The Kekaha Sugar Company railroad

In 1898, sugar planters Meyer, Kruse and H.P. Faye combined their holdings with Kekaha Mill Co. under Otto Isenberg to form Kekaha Sugar Company Ltd., which remained in business until 2000.

The newly established plantation inherited the railroad Otto Isenberg had built for Kekaha Mill Co. beginning in 1884 — comprised principally of track connecting Waimea Landing with his Kekaha mill, as well as cane cars and two German steam locomotives.

By November 1898, Kekaha’s main line of 30-inch gauge track extended from Waimea Landing, past the Kekaha mill, to Mana.

Several railroad spurs had also been constructed from that main line through cane fields to the mountains and the shore.

Isenberg’s German locomotives “Poli Hale” and “Mana” hauled as many as 30 to 40 cane cars at a time from fields to mill, and also transported sugar cars loaded with bagged raw sugar from the mill to Waimea Landing for off- island shipment via steamers.

During harvesting in those days, portable track was laid in the sugarcane fields. Then mules would pull empty cane cars along the track within the fields to be loaded with sugarcane, after which the mules would pull loaded cane cars back to the main line, where a locomotive would transport them to the mill.

Baldwin Locomotive Works steam locomotive “Kola” was added to the roster in 1901; “Nohili” joined the roster in 1904, and “Pokii” followed in 1910.

On Feb. 11, 1920, Kauai’s only train holdup occurred west of Kekaha when a masked bandit robbed the Kekaha Sugar Co. payroll train at the point of a revolver.

Kaimiola Hali, the robber, was arrested shortly thereafter, and on May 20, 1920, Judge W.C. Achi Jr. sentenced him in Circuit Court to not less than three years, nor more than 20 years, in prison.

The first diesel locomotive in Hawaii — a 12-ton diesel Plymouth locomotive — was put into service at Kekaha in 1928, and two more diesel locomotives and two gasoline locomotives later joined the plantation’s locomotive roster.

Trucks entirely replaced locomotives for hauling sugar at Kekaha Sugar Co. in 1947.

3 Comments
  1. Sunrise_blue February 4, 2018 11:38 am Reply

    Sugar was replaced when in 1980 president Ronald Reagan opened up free trade or took out a tariff that was to be paid to sell sugar in the free market. Hawai’i got beaten out in this industry by other nations. Cheaper production cost broke down Hawai’i’s sugar industry.


  2. Sunrise_blue February 4, 2018 12:23 pm Reply

    May I remind you that Ronald Reagan was an actor in 1955. California’s governor first.

    Notice the politicians then were for fight. Not fix Hawai’i.


  3. Charlie Chimknee February 9, 2018 10:49 am Reply

    Looks a little like Joaquin Murietta…same job…! ! !

    Kekaha…? Must be winter them wearing all them warm clothes and all…! ! !


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