Flag of the Solomon Islands

Railways in the

Solomon Islands

Military railway on Guadalcanal during World War II
US officers ride on the military railway on Guadalcanal during World War II.

There are no railways in the Solomon Islands today.

The first recorded railway in the islands was in 1898 at the Melanesian Mission at Siota on Nggela Pile. It was used to transport soil to fill a swamp. At about the same time, there was a small railway on the wharf at Gavutu, used to convey coal for replenishing ships’ supplies. The latter continued to serve the port until after World War II, and was substantially rebuilt by US forces during the war.

In the 1910s there was a monorail on Guadalcanal, used to transport bananas from the Barande plantation to a wharf on Telere Bay.

From the 1920s the Vanikoro Kauri Timber Company operated a narrow gauge railway on the island of Vanikoro, for the transport of timber. It was about 2km in length, and is the only railway in the Solomons recorded as having a steam locomotive. The locomotive was of the Shay type, popular with logging operations in the North America. The line was badly damaged by a cyclone in 1935 and appears not to have reopened, although timber extraction continued until the 1960s.

During World War II, the Japanese began construction of an airfield on Gaudalcanal, using a railway equipped with petrol powered locomotives. Following the occupation by United States forces, the railway was used to complete the airfield and another railway, several kilometres in extent, was built to convey supplies to the airfield from the wharf. This continued in use after the war.

In the 1940s railways were established at banana plantations on Tetepare, and at Rere on Gaudalcanal. Parts of the latter were still in use by 1970, by which time hand propelled cars were used for the transport of green copra to the drying plant.

A small hand propelled railway was in use during the 1950s at the Catholic Mission Station at Marau Sound to the east of Guadalacanal, for unloading supplies from the wharf.

Railways Home
Railways of the World
Glyn Williams’ Home

© 2015-2020 Glyn Williams
Photo image believed public domain