On the second Thursday of every month, Scott Johnson fires up Paulo or Wainiha, one of Grove Farm museum’s four vintage steam locomotives, and takes passengers on a 45-minute ride back in time.
Johnson is the mechanic for those rare artifacts, which date between 1887 and 1925; all four engines once hauled cane at Kauai sugar plantations and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The locomotive carries about 80 passengers on a restored 1930s flatcar and cane car and two replica cane cars.
Running along 2,000 feet of original right-of-way — 1,800 feet from Lihue Plantation dating back to 1891 and 200 feet from Grove Farm Plantation dating back to 1895—the route itself is a historic gem.
Water tank pillars and the concrete foundation of one of the bachelors’ quarters for Lihue Plantation workers are the only remaining vestiges of Kauai’s once vibrant sugar industry along that route.
But during stops along the way, Johnson strolls beside the cars, sharing colorful tales about Hawaii’s sugar plantations and trains’ important role trains in it.