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The US Army Corps of Engineers built the first Army railroad on Oahu in 1907 to use for the construction of Fort Kamehameha. Seven batteries were built between 1907 and 1920, and the “temporary” railroad not only remained, but was expanded to become a permanent one with the establishment of the 41st Coast Artillery (Railway). The Oahu Railway and Land Company (OR&L) provided most rail service to the Army, beginning with Fort Shafter in 1905 and Schofield Barracks in 1909. Government tracks were built by the Army at Schofield Barracks between 1922 and 1933, including an independent 60-centimeter “trench” railroad system. Two highly specialized railroads were built at Forts Weaver and Barrette to serve the 16-inch gun batteries. With the advent of World War II, the Army, short on equipment, continued to depend heavily on the OR&L. The OR&L eventually abandoned its main line in December 1947, and the Army’s railroads were soon removed.
Jeff Livingston is a historian at the Hawaiian Railway Society and uses photographs and official reports from the US Army Museum Hawaii, the Hawaiian Railway Society, and other public and private collections to document the Army’s railroad history on Oahu – the existence of which is now largely forgotten.
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