The International Steam Pages
Steam in Vietnam 1998 - 2003
It seems that 131-436 has finally bitten the dust Takahide Yamamoto reports (29th September 2003). Previously (1st December 2002) he had found that 131-436 was not taken out of action at Thai Nguyen Steel Works as he was told it would be - quite why he was misinformed is unclear. Bim Son was still using a 141 for shunting, on 25th November 2002 it was 141-210.Hans Hufnagel has sent a report with thumbnail illustrations (19th December 2002) of a November visit here which confirms Alex Jesserer's November 2002 report that the end was nigh for Vietnamese real steam. By January 2003, there was no longer any real steam activity on the main line, as confirmed by a further tour report (2nd March 2003).
Takahide Yamamoto reports (8th May 2002): "Jürgen Fadi is now in Vietnam. Following is what he (and I) saw so far. On Saturday he went to and got application to enter rejected. No result. On Sunday he and I went to Bim Son and saw 141-190 shunting at Ga Gong Nhiep Bim Son (Bimson Industry Station) The shunting duty was heavier compared to my previous visits. On Monday he went to Hai Phong and phoned me another bad news. He was told that steam had retired only six weeks before! He saw diesels were doing the duty in and around the harbour." Jürgen adds (14th May 2002) that there was still one 0-6-0T active at Thai Nguyen Steel Works. A long way to go for two steam locomotives!
Takahide Yamamoto reports (23rd March 2002) "On 16th March visit to Thai Nguyen Steel Works I was informed by one of the officers that: An order from Ministry of Industry had officially arrived telling them to stop steaming 131-436 after 10th of April. As a replacement they would buy a diesel locomotive from DSVN. Use of standard gauge 030 (Gongjian made in China) would continue at least for the time being. He added that probably hearing this news some foreign enthusiasts had entered the complex resulting in being thrown out (like I was several months ago!) Presumably, the order from Ministry of Industry is expiry of boiler test certificate."
With a low level of steam activity, a management that treats tourist groups as a cash cow and 'weather', Vietnam is out of fashion. Jacques Daffis was here for non-railway purposes in October 2000. "A steam locomotive was used in Hanoi Giap Bat station for shunting goods wagons (seemed to be a Mikado). Also many steam locomotives were in steam inside the Hanoi Gia Lam shed/workshop. On other parts of the country (Haiphong, Along, Hue, Danang, Ho Chi Minh city, only diesels were seen." (Added 26th October 2000). Hans Hufnagel was here in March 2001 (report added 10th April 2001) and apart from special trains saw working steam in small quantities at Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Bim Son and Thai Nguyen. This is broadly in agreement with the report of the LCGB tour (added 30th April 2001). Got a fistful of dollars? Vietnam may be the place to go reports Johs. Damsgaard Hansen (10th May 2001). Takahide Yamamoto has provided a further update (with additions 8th November 2001) which includes news of a round Hanoi tourist train which was steam for only a short while.
Bernd Seiler was in Vietnam at the end of 1998 - you can read his brief report (expanded with a photo 21st March 1999). In late October 1998, I posted a brief report from Vietnam. Florian Schmidt then sent (5th November 1998) the full report which I believe covers all the current steam activity and has news on possible preservation initiatives. Some standard and metre gauge steam survives, on the main line and in industrial service. I understand that the level of activity makes 'Myanmar look busy' and that the crews seemed very interested in U$ bills. You may like to look back at the Dorridge Travel Vietnam Report from 1997 which makes very interesting reading.
Earlier Tim Murray was in Vietnam around New Year 1998. He reports: "Steam activity is at a low ebb. The freight from Ha Noi to Hai Phong is no longer steam and we were not able to see any standard gauge working in the four days that we were there. We saw a 141 shunting at the Ha Noi south yard, a 141 shunting and trip to the docks at Haiphong and two consecutive days where a 141 took a train up to the cement works on the line south of Hanoi. I enjoyed the trip but it was not as good as either Myanmar or India and I would not see any purpose in returning."