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Maui: Puunene Sugar Museum & Mill, Part 1

The Puunene Sugar Museum is housed in an historic building dating back to 1902. It is one of the few structures that remains from the years when Puunene was a bustling plantation town. Curiously, even with all my visits to Maui and the year I lived on Maui, I never once visited the museum. It was always, "I need to do that one of these days" — well, that day finally came.

The interior of the museum has many exhibits showing how the sugar cane was (and is) harvested, how it was processed and much about the lives of those who worked on the plantation and in the mill. Unfortunately, they do not allow photography in the museum — so I cannot share anything from inside — I guess you will have to visit on your own.

However, outside stand some of the unique machines that were used on the plantation and in the mill — here a trencher which could dig an irrigation ditch six feet deep and two feet wide. It comes in handy with a thirsty crop like sugar cane.

Although this item looks like an alien crab, it is actually a cane grab. After the cane was cut and placed in piles, this device was attached to a crane and lowered to grab a big chunk of cane, which was then dropped into a truck.

And here we find that crane that lifted the cane grab.

Next is the cane hauler which received the cane from the cane grab.

Inside there was a chain mail net upon which the cane was dropped. One side of the net had a bar which could later be lifted to dump all the cane into a receiving bin at the mill.

This shows the truck portion of the cane hauler. Note the huge drive wheels to facilitate driving around in the soft soil of the cane fields.

A critical part of the sugar mill is the bull gear — the largest gear in the mill which drives much of the machinery contained there.

These are the huge cane-crushing rollers which extracted the juice from the harvested cane. The juice was then pumped to the boiling house where water was boiled off. The residual fibers after the juice was extracted is called "bagasse" and is burned to power the mill.

This shot shows a small hand-fed mill which was used to obtain juice samples in order to judge the quality of the sugar cane before it went into the main part of the mill.

Here we see a Massecuite pump which was used to move a mixture of sugar crystals and syrup (called "massecuite") from one part of the mill to another.

This is a Cat Thirty manufactured by Caterpillar Tractor Company in 1926. The tread design allowed this workhorse to move around the cane fields more reliably than wheels or train track.

Sitting next to the Cat Thirty in the shed is a Cat Sixty, also manufactured by Caterpillar but a few years later in 1930. This was the first track-type tractor to be offered with optional diesel power. Diesel offered advantages with low-end torque, better fuel economy and simplified maintenance. Interestingly, this tractor was restored and is fully operational.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com