Freight cars paid by USAID , Made in Japan for South Vietnam Railways in 1966-67 is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.


New Member
Working on a website dedicated to the history of railways in Vietnam and are looking for the manufacturer of the following freight cars and would appreciate any info.

In 1966-67 different freight cars were delivered to South Vietnam Railways, for them to manage and for US Army to use (or something like that).

USAID paid for them and US Army organized the deal.
Boxcars, gondolas, flat cars and tank cars. All meter gauge and of course quite a bit smaller than standard gauge US railroad cars. (And there were also GE U8b locos, but let’s leave them out for now)

These arrived in 1966 (according to the photo author, but in ’65 according to one USAID report)

…and these in 1967

Freight Cars-SGN-67-2.jpg



Exact numbers of freight cars are sort of known (220 in ’65 and 230 in ‘67 ) but not their source. According to the Army Logistic Report from 1974 they were to be sourced by the Army from Japan (1966), so there were two separate orders/deliveries.

So far I could only decipher “Hitachi” on one of the flat cars and the other flat car has a different manufacturer’s plaque, but unreadable (smbdy might recognize the logo though)

Flat Cars - Plaques.jpg

Coupling on the boxcar has “NATION” lettering. (so would Nation supply them to a Japanese manufacturer ?)


Another issue that I am trying to look into is how did they get them into Vietnam ?

So looking for photographs or descriptions or maybe even cargo lists (just dreaming) for the rolling stock that was brought into Vietnam (Saigon port & Cam Ranh port) during 1963-71 on several Seatrain (and other) voyages.

So far found photos:

Railroad locomotives off-loaded at Newport
D9e- Downloaded - Saigon 1970-71 by John Hettish - newport1_std.jpg

Unloading SeaTrain New Jersey in Cam Ranh Bay story
Boxcars to SVN - Operation Casey Jones-4-BB-929.jpg
Boxcars to SVN - Operation Casey Jones-3.jpg
Boxcars to SVN - Operation Casey Jones-2.jpg

Unloading Seatrain Florida, Saigon port , 8-1967

Earlier non-Seatrain vessels

1964 ?
Possibly USNS Card ( formerly ww2 escort carrier) (the one that was sunk next morning)

1963 ?
SS President Adams IV

And you are of course welcome to explore the biggest ever Indochina/Vietnam collection of railway related photos and infos
Railways and Tramways of Viet Nam


The unreadable plaque has the initials "LTD" in the name. That should indicate they were built somewhere other than the United States. My initial feeling is Japan, possibly Hong Kong, though they weren't known for building rail cars there.


New Member
All of the equipment funded by USAID was built in the US for Vietnam Railway System in South Vietnam. Between 1963 and 1966, this included 48 GE U8B locomotives, 221 box cars, 25 tank cars, 4 Orton wrecking cranes, several smaller rail cranes, maintenance equipment, spare parts, and many tons of track and bridge repair materials. All of the USAID funded equipment was purchased for Vietnam Railway System. USAID did not fund the purchase of US Army equipment.

Later in 1967, due to a rising need for more railcars to handle military consignments, the US Army, not USAID, purchased 200 flat cars and gondolas made in Japan. The choice to be made in Japan was most likely due to cheaper costs and a quicker arrival time. The US Army in 1967 also purchased a small fleet of US built reefers to handle food shipments for US personnel. These gons, flatcars, and reefers were owned by the US Army and were never owned by VNRS, and by the time of the US drawdown period were removed from South Vietnam and their disposition is unknown.

All of the other USAID funded railroad equipment owned by VNRS remained in South Vietnam and they are mostly still there today.

The word on the couplers of the US built locomotives and freight cars is "National", which was the imprint of the National Castings Division of Midland-Ross Corp., the primary supplier of AAR couplers at that time.
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New Member
Hi Bryan,

Thanks for your input.

In the mean time I have managed to get some more related info.

The USAID involvement for the second lot came from the attached Logistics Report from 1974 (DOD?)

USAID or not for the 2nd lot.jpg

Have found the suppliers for the first lot :

USOM Vietnam – Operational Report 1963-1964

Under the Development Loan Fund (now a part of AID), a loan of $9,700,000 was granted to the Vietnam Railway System in order to modernize the railway through dieselization, replacement of antiquated rolling stock and acquisition of machine tools to establish necessary repair arid maintenance facilities.
A contract was made with an engineering firm to assist the VRS, in planning and designing. Between Augnst and, November, 1963, 23 General Electric US·B'diesel electric engines were received and placed in service.
21 freight cars 'were delivered, in September 1963 from the Magor Car Company. A purchase was made, through Whitehead and Kales of 200 knocked down (or disassembled) freight cars which will be completely assembled by the railroad personnel in the car shops at Chi Hoa.
The cars will be received and construction started in the third quarter of 1964. '

And the following with a documentary:

Signing Of U.S. Farm Aid Agreement. Jan. 9, 1964

The agreement is intended to supply south vietnam with basic commercial food and farm products in the next 12 months. It was signed by prime minister nguyen tho, and the american ambassador to saigon, mr. Henry cabot lodge.

This is the and largest such agreement concluded between the two countries since june 1958, when the united states initiated its food-for-peace programme in vietnam with a six million american dollars tobacco agreement.

Meanwhile, 23 diesel-electric locomotives, 21 freight cars, 200 non-assembled freight cars and plant machinery arrived in Saigon under the united states direct aid project.

Mr. Joseph brent, director of american aid in his speech, under-lined the special situation now confronting vietnamese railroad which suffered from frequent viet cong sabotage activities.

Mr. Tran ngoc oanh, minister of public works and telecommunications, was among the many dignitaries present at the saigon railway station.

Still not clear how was the second batch of 23 locos paid for (i.e. obviously USAID, but when was the contract signed etc.)

Looking at JICA report from 1974 ( status as of 10/1973) I can’t see that railcars were taken out by the withdrawing army in March 1973.

HXVN - JICA Report 1974.jpg

I think that I have found (noticed, actually) a photo with two (or more) reefers :

Reefer - BB-940 - NZST - 1969-71.jpg

Still have no docs or even a mentioning (just the photos further above on the previous post) re. the tankers unloaded on 8/1967.

and also no info re. gravel dump gondolas/hoppers ? or what is the proper name for these (that might have been made in Japan or Australia):



New Member
Interestingly, the first shipment of 21 boxcars for VNRS were among the last export freight cars built by Magor. Around that time, Fruehauf Corp. purchased the company and all export work ended which is ironic considering Magor's history was well known as a major supplier of export freight cars. So a tender was then put out for other manufacturers to supply the remaining 200 boxcars that the contract called for, with Whitehead & Kales being chosen. As mentioned, these 200 cars were shipped disassembled and then completely reassembled by the VNRS in Saigon. This was quite a large quantity of 221 boxcars in total, and most of these boxcars were in excess of the needs of the VNRS during the war. Quite a few were actually fitted with benches inside for use as very crude passenger cars. And in other locations, the cars sat on sidings for long periods of time and refugees could be found living in them.

The US Army reefers were built by Pacific Car & Foundry.

The US built equipment procured by USAID can be identified as being built with modern roller bearing trucks, standard AAR automatic knuckle couplers, and USAID plates. The USAID plates are similar to bank trust plates on domestic railroad equipment. But in the case of USAID, the plates could only be removed when the equipment was paid off. At the time, all of the new equipment with automatic knuckle couplers were fitted with special steel buffer plates to be compatible with VNRS's screw and buffer coupler equipped cars. The new equipment had hook and screw couplers underneath the automatic knuckle coupler. There were many plans drawn up for complete modernization and upgrading of the entire system. And part of VNRS's new modernization plan was to transition from the screw and buffer couplers to modern automatic knuckle couplers. But unfortunately due to the nearly constant VC sabotage of the VNRS, the complete modernization and upgrades did not take place until after the war, including the transition to complete use of automatic knuckle couplers.

Likewise, the Japanese manufactured flatcars and gondolas for the US Army were also built to US specs with automatic knuckle couplers and roller bearings per the modernization plan.

On the other hand, while I don't know the manufacturer of the side discharge hopper cars, they were built with only a single permanent center buffer with hook and screw couplers and did not have roller bearings, indicating they were likely not built in the US or Japan. These cars were primarily used in the quarry and rock crushing operations around Phu Cat and Tuy Hoa airbases. They may have been acquired exclusively for these operations. One of the charts posted above lists a total of 90 hopper cars. But curiously, the chart immediately below it showing country of origin completely omits the hopper cars.


New Member

Thanks for your info.


Could you give the source for the reefer manufacturer ?

Was every U8B "equipped" to run these reefers ?

French boxcar converted into passenger car (NatGeo 1964)
Boxcar-Passengers- NatGeo 1964 001.jpg

USAID boxcar converted (?) for passenger use (video 1974 by Gerd Nielsen)
Boxcars & D9E SAIGON 1974 by Gerd Nielsen - Thủ Đức.jpg is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

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