By Jeff Livingston, Historian
Your HRS research team took a detour recently when the staff at the Bishop Museum asked if we could and would create an operating railroad display for an exhibit entitled "Tradition and Transition: Stories of Hawai'i Immigrants". The exhibit will run for three years on the second floor of Castle Hall. We agreed and immediately began planning and procrastination. The space for the display was about four and a half feet by twenty feet and encased in Plexiglas.
Since your research team are also avid model railroaders we had a head start. Phil chase began building plantation houses and Stan Kumura got busy on the plantation railroad equipment. We already had some buildings and equipment that could be used in the display so we had a head start. Construction of the bench work was the first order of business.
With such a long and relatively narrow space fitting in the elements of a plantation railroad was a challenge. The track was to be a simple loop so the scenery had to somewhat hide the train to prevent a "toy" look. This took some time and a lot of discussion but we finally settled on a design. A representation of a sugar mill and plantation railroad yard occupies one end of the display and Waipahu Depot with the OR&L the opposite end. Between these two "anchors" are plantation houses, sports areas and cane fields. After laying the track, Stan and Phil began the scenery. We're still working on it even though the exhibit opened on the 5th of November. HRS is prominently mentioned in the exhibit notes. The overall display is almost impossible to photograph due to the Plexiglas and subdued lighting but the details, we think, capture plantation life and railroading.
Scratch built mill building and engine shed, Phil Chase and Jeff Livingston. Plantation railroad equipment scratch built by Stan Kumura
Scratch built plantation houses by Phil Chase. Sumo ring and details by Stan Kumura.
Cane field and railroad equipment by Stan Kumura
Waipahu Depot and OR&L equipment by Jeff Livingston (before scenery)
Overview of display, background painted by Phil Chase