My name is David Gurnett. I'm a retired railway worker and former teacher and I live in Sydney, Australia, with my lovely Vietnamese wife.
In October 2009 I travelled to Vietnam for a 10 day holiday. I hadn't been out of Australia in nearly 30 years. In Vietnam apart from the usual tourist sights, I was fascinated by the narrow gauge rail tracks that I kept crossing. I even got to see a couple of trains, one a short freight, as I was leaving Hanoi on a tour, and the other, a passenger train heading towards what I presumed was the holiday resort of Ha Long Bay, which is where I was heading as well. I even took a couple of photos. I found out later of course that the line to Ha Long Bay is standard gauge not the more usual metre gauge.
On my return to Australia, I started to investigate what turned out to be a fascinating rail system. This web site is the result of my internet labours and those of a number of others, both Vietnamese and non Vietnamese. Interest in the Railways of Vietnam seems to be quite a new thing, even for Vietnamese people, so information is often hard to get. Information about the system (s) before the 1975 reunification is even more difficult to find.
This web site is a work in progress and is at this stage only in English. Most of the photos were taken by others, though I have been able to take lots of photgraphs over the past few years.
I've been back to Vietnam at least seven times and travelled to a number of different places as well as going 'home' to my wife's family in Ninh Tuan Province on a regular basis.
After a frightening trip in a so called 'sleeper' bus we always travel by train unless train is not an option. I have travelled the full length of the Saigon - Hanoi main line.
The first train ran in Vietnam in 1885 from Saigon to Cholon, though it would probably be described more as a tramway rather than a mainline railway.
Starting in the 1900's the French colonial administration extended various sections of the line between Saigon and Hanoi, but it wasn't until 1936 that trains could run all the way between the two cities. At the same time a line was built from the port city of Haiphong to Hanoi and then on to the Chinese border and in to China.A branch line was also built from Thap Cham to the mountain resort of Dalat. Plans were also afoot to build a line from Saigon to Pnom Penh in Cambodia (then still part of French Indo China) but these never cam to fruition and the Saigon to My Tho section eventually fell into disuse and disrepair.
With the onset of the Japanese ocucupation in WWII and then the First Indochina war any thoughts of expanding or updating the system were set aside and the extensive damage that was caused after the division of Vietnam in 1955 meant that by 1975 the rail system was in a mess.
Since 1975 the system has been slowly put back together with trains running the full length of the system and updated track, rolling stock and infrastructure with plans for more changes on the way. In addition extensive metro systems are being built in both Hanoi and Saigon, though problems have seen the opening of both systems seriously delayed.
I hope the information contained within is of some interest to non Vietnamese speaking people, and English speaking Vietnamese people as well.
I accept full responsibility for any errors or omissions, and would welcome any additional information or corrections. As far as I know, this is the only English language website which attempts to collect all the available information in one place.
This website is produced using KompoZer, the open source web designer, as well as the GIMP and Inkscape, both also open source software, for graphics and is all my own work. I am not a professional web designer.
Railways in Vietnam
website © 2009-2018 David Gurnett
Australian copyright law, some
images and diagrams published on this website are in the public domain,
all other images retain the copyright of their original owners and are reproduced purely for the purposes of research.
Copyright will be acknowledged where known.
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