Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 01:34 pm
It appears that the Maui Sugar Cane Train is done. I say it appears because their iconic locomotives are up for sale, but no formal announcement has been made by the railroad’s owners.
UPDATE: word around the interwebs is that the Sugar Cane Train isn’t done yet. The locomotives were put up for sale to get an appraisal and to gauge interest – which is a boneheaded move if you ask me. But, though the person saying this claims to be associated with the railroad, I haven’t seen any formal statement from the owners. So, I’m taking this claim with a HUGE grain of salt. My previous coverage continues below.
Back in December, I theorized that the Maui Sugar Cane Train was in trouble again. Why? The company that owns the land under the railroad has bigger plans for the area. And those plans don’t include the railroad. In fact, they probably want to get rid of it to get rid of a “nuisance” that might hamper its development goals.
Despite a petition and some political support, it looks like the developers won. While the railroad’s owners have made no formal announcement, it’s pretty clear that this is the case. Why? Because the railroad’s two steam locomotives, Anaka and Mrytle, are up for sale on railroad equipment sales site ozarkrailcar.com.
This is a real bummer, as it’s another part of Hawaii’s history that’s disappearing for good. But, not only is the railroad part of Hawaii’s history, it’s part of my own history. As I’ve said in the past, going to ride the Maui Sugar Cane Train was an annual ritual for me in my younger years. I loved it and many of the people that worked there. But, with changing times, came slowing business and the railroad fell on hard times. And, when the railroad stopped running regularly, Kaanapali Land probably took the opportunity to make sure that it would never run again.
Memories from the Sugar Cane Train
Of all the people that my family befriended at the Sugar Cane Train back in the day, an engineer by the name of Glenn was the one that provided the fondest memories. You see, for years, he’d invite us to check out the cab of the locomotive, which then turned into short rides in the cab at Lahaina Station (while the train is being turned around), which culminated in him inviting me to ride in the cab from Kaanapali to Lahaina.
Of course, me being the big chicken that I was, declined an offer to sit in the ENGINEER’S SEAT for the duration of the ride. That’s a decision I’ve come to regret as an adult, but we live and learn, right?
On some of our visits, Gleen would be the (singing) conductor instead of driving the train. And, if we were visiting on my birthday, he’d point me out and have the whole train sing! And, once, they needed to remove the steam locomotive pulling our train that day from service (I believe it was Myrtle) due to a minor issue that popped up. But, Glenn, knowing I was on the train and that I didn’t like the diesel locomotive Oahu 45, kept Myrtle going to finish up my ride with steam.
Influence Beyond the Sugar Cane Train
But Glenn’s enthusiasm for trains extended beyond the Sugar Cane Train. Once, he gave me a video of the SP 4449 running from Portland to Sacramento. Immediately, I was enamored with this gorgeous locomotive, the story of its restoration, and the story of its caretaker, Doyle McCormack. And that’s why, in 2015, when I visited Portland for the first time, the top thing to do on my list was visiting the Daylight at the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. Seeing Doyle working on the locomotive was a bonus a nice plus too.
The Maui Sugar Cane Train is Done, Final Thoughts
Suffice to say, the Sugar Cane Train made an indelible mark on my life. I love the people I met there and the railroad itself. I even love the sights, sounds, and smells of the locomotives. So, the thought of never being able to take a ride on the Sugar Cane Train again bums me the hell out. And It makes me really regret not getting over to Maui for one last ride this past holiday season. But, I hope someone will save these to locomotives from the scrapper’s torch. Better yet, I hope the Hawaiian Railway Society can save them and bring them to Oahu. Either way, farewell, Sugar Cane Train. You’ll be missed! And thanks for the memories.