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Hawaiʻi rich railroad history

Aloha e,

For more than a decade Honolulu has struggled to build a 20 mile rail system from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center! At its inception the project was projected to cost 5.1 Billion and be in service by 2020! The current projected cost tops 12 Billion and the completion date seems to be a moving target.

Many might be surprised to learn that Hawaiʻi has a rich railroad history due to the once dominant sugar industry. All told, there were hundreds of miles of mainly narrow gauge rail lines on all the Hawaiʻi Islands. While the initial purpose was geared to sugar production, many also carried passengers and freight.

Kauaʻi is credited with the first rail development, a 3 mile narrow gauge track opened on the Kilauea Plantation in 1881! Maui and Hawaiʻi Island also developed railroads, but not surprising is the fact that the most substantial effort took place on Oʻahu.

In 1987 our Rice & Roses episode, Memory Lane, featured a look at the well preserved locomotives that were on display at Kauaʻi’s Grove Farm Museum. We were fortunate to include interviews with some of the men who worked on the plantation railroad and to capture scenes of children enjoying a rail experience!

Unlike the uncertain completion date for the Honolulu Rail Project, I’m happy to announce that our Ah Quon McElrath documentary, The Struggle Never Ends, will be completed in 2023! We will also post excerpts from our extensive moving image collection on our website each month. All of this made possible by your ongoing support. Please tell your family and friends about the project and our website (www.laborhistoryhawaii.org). Mahalo Nui Loa, Chris Conybeare, Executive Producer

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