When I saw palm trees along 20th Street last Spring I rolled my eyes. Then I read the PHS news of the 2012 Flower Show theme, Hawaii: Islands of Aloha! I love the flower show. It’s about all we have left of anything Exposition like. From a garden p.o.v, Hawaii is one big one. The kind of place where the idea of what a native plant is, well, confused. ”Many of the plants that one would normally equate with Hawaii aren’t native at all. Pineapple and sugar cane were brought to the islands as a cash crop and many other plants were brought as ornamentels. Hawaii spends millions of dollars each year trying to keep invasive species from crowding out native plants and animals.” I have a hard time wrapping my head around that kind of thing. Foreign. Hawaii. Meh.
I saw the Decendants in December and marveled, along with every one else, at the King property. Things started to seem familiar. Baldwin Locomotive Works produced hundreds of locomotives for Hawaii’s plantations. They shipped out over ViaductGreene’s City Branch. Kaua’i had plenty. The Descendants is based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, who decents from George Norton Wilcox, who in November of 1864, took over the lease for a place called Grove Farm and quickly became its sole owner. “In addition to being an enterprising innovator of plantation sugar culture, Wilcox was also a power in Hawaiian politics, a community leader, and a philanthropist. Under his leadership, Grove Farm came to be synonymous with high quality and positive economic growth on Kaua’i. This reputation has remained true to this day.” You can ride behind Philly Baldwins on Kaua’i today because another of George Norton Wilcox’s descendants, a niece, Mabel Wilcox, heard two Philly Baldwins, Wainiha and Kaipu almost were sold by Grove Farm to the Disney Co. for $500 apiece back about 1970. “Miss Mabel,” as she is still known on Kauai, founded the Grove Farm Homestead Museum in Nawiliwili and kept the locomotives at home. Grove Farm includes George Wilcox’s home, and the original plantation offices, which have since moved to Puhi. Mabel Wilcox died in 1978 and her estate now sponsors both the museum and the locomotive restorations. Nice.
Over on Maui, two Baldwins from the Pioneer Mill Company, West Maui’s last sugar plantation, returned home in 2011! Lahaina replaced ox carts for hauling cane in 1882. Launiupoko arrived from Philly by way of around Cape Horn 1898. In 1952 they went to Bob Day’s private home railroad in Brentwood, California. Two other private home railroads brought Hawaiian Baldwins back to the mainland as well and had an important part in Placemaking.
1948, Gerry Best, a famous railroad author and historian, tracked down two Baldwin locomotives in Oahu for sale by the Waimanalo Sugar Plantation, #2-Pokaa and #3 -Olomana. His friend, Ward Kimball, bought Pokaa while Best kept 1883 Olomana for himself. The two went to work restoring the locomotives once they came to the mainland; Best restoring it as a colorful diamond-stacker Kimball backdating to appear “rear tanker”. He named it “Chloe” after his youngest daughter.
Ward and Betty Kimball’s Grizzly Flats Railroad in San Gabriel was a busy place. Ward was one of Walt ‘Disney’s Nine Old Men’ team of animators. Ward and Walt loved trains. Together they probably conjured Disneyland. “Disney visited San Gabriel often, delightedly donning engineer’s cap and gloves and occasionally running Olomana. It was during one of those occasions that, according to Best and Kimball, Disney made his remark about the engine being entirely suitable for Mickey Mouse. Animated film lovers can recall the film, “Dumbo,” in which the little steam engine Casey Jr. struggles to start his circus train. Any resemblance between Casey Jr. and Olomana may not be entirely coincidental. Although Olomana came to California almost a decade after “Dumbo” was made, rail-buff Kimball did much of the concept art and animation for that film.”
In 1977 Gerald Best donated Olomana to the Smithsonian and it moved to D.C. In 1999 it moved to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, about 57 miles from its ViaductGreene home. Workshop to the World, indeed.