Island History

Kaua‘i’s train holdup

On Feb. 11, 1920, around 4:50 p.m., Kaua‘i’s one and only train holdup occurred west of Kekaha when a masked bandit robbed the Kekaha Sugar Company payroll train at the point of a revolver.

The robber stopped the train, forced its occupants off, unhooked the engine from the train, took hold of the controls, and sped off up the track toward Mana with the strongbox containing $11,387, of which $1,000 was in silver. At Mana, residents were left in a state of shock after they saw the train race by with a masked man holding the engine’s throttle in one hand and a gun in the other.

Further on at Saki Mana, the robber stopped the engine, threw out the strongbox, broke it open with a big wrench, and took out the loot. Then he reversed the engine, opened the throttle, and made his escape. The engine finally stopped on its own a few yards from the site of the robbery.

Later that evening, Weber of the Mana office located the busted strongbox, and Sheriff Rice and his deputies soon after found a bundle in nearby sugarcane containing the clothes and the mask the robber had worn. Footprints led to Kaimiola Hali’s house. Hali had been a train engineer at the plantation, was the same build and height as the robber, and a few days before the robbery, had asked when Mana workers would be paid. He was arrested, and not long afterwards, Weber found the loot hidden in a tin among rushes a couple of hundred feet from Hali’s house. All but $360.35 was accounted for. On May 20, 1920, Judge W. C. Achi Jr. found Hali guilty in Circuit Court and sentenced him to not less than three years, and not more than 20 years in prison.

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