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Wednesday 22 May 2024

Viva the Revolution Express: Vietnam on the right track

Two original pre-independence steam locomotives have been restored to power the Revolution Express, a new heritage tourism experience in central Vietnam that will start in late 2024 or early 2025. 

Indochina Rail Tourist Service  and Wafaifo Optimisers have signed a management agreement for Wafaifo Optimisers to manage the Revolution Express steam train, a new tourist experience in central Vietnam. 

The two original steam locomotives from the 1960s have been refurbed to prime condition and 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 restored over a number of 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 scenic Hai Van coastal mountain range and stop at Lang Co, adjacent to beautiful lagoon and beach scenery.

Served by staff  in period costume (that sounds a bit naff), passengers will be able to enjoy light food and drinks as they view one of the most picturesque coastlines and mountain passes in south-east Asia.

Indochina Rail and Wafaifo Optimisers signed the partnership agreement on May 20  represented by Indochina Rail chairman Michael Gebbie, and Wafaifo Optimisers’ managing director Pieter van der Hoeven and commercial director 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 struggle to independence,” said 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”

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.

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 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 also be developed. If so, it will be themed in a colonial manner to reflect a different era in Vietnam’s national journey.

Wafaifo Optimisers will be responsible for marketing, booking and catering for the Revolution Express and its stations. The company will also open its own urban resort in the heritage city of Hoi An in the third quarter of this year (see previous story).

Further announcements on the commencement of the Revolution Express and how to book will be made in the next few months.

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