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Railways in

Hawaii

Hawaii is one of the 50 states of the United States of America, but as an island community its various railways are treated separately on this page.

There have been numerous small railway concerns in the Hawaiian Islands over the years; most were concerned with sugar production, although several had considerable tourist potential, even in their early years. The lines shown on this page all enjoyed common carrier status; in addition, there were many privately owned lines operating on sugar plantations. Of all these, just a few lines remain today as tourist operations.

In 2007, a project was initiated for a new Light Rail Transit (elevated metro) line in the Honolulu area. The first section is planned to open in 2017.

Lahaina Kaanapali Railroad
Lahaina Kaanapali Railroad (The Sugar Cane Train)

Hawaii (“The Big Island”)

Hawaiian Agricultural Company
Initally a 2ft (610mm), later 3ft (914mm) gauge line between Punaluu and Pahala at the southern tip of the island. Dates unknown.
Hawaii Consolidated Railway
Originally the Hilo Railroad, a fairly substantial standard (1435mm) gauge network on the east of the island, centred on Hilo. The first section of line, 8 miles (13km) between the Olaa sugar mill and Waiakea, opened in 1900. The line suffered massive damage in 1946 when the island was struck by a tsunami, and never reopened.
Hawaii Railway
Originally the Hawaiian Railroad, a 3ft (914mm) gauge line between Mahukona, Kohala and Niulii at the northern tip of the island. The 20 mile (32km) line, the first on the island, opened in 1882-1883. Already struggling by the 1930s, the line suffered a severe blow in 1941, when the port of Mahukona was closed because of the War. Some traffic lingered for a few years, but the last train eventually ran in 1945.
Hilton Waikoloa
A tram system connects the main buildings of the resort complex on the northwest coast of the Big Island (Website contains little information relating to trams, but see the Resort map)

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Kauai

Ahukini Terminal & Railway
A 2ft 6in (762mm) gauge line on the east of the island. Opened in 1920 as a common carrier, was taken into private hands in 1932. Continued to operate until 1959.
Kauai Railway
A 2ft 6in (762mm) gauge line on the south of the island. Opened in 1907. Like many comparable railways, it suffered ever increasing competition from road transport and eventually closed in 1947.
Kauai Plantation Railway
A newly constructed 3ft (914mm) gauge tourist line, some 2½ miles (4km) in length, in the Kilohana Plantation. Opened in 2007.

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Maui

Kahului Railroad
A 3ft (914mm) gauge line on the north of the island. The first section opened in 1879, making it the earliest railway in the Hawaiian Islands. It closed in 1966.
Lahaina, Kaanapali & Pacific Railroad
Lahaina to Kaanapali, about 6 miles (9.5km), on the west side of the island. 3ft (914mm) gauge. A tourist service, the Sugar Cane Train, has been operating since 1970. Several trains a day, including an evening BBQ special, operate throughout the year.

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Oahu

Oahu Railway & Land Company
The first section of this 3ft (914mm) gauge network of lines opened in 1889. At its greatest extent, the line left Honolulu, skirted Pearl Harbour and headed for the west coast of the island. It then followed the west and north coasts as far as Kahuku. A branch from Waipahu ran inland to Halemano. The network was heavily utilised during the Second World War, notably for access to Schofield Army Barracks and Lualaulei Naval Ammunition Depot. However, general traffic was insufficient to ensure the survival of the line after the War, and operations outside the area of Honolulu and the Harbour ceased in 1947. The little traffic that remained lingered until 1972, when the last section of line finally closed to commercial traffic.
Koolau Railroad
A 3ft (914mm) gauge line on the east coast of the island, effectively a continuation of the Oahu Railway from Kahuku to Kahana. Dates unknown.
Hawaiian Railway
A 3ft (914mm) tourist gauge line, some 6½ miles (10.5km) in length, following part of the route of the Oahu Railway between Ewa Mill and Ko'Olina. Extension to Nanakuli is planned for the future. Operates every Sunday afternoon, and by private charter on weekdays.
Pineapple Express
A 2ft (610mm) gauge miniature railway, 2 miles (3km) in length, in the Dole plantation. Diesel powered replica steam locomotives. Operates every day of the year, except Christmas Day.
Honolulu Rail Transit
Projected Light Rail Transit (elevated metro) line connecting West Oahu with downtown Honolulu and Ala Moana Center.
SkyCab
Monorail connecting the two main sections of the Pearlridge Shopping Center near Pearl City (Website contains no information relating to monorail)
Military
Both the US Army and the US Navy had lines of their own on Oahu during the Second World War. One of these, the Koko Head Rairoad, a steep cable hauled railway leading to the lip of Koko Crater in Koko Head District Park, remains more or less intact and is used as a hiking trail, its 1048 sleepers (crossties) forming “stairs”.
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© 2006-2014 Glyn Williams
Photo Image from Cosmic Lotus
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