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The History of Saigon's Streetcars

We’ve posted images of Saigon’s old streetcars in the past but were unable to find much information written about them. Thankfully, Saigon historian, Tim Doling, recently published a piece about their history on his blog, Historic Vietnam.

According to Tim, Saigon got its first streetcars at the end of 1881 when the 1meter gauge, Sài Gòn–Chợ Lớn “high road” steam tramway was put into operation. 10 years later, another line was added on the “low road” which ran along the north bank of the Bến Nghé Creek (not the Bến Nghé Canal).

Steam-powered streetcars systems were continuously improved over the next 30 years until the system was further expanded and electrified in 1923.

By the 1930’s, the Compagnie française des tramways de l’Indochine (CFTI) had become the dominant streetcar company, eventually expanding into bus service. 

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After being seriously destroyed by Allied aerial bombardment during WWII and further degradation due to various social factors, CFTI began to shut down its streetcar network in the mid-1950s, instead focusing on busses.

By 1957, all streetcars had been removed from Saigon’s thoroughfares. Conversely, Hanoi hung onto its colonial-era streetcar system until 1989.

While Saigon is building its subterranean and above ground metro system, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a return of streetcars in Saigon in the near future. 

Head over to Historic Vietnam for the full story.

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