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

YesanheRailwayLateDay copy.jpg

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 mtrs) opened in 1977. At the time it was the highest bridge ever built in China at 400 feet (122 mtrs). It was not surpassed for 18 years until the Jiangjiehe arch bridge was built in 1995.

By 2000, planning and construction had begun on a new railway line that would bypass the Yangtze River gorge and finally connect Shanghai in the east with the fast growing cities of Chongqing and Chengdu in the west. The Yichang to Enshi stretch of the railway is one of the most difficult construction projects ever undertaken in the history of railways 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 328 feet (100 mtrs) - the Yichang to Enshi stretch has at least four. 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 mtrs). Roughly paralleling the new rail line is the spectacular West Hurong highway with Siduhe and Zhijinghe, the highest suspension and arch bridges in the world.

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.

Although Yesanhe was completed in 2008, the rail line is not likely to open until 2010. 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 as well as a new pipeline bridge next to the road arch. The older suspension pipeline span is at least 250 feet (76 mtrs) high while the new one is around 400 feet (122 mtrs).







Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /

YesanheRailwayView2 copy.jpg

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 /


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Yesanhe River Bridges location map.


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.

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