Gokteik Viaduct


I have always been perplexed by the term Gokteik Viaduct but has not looked into the matter until recently, when I saw the BaWaThanThaYar bridge photo posted by my friend and classmate May Chan (her father’s photo).

The relation between the 2 might seem queer to many, but they are the 2 must-see railway bridges built by the British during the colonial times. I have experience with both as my father was a railways civil engineer who had taken the posts of D.E. Bridges, D.E. Mandalay (which controls the Thazi ShweNyaung tract) and finally before retirement, Dy. C.E., Bridges. He was involved in the rebuilding of the Sittaung bridge when I was young and the building of the Gokteik Viaduct bypass tract just before his retirement.

Although it is a bridge it is called viaduct by Westerners and I recently looked in the Wikipedia for Viaduct: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viaduct

A viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans. The term viaduct is derived from the Latin via for road and ducere to lead something. However, the Ancient Romans did not use that term per se; it is a modern derivation from an analogy with aqueduct. Like the Roman aqueducts, many early viaducts comprised a series of arches of roughly equal length. Viaducts may span land or water or both.

The first time I got to the Gokteik Viaduct was about my 6th Standard summer vacation when we travelled to Lashio and Monywa by train. We dropped off the train at Gokteik and visited the bridge while waiting for the next train with which we continued our journey.

We had the opportunity to go onto the bridge by trolley as my father was a railways engineer and the local IOW (inspector of works) showed us around. We stopped in the middle of the bridge and got off the trolley and had a great view from the bridge which passengers had only for a few moments. The valley is very deep and we were at great height. Later, when we got back to the end of the bridge, we got down to the base of the middle spans. There is no water beneath the bridge as the stream had gone underground somewhere up and only surfaced downside before it reaches the road GokTwinn bridge. The 2 bridges have different names because of their locations: at the top and the bottom of the Gokteik ridge.

Even at the time, the age of the Gokteik Viaduct was over the certified period but there is no budget to rebuild it. Trains have to go very slowly over it, giving the passengers more time to enjoy the sight.

Later, the government ordered a bypass tract to be built as rail contact with the eastern part would be lost if anything happens to the bridge. Although it was finished, it became covered with sand and gravel during the first rainy season after its completion. I do not know of more news about it.

Gokteik Viaduct

From HighestBridges.com


Gokteik Viaduct
Nawnghkio, Shan, Myanmar
335 feet high / 102 meters high
120 foot span / 37 meter span

The largest railway trestle in the world upon its completion in 1901, the Gokteik Viaduct is the highest bridge in Myanmar. Located in the center of the country about 60 miles (100 kms) northeast of the largest city of Mandalay, the rail line was constructed as a way for the British Empire to expand their influence in the region. Constructed when the country was originally called Burma, the bridge was designed and fabricated by the Pennsylvania Steel Company and shipped overseas. Construction was overseen by Sir Arthur Rendel, engineer for the Burma Railroad Company. Stretching 2,260 feet (689 mtrs) from end to end, the viaduct has 14 towers that span 40 feet (12 mtrs) along with a double tower 80 feet (24 mtrs) long. These 15 towers support 10 deck truss spans of 120 feet (37 mtrs) along with six plate girder spans 60 feet (18 mtrs) long and an approach span of 40 feet (12 mtrs). Many sources have put the height of the bridge at 820 feet (250 mtrs). This is supposedly a measurement to the river level as it flows underground through a tunnel at the point it passes underneath the trestle. The true height of the bridge as measured from the rail deck to the ground on the downstream side of the tallest tower is 335 feet (102 mtrs).

Although larger concrete viaducts and steel cantilever bridges were constructed before and after Gokteik, no other conventional box tower and girder type steel trestle has ever exceeded it in size except for the monstrous Lethbridge Viaduct in Alberta, Canada which is about the same in height but more than twice the length. The Joso bridge in the U.S. state of Washington, the Poughkeepsie bridge in the U.S. state of New York and the original Kinzua viaduct in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania are the only other traditional steel trestles that are equal in size to Gokteik.

The bridge can be reached by taking a train from Mandalay or Pyin U Lwin north towards Nawnghkio where the bridge is located about 3 miles (5 kms) further east. A round trip ticket from Mandalay to the bridge costs around $8 for foreigners. Burmese soldiers are stationed on the train as well as on top of and underneath the bridge to prevent any potential attacks.


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2 Responses to “Gokteik Viaduct”

  1. Harry Hpone Thant Says:

    Great. Thanks you very much for sharing. Please also visit my website to read about Myanmar’s nature, culture and traditions.

  2. nyiwin Says:

    Thanks ko Harry
    I enjoy your “enchantingmyanmar.com” very much
    every Myanmar and all interested should visit it

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