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From Value One, Winter 2008-2009, No. 23  


Kami Town in Hyogo Prefecture faces the Sea of Japan and is where the Amarube Railway Bridge, known as the biggest trestle bridge in Japan, is located. The bridge is situated between Yoroi Station and Amarube Station on Japan Railways’ San’in Main Line. Girders mounted on steel trestles assembled like towers make up the structure of a trestle bridge. The Amarube Bridge is 310 meters long and 41 meters tall, making it the biggest such structure in Japan. The vivid vermilion of the bridge and the beauty of the surrounding landscape with the Sea of Japan in the background attract not only rail enthusiasts but also many general tourists from all over Japan.

Associate Professor Masaaki Okada of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Kinki University is one of the top experts in “technoscape” (industrial landscape) studies and highly appreciates the value of this bridge. According to Professor Okada, “The Amarube Railway Bridge is valuable not only as a part of our civil engineering heritage but also for the sense of overwhelming reality it evokes in the mind of anyone who sees it in person. In the United Kingdom, Scotland’s Forth Railway Bridge evokes a similar feeling. The very fact that such a magnificent structure was built almost 100 years ago moves the viewer.”

It took approximately two years to build the Amarube Railway Bridge and an aggregate manpower of some 250,000 until its completion in 1912. The designer was Seiichi Furukawa, a staff engineer of the Railway Board. Following the advice of U.S. engineer P. L. Wolfel, Furukawa based his design on the trestle structure, which was extensively used at the time in the United States. Steel for the bridge piers, totaling about 994 tonnes in weight, was shipped from the Pencoyd plant of the American Bridge Company to off the coast of Amarube and taken to shore on barges.

The Amarube Railway Bridge, a valuable part of Japan’s civil engineering heritage, will be replaced with a new concrete bridge in 2010. Already more than 90 years old, the bridge piers are increasingly timeworn, and traffic over the bridge is strictly controlled when the wind velocity is 20 m/s or more. This restriction was necessitated by an accident in 1986 in which a train was blown off the bridge by strong winds. Unfortunately, this restriction also disrupts the train schedule and inconveniences the people who live there. Such circumstances motivated the replacement of the bridge.

The Amarube Railway Bridge has been loved by residents and tourists for a century. This magnificent structure will remain forever as a beautiful memory in the minds of those who had had the chance to see it.
Amarube Railway Bridge under construction (circa 1911)



A beautiful view of the Amarube Railway Bridge



Amarube Station



Trestles of the Okuzawa Railway Bridge on the JR Ome Line

There are 12 trestle bridges in Japan, including the Amarube Railway Bridge. The oldest trestle bridge is the Shimonokawa Railway Bridge in Kasagi Town, Kyoto, built in 1897. The Okuzawa Railway Bridge in Ome City is the closest trestle bridge to metropolitan Tokyo. With a view to handing down the Amarube Railway Bridge as a valuable legacy of modern civil engineering, the Hyogo prefectural government organized a competition last October to chose the best idea for utilizing the steel dismantled from the bridge. Also, there is a plan to preserve part of the bridge in an observation facility and construct a building in memory of the bridge.
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