Dalat Train Station

Dalat, Vietnam | C.1932

Photo Credit: John Langford

In the late 1800s, Paul Doumer, the governor-general of French Indochina (now Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), came up with a plan. He wanted to connect Vietnam’s muggy, low-lying area of Phan Rang to the breezy resort town of Dalat, high in the hills—so that French residents could easily escape the heat.

After a decade of planning, work on the railway began in 1903, moving through some of the steepest mountain passes in Vietnam and climbing to almost 4,600 feet. Nearly thirty years, fifty-two miles, and five tunnels later, the train tracks finally reached Dalat.

By then, it was 1932, and the French architects Reveron and Moncet were commissioned to create a station worthy of such an engineering marvel. They created a landmark in grand European style, with nods to the art deco Trouville-Deauville train station in Normandy, capped by sunny yellow tiles.

Later, during the wars against the French and the Americans, Dalat station fell into disrepair, along with the rest of Vietnam’s rail system. It wasn’t until the 1990s that a four-mile section of the track reopened. Today, passengers ride in vintage-style train cars drawn by a steam engine and disembark at the old station, restored to its former glory with stained glass and the arched ceilings of yesteryear.

And what of the man who inspired the train line? In 1931, just before the tracks reached Dalat, Paul Doumer became president of the French Republic. Less than a year later, at a book fair in Paris, he was shot by a disgruntled Russian—making him the only French president assassinated by a bullet.

📖 Featured on Page 291 of AWA, The Book 📖

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