A Relic of the Steam Railway Age in Da Nang


“Mikado” 2-8-2 number 141-521 hauls the first through train on the refurbished 1,100km “Transvietnamien” railway line ran from Đông Hà to Sài Gòn on 7 August 1959

The Chính Gián and Tam Thuận wards of Thanh Khê district in Đà Nẵng are home to a fascinating relic of the age of steam railways – a disused loop line built to turn around steam locomotives following the transformation of Đà Nẵng Central Station from a through station into a terminus.

The original main line from Hà Nội to Sài Gòn passed straight through Đà Nẵng Central Station, heading south through busy suburban streets and creating a major traffic hazard.

In 1955-1956, to solve this problem and also to permit the planned expansion of Đà Nẵng Air Base, the South Vietnamese railway company Hỏa Xa Việt Nam (HXVN) built the “déviation de Phông Lê” west of the city centre alongside National Highway 1.

Part of the old line was then repurposed as a freight branch across the Hàn River to the Tiên Sa Port area.


A map of the Đà Nẵng rail lines in the late 1950s, after the construction of the loop line

However, the building of the new line created a new problem – passenger trains now had to enter and leave Đà Nẵng Central Station via the same section of track, turning it into a terminus. In the absence of a turntable, a loop then had to be built to turn steam locomotives around before they could continue their journey.

The initial choice of lighter-grade rail in the construction of this loop proved to be something of a false economy; upgrading work was subsequently required under the Railway Reconstruction Program of 1957-1959 to permit its use by heavier express locomotives such as 141-500 “Mikados.”

Today the loop line remains intact, although according to Vietnam Railway officials it has not been used since the early 1990s.


A view of the old loop line today with the rail track still in place


Another view of the old loop line today with the rail track still in place


Another view of the old loop line today with the rail track still in place


The loop line as seen on Google Earth

Tim Doling is the author of The Railways and Tramways of Việt Nam (White Lotus Press, Bangkok, 2012) and also conducts 16-day and 13-day Việt Nam Rail Tours.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group Rail Thing – Railways and Tramways of Việt Nam for more information about Việt Nam’s railway and tramway history and all the latest news from Vietnam Railways.

You may also be interested in these articles on the railways and tramways of Việt Nam, Cambodia and Laos:

By Tram to Hoi An
Date with the Wrecking Ball – Vietnam Railways Building
Derailing Saigon’s 1966 Monorail Dream
Dong Nai Forestry Tramway
Full Steam Ahead on Cambodia’s Toll Royal Railway
Goodbye to Steam at Thai Nguyen Steel Works
Ha Noi Tramway Network
How Vietnam’s Railways Looked in 1927
Indochina Railways in 1928
“It Seems that One Network is being Stripped to Re-equip Another” – The Controversial CFI Locomotive Exchange of 1935-1936
Phu Ninh Giang-Cam Giang Tramway
Saigon Tramway Network
Saigon’s Rubber Line
The Changing Faces of Sai Gon Railway Station, 1885-1983
The Langbian Cog Railway
The Long Bien Bridge – “A Misshapen but Essential Component of Ha Noi’s Heritage”
The Lost Railway Works of Truong Thi
The Mysterious Khon Island Portage Railway
The Railway which Became an Aerial Tramway
The Saigon-My Tho Railway Line

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