Nine Arch Bridge (Ella)

Nine Arch Bridge
The Nine Arch Bridge (Sinhala: ආරුක්කු නමයේ පාලම) is a masonry arch bridge/viaduct located on Badulla railway line in Badulla District, Sri Lanka. The bridge is situated between Ella and Demodara railway stations and about 2.2 km distance from Ella town along the Passara road. It is considered one of the largest viaducts in the country. 

The viaduct contains 9 arches and therefore, it is known among the locals as "Nine Arch Bridge" or "Ahas Nawaya Palama (nine skies bridge)". Presently, the bridge is popular among local and foreign tourists as a picturesque spot especially as it is located in a dense jungle and agricultural setting.

The bridge was built by native labour under British supervision and direction in the later 19th century by joining two bog mountains when the extension of the Badulla railway line from Bandarawela was carried out (Marwood, 1923). The designs for the project were prepared and the work put in hand by Harold Cuthbert Marwood, the engineer in charge of that section of the railway to the approval of M. Cole Bowen, the Chief Construction Engineer (Marwood, 1923).

The construction work of the bridge was carried out by the Railway Construction Department, a temporary branch of the Public Service and with the assistance of local petty contractors who supply the labour (Marwood, 1923). The cement of British manufacture was used for the construction while the stone and sand for concrete were obtained from the vicinity of the work site (Marwood, 1923). Arch centres and other woodwork were made locally from imported Burma teak (Marwood, 1923). It is said that the only plant used on the work was a concrete mixer, one crane and two Scotch Derricks (Marwood, 1923).

The work was completed in January 1919, two years after commencement (Marwood, 1923). The bridge was commissioned in 1921.

Nine Arch Bridge
The bridge
Located almost 3,100 ft. above sea level, the bridge is 400 ft. (121.92 m) in length and the greatest height from rail level to bed of stream is 100 ft. 6 in. [(30.63 m) ]. It has 9 spans of 30 ft. (9.14 m) and semi-circular arches of 15 ft. (4.57 m) radius (Marwood, 1923). It has been built entirely of rocks and cement without using steel. The reason for constructing a concrete viaduct instead of a steel one was due to the impossibilities of obtaining steelwork from England (Marwood, 1923).

The curve, the gradient and the foundation are the three main factors considered in designing the bridge (Marwood, 1923). The arches have been designed to consist of concrete blocks the full width of the arch (2 ft. 6 in.) and for the ground part, blocks of smaller size have been used (Marwood, 1923). 

A protected monument
The Nine Arch Bridge situated on the upcountry railway track of Gotuwela and the area in the extent of 100 m  per the direction of the railway track runs towards eastern and western directions of the same in the Grama Niladhari Division of, Maduragama in Ella Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government notification published on 1 February 2023.

Nine Arch Bridge Nine Arch Bridge Nine Arch Bridge Nine Arch Bridge Nine Arch Bridge
1) Marwood, H. C., 1923. Construction of a concrete railway viaduct in Ceylon. Transactions of the Engineering Association of Ceylon. pp.83-89.
2) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: Extraordinary. No: 2317/57. 1 February 2023. p.9A.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 5 November 2023


  1. Author
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  2. Good Article.It's interesting to read.I have visited Nine Arch Bridge last December.A beautiful place and hope to come again.
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