No smoke in this Hanama’ulu train shop

HANAMA’ULU — Engineers would die while driving their trains through tunnels.

Diggs Stuart of Beach Rail explained that the tunnels would fill with smoke, and if the tunnels were too long, or the train too long, the tunnel would fill with smoke, causing the engineer to suffocate and die.

In answer to this problem, engineers at Southern Pacific created a cab-forward locomotive that would place the engineer at the very front of the locomotive. This was a solution to asphyxiation from smoke in the tunnels.

During that era, Stuart explains, there was competition between Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, and the cab-forward locomotive had the capability of pulling 110 boxcars.

Not to be outdone, Union Pacific came out with a model that could pull 120 boxcars.

Stuart explained that he knew some of the people at Lionel trains, and for a long time, kept pestering them about introducing the cab-forward locomotive.

They finally listened, and, using a manufacturer in Korea, Lionel leaders only in the past few weeks introduced their latest model, made of solid brass, which Stuart gingerly unpacked.

“It’s already gone up in value,” he said. Originally, Stuart paid $1,500 apiece for four models, and he noted that, on a recent check on the Internet, these models were fetching prices of $1,800 and up.

Sandy Brightwell, the owner of Beach Rail, pointed out the Lionel boxes that dotted the small shop situated adjacent to the Hanama’ulu Service Center (Shell station). “When you collect the (Lionel) trains, their value goes up about 20 percent if you have the cartons,” she said.

Lionel trains are only part of the corner shop that opened about a year ago. Brightwell explained that they were occupied with personal matters that took them off island, but all of that has been cleared up, and they are now ready to maintain regular shop hours.

A railroad track winds its way around half of the shop that the trio described as being a shop of “trains, hobbies, toys, and collectibles.”

To this end, Brightwell was quick to point out a line of Firejewels that feature crystal components by Swarovski and light up in colors of red, orange, yellow, pink, or blue.

Most of the items that occupy the space are unique in that they are not found anywhere else on the island.

But, the main attraction is the railroad and the Lionel items that emanate from the railroad. They are also Stuart’s pride and joy.

“It’s not done, yet,” he keeps saying. “In three weeks, you see all the boxes? They’ll be unpacked and set up.”

Along that train of thought, Beach Rail also offers authentic scale models of vintage airplanes, models of buildings, radio towers that actually house a working radio, and light towers that feature revolving beacons.

These are used to landscape any home-railroad setup, and there are Corgi models that are perfect for hobbyists who dabble in creating wartime dioramas, said Pat Lenz, a third member of the shop.

Beach Rail’s involvement attracts railway enthusiasts from all over, as a visiting couple spent some time talking with Stuart about the cab-forward locomotive before departing to take in a zipline tour.

Beach Rail is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m., except the second Thursday of the month, when members of the shop crew take time out to help Scott Johnson with the Grove Farm Homestead Museum’s locomotives.

For more information, people may call 651-6165. Brightwell said a Web site is currently under construction, but should be up and running shortly at


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