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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 9, 2006

Lahaina's tourist train hits dirt truck

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

LK&P Railroad's tourist train ran into a dump truck yesterday at the railway intersection of Kapunakea Street in Lahaina. The Honakahua Trucking vehicle tried to beat the train to the intersection, police said.

Maui police department

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LAHAINA, Maui A snail-pace collision with a loaded dump truck caused a Lahaina Ka'anapali & Pacific Railroad steam engine to derail Thursday, slightly injuring a passenger.

Maui police said the collision happened at 4:05 p.m. on Kapunakea Street moments after a Honokahua Trucking vehicle had turned right off Honoapi'ilani Highway. Driver Hardy Ah Puck, 38, of Lahaina, told police he thought he could make it across the train tracks in time, but his heavy load of dirt prevented him from clearing the tracks, and the slow-moving "Sugar Cane Train" was unable to stop before creeping into the truck.

The railroad crossing's signal lights were flashing and the train was blowing its steam whistle to warn the truck of its approach, said Capt. Charles Hirata of the Maui Police Department. It took several hours for a crane to arrive from Wailuku and lift the truck off the train engine.

There were 20 passengers on board at the time, said LK&P General Manager Barbara Allen. Passenger Katsuko Sasaki, 54, of Osaka, Japan, complained of back pains and was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Allen said the train travels at between 6 and 8 mph at crossings, and a leisurely 8 to 10 mph during the rest of its six-mile run between Lahaina and Pu'ukoli'i, just north of Ka'anapali. The 30-year-old Sugar Cane Train operation uses two narrow-gauge steam engines that date to the 1940s. The engines named Myrtle and Anaka were shipped to Maui from Philadelphia.

Myrtle was involved in yesterday's collision, losing its headlight and suffering other front-end damage. Allen said the railroad did not know when Myrtle would return to service, although Anaka is filling in nicely. She said it's difficult to find parts for the engines and the LK&P often must manufacture its own.

Trains have the right of way through crossings, but because they travel so slowly, some motorists think they can beat the train, she said. "We've never had one quite that bad where the train got really damaged. Usually it's just a fender-bender, but this time because the truck was loaded with dirt ... it's going to be hard to put the parts all back together," Allen said.

The trains with their distinctive steam plumes and whistles are affectionately known in the community as a throwback to West Maui's plantation past.

Allen said the company had received a number of calls from residents concerned about Myrtle.

"Let everybody know Myrtle will be up and out of the hospital as soon as possible," she said.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.