The Gokteik Viaduct is located in Upper Burma in the Shan state. It is a compelling structure in the middle of the rock cliffs and thick jungle of the Shan Plateau. The Gokteik Viaduct is a steel trestle railroad bridge that spans the Gokteik Gorge. It is part of the Lashio branch of the Union of Burma Railways. Lashio is about 50 miles west of the border with China. Lashio is the terminus of the Lashio branch.

The Gokteik Viaduct was built in 1899 by the Pennsylvania Steel Company. At the time, Burma was part of India and the railroad was being constructed by the British. The bridge is 320 feet high and 2250 feet long and consists of ten spans. During the monsoon season, waters from the Myitnge River rush through the steel framework of the bridge.

During WWII the bridge sustained damage by the Japanese who invaded Burma. They cut off the Burma road which was a major supply route to China and also damaged the Ava Bridge which is part of the railway system. Both bridges were out of service until 1954.

In Paul Theroux's book The Great Railway Bazaar one of his goals is to take in the Gokteik Viaduct. Theroux read about the bridge in a couple of railroad books published early in the 20th century. He meets resistance almost every step of the way, being told that foreign tourists are not permitted to see the bridge. But he manages to overcome each obstacle and eventually sees the bridge and rides over it.

It was Theroux's account of the Gokteik Viaduct that I remembered the most from his book and was the primary muse for this writeup.

Paul Theroux. The Great Railway Bazaar : By Train Through Asia. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975.
Brian Hollingsworth. Railways of the World. New York: Gallery Books, 1979.
"Burma." The 1989 Information Please Almanac Boston: Hougton Mifflin Company, 1989.

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