Gokteck [Gokteik] Gorge, the old haunt of jungle beasts, with railway 1000 ft overhead, North Burma
Photographer: Underwood and Underwood
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic pair of photographs taken by Underwood & Underwood in c.1900, of the viaduct carrying a railway line spanning the spectacular gorge at Gokteik in Burma (Myanmar). A caption printed on the reverse of the mount describes the gorge: “It is 180 miles eastward from Mandalay to Lashio, the capital of the northern Shan States…The backbone of the railway system of Burma is the line stretching from Rangoon to Mandalay and thence proceeding to Myitkyina, headquarters of the most northerly district of Upper Burma, 724 miles from Rangoon. But more celebrated is the branch that runs from Mandalay to Lashio, because of this bridge swung across the Gokteik Gorge. Along this ravine flows a rapid river which has eaten a tunnel through the rock barrier 400 feet high, directly in front of us. On either side are high bluffs of limestone, the one on the right, 1,000 feet high, is capped by tree-clad downs. The line is carried across the valley and gorge by a graceful trestle bridge to the bluffs beyond. It gradually ascends by a series of tunnelings and tortuous curves till it reaches the summit of the hills many feet above the level of the bridge itself. The abutments and foundations were prepared by the railroad company. An American firm of engineers erected the bridge, the total length of which is 2,260 feet. It is carried by fifteen lattice-work trestles, the highest of which is 320 feet long and rests upon the natural bridge of rock which spans the Chung-zaum river, 825 feet below rail level. 4,300 tons of iron and steel were used in construction, and 1,000,000 rivets. The cost was £113,200 ($566,000). These figures give some idea of the magnitude of the undertaking – here in the wildest surroundings of mountain and forest. Every pound of metal was shipped to Gokteik from New York, yet the work was completed in nine months.” The prints are from a collection of 36 stereoscopic views of Burma, one of a series of “stereoscopic tours” of foreign countries published as part of the ‘Underwood Travel Library’. Stereoscopic views became enormously popular from the mid-19th century onward as they enabled observers to imagine that they were really “touring” around distant parts of the world. Each pair of views, made using a special camera with two lenses, is mounted on stout card for insertion in a stereoscope or binocular viewer. The stereoscope produces the illusion of a single three-dimensional image by using the binocular function of human sight to combine the two images, which are seen from fractionally different viewpoints. The prints in this set are generally of high quality and selected for their clarity and instructive value.