Monday, September 26, 2016

Back Again....


After a three day stay in hospital and a few weeks at home I'm now back from my operation/recovery.

Unfortunately while I was in hospital the hosting company for my website "Railways in Vietnam"  decided to suspend my account! This hopefully has now been sorted out.

Unfortunately I cannot access my website through Firefox or Microsoft Edge but can access it through TOR (if you don't know what TOR is, try googling). I hope you're having better luck than me in accessing Railways In Vietnam.

My operation and the access problems have also meant "Re-Unification Express" No. 7 is delayed as well. It will happen but I'm not giving a firm date. Of course if you can't access the website then you can't access the e-mag anyway.

I will continue to communicate with my host and hopefully full access will be restored.

In the meantime I've done a little more work on my Ga Hong Ha model and have started doing the drawings for the background market building (Cho Hong Ha) based on the market at Phan Rang.

I've also been doing various bits and pieces on the layout such as installing power poles, fences, ugrading scenery etc and have replaced a couple of buildings with new ones and moved a couple of other buildings around. 

I don't know about you but I'm not a great fan of electrical work, but I've finally decided to bite the bullet and install a proper 'twin cab' system for the layout rather than the temporary one I have at the moment. Remembering that I have to be careful when I bend over because the operation was on my neck, this will take a little time, but seeing I'm retired that shouldn't be a problem. My time is my own (or at least some of it - the rest belongs to "she who must be obeyed").

Hopefully everything will be back to normal soon.

Until next time....


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Patience is a virtue.....

This is my first post for a little while.

It's basically just to inform you, dear reader, that I will be going into hospital to have one of my thyroids (is this how you say it?) removed early next week.

I'm assured that it is a 'straightforward' operation so I should be back on deck after a short time.

If there's anyone reading this who has had a similar problem or has a similar problem you will know that this problem tends to cause tiredness, and in my case shortness of breathe due to my trachea being partially blocked, and plays havoc with your internal clock

It.s not an excuse but it is a reason why "Re-Unification Express"  number 7, is still to see the light of day.

I've also changed the software I use to produce the issues, so as with all new software I have been going through a steep learning curve. The new software is a bit more flexible than the previous package. For example I can add 'live' internet links. So in the long run this should make the magazine a more interesting one.

Issue number 7 is almost complete so please be patient.

With Saigon to Bien Hoa trains back in operation it's good to see DSVN has survived it's 'operation' as well, that is, the building of the new Ghenh Bridge.

Those who have written to me either at 'railwaysofvietnam' or 're-unificationexpress' I must apologize for not keeping up to date. My aim is to sit down and go through both sets of email and to answer as many as I can in the next few weeks.

I have made some small updates to the Railways in Vietnam website and added a 'Trams' page. This will be basically photographs for the time being. If you want some more information  Tim Dolings excellent publication "Railways and Tramways of Vietnam" should be your first port of call.

 See you after the operation....

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Onward and ever upward.....

Great news everybody.

Issue no. 6 of the Re-Unification Express e-magazine is now up and available to be downloaded.

 This issue has 2 extra pages so I can fit everything in I wanted to, so a small bonus. Because of the large number of images, be prepared for a large file size, despite a lot of compressing of individual images.

I promise the next issue won't take as long. Issue 7 should be available in July, perhaps with not quite so many pages but at least close to time.

You might remember the recent disaster with the Ghenh Bridge near Saigon. (see previous posts), well apparently the new bridge, costing some US$13.5 million dollars will be opened  around June 26, a month ahead of schedule.

To build such a bridge in three months is quite outstanding. If the same job needed to be carried out here on Australia, it would probably take a couple of years, what with environmental surveys, health and safety checks, site inspections, river surveys, wild life surveys, the tender process and so on.

The above photo shows work well under way on the new bridge in early June. Image from Than Nien News.

On another topic, here are a couple of recent images of my "Ga Hong Ha" model railway layout.

There's still a lot of work to do but It is looking better don't you think? I really must start constructing some more rolling stock. That BNSF locomotive looks completely out of place!

Until next time......

Friday, May 20, 2016

Slowly... slowly.....

Since returning from Vietnam in March I have not been all that well. Apparently an enlarged thyroid is causing shortness of breathe and tiredness.

This has meant serious delays to the Re-Unification Express e-mag and the updating of the web site.

I have lots of bits and pieces to update and lots of photos to post, but a serious lack of inclination to do so.

I am due for an operation in the near future, quite straightforward I'm told, and that should renew my ability to get on with my plans.

In the meantime the much delayed Issue 6 of the magazine should be available in the next couple of days and then Number 7 to follow, hopefully before my operation.

In the meantime the rebuilding of the Ghenh Bridge continues with trains providing a local service from Saigon to Di An and ex Hanoi trains terminating at Bien Hoa.

Carriages have had to be moved by truck so that rolling stock is in the right place, a major undertaking in itself.

A plus for this is that the trains from Di An to Saigon and return are proving very popular, the nearest Saigon gets to a suburban service. Hopefully they will continue after the bridge restoration and run through to Bien Hoa.

Initially the plan was to restore the two spans that fell into the river, but the Government has now decided that the entire bridge should be upgraded, still with the same completion date of sometime in July.

Another recent upgrade is the new main station building at Bien Hoa, opened last September.

The photo above shows the old building, parts of which seemed to have survived colonialism, war and peace for nearly a century, but now gone to be replaced by a modern concrete and glass structure.

I suppose customers need modern facilities, but it is a shame when such historical buildings are demolished.

On the modelling front I have basically completed the  Coopmart supermarket and am now embarking on the building of the front of a market (Cho), based on the Market at Phan Rang, but smaller.

I will just be building the front wall as it will be placed against the backdrop.

Until next time...........

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Home again....

Back from Vietnam earlier this week.

I tried to post while I was there but access to bloggs is a bit hit or miss when you're in Vietnam. The Government sometimes denies access (they say they don't) because of concerns about bloggs being too political.

First in my last blogg I suggested that a rail line had once existed as far as Can Tho. This of course is not correct, it only went as far as My Tho so "nothing to see here" when we got to Can Tho.

The city of course relies entirely on river traffic and road transport. There are a large number of coaches each day between Can Tho and Saigon and would you believe not all are 'sleeper' coaches, so the three and bit hours sitting up wasn't too onerous.

A rail line would be very useful I would think for both freight and passengers.

As always we travelled to Thap Cham by train. I was looking forward to sampling the refurbished coaches of SE7/8.

The new seats were quite comfortable but no tray table, so you had to balance your food tray on your knees. The actual ride quality doesn't seem to have changed, still a bit bumpy (probably as much to do with the narrow metre gauge as to anything else), and the nearest toilet was still of the 'squat' variety (I had imagined they would have been replaced by western style toilets as part of the upgrade). Some European tourist passengers (particularly the women) weren't impressed.

The old cloth curtains have been replaced with shutters, but the windows were just as dirty as always.

The new uniforms looked smart but the food available was exactly the same as before and some staff still hadn't quite grasped the concept of "good customer service" but there has been an improvement.

Another area that DSVN needs to address is the custom of local passengers using the passenger services as some sort of freight/parcels system. The number of large cardboard boxes, bags of fruit and vegetables etc manhandled into the carriages is far too many. These items should be stored in a baggage car.  The bus companies seem to have worked this out, but not the DSVN apparently.

The major event which occurred just before we returned was the destruction of the
Ghenh Bridge, a major river crossing just outside of Saigon on Sunday March 20. If you don't know, the rail/motorbike bridge was hit by a barge and several spans are now at the bottom of the river. Luckily no train was crossing at the time and no-one was hurt, but it has now caused a major problem. Trains are currently being terminated at Bien Hoa and passengers are being ferried to Saigon by bus. This not so bad because Bien Hoa is near Saigon, but with any sort of temporary crossing not being available for at least three months there is now the problem of the locomotives, passenger stock and freight vehicles being stuck on the southern side of the river both at Saigon itself and at the major workshops at Di An.

The bridge was built by the French sometime between 1902 and 1909 and had originally carried cars as well but these were diverted to another bridge in the past few years.

DSVN now has to decide whether to build a completely new bridge or try to repair/restore the current one.

The captain and crew of the barge have been arrested.

Until next time....

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Well we're off to Vietnam next week for what has become our annual pilgrimage.

As usual I will try to get lots of photos while I'm there.

Apart from visiting the relatives, we plan to visit Can Tho in the Mekong Delta for a couple of days.

Unfortunately there is currently no rail connection to Can Tho so I'll have to put up with one of those sleeping buses which I love so much (see previous blogs). There used to be a connection with Saigon but for various reasons it was closed and taken up many years ago. I understand that the station building might still exist so maybe a photo of that. Plans have been announced to restore the line but I don't think any work has actually started yet. Such a large city (1 1/2 million people) with no rail connection to Saigon does seem problematic.

You may have noticed that the no 5 issue of Re-Unification Express is now available. I'm trying to catch up with No. 6 (December). My aim is to get it out before I leave, so that I can produce the March edition close to on time when I return. We shall see.

I've been doing a bit of work on the layout. My main project has been building a "Co-OpMart" supermarket. It's built out of card and signs printed from the internet, so cost me virtually nothing to make.This is now close to completion. It's not a copy of one particular building but more a 'composite' of several I have seen (see photo). The building still has to be 'planted' properly into the layout.

For those that don't know Co-OpMart is a large supermarket chain throughout Vietnam.  Sort of like Woolworths or Coles (Aussies will understand), and most of the buildings include other shops such as bookshops (Fahasa) and Korea's answer to MacDonalds 'Lotteria", which is all over Vietnam.

I had a bit of a problem whether to put the 'new' logo or the logo from several years ago and eventually went for the older logo. I still have to add more motor bikes and customers and hope to site a small street stall outside as well. The main round section is made from a toilet paper roll but if I ever do this again I think I'll cover the roll with paper to hide the 'spiral' marking.

Oh well I'd better get back to preparing for my trip.

I'll try to post while I'm in Vietnam.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Have you seen the latest news snippets about the long awaited upgrading of the main SE services on the good old DSVN.

They've been talking about this for some time and now it's here.

Some 57 freshly painted coaches inside and out, all with modern toilets, upgraded seating, upgraded catering, new uniforms for the train crew and a small increase in speed.

Very nice.

SE1 & 2, SE5 &6,  and SE7 and 8. For those who don't know these are the main passenger services between Hanoi and Saigon sometimes (but not officially) referred to as "Re-Unification Express".

SE3& 4 of course was upgraded at the beginning of 2015, so it's good to see the rest completed as well.

Interesting that the new uniforms are similar to the SE3/4 ones but appear to be grey rather than blue.

With a total expenditure in the millions of dollars this is a major upgrade and despite this no increase in fares, in fact a slight reduction.

Can't wait to travel on SE7 in March!

The only concern is that passengers and crew look after the new trains. This hasn't always been the case in the past. No more water sloshing around in the toilets, and plenty of toilet paper and everyone will be happy.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Year Resolutions

The tradition at the beginning of a new year is to make a number of resolutions, things you intend to accomplish over the next 12 months.

The usual ones include losing weight, being more careful with money, learn a new skill, get a better job and many more.

Then there are the resolutions special to each person.

For me they include getting my business off the ground, keeping my website up to date, making sure "Re-Unification Express"  comes out on time, and launching a new e-magazine focussed on Australian N scale  model railways.

What about Vietnam Railways?

Over the past couple of years DSVN has promised a lot. Some of the promises, such as replacing and upgrading infrastructure are well on the way to being achieved.

Others such as the line to Vung Tau and the line to Canh To don't seem to have even got off the ground.

And the dream of a high speed rail between Hanoi and Saigon is still just that,  a dream.

Of course Vietnam is not a rich country, so these projects rely often on help from friendly countries such as Japan, Australia, South Korea and France.

And of course in the past we have seen the problem of some of that money not necessarily ending up where it supposed to.

Aĺl we can hope is that our favourite railway system has all the success that it deserves and that those D19Es D9Es and all their sisters keep operating for our pleasure.

BTW Looks like I'll be back in May. Something about a house.

Until next time.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Well Christmas is over for another year and New Year as well. Now for 2016!

I  have made a big decision and decided to retire.

So hopefully I will actually have time to get the 'Re-Unification Express' out on time. I intend to put it on a more commercial footing (no, it will always be free) by adding a few ads and by finally getting my New Era Hobbies business off the ground.

This will be better for everyone I think.

It will hopefully give me more time to answer my email and update the website as well!

More about this in the next blog.

On another matter, the excellent Vietnamese forum daumaytoaxe seems to have disappeared. There one day and gone the next! I don't know if it has moved or if there is some technical problem.

If anyone knows where it has gone please let me know.

Until next time.