The International Steam Pages

The Only Railway (Ever) in Laos

Hans Hufnagel reports on a late 2003 visit, Thomas Kautzor has written some notes on the railway which refer to several sources but there are still many unanswered questions about it.

Since this report was posted a second locomotive, an incomplete Decauville 0-4-0T, has been put on display, see for example (link broken by 29th October 2017). And, of course, the extension of Thailand's North-Eastern line has opened.

The most southern province of Laos is named Siphandone. This means 4000 islands. The name was given to this region because the Mekong river here is split into many arms with a total width of 14 kilometers. These arms surround more than 4000 islands. Then the river falls about 10 to 15 metres in a series of rapids which cannot be passed by shipping. This was the reason why the former French colonial administration built a narrow gauge railway over the islands of Don Det  and Don Khone (Don = island). Don Det is situated on the upper side of the rapids, Don Khone at the lower. The islands are connected by a concrete viaduct with a length of 170 meters, width 3 meters and a weight of 100 tons (data taken from an old map ). The line had a length of about 7km at its greatest extent but its full history is by no means well documented.

Still today you can see the trackbed, small bridges and many parts of the rails connected with steel sleepers. Also the big unloading installation and the pier have survived

Near the viaduct, the place of the former shed can be recognised and the remaining parts of a 0-4-0T, built by OK can be seen.

The map of the rapids and islands


The rapids - a natural barrier against shipping


The railway viaduct is used today as a foot and bicycle path

railway viaduct

The trackbed can still be seen


Some of the rails are used as foot bridges

foot bridge

The unloading installation:

unloading installation

One of the little bridges

small bridge

... and finally pictures of the loco which appears to be metre gauge.

OK loco

OK loco

Rob Dickinson