sat at the old HC&S tractor shed repair yard. About a year and half ago, mechanics got the engine running to prepare for the move to the museum. Over the weekend, it was staged next to the mill for Monday’s run.

Buland said the addition of the rig completes a historic set of haulers at the museum.

“To me, it’s really significant because we now have all three haulers that were used in the HC&S fleet,” she said. “I think it is so important to be preserved. It’s just so darned big. That’s what I love about it. How can you see it and not want to come take a look?”

Museum Board President Doug Sheehan hopes the prominent display of the “monster” will entice people to stop by the museum.

“Hopefully, people see it as they drive by and they turn around and come back,” Sheehan said.

Participants in Monday morning’s move gather for a group photo on and around a former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. Tournahauler after it was parked on the grounds of the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum in Puunene.

The museum is open daily, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

* Matthew Thayer can be reached at thayer@maui.net.

Wailuku’s Maile Walsh; daughter Danica Walsh; grandson Maliko Walsh, 2; and friend Gabriella Gedrites, 2, watch Monday’s Tournahauler move with keen interest. Maile Walsh said she has fond childhood memories of joining friends in following cane haulers as they rumbled toward Wailuku Sugar Mill and picking up sweet stalks of cane as they fell off the heavy loads.

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