‘Wainiha’ stirs with memories of sugar history

LIHU‘E — The last time “Wainiha” had a full head of steam was back on Sept. 24, 1957.

The 26-ton steam locomotive was the last locomotive to haul a load of sugar cane in Hawai‘i as the task was shifted to trucks.

Thursday, under the shadow of the Lihu‘e Plantation stack which now sits lifeless against the bright summer sky, Wainiha came back to life, taking the place of Paulo at the Grove Farm Homestead Museum’s monthly fire up day.

“Wainiha used to haul cane at Lihu‘e Plantation from 1947 to 1957,” said Scott Johnson, the Grove Farm Homestead Museum engineer. “Now, she comes back to operate, but instead of hauling, she’s now teaching sugar history.”

Built in 1915 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the McBryde Sugar Co., Waimea was named for the North Shore stream and averaged a pull of 55 cars, Johnson said.

Following its tenure at McBryde, Wainiha was sold to Lihu‘e Plantation in 1947 and later, was purchased by Grove Farm in November, 1955 where it continued to haul sugar until Sept. 1957.

“Wainiha made Hawaiian sugar history as the last steam locomotive to haul sugar cane,” Johnson said. “It was restored in 1975 by Ms. Mabel Wilcox as part of her hopes for Kaua‘i’s historic plantation story preservation.”

During the fire up day, Wainiha took the place of Paulo, a much tinier steam locomotive, who was relocated back to the Puhi train house where work will be done to replace its tubes.

Paulo made its final public appearance at the Koloa Plantation Days parade before settling in for its tube replacement work in Puhi, the steam locomotive being silenced by its clogged tubes.

During the time Paulo has its work done, Johnson said Wainiha will be hauling passengers along the rail line which sits on one of the original railroad where sugar was once hauled.

Passengers can thrill to the symphonic click-clack and rumble of the locomotive on the rail as the heavier Wainiha sings on the rails during its short ride down the memory line of Hawaiian sugar plantation.

“Grove Farm museum is keeping its preservation desire of Ms. Mabel at its forefront,” Johnson said. “The ‘non-toxic, biodegradable’ designation on the label of a gallon of ‘pin journal and bearing oil’ demonstrating the transition from the days when Wainiha was in its heyday.”

The more green labelling of essential fluids to keep Wainiha running also ties in with the use of wood from community supporters instead of the crude oil which used to power the steam locomotive, Johnson said.

Grove Farm museum provides free fire up days on the second Thursday of each month where the community can take a train ride back in time.

“Wainiha was Hawai‘i’s last steam-powered sugar cane train locomotive,” Johnson said.

“She rides on the original Lihu‘e Plantation Co. Railroad Right-of-Way adjacent to the historic Lihu‘e Sugar Mill. Right now, it’s the only historic sugar plantation steam train experience in the state.”

Johnson said the fire up days ride is free, but donations are always welcomed by the community, the tube job being required by Paulo being driven by community donations.

For more information, or to book rides, call Carol Lovell at 245-3202.

•Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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