About the Railways in Vietnam Website....
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 presume was the holiday resort of Ha Long Bay, which is where I was heading as well. I even took a couple of photos.
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 hope to rectify that situation on my next visit (yes I'm going back).
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.
Sydney, Australia, 2009
I've just returned from my second trip to Vietnam with lots of photos. Some will be displayed on this website and some on my companion 'Modelling the Railways of Vietnam' website. I came back with only a few locomotive photos but quite a few passenger car photos and some freight. The classifications of passenger and freight cars are quite confusing. There seem to be as many coach types as there are coaches, and the same for freight!
I have enough photos of 141-158 at Saigon station to present a 'walk around' of that class, useful particularly for any one who wants to model the class.
I will get the photos onto the site as soon as I can.
Sydney, Australia, August, 2010
I've just returned from my third trip to VN. Not so many photos this time, but what I do have I will add when I have time. For some comments on my two less than enjoyable train journey's see my blog. I have also acquired copies of two articles published in Trains Magazine (US, Kalmbach Publications) in 1969 related to railways in southern Vietnam. Lot's of info and some photos clarifies some of the earlier info I have. Again I will try to get this on the site as soon as I can.
Sydney, Australia, March, 2011
The end of February saw me return from my fourth trip to Vietnam. As I was getting married and doing other things I didn't have much time to observe the good old DSVN, but I did get half a day at Thap Cham and a couple of hours at Saigon station. Lots of photos of freight and passenger vehicles which will go up on the site at some stage. More photos for the redesigned Freight and Passenger pages which unfortunately are coming along very slowly.
Sydney, Australia, March 2012
The publication of Tim Doling's "Railways and Tramways of Vietnam" has been useful in filling in a number of gaps, particulary with regard to earlier days, but information about locomotives and rolling stock is very limited and often raises more questions than it solves, so historians and fans will have to search elsewhere for that sort of information. Hopefully this website goes some way to filling that gap but there is much to learn.
The website is a labour of love and as I am back working again I have limited time to maintain it, so please be patient. I am actually quite surprised as to how much information I have been able to collect.
So in this 4th year of the website I continue to encourage anyone who has information, personal experiences, photos or diagrams, to contact me so that we can get the material up on the site for all to enjoy.
Sydney, Australia, January 2013
Steam Locomotives generally used the traditional French classification system. A steam locomotive with a 2-8-2 wheel arrangement is classified as 141 class, a locomotive with 4-6-2 wheel arrangement is classified as 231 class etc. To differentiate between different locomotives with the same wheel arrangement, the initial road number was added, e.g. 231-400 and 231-500. Some northern locomotives of Chinese origin were also known by their Chinese classification. e.g. 141 also known as ZL.
Diesel locomotives have a completely dfferent clasification system.
All diesel classes start with the letter 'D' (for diesel or possibly dau may for engine?) then a number which I believe is related to the locomotives power output. The third character defines Electric' (E) or hydraulic (H).
e.g. D5H class = Diesel + 500 hp + hydraulic.
Before 1975 in the south diesels used the French system , e.g. BB for Bo-Bo type locomotive then the initial road number. e.g. BB901 class.
In the North there appears to have been a mixture of different systems.
There is also a semi-official system where locomotives are classified by their country of origin. e.g D5H is also known as 'Ừc' (Australian).
Railways in Vietnam
website © 2009-2013 David Gurnett
Please feel free to contact me at