The old locomotive and the remains of French railway Don Khong, Mekong 4000 Islands (Si Phan Don) south of Laos. The rise and decline of French Railway in Southern Laos

Old French railway locomotive Don Khon

One of the most unusual tourist attractions in Phan Don (the Mekong 4000 Islands) is the old French railroad locomotive, situated on the island Don Khon. It's a small exhibit outdoors in the history of the railway in Laos, where only is exposed to steam locomotive and the remains of the train tracks.

History of the railway in Si Phan Don

The maritime route that runs along the river Mekong from Laos to Cambodia meets a series of rapids and falls that make unfeasible its navigation, for example the famous Khone Phapheng Falls. This part of French Indochina was a strategic point that the French wanted to control all costs, for it is used gunboats whose mission was to protect Vientam from Thailand, through Laos and Cambodia.

Unable to navigate the 4000 islands of Phan Don Mekong River on its way, the French decided to build a 7 km railway line in Champasak province to save the natural obstacle which represent the rapids and load boats on locomotives to steam, as the locomotive exhibited at Don Khon.

Remains of French railway in 4000 Mekong Islands (Si Phan Don, Laos)
Remains of French railway in 4000 Mekong Islands (Si Phan Don, Laos)

French Indo-China in Phan Don railroad line consisted of 7 km of via rail, wooden ramps up the boats and also a bridge linking the islands of Don Det and Don Khon.

French railway bridge between Don Det and Don Khon islands (Si Phan Don, Laos)
French railway bridge between the islands Don Det and Don Khon

The railway line was built in 1894 by Lt Simon and Vietnamese labor. It was used for the transport of goods and also used by the postal service (Messageries River). Operated by the State Railways of Laos, the line line it was definitively abandoned in 1940 due to the construction of the ring road of the Khone Phapheng falls, built in 1937, road which has a length of 22 km.

French railway remains in Si Phan Don (Laos)
French railway remains in Si Phan Don (Laos)

This railway line is just the old locomotive and bridge. Train tracks have been dismantled and its wood is used to build the gates of the houses, the same goes with the iron of the tracks, which has been melted and reused in various constructions of the islands of Si Phan Don.

Information, visiting hours and entrance fee to visit the old locomotive Si Phan Don

Access to the grounds of Don Khon required a down payment of 20,000 kip (2€) are used for the maintenance and upkeep of the area. After the payment of the entrance, we will have access free and without a schedule for every corner of Don Khon, including old French locomotive. However the area is not illuminated with what we recommend to visit the old locomotive until night falls, i.e. before 18:00.

Old French train on Don Khon (Si Phan Don, Laos)
Old French train on Don Khon (Si Phan Don, Laos)

Don Khon area is relatively small, being a very scenic bike recommended to visit the old locomotive, and other places on the island. They can also be hired for tours 1 day round trip from Pakse for about 30€.

Related Old French train Don Khon

  • Pakse Pakse City, the starting point for visiting Si Phan Don (4000 Islands) and Li Phi Falls
  • Si Phan Don 4000 Islands of the Mekong River, south of Pakse route to Cambodia
  • Li Phi Falls also called cataracts Somphamit, visiting prominent Si Phan Don (4000 islands)
  • Khone Phapheng Falls Niagara Falls in the Southeast Asian island Don Khon