A Ride Back in Time on the Manoa Trolley

There’s something about riding a trolley that excites tourists. Perhaps it’s the expanse of fresh air or the sense of exploration through an unfamiliar place via unusual transportation. And while trolley rides continue to grow in popularity as a must-do for those visiting Hawaii, very few know about the island’s original trolley – the Manoa Trolley.

The trolley provided the first means of transportation into a once-vacant Manoa Valley.

During the late nineteenth century, the electric trolley brought people into Manoa Valley, which at that time, consisted of taro fields, dairy ranches and a poi factory. It would eventually become a major contributor to the development of homes in the valley, but during its earliest runs, transported bananas, chickens, buckets of poi and newspapers into the valley as well.

According to an article by the late Charles S. Bouslog, a former University of Hawaii professor, the 3.4-mile roundtrip trolley ride carried passengers from Punahou and Wilder Avenues to the middle of the valley. The trip took 15 minutes each way, taking its first run at 6:25 a.m. and its last at 10:55 p.m. After climbing the steep hill and stopping in the valley, the trolley waited for five minutes before the conductor flipped the seats and continued its run in reverse.

In 1910 – about a decade after the trolley’s initial launch – more than nine million people rode the trolley that year. It became a “working, community-supportive, light rail complex,” which is again being introduced into American cities. At a nickel fare, passengers could jump on or off of either side of the trolley.

By 1923, the trolley’s route had expanded. Starting at Aala Park, it went through downtown, to Beretania and then Keeaumoku before making the uphill climb into the valley. The introduction of buses on the island in the 1930s eventually trumped the trolleys, and they were left behind in history. Bouslog writes, “The discarded cars were soon dismantled and burned, and in the smoke an era drifted away.”

Source: “Civilization and the Manoa Trolley, 1901-1933 – An Elegy” by Charles S. Bouslog (1986)

Photo Credit: Fred Stindt Photograph, Hawaiian Railway Society Collection

Posted by: Bruce Fisher