Maui, Hawaii Sugar Cane plant
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  1. #1
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    Default Maui, Hawaii Sugar Cane plant

    Hi all,

    I'm out in Maui doing some work for 2 weeks (YES it is actual work, 12+ hr days lol)

    Maui had a big sugar cane operation for a long time, the last plant closed about a year ago- apparently competition from sugar beets. The facility is visible from the highway looking interestingly industrial, so I stopped by the museum and found some neat stuff in the yard. The plant itself looks like it was built a fair number of decades ago and run into obsolescence. The equipment below is in the museum yard, some of it was still in use over the last 10-15 years.

    From talking to locals, closure of the plant cost the area 600 or so jobs OTOH the operation had a considerable local environmental impact, including ash and smoke from the fields that had to be burned every few years. They talked about the ash falls all over the area depending on prevailing winds, and the smoke. The fields are closed down, some cane still growing here and there but its an extensive area of fallow ground with pesticide issues.


    Plant front view- no access in from the fence, there are other older buildings behind showing signs of collapse and decay and clusters of rusting and old farm equipment. There is one newer facility looking like a polebarn, possibly a vehicle maintenance building- nothing visible from the highway to suggest process equipment such as seen in the photo below.




    But here are the money shots;


    A pair of rolls, looking like they run as-cast gears and the grooves built up by arc-welding;








    A bull gear, also looking as-cast. Evidence of smearing on the tooth edges. Bearing cap is drilled and tapped for an oiling device;







    Here is a pretty little press, the sign nearby indicated it was a hand-operated press for sampling the sugar cane;




    This pump in use up until 2000;







    And this crane in use up to 2008, used to load sugar cane out in the fields and elsewhere, presumably using jaws as shown;








    Also found a couple nice little cats- but no information about how recently they were in service;





    And a pile of interesting looking items, perhaps a few connecting rods from an old steam engine.. no sign of that or boiler equipment unfortunately;


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    I doubt it was competition from sugar beets, more likely the value of the land, the cost of producing anything there is enormous and the impact that was happening from growing cane there. The tourists, or at least most tourists, don't come to Hawaii to see the cane growing and sugar factories are a blot on the landscape to most. I never saw the plants on Maui but spent some quality time with the factory in Honokaa on the Big Island in the 80s. The machine shop where they built and rebuilt cane rolls was amazing! Now that you have me thinking about it I might have to try and find the shoe box with all my pictures. The truck surfing to get the cane to the plant was quite something.

    -Brian

    My name is Brian and I'm a toolaholic.

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    If you go inside the sugar museum, you will see a masterpiece of model engineering. It is a very large, mostly brass, model of the steam engine and cane processing machinery used in the plant next door. The museum is in the old plant manager's house. I was there some years ago, when I was still using a film camera, so no picture to post today.

    Larry

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    Will-do on the museum itself, time permitting. Might have somentime saturday morning before the flight out. I'm much interested in what they had in the way of local maintenance facilities.

    Thanks!

    Greg

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Menke View Post
    Will-do on the museum itself, time permitting. Might have somentime saturday morning before the flight out. I'm much interested in what they had in the way of local maintenance facilities.

    Thanks!

    Greg
    I don't remember what the museum sign said about who made that model, but I suspect it was built in the plant maintenance shop, perhaps after hours.

    Larry

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    Related from an old post - though I am not sure just where on those islands

    27" L&S from teens or twenties
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails dscn0153.jpg   dscn0152.jpg   dscn0154.jpg   dscn0165.jpg  

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    Greg ,
    Thanks for sharing .
    For those who weren’t around when the threads were newer there are some other threads about sugar machinery on this forum .
    Here are some of the links to a couple of threads I remember .
    Sugar Cane Mill - Cuba

    1907 sugar cane mill machinery in Madeira (some large photos)
    Unfortunately I notice that many of the photos are no longer available.
    There may be more about sugar machinery if you do a “Forum Search” for Sugar.
    Regards,
    Jim

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    Greg,

    The last picture in your first post shows a Nordberg connecting rod. It was more than likely off a Corliss engine that powered the sugar cane plant at one time? Nordberg out of Milwaukee built a peculiar rod with a different way to adjust the clearance on the crank and crosshead pins than any other Corliss builders that I know of.

    Off to the right in your picture it also appears to show eccentric rods and straps from that engine. I wonder if the whole engine is there? - A number of years ago in Hawaii I saw there was a museum saving a large Nordberg Corliss engine to be placed in a museum, but don't know if it was this one?

    Attached is a picture out of a Nordberg catalog showing the connecting rod like they used on their Corliss engines and similar in design to the one in your picture.

    Thank you for sharing the pictures.

    nordberg-corliss-catalog-2.jpg

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    One local mill has turned into a "green power facility",and being fairly close to a large centre of population,they take in a waste wood,large trees etc.on a charge for disposal model......All the mills I knew caused a major nuisance with a stuff called 'Bagasse charcoal'.......so fine it would float for miles,very easily crumbled ,and one particle on white washing hanging on the line ....a guy I lknew built a half size La Bounty shear to crunch up the old engine bases,but it couldnt handle the steel parts.....Low world sugar prices are the problem,all the health warnings.....and a major competitor is corn starch sugar and synthetic sweeteners,as well as beet.

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    correct what killed the sugar industry was low prices brought on by the creation of High Fructose Corn Syrup, at least in America. Corn can be grown in all 50 states, Sugarcane in only 4, so it also got killed in DC with farm subsidy bills.
    My family closed its mill in 05 and sold the equipment to a neighboring mill which seems to be doing well.
    The large crane was more than likely used to load cane into the washers to start processing. Cane harvested in the fields has been loaded into trailers by the harvesters since the 50's and 60's, before that it was cut and loaded by hand into carts.
    The burning of cane is done yearly when harvested and can be annoying to nearby towns, but its just grass smoke.
    Baggasse ( pronounced Bag Ass) is the ground up stalk of the cane that is left after processing and it is a giant problem now. It used to be used to make roofing materials that stopped when I was a kid. Most sugarmills make their own power from bagasse but more is produced than can be burned. You can only put so much back in the fields as it will choke them out and takes a long time to rot.
    They have tried various things to do with it from animal feed, fertilizer, mulch, general power generation, paper production, etc but still it piles up. If you pull up to any mill they will give you all you want for free, even load it for you.
    I've never heard of bagasse charcoal, then only thing I can think of is when they scooped the ash out of the furnaces there was basically Volcanic rock formed from the dirt/trash/ and minerals left over from burning it. As a kid it made cool looking rocks that were very lightweight and floated. Plus if you shot them out of a slingshot onto something hard they turned to dust.

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    I use to live and work on Maui... for about 6 months of that in 2007 I lived upcountry on the side of Haleakala in the town of Makawao, and drove about an hour to work every day across the island to Kapalua on the northwest side. I passed the Puunene sugar mill twice a day (that's the one pictured above.) It was in operation still at the time, and the cane fields were occasionally being burnt as well, a very peculiar smell and one I remember well.
    I was working construction at the time but had a small blacksmithing/knifemaking shop I spent my off time in, and several times a week I'd stop by the sugar mill's millwright/maintenance shop's scrap bins to see what I could salvage. I got a lot of useful stuff... a Baldor 7.5 hp 3 phase motor one time, no idea why they scrapped it.
    It was a very interesting place, dark, industrial, smelly, ancient and anachronistic-feeling.
    On another occasion I went and explored the ruins of another sugar mill in Paia, Maui that had closed down in 2003 or so... it was already far gone, big old forlorn metal buildings without much left in them, a room full of new old stock Timken roller bearings and such gradually slumping into decay, nothing left but ghosts of the once frenetic activity and hundred years of occupation... I did find a pile of old blacksmith's swage blocks behind the maintenance shop, some broken and apparently not an obvious draw to the folks who'd already taken the anvils and other tools from the old millwright shop. One of them, a 140 lb, lives in my shop now.
    A third, and even older sugar mill on Maui, was the Olowalu mill. It was on the south end of west Maui by the Pali cliffs- I went and looked around there, and I don't know when it closed but it must have been more on the order of 30-40 years previously. It had reverted to just an expansive set of graffiti-adorned foundation walls and random metal parts sticking from dunes, overgrown with jungle, just back from the ocean in a raw and breathtaking landscape near a place I surfed at a few times. It was a haunting thing to see.
    There are some other fascinating related industrial ruins on the island that I found, but I'll not ramble on about them here.

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    The bagasse was burnt in the boilers for power,in similar way to coal dust...I dont know the full details,but I gather its very difficult to burn once it chars,so its out the flue it goes.......I do remember caneboard now..it was called "Caneite",very flammable and a poor building material.....made by CSR,the onetime sugar and building materials giant.....The mills here were all owned by grower co ops,riddled with corruption and favoritism.....anyhoo ,Tate and Lyle seem to own them now.

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    Here is a page from the Maui sugar museum's website that includes a picture of the model cane crusher.

    About – Sugar Museum

    The museum was very well done, explaining a lot about the labor force of immigrants that flocked to Hawaii in the 19th century, and the extensive tunnelling and ditching that brought water from the rainy mountain slopes to the dry valley where the cane was grown.

    Larry

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    Quote Originally Posted by john.k View Post
    The bagasse was burnt in the boilers for power,in similar way to coal dust...I dont know the full details,but I gather its very difficult to burn once it chars,so its out the flue it goes.......I do remember caneboard now..it was called "Caneite",very flammable and a poor building material.....made by CSR,the onetime sugar and building materials giant.....The mills here were all owned by grower co ops,riddled with corruption and favoritism.....anyhoo ,Tate and Lyle seem to own them now.
    Who would have picked CSR for making a dodgy building product?. Caneite had a smell that never went away even when very old. Think old paperback books with caramel.
    As I recall, the fly ash from burning cane before harvest was grudgingly tolerated by local people and most knew when a neighbour was burning for harvest, so a managable thing. Never lived near a mill so can't comment on the ash nuisance there , but there was some work done on using the ash from the mill flue as "biochar", added back to the fields as a soil conditioner.

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    No it’s just hard to get burning hot enough due to moisture . You usually burn baggasse that is a few seasons old as fresh bagasse has a lot of moisture.
    It burns dirty, we had some type of devices installed on the smaller stacks to catch the particulates but the big smokestack was over 150’ y’all and didn’t require that.
    Interestingly piles of baggasse will spontaneously combust like hay. The fire has to be dug out and is usually done by hand. The volunteer fire dept would go empty out the parish prison and use convicts to put out the fire. Then the mill would buy all the convicts and firemen fried chicken dinners after. As a kid I would be out there watching them not realizing that I was essentially looking back in time.

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    Cost of fuel alone makes agriculture in Hawaii a losing battle.

    Add in labor costs, shipping, etc, and it's a miracle anyone does anything except vacation there.

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    Re. Corliss engines for sugar mills, here are a few lines from Corliss, Man & Engine, Volume 2, by William D. Sawyer.

    "Only three American companies are known to have built Corliss engines after 1930, Nordberg, Filer & Stowell and Hardie-Tynes. All of the post-1930 Corlisses were built for sugar mills. In this industry the bagasse, the part of the cane left after the juice was squeezed out, was normally burned in the boilers, giving almost free steam. In 1945, Nordberg built a 28 x 54" Corliss for the Olaa Sugar Co. in Hawaii. The last known new American Corlisses were three engines built in 1951 by Filer & Stowell under the dealers name "Ferral", for a sugar mill in Puerto Rico. In 1952, Mirlees Watson of Glasgow, Scotland built a Corliss engine for a sugar mill in Shakarnagar, Andhra Pradesh, India".

    Note, the above is about Corliss engines, presumably not engines with other types of valves and valve gear. Also, there were Dutch engine builders still supplying steam engines at a fairly late date (need to check dates).

    Cutting Oil Mac of this forum once mentioned a large new Corliss engine being built for a sugar mill c. 1966/67/68 by A&W Smith, Glasgow. Later again (late 1970's-early 1980's?) he saw a new Corliss cylinder being made for Smith's by A.F. Craig & Co. Hopefully Dan will comment if this is not correct.

    I am also interested in the ploughing engines sent out to Hawaii by John Fowler, Leeds, England. Fowlers exported thousands of sets of steam ploughing engines to sugar-growing areas of the world, with all sorts of different types of implements to suit the conditions and methods employed.

    According to Michael Lane's Fowler history, about 50 sets (i.e. 100 ploughing engines plus tackle) were sent to Fiji and Hawaii, I think all were for sugar cultivation.

    I wonder if any of these engines survive in Hawaii or Fiji, or have been exported back to Britain? Quite a few ploughing engines have been repatriated to Britain from Africa over the years.

    Around 1900, 14 sets of Class Z2 and 2 sets of Class AA2 ploughing engines were sent to Honolulu, the former were very large, powerful machines, 20 NHP engines. According to the author, Hawaii set world records for yield of sugar cane and sugar.

    Spreckels Sugar Co. imported several sets of Z6 ploughing engines around 1908-1911.

    BTW, as an example of how revolutionary cable ploughing was in the late 1800's-early 1900's - the example is given of a Russian "sugar king" who had 160,000 acres, all ploughed by oxen in 1901.

    John Fowler sold over 2000 sets of ploughing engines into Europe for sugar beet growing, according to another book "Ploughing by Steam" by John Haining & Colin Tyler.

    A few photos showing some of the engine types mentioned, plus some typical ploughing scenes using two engines.

    fowler-z6-oil-burning-spreckels-hawaii-1911-01.jpg fowler-aa2-1903-01.jpg fowler-class-z-hungary-1910-01.jpgfowler-aa4-mexico-1907-01.jpg fowler-typical-double-engine-set-up-01.jpg

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