Dashu Old Railroad Bridge Relives its Glory／百年大樹舊鐵橋 越來越精彩
Dashu Old Railroad Bridge Relives its Glory
◎English translation: Lin Fang-ju
◎Photos by Pao Chung-hui
This year is the 100th anniversary of the completion of Dashu Old Railroad Bridge, a 1,526m-long bridge across the Gaoping River. Dubbed "the first long bridge in the Orient," the bridge was the first modern transportation connection between what is now Kaohsiung City and Pingtung County. Trains stopped using the bridge in 1987, but in light of its significance in the history of transportation in Taiwan, and its place in the hearts of local people, Kaohsiung City Government requested permission from the Ministry of Culture – which oversees the bridge because of its status as a relic – to reuse the old bridge. A 307m-long pedestrian path was built on the bridge, and it opened to the public in September 2014. This path has turned the long-closed bridge into Kaohsiung's first aerial lookout. Its uniqueness has made it one of the city's top attractions.
The old bridge was built during the Japanese colonial era to meet logistical demands. Sugar and other raw materials had to be moved between Kaohsiung and Pingtung. Because the bridge was erected over Taiwan's broadest river, flood prevention was a major challenge during construction. Iida Toyozi, a Japanese engineer, designed the bridge and supervised its building. After more than two years of work, the bridge was finished in 1914.
The old bridge consists of 24 sets of steel trusses, each 11.73m long. There were also 23 bridge piers made of granite and red bricks. These piers are about 9.5m high, and linked by arches to support the bridge. The steel trusses rusted over time, and have been replaced with trusses manufactured by Taiwan Railways Administration. However, the bridge still looks like it did decades ago.
Strict regulations limit the ways in which nationally-recognized historic sites can be renovated. Such work must not damage the original structure in any manner, and the original appearance must be left intact. Lee Yung-chi, the architect in charge of the restoration project, built an elevator at the abutment base to enhance accessibility. Boardwalks link the elevator and the bridge. A pedestrian path has been built on the eastern end of the bridge, over the wooden sleepers. The path is wide enough for wheelchairs. At the western end, the sleepers remain unchanged. Visitors can look up or down from the railroad to enjoy different views. The exposed wooden sleepers also enhance the site's historic atmosphere. Lee says he thinks the greatest success of the renovation project are the accessibility features. "Keep in mind the old railroad bridge has a maximum capacity of 150 people," he reminds those planning to visit, adding that if you are going to walk on the wooden sleepers, wearing flat shoes is advisable.
Revamping the old bridge has turned it into an aerial pedestrian path. Standing on the bridge, visitors can appreciate the beauty of the bridge's architecture, and enjoy views southward over the 120-hectare Dashu Old Railway Bridge Wetland Park. It is an excellent place to watch migrating birds between October and March. The spectacular sunsets every afternoon are enhanced by the trains which whistle by on the newer bridge a short distance to the north. This old bridge is both a glorious relic, and also a magnificent new attraction.
9am-6pm(until 5pm October to March)