About the Wye - Laupahoehoe Train Museum

The Wye

The 'wye' is an area in the museum yard where an engine's direction can be switched. After the last railroad family living in the house left(around the late 60's), the yard was left to grow. When the present owners purchased the home they cleaned up house and made a small yard. It wasn't until the community  leased the building for a museum and began clearing the yard that uncoved the wye and discovered the switch stand! Between high school student, senior citizen and residents along the coast the area was cleaned, ties were set down, track was laid and gravel balast filled so new projects could be set on the rails.


The Deisel Switcher

"Rusty" is our mascot engine and one of our greatest projects. The last engine left fairly intact on this island. He was hidden away in a construction shop yard a rusted hulk of steel. We transformed him from a heap of scrap to an actually running machine. Quite a feat after fifty years of being out in the elements. Richard Chong, of Hilo, donated ‘Rusty’ our narrow gauge, switch engine and the antique horse-drawn road grader to the museum. These pieces were saved from the scrapper by Richard’s father-in-law, Bob Yamada.


The Boxcar

Kamehameha School's Bishop Estate donated 'the boxcar' which was an explosives hauling boxcar, found stuffed up in a long forgotten gulch. Both the boxcar and 'Rusty' are narrow gauge pieces, reportedly from the same sugar plantation in Haina. These pieces were separated fifty plus years ago and will now run together on restored duel gauge track on the old wye.


The Caboose

Often the last on the track and at the end of the train, cabooses are now no longer used.  The caboose was where the conductor and brakeman would work and rest whille the train was underway. A traveling office of sorts for the conductor, keeping track of freight and passenger count, and serving as a work study for the brakeman sitting high in the cupola keeping a watchful eye on the track. Our caboose is a replica based on one type of caboose that was used on the Hilo Railroad/HCR main line. It is now opened to the public,adding new display space for the museum.


Main lines and Sugar Trains

All of Hawaii's railroads were narrow gauge except the Hilo Railroad/Hawaii Consolidated Railway.This was because the narrow gauge trains performed much better on our steep often winding terrain. Standard gauge was used in wide open spaces where there were few hills to climb or curves to manuver.

Gauges were the measurement for trains from wheel to wheel or the distance between the rails. Narrow gauge measures three feet (20”-36”) while Standard gauge measures four feet eight and one half inch (4’8 ½”).

Many plantations used these narrow gauge trains to get their cut cane from the field to the mill. Many plantations used light weight portable track to lay into a field for harvest, only to be removed and replaced in another field as soon as harvestiing was complete. Narrow gauge was light enough for this mobility of track and train. These trains were given the name “Sugar Trains.”

Hawaii Island's two main lines carried passengers and freight to and from mills, mill towns and ports. The were also called common carriers. In Kohala the main line had only twenty miles of track but serviced five or six mills and all the towns from Mahukona to Niulii. this line did also carry some cut can from field to mill to track spurs out from certain mill sites.