By Jeff Livingston, Historian
Originally published in the Akahele I Ke Ka'aahi July.Aug 2011 Vol.41 No. 4
As we continue to plough through the mountains of OR&L primary documentation at Bishop Museum we are often confounded by what we unexpectedly find, as well as what we expect but don't find. Last July/August (2010) we came across two photographs in a Hawaiian Dredging Company album dated October 12th 1910 showing a heretofore unknown OR&L car which had been damaged in a collision with a flat car. Knowing that flat car No. 147 upon which this unknown car rested was a 10-ton wooden flat car, 30 feet long, 6 feet 10 inches wide and had 51 inch arch bar trucks with 24-inch wheels, and applying a bit of rusty trigonometry, we determined that this wrecked car was about 28 feet long over the body, 32 feet long overall and about seven feet wide, just slightly longer than caboose C-1.
Bishop Museum Album 1970.41.06, Hawaiian Dredging Co. Ltd. Dry Dock No. 1 Photo 49
Bishop Museum Album 1970.41.06, Hawaiian Dredging Co. Ltd. Dry Dock No. 1 Photo 50
Scans of these two photographs at very high resolution shows "Oahu Railway and Land Co." painted on the letter board and "Baggage" painted in an arch to the right of the baggage door. A car of this type could have been classified as a baggage car, combination car or even a caboose, and the OR&L is known to have been creative in how they named and numbered everything. Our earliest solid equipment information is from 1916, six years after this photo was taken and this car does not appear. The 1916 information shows one baggage car, No. 42 built in 1906 but although it is of similar size, photographs show it had only one center door and no windows. Four other baggage cars are listed but they were built in 1913 and 1914 and are considerably larger. We were stumped! On to May 2011, we began researching through the OR&L's financial journals. "New baggage cars" are mentioned in the June 1900 journal and in the March 1901 journal there appears the following statement: "Baggage cars completed and delivered. Bench seats can also be made out through the open doors and windows but there is no sign of a car number. What is/was it?
These baggage cars are also reported in the 1901 annual report and the quantity given as two. While this is precious little to go on we believed that these two baggage cars were probably identical and the photos we found in the Hawaiian Dredging album is one of these two 1901 baggage cars. But we were wrong! This cropped and enlarged photo ca. 1900 shows a baggage car of conventional design, which is more likely one of the two built in 1900/1901.
Bishop 1988.143.01, Messchaert Album c. 1900 No. 112CP121757
Looking through the notoriously inaccurate rough copies of the OR&L Interstate Commerce Commission reports, which begin in 1907, we find three baggage cars reported. This makes sense as there are two built in 1900/1901 and one in 1906. The ICC reports list three baggage cars from 1907 through and including 1913. But two more baggage cars were built in 1913, which should make the total five. Two additional baggage cars were built in 1914 which would bring the total to seven but the 1914 report only shows five. Neither the 1913 nor the 1914 ICC reports show any baggage cars retired or added. It's likely that the two 1900/1901 baggage cars were in fact retired or reassigned in 1913, so the total number of reported baggage cars did not change until the addition of the two cars built in 1914 brought the number to five. These five - Nos. 41, 42, 43, 44 and 45 -remained in service as baggage cars, wrecking cars and labor coaches until the abandonment of the OR&L's mainline service in 1947. But that is not the end of the baggage car story. After abandonment, ex-baggage car No. 45 was retained in service. Both platforms and roof ends were removed and No. 45 served as the wrecking car in the Honolulu Yards. At some point in time, the sides, ends and roof were removed making No. 45 a flat car, but she remained in wrecking car service.
Henry Bonnell states that in 1958, No. 45 was one of 33 old OR&L cars refurbished for container duty and ended her service life as such ca. 1960, 47 years after she was built, the last of the OR&L baggage cars. As to the wrecked "baggage" car we still don't know what it is. A baggage car or a combine? Maybe the mysterious "mail coach" delivered from the mainland in 1900.
(Our thanks to Bishop Museum for permission to use these photographs.)