Categorized | Education

Waimea Country School’s train museum visit

Waimea Country School students line up to enter “Woody”, the museum’s restored caboose. (Photo courtesy of Waimea Country School)


Waimea Country School’s second and third graders recently visited one of the smallest museums in the state as part of their social studies unit on transportation. The Laupahoehoe Train Museum hosts about 5,000 visitors a year, including many excited school children.

The students began by looking at several model railroads, including the museum’s central ‘N’ gauge display represents the Hilo Railroad-Hawaii Consolidated Railway.

The HCR was one of the most expensive railways ever built due to the challenging terrain it crossed. Since the railway had to cross hundreds of streams and valleys; dozens of steel trestles were built 150 feet above the streambeds and more than 3,100 feet of tunnels were constructed along the line.

This railroad, which operated for 37 years, carried sugar and lumber mill freight, passengers and tourists.

Many of the students from Waimea County School had never before seen a real train. Teacher Hayley Blondin, explained the purpose of this field trip.

“Transportation is an important element of culture. For many students at our school, private car is how they get around. It is important for students to be exposed to alternative modes of transportation. Studying the history of transportation is also the study of the history of technology,” she said. “The need for faster, more efficient and more comfortable modes of transportation has motivated many technological innovations. Our study of transportation has overlapped with our study of energy and our discussion of various energy sources in this year’s science studies.”

The highlight of the students’ visit was when they were given pennies to lay on the track and watch get flattened before their eyes by the museum’s restored diesel engine, “Rusty.”

Student Elijah O’Hanlon said, “I liked the rumbling of the engine as it went by.”

Blondin said, “At the train museum, my students were able to see, touch, feel and experience a taste of Hawaii’s history. The students were particularly interested in the antique artifacts in the train caboose and the miniature representations of the Hamakua coast. Walking the rails of the train and smashing a penny on the tracks were experiences that they will remember much more than just looking at pictures in the classroom.”

Student Zoe Zandovskis said, “I liked that all of the stuff there was old!”

The railroad’s use ended in 1946 when the massive damage from the tsunami made rebuilding too expensive to be practical. However, the Territory of Hawaii eventually bought the railroad and much of the current highway follows its route. Five original railroad trestles have been converted into highway bridges.

Founded in 1996, Waimea Country School’s mission is “to provide an outstanding K-6 child-centered, multiage and multicultural learning experience which incorporates the core values of inclusion and respect.”

For more information about Waimea Country School, call 885-0067 or visit

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Sep 22, 2017 / 5:15 pm