It wasn't easy shooting photographs in the islands during World War II, particularly if you were a serviceman. Loaded cameras weren't allowed on base, and camera clubs dried up. Film was scarce. Taking pictures of anything scenic ran the risk of accidentally including something sensitive or top-secret, and because the islands were one big staging area, that happened all the time. Transportation was particularly off-limits.
Trains hauled sugar, soldiers, supplies, pineapples, aircraft and everything else, and were often the only way to travel into Honolulu from faraway bases like Wheeler. But when the war ended, so did gas-rationing, and a new road system was created. The rise of the automobile meant the need for trains evaporated. The last passenger train ran in 1947.
Stationed at Pearl Harbor from 1943 to 1946, Norton captured the last glory days of the OR and L in exhausting detail. Then, he packed up his collection and returned home, and boxes of negatives went into storage. But unlike many other irreplaceable images moldering in the nation's attics, these pictures have been resurrected in a new book. Norton's pictures are given superb reproduction in "Hawaiian Railway Album -- WWII Photographs," the first of a projected three-volume set of classic Hawaiian railway images. The book's author is Gale E. Treiber of the Hawaiian Railway Society, another sailor stationed in the islands who was fascinated by trains, and the images literally fell into his hands.
Kent Cochrane was another photographer whose photos went into these books, and he was in the Coast Guard.