The Gokteik Viaduct is a vertigo-inducing steel railway bridge that spans a deep river gorge. Built in 1899 and officially opened in 1901, the bridge was constructed as part of the Mandalay to Lashio railway line into Northern Shan State, aimed at expanding the British Empire’s influence in Myanmar.
The viaduct is located in the center of the country, about 60 miles northeast of Mandalay. It measures 689 meters (2,261 feet) long and it is built atop 14 towers that rise up to 102 meters (335 feet) above the gorge. At the time of its construction, the bridge was the tallest railway bridge in the world and was considered to be an engineering marvel.
It was designed in London, and the pieces were manufactured by the Pennsylvania Steel Company. Pieces of the structure were built in the United States and then loaded onto ships for the months-long journey from New York to Southeast Asia. Just under a year after the pieces arrived, the bridge was assembled.
American writer Paul Theroux’s describes the viaduct as “a monster of silver geometry in all the ragged rock and jungle” in his 1975 book The Great Railway Bazaar. Trains still run over this bridge every day, the steel towers suspending riders above the deep ravine.