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Original steam trains refurbished and reintroduced in Vietnam

Veitnam Trains
ull steam ahead following the signing ceremony 20 May: (L to R) Pieter van der Hoeven, Michael Gebbie and Mikkel Krantz

Indochina Rail and Wafaifo Optimisers partner to launch the Revolution Express steam train, featuring restored 1960s locomotives and retro carriages, offering a scenic journey between Danang and Hue by late 2024.

DANANG, VIETNAM – Indochina Rail Tourist Service joint stock company and Wafaifo Optimisers have signed a management agreement for Wafaifo Optimisers to manage the Revolution Express steam train, a remarkable new tourist experience in central Vietnam, which is expected to launch in late 2024 or early 2025.

Two original steam locomotives from the 1960s have been lovingly restored to working condition. The locomotives will pull two fully appointed retro-styled carriages that can seat up to 57 passengers each, as well as a custom-made kitchen carriage and a baggage carriage.

The locomotives are the last remaining working steam ones in Vietnam, dating from the pre-independence era, both built locally in Vietnam, based on the French Mikado design. They have been painstakingly restored over many years, using original parts and utilising the skills of the last remaining steam engineers working for Vietnam Railways.

The Revolution Express will make a return trip between Danang City and the former royal capital of Hue each day. Each journey will traverse the scenically remarkable Hai Van coastal mountain range and stop at Lang Co adjacent to beautiful lagoon and beach scenery.

Surrounded by old-world splendour and served by talents in period costume, passengers will be able to enjoy light food and drinks as they view one of the most picturesque coastlines and mountain passes in Southeast Asia.

Indochina Rail and Wafaifo Optimisers signed the partnership agreement on 20 May in Danang in central Vietnam. The two parties were represented by Indochina Rail’s Chairman, Mr Michael Gebbie and  Wafaifo Optimisers’ Managing Director, Mr Pieter van der Hoeven, and Commercial Director, Mr Mikkel Krantz.

“We are proud to bring these old dames of rail back to life and to showcase important periods in Vietnamese history from imperial through colonial rule and finally the independence struggle,” said Mr Gebbie.

“We seek to give visitors an interactive sense of Vietnam’s history and future. Whether you enjoy learning about history or trains, or just want to ride an authentic heritage steam train over the famously scenic Hai Van Pass, the Revolution Express will offer a magical experience for young and old alike,” he said.

Mr van der Hoeven added: “The Wafaifo Optimisers team is excited to be a part of a remarkable heritage tourism story that will allow train enthusiasts and mainstream tourists to feel like they are travelling back in time, in comfort, in a scenically spectacular corner of Vietnam.”

Highlights of the tourist experience will include themed dining at the three railway stations on the route: Kim Lien (Danang), Lang Co and Hue. Each station will have its own menus and entertainment schedules to meet the arrival of the Revolution Express.

Importantly, the train stations with their restaurants and retail offerings are being designed to also attract other road and VNR (Vietnam National Rail) passengers travelling between Danang, Lang Co and Hue on the scenic coastal route.

In Hue, the original train maintenance building is being beautifully refurbished as the Station Restaurant. The venue is being themed in an imperial manner befitting the history of Hue, the last bastion of the dynastic era in Vietnam.

In Lang Co, the restaurant will be themed to mark the independence that Vietnam enjoys today. Apart from a full restaurant offering, food carts will be on the station platform offering homemade ice cream, freshly squeezed fruit juices, Vietnamese coffee, and newly pressed sugar cane. Regular VNR-run trains all stop at Lang Co station for passenger refreshments.

Potentially the third restaurant at the station on the outskirts of Danang will be developed. If so, it will be themed in a colonial manner to reflect a different era in Vietnam’s national journey.

The plan is that when the Revolution Express arrives at the stations on the route a brass band in army regalia will greet disembarking guests. The Revolution Express is the only private rail operator in Vietnam.

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Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.