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Rails are stacked up at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971

Rails are stacked up at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971 (Steve Conaway/Stars and Stripes)

Rails are stacked up at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971

Rails are stacked up at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971 (Steve Conaway/Stars and Stripes)

Decaying equipment at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971

Decaying equipment at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971 (Steve Conaway/Stars and Stripes)

Decaying equipment at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971

Decaying equipment at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971 (Steve Conaway/Stars and Stripes)

A locomotive at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971.

A locomotive at the train station in Da Nang, South Vietnam, in 1971. (Steve Conaway/Stars and Stripes)

DA NANG, Vietnam — A quiet side street in Da Nang harbors the musty aura and rusting steel of a bygone era in Vietnamese railroading.

Thousands of rusting steel ties are stacked to one side of the old French rail terminal, now almost deserted — almost lifeless.

Inside the office, five old men sit by a silent telegraph key. There are no passengers waiting outside on the long, barren platform. A lone pedicab driver sleeps in his vehicle by the gate.

An occasional train is scheduled for Hue, 61 miles to the north. Not all of them make it to their destination.

Years ago the Vietnamese had a respectable network of rails linking major cities, but continuing war made it all but impossible to guard the hundreds of miles of open rails and bridges.

Now the Da Nang terminal must sit and await peace and a start on a new life.

The terminal area is a graveyard of steel and iron covering the sidings and open fields. The dull red rust and flaking gray paint are brightened only by the sun.

Thousands of orange rails are neatly stacked at one edge of the yard next to a decaying pile of steel frames, iron wheels and parts strewn aside in haste. Other stacks of scrap are piled in corners. Wheels which may never see a rail again are lined up here and there in neat rows.

The steam age may have died here as well as in the United States, although for different reasons.

Old French Marpent steam locomotives line sidings. Three here, two there, their boilers rusting through from non-use. Some have shrapnel holes in their sides. Some look only deserted.

Huge gray iron wheels support the massive weight that will never again move under its own power.

Once proud creations of man stand idle, their shrill steam whistles silenced. Their engineers' seats are empty or pirated away to become part of the decor of nearby homes.

You can almost feel the ghosts of the massive machines watch you go from one to the other, waiting to see if you have the key to make them move again.

Sprinkled throughout the yard are huge work sheds. Some are deserted but others are storehouses of dead engines. A few sheds look as if they are waiting for work.

Two new black diesel engines lettered with "United States Army" wait inside one shed. Three other diesels of the same class painted in the colors of the Vietnamese National Railroad surround them — a fourth waits outside.

The lack of heavy rust on the main rail lines betrays that the yard is sometimes used, but on this lonely, overcast afternoon a herd of cattle trimming the grass was the only movement.


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