Yes, it was indeed a train

The windows seen in the background of the photo of a picnic in about 1939 that was included in a post here yesterday has been identified as an Oahu Railway & Land Co. coach by two independent experts. You can see them in the upper right of the photo. It’s just a small area, hence the question about what we’re seeing.


Constantinos Papacostas left a long comment, beginning with:

The railroad car appears to be identical to the green passenger cars employed by Dillingham’s OR&L (Oahu Railroad and Land Company).

He added links to two other presentations.

– See more at:

Just for emphasis, another reader emailed these pictures of a couple of old OR&L rail car sitting out in Ewa.


Then I emailed MacKinnon Simpson, the guy who literally wrote the book on Oahu’s old trains, as co-author of “Next Stop Honolulu! The Story of Oahu Railway & Land Company.”

His quick answer: “OR&L coach for sure.”

After consulting other local railway researchers, he added: “General consensus among the research team is that the photo was likely taken on the Leeward Coast in the vicinity of Nanakuli.”

3 responses to “Yes, it was indeed a train

  1. like a poster said yesterday, perhaps the Kaaawa direction should not be excluded from your search. The timeline described in the wikipedia entry below seems to resemble your mom’s photo.

    ” The Hibiscus & Heliconia Short Line Railroad (H&HSL RR) was formed in 1948 by local rail fans and modelers. Ben Dillingham gave the group a 1st class coach #47 and an observation car #48, formerly the private parlor car named Pearl. The Kahuku Plantation Co. allowed the group to use their tracks from near Kawela Bay to Punaluu. The group ran excursions infrequently, renting a steam locomotive from Kahuku Plantation. In 1950, the last steam locomotive was retired and the H&HSL RR then used one of two ex-Navy diesels. In 1954, the plantation abandoned its railroad in favor of trucks thus ending the H&HSL RR. Due to a lack of money and enthusiasm the group was unable to remove their two coaches from the property, so a plantation official had them torched.”

    By the way, one of your links from another poster said:

    “For now let me conclude by mentioning that one of its steam engines (the 1897 Baldwin 0-6-2 saddle tank “Waipahu”) has found its way (via California) to a theme park in the Nikko area of Tochigi Prefecture in Japan.”

    I googled and found some pics, here’s one. This thing is a beauty.

    But according to another link dated 2012,

    ” WestMur(FeltonCA) 0-6-0T No. 4 Posted by: hal levy on 2012-04-11 14:01:53.79
    Unfortunately, the Western Village in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture in Japan has closed down and the Waipahu is sitting in an enclosed shed subject to vandalism and theft. Hope someone repatriates her back to USA or her home rails in Hawaii.”

    Would be nice.

  2. There’s something about this building that reminds me of the building in your mom’s photo.

    The car to the right in your mom’s photo looks similar to a Ford convertible from around 1939 while the picture from the link has a caption that reads 1946.

    On another site I read that the Sea View Inn was confiscated from it’s Japanese owner after the Pearl Harbor attack and was subsequently altered to suit the needs of the military.

    The taker of the 1946 picture would have been standing quite a ways to the left from our picture viewer’s perspective in comparison with where the photo taker in your mom’s picture stood. In the 1946 photo the area with the striped awning from your mom’s photo would be cut off to the right.

    The doorway is changed but its height in comparison to the window to the next of it is the same as well as the distance between them. Also, notice the utility pole on the other side of the building that would appear to move to the right as the photographer moves to his left. The closer utility pole in your mom’s picture would be cut off due to the photographer’s position in the 1946 picture, if they are of the same building.

    Also, in your photo, the roof of the part of the building with the striped awning extends to the left beneath the higher roof line over the open doorway. The building in the 1946 photo has a similar characteristic with regard to the overlapped roof.

    There are other similarities and some differences but nothing that couldn’t be explained by the remodeling that took place during the war. Or maybe I’m imagining things. But from what I’ve read the train did sometimes stop near this restaurant.

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