Monday, March 06, 2006

History Repeats Itself

Transportation is a major problem on Oahu. The number of cars on this small island is astronomical. And with repaving, repairing or adding underground water and sewer lines, travelling on Oahu's highways and byways can be hazardous to your health.

Elected officials, both city and state, keep talking about a fixed rail system. What do you think we had? Yes, a fixed rail system. The one that I am most familiar with ran from Kalihi to Kaimuki on King St. and Waialae Avenue. There were streetcars on Kalakaua Ave. and between town and such places as Manoa and Nuuanu among others.

The streetcars had open sides, an operator and a conductor. The passengers could get on at any part of the car and pay the conductor when he approached them. The streetcars were powered by electricity with an overhead cable. Before I was born horses drew the streetcars.

We kids were not angels and riding the streetcar for free was a favorite sport. We would hop on at the opposite end of the car from the conductor. If the conductor was in the front we would get on in the back. If he was in the back we would get on in the front. Whenever he got near us we would jump off the streetcar and hop on again in the area farthest from him. Naturally, we did not do this alone; it was always with a small group.

One sunny Saturday morning about four of us were caught like rats in a trap. We saw the conductor in the front so we jumped in the back. To our dismay there were two undercover conductors waiting for us in the back. We not only got our ears boxed but also had to cough up the five or ten cents for the ride. For the record, that was the last time that I tried to get a free ride.

What about the "Iron Horse?" There was a train that ran from Iwilei to Kahuku. The train was primarily used to haul sugar cane, but it also carried passengers and made stops at places like Waianae and Haleiwa. As a matter of fact, during World War II the train carried workers to and from the Navy Yard at Pearl Harbor.

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