Work in Hawaii and retire to Connecticut? No offense to residents of the Nutmeg State, but isn’t that backwards? Not for Hawaii Railway 5 it’s not. #5 has had three “careers”.
The Hawaii Railway was built in the 1880s to bring sugar cane from the fields on the “Big Island” of Hawaii to the Port of Mahukona (now abandoned). The port is on the opposite side of the island from the largest city, then and now, of Hilo. It was a 3-foot narrow gauge railroad to save money and to help navigate some of the hilly terrain.
The railroad wasn’t easy to build but the builders had incentive, with a ready supply of sugar cane and processed sugar from plantations and mills along its 20 miles of track. It occasionally also brought supplies to those same business and ran passenger trains, but the overwhelming traffic was sugar in all its forms.
History of Hawaii Railway #5
Hawaii Railway #5 is a Columbia-type 2-4-2 narrow-gauge steam locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1925 for the Hawaii Railway Company. The oil burner’s cost came to just under $12,000; the cost to ship to Hawaii must have added quite a bit to the bill!
Through the ups and down of the sugar cane business #5 kept hauling, even when Port Mahukona was ordered closed at the beginning of World War 2. But it was the war that finally did the railroad, and so #5, in… trucks had become the norm for the sugar cane industry during the war and the plantation owners did not want to go back to using the railroad. 1945 saw #5’s retirement.
California, Nevada and then…
As the newest and biggest engine on the Hawaii Railway, it was not scrapped. Instead, she was set aside for a planned museum. That museum never came to be and so #5 sat idle in Honolulu for more than a decade until it was donated to the Oahu Railway & Land Company in 1956. A few years later in 1964, Bob Keller, a Stanford University mechanical engineer, came to the rescue when he bought #5 and shipped it to his home in California for restoration.
Replacing the boiler and the tender’s water tank would get #5 road ready again, and in 1970 she would operate under her own steam for the first time in 20 years. #5 now began its second career: traveling the country.
In the early-70s Keller would briefly operate the Tahoe, Trout Creek & Pacific Railroad in South Lake Tahoe, California with #5 as a star attraction. He was then chosen to operate the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway in Chama, New Mexico. Hawaii Railway #5 followed him to Chama. Nice little engine that it was, it did not fit in at the CUmbres & Toltec and so was sold and again headed to California.
New Owner Dr. Richard May began another restoration in order to operate #5 at Railfair 1999 in Sacramento. From there it impressed crowds in Newark, California and Carson City and then Kent, Connecticut.
The Connecticut Antique Machinery Association (CAMA) leased #5 and paid for transportation east. This looks like its last career, its forever home. In September of 2000 CAMA operated $5 for the public, and has ever since. In 2010, CAMA outright purchased #5 from Dr. May.
CAMA is dedicated to showcasing antique machinery and preserving the history these machines played in fueling America’s industrial revolution. So CAMA operating a steam locomotive from Hawaii makes perfect sense given their mission
Today, Hawaii Railway No. 5 is the mainstay and headliner at the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association. It operates on about a third of a mile of railroad track in Kent, Connecticut. For more information about #5’s season and all the other exhibits and restored machinery at CAMA visit their website.
Railfan and model railroader. Writer and consumer of railroad news and information.