It is among the few remnants of the original rolling stock left over from the Cham Tower – Da Lat route, one of the world’s oldest cogwheel railroads.
Once restored, the Cham Tower – Da Lat route in the central highlands will be one of the world’s two oldest cogwheel railroad lines along with a Swiss counterpart.
A cogwheel system is designed for steep slopes and has a locomotive with a center cogwheel that engages with a cogged center rail.
The Da Lat line is only 84 km long but since it was set up in a dangerous area of high mountains and tortuous slopes, it took French and Swiss designers years to design and build it.
It was mooted in 1900 and construction began eight years later.
The segment which includes the Dran iron bridge, located in Lam Dong Province’s Don Duong District, was completed in 1925.
Three years later, the Cham Tower – Da Lat routeopened to traffic.
The most expensive part of the project was the 14-km stretch of cogged central line.
The operation of trains came to a halt in 1968 because of the war, resumed in 1975 after the country’s reunification, but, due to its low profitability was finally stopped.
Sold as scrap
Once operations on the route were halted, most of the cogwheel system and the Dran iron bridge were dismantled and sold as scrap.
The Cham Tower – Da Lat route passed into legend.
After the Vietnamese Railway Union sold two Swiss-made Puka steam locomotives in 1988 to a Swiss partner, just one Japanese engine is left from the original system.
It is now in Da Lat station.
Made in 1936, it runs on firewood.
The station also has a toothed-wheel cargo car made in Germany in 1930.
Designed by French architects Moncet and Reveron and built in 1936, the station has three roofs representing the top of Langbiang mountain, the symbol of Da Lat.
In 2006 it was recognized as a national historical monument.
Many historical documents describe Da Lat station as the oldest and most beautiful in Indochina.
The Transport Ministry recently asked the government to restore the Cham Tower – Da Lat railroad route.
Once approved, the project, to cost some VND5 trillion (US$312 million), will be completed in 2015.
Those who adore Da Lat’s grace and charm will surely long to see one of the world’s oldest and most quaint railroads resume service.