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Hamakua Afternoon

January 11, 2010

Last Friday, we made the Hamakua coast drive from Waimea to Hilo, stopping for a little exploring along the way.  The original plan was to have lunch at the Back to the 50’s Highway Fountain diner and to take a “quick” peek at the Laupahoehoe Train Museum.  Both of these are places we’ve driven by hundreds of times, but had just never taken the time to stop.

50s Fountain

The 50’s Fountain

Pulling up to the Back to the 50’s Highway Fountain, we still weren’t so sure we were going to want to eat there, but once we looked in the door and were greeted by the staff – it was on!

The exterior is a bit rustic, but the interior is bright and colorful – and the staff was great!  It was late in the afternoon, so there were only a few people still having lunch.  When we left, there was a family with young children sitting at the counter (apparently regulars, the kids were telling the server about their school day).  We had the specials (a Tuna Melt and a Maple-Bacon Burger) and enjoyed cool breezes and an ocean view from the makai (ocean-facing) dining room.

Museum Front

The Train Museum

The Laupahoehoe Train Museum is a community run project that is part of the Hilo-Hamakua Heritage Corridor.  You can explore their website to learn more about the history of the museum, but a stop is well worth the $4.oo per person admission ($10.00 per family).

There is a short video presentation that sets the backdrop for wandering through what used to be the Station Agent’s home.  On display outside are a standard gauge caboose, a narrow gauge boxcar and a diesel switch engine.  You can also see the “wye” where the engine’s direction could be switched to send the trains in different directions.

Two words of caution:

First, it’s a “casual” atmosphere, even a little dusty here and there.  But, for me, there was something special about sitting in the old plantation-style house, knowing it was once the Station Agent’s home, and watching the video on the history of the railroads in a place where part of that history had been lived.

Second warning:  if you’re with someone who is fascinated by model trains, gauge measures and switch stands, you just might end up staying much longer than you expected!

Here are a few photos from the diner (12) and the museum (9 – it started raining):

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