The Hawaiian Sugar Company of Kaua‘i railroad

Hawaiian Sugar Co. (HSCo) of Makaweli, Kauai, aka Makaweli Plantation, was founded by representatives of the Scottish firm of Mirelees, Watson &Yaryan not long after the signing of the Treaty of Reciprocity of 1875 between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States.

In 1889, the plantation was taken over by Alexander &Baldwin, and C. Brewer &Co. gained control in 1941, renaming it Olokele Sugar Co.

Gay &Robinson purchased Olokele Sugar Co. in 1994 and continued cultivating sugar until 2009, when as the last sugar plantation in operation on Kauai, Gay &Robinson closed its sugar operations.

Railroad construction at HSCo began in 1891 for the purpose of hauling sugarcane from its fields to its Makaweli mill and also for transporting milled sugar from the mill to Eleele Landing for shipment.

A year later, HSCo reported possessing a little over 5 miles of permanent track, 5 miles of portable track, 250 cane cars, and 2 Baldwin Locomotive Works (BLW) locomotives named Makaweli and Hanapepe.

Then in 1908, HSCo contracted Kauai Railroad Co. to haul its raw sugar from its mill Eleele Landing, and a railroad bridge was constructed across the Hanapepe River between the mill and the landing.

It was reported in 1931 that HSCo’s railway system had grown to 35 miles of permanent, 30” gauge track, and 4 ½ miles of portable track.

Rolling stock consisted of 600 cane cars, 15 covered sugar cars and 35 flat cars for hauling portable track, with 6 Baldwin locomotives in use: Makaweli, Hanapepe, Waialeale, Olokele, Kauai and Kokee.

In addition, a cleverly engineered, extensive system of flumes carried harvested sugarcane from high elevation fields down to flume stations, where the sugarcane was dumped from the flumes directly into waiting cane cars, water and all.

Water flowing through the cane cars was then efficiently channeled into irrigation ditches.

Haul cane trucks began to replace the HSCo railroad beginning in 1937, and on August 23, 1941, a great luau held at Makaweli marked the closing of the plantation’s railroad.

2 Comments
  1. Virginia Chapson June 3, 2021 12:25 am Reply

    My mother, Lillian Dora Ebeling was born in Makaweli in 1917. I was born in Honolulu in 1940 and remember many trips with my parents and younger brother to visit my grand-parents. We always had so much fun going to towns all over Kauai to visit friends and
    relatives. I loved going up to Mr. Lee’s house in Kokee to pick plums. He was a good
    friend of my grandparents. When I was in high school in Honolulu I would go to Poipu after visiting Makaweli with my mother, and body surf with Sinclair Knudsen, a friend from school . I miss all the fun we used to have on Kauai and how different it was then.
    Virginia (Gini) Chapson


  2. manawai June 25, 2021 4:41 pm Reply

    “Gay &Robinson purchased Olokele Sugar Co. in 1994”

    Not exactly. G&R bought out Olokele’s lease; not its corporate stock.


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