Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Agriculture train
planned for Kauai’s
Kilohana Plantation

A new train planned for Kilohana Plantation in Lihue would not only give tourists a glimpse of a vestige of Kauai's sugarcane past but also a view of the crops that represent the evolution of the Garden Isle's agriculture industry.

The Kauai Planning Commission recently approved the permits for Kauai Kilohana Partners' proposed 2 1/2-mile Kauai Plantation Railway.

The name was chosen to reflect sensitivity to Kauai's agricultural past and to island residents, said Fred Atkins, general manager of Kauai Kilohana Partners.

"We are using farmers from different parts of the island and we want the community to embrace this," he said. "Old-timers want to volunteer. We want to make it for the community first and the visitors will find it."

One hundred years ago, sugar trains on Kauai brought tons of cane to island mills for processing. But then sugar plantation owners began using cane-haul trucks because they were cheaper to operate and allowed for flexibility.

The Kauai Plantation Railway train system will transport passengers through 102 acres of the Kilohana Plantation and adjacent agricultural lands in Puhi.

Along the way, passengers will get to see crops that represent the evolution of Kauai's agricultural industry, from sugar cane and taro to bananas, papayas and guava.

Also on display will be rambutan, cocoa and chermoya, newly emerging tropical crops on Kauai.

A former cane field near Kukui Grove Village West has already been cleared for planting some of the crops that passengers will be able to see from the train.

Hundreds of exotic fruit trees, an acre or two hybrid coffee, and possible taro crops are planned.

Groundbreaking for the project could take place in early 2005, and will include a train depot, engine shop and market, said Atkins. Historic buildings will be used to house some of the planned improvements.

Kauai Kilohana Partners principals are also looking for former Hawaii sugar cane locomotives to bring back to the state, one of the most challenging parts of the project, Atkins said.

Kauai Kilohana leaders have been in touch with business interests in the Philippines to try to acquire two, narrow-gauge locomotives that once operated on Oahu for the project. The partners have also located another train in Louisiana, one similar to the type used for sugar operations on Maui, they said.

Efforts are being made to determine the locomotive's history, and where it could have been used in Hawaii, Atkins said.

"We really want to bring a Hawaii engine back home," he said.


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