17 Jun 2014

Tracking Time

“Railroad changed the culture of the island.” —Tom McCarthy: Hawaiian Railway Society

The Hawaiian Railway Society Recalls a Bygone Era Words by Sarah Pacheco

There’s no better way to tour O‘ahu’s “Wild West” than aboard a historic locomotive. Established in 1971 to preserve Hawai‘i’s rich railroad past, the Hawaiian Railway Society takes passengers on the ride of a lifetime on a fully restored diesel train. And as the vintage choo-choo chug-chug-chugs along the tracks from its station in ‘Ewa out to Kahe Point and back—passing sugar cane fields, a sisal plantation, Fort Barrette and even an honest-to-goodness ghost town!—Society guides share stories of the old OR&L and how life out west once was.

“The railroad changed the culture of the island,” says railroad administrator Tom McCarthy. “So many people in the islands have their roots in the railroad—they came here to work in the cane fields or pineapple fields, and the railroads played an important part in that. There’s not a Sunday that goes by that I don’t hear someone say they had a family member who worked along the railroad.”

Since its inception, the nonprofit and its volunteers have been able to fully restore 6.5 miles of track, three diesel locomotives and the famous Dillingham Parlor Car, which is available for rides on the second Sunday of each month and for charters. Several steam locomotives also have been cosmetically restored and are on display in the train yard. “(The railway) is all that’s left of that chapter of history,” McCarthy states, “so education is very, very important to keep the history of the island alive.” Today, as the local chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, the society continues to educate and share its works with the public through train rides held twice every Sunday throughout the year. Departure times are at 1 and 3 p.m., with rides lasting approximately 90 minutes.

Tickets cost $8 (children ages 2-12 and seniors ages 62 and up) and $12 (adults), and may be purchased at the Ticket Sales and Gift Shop beginning at 11:30 a.m. Seats fill up fast (maximum capacity is 150 people) and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Weekday charters also are available for school or senior day-care programs.

The Hawaiian Railway Society is located at 91-1001 Renton Rd. Call the society at 681-5461 or visit its website, www.hawaiianrailway.com, for further information.

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