Yesanhe Railway Bridge

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Yesanhe Railway Bridge
Gaopingzhen, Hubei, China
459 feet high / 140 meters high
407 foot span / 124 meter span

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The amazing Yi-wan Railway opened in 2010 as the most difficult train line project ever undertaken in China. The Yichang to Enshi section of the railway bypasses the 3 Gorges stretch of the Yangtze River with a seemingly endless succession of tunnels and bridges. It is rare for any rail line in the world to have a single bridge over 280 feet (85 meters) high - the Yiwan Railway line has fifteen that exceed that height threshold!.

With more than 70 percent of the route either in a tunnel or on a bridge, the complex geology of the terrain forced the engineers to overcome landslides, falling rocks and steep terrain.

The 15 highest bridges include Wanzhou Yangtze, Shuangliu, Sibuhe, Yeyabang, Zhoubadeng, Dukouhe, Yaojiawan, Makou, Mashuihe, Longwangmiao, Yesanhe, Yexihe, Zhaojialing, Shizikou and Luobuxi Bridges.

It is no surprise that the highest bridge on the route was built to cross the deep gash of the Yesanhe River gorge. Located just a mile (2 kms) or so upstream of the 1977 arch, the new Yesanhe railway bridge is even higher at 459 feet (140 meters). Roughly paralleling the new rail line is the spectacular West Hurong highway with Siduhe and Zhijinghe, the highest suspension and arch road bridges in the world.

The Yesanhe was one of China’s first big rivers to be crossed by a very high bridge when a reinforced concrete arch span of 295 feet (90 meters) opened in 1977. At the time it was the highest bridge ever built in China at 400 feet (122 meters). It was not surpassed for 18 years until the Jiangjiehe arch bridge was built in 1995.

Built as a concrete filled steel tubular structure, the Yesanhe railway arch was initially hollow during construction. After the pieces were assembled across the gorge using a highline, concrete was pumped inside of them from the foundations upward to the crown. First developed by the Chinese in the 1990s, they have refined and improved the technique and now use it on the majority of their steel arch bridges. Depending on the length of the span and the width of the bridge, different styles of tubing are used. For Yesanhe, two horizontal dumbbells were used for each rib. Other configurations have single tubes further apart or a tight cluster of tubes known as “multiple contiguous”. Once hardened, the concrete solidifies and stiffens the arch, improving the compressive strength of the entire structure. The Yesanhe is an asymmetrical partial through arch.

If you visit the Yesanhe highway, road and rail bridges, also be sure to hike down to the water pipeline bridge just downstream of the road arch to the south as well as a new pipeline bridge next to the road arch to the north. The older suspension pipeline span is at least 250 feet (76 meters) high while the new one is around 400 feet (122 meters) high.

Even further north is the Shimenhe gorge with the spectacular Shimenhe glass footbridge.





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Yesanhe Railway Bridge Elevation





Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /

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Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


A mid-2006 view of the Yesanhe River Railway bridge showing the high line construction tower. Image by Eric Sakowski /








Yesanhe River Railway bridge drawing.


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by


Yesanhe Railway Bridge satellite image.


Yesanhe River Railway Bridge satellite image showing the rail line crossing to the north and the national road arch and old pipeline bridge to the south. The new pipeline bridge was not yet constructed.


Yesanhe River Bridges location map.



The 15 highest bridges along the Yi-Wan Railway line between Yichang and Wanzhou cities.