{short description of image}  Rail Operations Supporting Tuy Hoa
by Henry J. Statkowski, MSG, USA (Ret)  
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Both Tuy Hoa Air Base and Tuy Hoa Sub Area Command (THSAC) at Phu Hiep received a fair amount of logistical support courtesy of the Vietnamese National Railroad System in the 1968-69 timeframe. This included daily rail commuter service, rock trains, and general freight trains. I served as the TMA-MACV Rail Liaison Officer at TMA's Field Traffic Office (later upgraded to a District Traffic Office) at Tuy Hoa from the middle of 1968 to the middle of 1969. Why me? Because I had worked for a railroad before joining the army and I knew the difference between a locomotive and a piece of rail (so much for my qualifications as a 71 November), plus, I remembered a few phrases of French from my junior high school days, and was thus able to communicate with the local station agent.

Situated on the coast, Tuy Hoa was halfway between Nha Trang to the south and Qui Nhon to the north. The rail line functioned on and off depending on hostile activity. Neither side (hostiles or friendlies) wanted it totally out of action, although rail traffic coming up from Nha Trang was less frequent. Tuy Hoa boasted the longest bridge in the country over the Song Da Rang River, twenty-two spans and almost one kilometer long. The rail bridge paralleled what was left of the highway bridge across the river. Planking was put down on the rail bridge and it served as a one-way highway bridge (ten minutes or so of traffic one way, then ten minutes or so of traffic the other way).

To the north of Tuy Hoa City was a rock quarry used by the Air Force.

COMMUTER SERVICE Both the air base and THSAC employed a large number of local workers from Tuy Hoa and the surrounding area. To transport them from Tuy Hoa City, a commuter operation was initiated, running between Tuy Hoa City and Dong Tac, a stop just outside the front gate of Tuy Hoa Air Base. Due to its success, it was subsequently extended southward to another stop at Phu Hiep, just outside the front gate of THSAC. The train, at least ten cars long (and possibly longer), ran six days a week, coming south in the morning, and heading back north (to Tuy Hoa City) in the evening. After dropping off its passengers at Dong Tac and Phu Hiep in the morning, it returned to Tuy Hoa City to spend the day, and then came back down in the afternoon to take everyone home. Our office's job was to monitor the usage and prepare the paperwork necessary to pay the railroad for its service. We even had to ride the train once just to conduct a head count. The Local Nationals initially thought us GIs were conducting a raid (Americans never mingled with them before on the train). Everyone looked guilty and everything they were carrying was suddenly hidden away! The passenger cars used were standard Third Class coaches - no air conditioning, no cushions on the wooden benches, no toilet facilities, no tavern-lounge car. But, they worked, stayed on the rails, and transported passengers.

THE ROCK TRAINS Just north of Tuy Hoa was a large rock quarry serviced by the railroad. This could be closed down at night and still be there in the morning (the VC had little interest in rocks and boulders). On Tuy Hoa Air Base to the south, there was a large rock-crushing facility operated by the 31st Civil Engineering Squadron which utilized the rocks from the rock quarry. Every day, six days a week, the railroad would transport boulders and assorted materials blasted out of the side of the mountain down to the air base for crushing into bite-size pieces, ideal for road building and concrete making. The cars used were an assortment of Vietnamese and American cars. The Vietnamese cars were offloaded with a crane lifting up one side of the dump body and letting the contents fall into an offloading pit. The American cars used air pressure to lift and dump their loads. Running two or three times a day, this traffic helped rate Tuy Hoa as hauling the most tonnage by rail for the entire country. True, it was only rocks, but it was rail traffic, and it did serve the logistical support aspect of our presence. And if you're out to set a record, any tonnage counts, even rocks. To the best of my knowledge, there were no known "incidents" due to enemy activities during its operations (at least while I was there).

THE FREIGHT TRAINS General movement of cargo was conducted by the railroad between Qui Nhon Sub Area Command and Tuy Hoa (both the air base and THSAC). This consisted of an occasional train coming down from Qui Nhon loaded with goodies - building supplies, replacement parts, bread, milk, and ice cream (the latter two being transported in American-built refrigerator cars). The fresh-baked bread was loaded on baking racks installed in CONEX containers and transported on flatcars. To precluded unauthorized removal of their contents, the CONEX containers were loaded door-to-door. Offloading the train was conducted right on the main line outside of Phu Hiep. The hardest job was preventing looters from hitting the train as it was pulling in to Phu Hiep before it came to a stop. The Army support people from Phu Hiep did the offloading using rough-terrain forklifts. Our job at DTO Tuy Hoa was to inform everyone when the train would arrive ("Boss - da train, da train!").

Northbound, my job was to take care of the paperwork and scrape up cargo for a trip to Qui Nhon. Essentially, I was stealing business from the highway people at THSAC and the boat people at Vung Ro Bay. Interesting loads northbound? How about a wrecked USAF F-100 that landed just short of the runway. We loaded the fuselage on one flatcar (with two 5-ton wreckers) and the wings and tail section on another. Another shipment included two battle-damaged M-113 APCs. Again with the 5-ton wreckers, one lifted up the front of the APC, the other lifting up the back, and then both backed the suspended APC over the flatcar and set it down. Yes, the 5-ton wreckers (and their operators) had their capabilities and capacities severely tested, but it worked. However, my most famous northbound shipment from Tuy Hoa to Qui Nhon was The Great CONEX Train....

Empty CONEX containers had been building up at THSAC. Their movement priority was rather low, so they just kept accumulating. How to get rid of them? By train, of course! I informed the local railroad representative that I wanted all the flatcars he could get. So, he started spotting them on the storage track on the south side of the air base. Once the track was filled, we started loading empty CONEX containers on the flatcars, four to a car. We started tying them down to prevent shifting, but gave up when we saw we were being overwhelmed. Weighing fifteen hundred pounds each, I figured the CONEX container wasn't going anywhere once nestled in among its own kind atop the flatcar, so we took a chance (a command gamble on my part). We didn't tie any of them down! When the loading was all done, we had FORTY FLATCARS filled with empty CONEX containers. The Vietnamese had never seen a train that long! But, they were willing if we were willing, and they pulled the entire string of cars from Phu Hiep to Tuy Hoa that evening when we were done. The next morning, with armored guard cars in the front of the train, the middle of the train, and on the end of the train, they departed for Qui Nhon. In addition to the ARVNs on board, there were also a few GIs from THSAC riding shotgun. The Vietnamese still couldn't believe what we had done ("Crazy Americans"). But, the train made it up to Qui Nhon that afternoon, all in one piece, and not a single CONEX container had shifted.

One of the GI guards reported back to me that he had never ridden a train before this. He said the most "interesting" part of the trip was when they were sitting on top of the CONEX containers and a tunnel showed up. All they had time to do was utter a few words ("Oh, Fudge!"), lay flat, and hug the top of the CONEX container as if they were part of it, all the time praying that they'd survive. It was a tight fit, but they made it okay. Needless to say, they stayed off the tops of the CONEX containers for the rest of the trip.
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 This is the rail/highway bridge over the Song Ba (?) River just to the south of
Tuy Hoa City.
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 A shot of the rock train arriving at Dong Tac station, just outside Tuy Hoa Air Base.
Immediately behind the engine is an armored car (to repel boarders?).
Over-the-road trains ran with armored cars and a flatcar or two preceding the engine
(land mine detectors).
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 Here's a shot of the rock train being offloaded.
The engine positions the cars and the crane lifts them up and dumps their contents.
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 Here's a string of "commuter" cars used at Tuy Hoa on a siding at Dong Tac at mid-day.
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 Here's U.S. Army No. 1995 (a Plymouth CR-8D) pulling a load of pipe
down to Phu Hiep. They were putting in a pipeline between Phu Hiep and Vung Ro Bay
(underground, of course). The pipeline used the railroad tunnel when it got to the mountains.
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 Rock cars being offloaded into the pit.
Once offloaded, the scooploaders would dump them into the rock crusher.
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 A rock car. The dumpster body was American,
the flatcar underneath Vietnamese. I believe the dumpsters were welded to the cars.
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 An American-built rock car. These used compressed air to offload them.
They couldn't handle big, big rocks like the other cars since their opening wasn't as tall.
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 A 3rd Class coach used in commuter and other service.
Sliding louvers protected the riders from the elements. Wooden benches, no upholstery,
no toilet facilites, just basic transportation. The car next to it is a Pullman-Standard
boxcar built in the U.S. The freight trains used these and other cars.
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The rock train leaving the quarry with its cargo.
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Another shot of the rock train, this time at the quarry.
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EPILOGUE Life as a traffic management type Transporter at Tuy Hoa Air Base with TMA-MACV had its routine days, and its not-so-routine days. Some of Tuy Hoa's rail operations were defintely not routine. We did what we could with what we had. Lessons learned? Don't park your vehicle downtown at the railroad station with a filled five-gallon gas can on the vehicle (the cans tend to disappear). Watch out for fully-loaded fighter-bombers taking off as your road goes around the end of the runway (the blast from the afterburner will warm up your vehicle even when the aircraft is maybe only twenty feet above you). Other than that, it was an interesting experience. My thanks to Steve Leuty, who served as the inspiration for this piece. He's the one who got me searching for pictures of Vung Ro Bay for his webpage , and that dredged up thirty year old memories of life in Tuy Hoa for me to share with you. Thanks, bro, and thanks to all those fellow Transporters and other loggy-toads who made it all worthwhile.

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