Kauai railroad historian Rick Burrell

It was Rick Burrell’s grandfather, John F. Barretto, a longtime locomotive engineer for Makee Sugar Co. and Lihue Plantation, who first sparked his intense interest in Kauai’s railroad history.

For over 25 years, Burrell has been accumulating a vast store of railroad memorabilia: photos and/or maps of tracks, mills, camps, locomotives, cane cars, railroad signs, workers, wharfs and piers, as well as bango tags, annual reports, audits, out of print books, articles, oral histories and interviews.

In particular, he’s obtained information on Makee and Lihue Plantation camps from HSPA archives and from maps from other sources showing the cabins, outhouses, kitchens and washrooms that he is now working on assembling, along with additional data, onto what will become a one of a kind map.

“If your family worked in sugar they lived in a camp at one time,” he’s noted, in referring to his own family and the families of many Kauai residents.

Burrell met Oregon railroad historian Lloyd Palmer in 2006 and together they have uncovered numerous Kauai track locations, tunnels, cuts, fills, camp sites, bridges and bridge abutments, water tower locations, remains of discarded boilers, wheels, wooden ties and rail.

“Lloyd has been such a great mentor on how to research the history and we have become really good friends,” said Burrell.

One interview he recorded was with his late great uncle Louis Victorino, who was the brakeman for his grandfather and a treasure chest of Kauai railroad knowledge.

Victorino told him about a runaway train, driven by his grandfather with Victorino as brakeman, when its locomotive and 6 of its 30 loaded cane cars flipped on their sides while coming down from the fields in upper Kealia-Anahola. Miraculously, neither man was hurt.

“It is a slow process of linking old maps, photos, post cards, oral history and newspaper articles, and by walking the old lines and sites of interest. I want to make available what I have discovered to others who may be curious about it. I would love to hear from anybody who has a story to tell or any pictures to share,” Burrell said.

Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

  1. billyjoebob November 17, 2019 12:49 am Reply

    Good stuff Rick. It would be nice since the subject asked for responses, if contact information was provided.

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