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NEXT STOP HONOLULU tells the story of the 3-foot gauge Oahu Railway & Land Company and its railroad. It traces the line’s history, from it’s founding and construction beginning in the late 1880’s through it robust growth during the boom years of the 1920’s, into its decline during the Great Depression and rejuvenation and explosive activity during World War II. During the War it was basically worn out, was severely damaged by the Tsunami of 1946 and was abandoned in 1947.The book's chapters cover the history of the railroad and the industries and people it served.

The book is full of excerpts from historic newspapers and magazines. Numerous sidebars describe such things as hotels, special trains, and people. The wartime chapters include topics such as martial law, Hotel Street, and the experiences of the service men and women riding on the trains. There are also articles on the standard gauge coal wharf, the army's Mid-Pacific Railroad, the 41st Coast Artillery's private railroad, the army's "secret" railway, Schofield Barracks, and much more.

The book has scores of photographs of locomotives, railroad cars of all kinds and scenes along the right-of-way. It’s a reference for students of Hawaiian history and a delight for rail fans.

From the Publisher

This book is the culmination of an interest spanning well over half my life.  I arrived in Hawaii in 1971 to take a job crewing on the Seraphim, a charter sailboat based in Pokai Bay, near Waianae on Oahu's leeward coast.  The business soon went broke, but I was determined to stay in the Islands and found a job as a technician with the tiny cable TV company serving the rural Waianae Coast, an area otherwise without television reception. As I followed cable lines up and down every country road I became aware of the narrow gauge railroad tracks which led up the coastline and into a broad valley which was home to the Lualualei Naval Ammunition Depot.  Residents explained that during the Vietnam War, Navy trains had hauled ordnance from the Depot to ships in the West Loch arm of Pearl Harbor.  Further, that, years earlier, a privately owned railroad had steamed up the coast from Honolulu and around rocky Kaena Point to the North Shore of the island.  some investigation revealed that the Hawaiian Railway Society was restoring locomotives in a borrowed equipment facility at the Depot, as well as publishing newsletters recounting the history of the original rail line, Oahu Railway & Land Company.

My career consumed most of my time as I became manager of the Waianae cable TV company and then chief engineer for Oceanic Cable in Honolulu.  Oceanic eventually wired the entire island and absorbed the smaller operations, including my original employer.  I spent fifteen years on Oahu, working in cable and starting an electronics manufacturing company on the side.  I often visited the Hawaiian Railway Society, which had moved from Lualualei to the sugar mill town of Ewa, not far from Pearl Harbor. My interest was less in restoring old equipment, however, than in the history of what I came to realize had been a very sophisticated railroad operation and a central part of life on Oahu for more than half a century.  I felt a kinship with the people, especially the engineers, who had built a vital network for island commerce nearly a century before my own efforts to construct a different kind of network across the same geography.

I began collecting information on Oahu Railway and narrow gauge railroads in general in the mid-seventies. These included the Society's monthly newsletter, Akahele I Ke KaAahi, as well as the few books written about Hawaiian railroads, all now long out of print.  As my career moved me and my wife, Trudy, from Honolulu to Colorado, Connecticut and Manhattan, we returned to Hawaii as often as possible.  We would see friends and visit Oceanic Cable, as I still worked for its parent company, Time Warner.  A feature of the visits was almost always a trip to both the Bishop Museum and the Hawaii State Archives, where I'd poke through their collections of photos, maps and documents relating to the OR&L.  I purchased copies of some of the photographs and displayed them in my office and home, and I began plans for a model railroad based on the Oahu Railway.  I constructed my first layout in our basement in Connecticut, but had to dismantle it when we moved.  A much more ambitious layout is now well underway in our Colorado home.  I purchased a collection of model locomotives and cars very much like those that had run on the OR&L.  The many similarities between the equipment on the Oahu Railway and that that had run on the Colorado narrow gauge lines of the Denver, Rio Grande & Western railroad, very popular with modelers, made this task much easier.

The Oahu Railway is actually a surprisingly good prototype for a model railroad. It was constrained in size by its island location, had only a few branch lines, and hauled a variety of goods.  The railroad's economic reasons for being included transporting bagged raw sugar from the six plantation mills that it served to the docks, and moving huge loads of pineapples from the pine sidings in the fields of the island's central plain to the canneries.  But the railroad was also a fixture of the community, and offered frequent passenger service, including connections with branch routes.  It hauled garbage to the dump, south seas guano fertilizer to the plantations, coral and concrete to construction sites, empty cans to three canneries and full ones to the docks, landfill to lagoons, merchandise to general stores, oil and gasoline and on and on.  Prior to and during each war, it hauled guns to batteries, ammunition to bases, depots and ships, and soldiers and sailors downtown to the bars, tattoo parlors and dance halls of Hotel Street.  The OR&L's locomotives ranged from small and simple to unusually heavy and powerful for a narrow gauge operation.  It included a sophisticated automatic block signaling system, perhaps the only narrow gauge railroad in the United States and her territories to have one.  And it had a beautiful passenger terminal in Honolulu and a large and active roundhouse. The modeling possibilities are endless.

For a long time, my research into the OR&L's history was focused on planning my model railroad and I gathered lots of information and hundreds of photographs.  However, it eventually dawned on me that there might be interest in a book offering a comprehensive pictorial history of the railroad.  I knew that there were many current and former Hawaii residents with a keen interest in the history of that unique place.  I knew as well that there is an audience that reads and collects railroad history books.  And my own modeling experience hinted that others might enjoy a collection of useful information about this wonderful line.

The idea of writing a book led me into conversations with Mac Simpson, an old friend, who had authored and designed a number of illustrated books with Hawaiian themes, including Streetcar Days in Honolulu (2001), a history of the Honolulu Rapid Transit Company.  Oahu is a very small island in many ways, and Mac had often worked with my former next-door-neighbor, the late Bob Goodman, who had founded Island Heritage Press, publishing some 120 books, mostly about Hawaii.  He and Mac had pioneered the composition, layout and publication of high quality books using Macintosh computers beginning in 1986, a technique which came to be called "desktop publishing." Their first effort, a richly illustrated history of Hawaii's whaling days called "WhaleSong," created a stir in the computer industry. Bob and Mac probably sold more copies of WhaleSong to aspiring computer publishers than to whaling aficionados.  The book featured an extensive "how we did it" section which provided a tutorial on this new approach to publishing.  Chats with Mac opened my eyes to the practical possibility of publishing the dedicated history that OR&L deserved.  And conversations with various folks in the railroad publishing and modeling communities confirmed that there was at least a vague awareness that there had once been an interesting railroad on Oahu and that there was a genuine interest in knowing more.  Mac and I decided to collaborate on this book, and hope that it pleases its various audiences. It is indeed a labor of love.


Jim Chiddix, Evergreen, Colorado