Snowbirding Railway Cars.

For being so different in climate, location, and population Alaska and Hawaii have a lot in common.  After all, Hawaii is one of the most isolated island groups in the world and the closest land to Hawaii is Alaska.  We are the newest states and had a lot of catching up to do with the lower 48 (By the way, I heard Hawaiians refer to the lower 48, I thought that was just an Alaska thing.) 

There historically been a lot of commerce between to two states.  Because of winds and currents, you can set off from Hawaii and end up seeing Sitka’s Mt Edgecumbe as your next point of land.  Alexander Baranof took advantage of this, using Hawaii as a provisioning point for his colony at Sitka.  In fact, an agent of the Russian America Company built several forts on Kauai, including the “star” shaped Fort Elizabeth, made of red stone. He offered to establish a protectorate over the island to help its local king fend off Kamehameha in his ultimately successful attempt to bring all the islands under his kingdom.  If things had gone differently Kauai might have become part of Alaska.  This is the basis of some extreme Russian nationalists’ current claim on Hawaii.  There was a Fort Elizabeth State Park, renamed Pa’ula’ula, (Red Enclosure) after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Many Alaskans split time between the 49th and 50th states. Brian’s best friend growing up was a mix of Tlingit, Filipino and Hawaiian.   There is a lot of snowbirding in the animal kingdom as well.  The golden plover makes the 6,000 mile round trip annually, we saw them.  And, of course humpback whales.   

There is direct air service between Alaska and Hawaii, and Alaska Airlines has made a bid to buy Hawaiian Airlines, the marriage of Chester (the man on Alaska Airlines aircraft tail) and Pualani (The woman on Hawaiian Airlines aircraft tail.)  

But I didn’t expect this.  The rolling stock on the Kauai Plantation Railway comes from Skagway, Alaska, the White Pass and Yukon Route.  Snowbirding railcars.

The Kauai Plantation Railway is part of the Kilohana Plantation, Gaylord Wilcox’s sugar plantation built in the 1930s. The manor house has a nicely restored parlor and verandah with a restaurant and bar.  There are shops on both floors.

Sugar is no longer king here but the 104 acre farm has been subdivided into small plots where families raise different crops of Hawaii, Taro, mangos, bananas etc.  They call it an experiment is sustainable farming.  There is also livestock, wild pigs descended from the pigs brought by the original Polynesian settlers in their canoes.  Currently they are cross breeding the wild pigs with more domestic varieties, which is why among the dark-haired piglets you see some blond ones. 

The plantation also makes rum, which we sampled. 

All of the farm plots are connected by the plantation railway.  A 36-inch narrow gauge.  And how did the cars get here form Alaska?  They, like the plovers and whales, made a round trip.  There were originally narrow-gauge railways on Oahu and the Big Island.  When the Oahu railway shut down, White Pass bought flatbed railcars and trucks (wheel units) for the White Pass and Yukon Route.  White Pass stopped service between Skagway and Yukon after the Klondike Highway was built. Railroad cars no longer carried ore down from Yukon and freight up to Yukon, that now travels along the highway.   White Pass had surplus cars.  The Kauai Plantation Railway bought several flatbed railcars and wheel units.  Using Philippine Mahagony it turned them into passenger cars based on a design used by the railroad that used to run on the Big Island. 

The train conductor was up in Skagway last summer looking at White Pass and the proprietor, with whom we had a brief conversation, said he is trying to buy more rolling  stock from White Pass. 

2 thoughts on “Snowbirding Railway Cars.

  1. This connection of Alaska and Hawaii was especially interesting, Rich. All of your writings are a delight, but this one was particularly so…at least to me. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights as you and Suzi travel. So enjoyable.

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