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Beipanjiang River Railway Bridge the world's highest!

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Dr. N. Subramanian
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 8:14 pm    Post subject: Beipanjiang River Railway Bridge the world's highest! Reply with quote

Beipanjiang River Railway Bridge

Beipanjiang River Railway Bridge is the world's highest railway bridge. The bridge spans a deep canyon on the Beipan River near the city of Liupanshui in Guizhou province, China. The arch bridge, with a maximum height of 275 m and a span width of 235 m, was built in 2001 with the construction of the Shuibai Railway.

When it opened in 2001, the 275 m high Beipanjiang River railway bridge became the highest arch bridge on earth, unseating the 23 year old record long held by West Virginia’s New River Gorge bridge. It also became the world’s highest railway bridge, toppling the quarter century record of the Mala Rijeka viaduct in Podgorica, Montenegro. In 2009, the Beipanjiang river railway bridge lost its highest arch title to another Chinese span, the 294 m high Zhijinghe road bridge while sometime after 2015, the opening of India’s 321 m high Chenab bridge will push it into second place overall among railway bridges.

Located just west of the city of Liupanshui near the north end of China’s Guizhou province on the Shuibai Railway, the Beipanjiang railway bridge crosses an exceptionally deep gorge with vertical cliffs rising hundreds of feet from either side of the Beipan river. The bridge was the first of 3 Beipanjiang crossings to have been among the world’s 10 highest. The second was the Beipanjiang River highway bridge that opened in 2003 near Huajiang while the third came along in 2009 on the Guiyang to Kunming Highway. The 3 bridges are spaced about 80 kms apart from each other. No other river on earth outside China has more than one high bridge over it - the Beipanjiang has 3! If that is not incredible enough, a fourth crossing is planned for a highway between Kunming and Bijie in the vicinity of the railway bridge.

The word Beipanjiang (pronounced Bay-Pan-Gee-Ang) translates into North Winding River with the word “bei” meaning north and “pan” meaning winding. Cutting a huge swath from the northwest end of Guizhou Province to the southwest where it becomes the Hongshui he River at the border of Guangxi Province, the Beipanjiang River traverses through some of China’s most spectacular mountain gorges. The river remains the biggest obstacle between the city of Guiyang and the city of Kunming.

Construction of the bridge was built using a method developed by the Chinese that had never been used before on a bridge so large. Instead of building two temporary towers to support a “high line” to assist in building the two sides of the arch outward until they met in the middle, the two halves of the bridge were built separately on falsework constructed just above ground on the hillsides at the edge of the canyon. Once completed, each side was then rotated horizontally outward over the river in one delicate maneuver and then connected at the crown. The central bearing located on top of each of the foundations consisted of a pair of closely fitted 3.5 m diameter concave spherical sections with a radius of 8 m. On top of the lower bearing, between the two sections, 610 pieces of 60mm x 18mm teflon flakes were used to keep friction to a minimum. A massive water tank was installed on the back of the counter weighting pier to assist in finding an accurate center of gravity as well as preventing the system from overturning. Once the two halves of the arch were closed at the crown, the rotatable foundations were entombed in tons of concrete. This unique method of rotating the arch halves during construction has been used on other large arch bridges in China including those that are built on flat terrain just above the level of the river.

A huge footbridge was built across the gorge to allow bridge workers access to both sides of the arch construction. With a maximum vertical deck to water distance 198 m, this is the highest catenary footbridge ever built. Despite its dilapidated condition, Eric Sakowski  ventured across the chicken wire walkway in August of 2011. Travel mates Roger Perrin and Georges thought he was a bit crazy. This once-in-lifetime experience made for some great photos as well as bragging rights of being the only person outside of China to have crossed such a high, Tibet-style footbridge. The 200 m long structure is composed of 6 parallel cables that support a wire mesh. On the East side there are 2 wind stabilizing cables. Image by Eric Sakowski / HighestBridges.com

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