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.
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.
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.
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