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Burnt Richmond trestle bridge carried Marpole-Steveston trams until 1950s

Ten years ago a fire at the other end of the trestle bridge also caused the closure of the Oak Street Bridge.

The 1902-built trestle bridge that was the site of a spectacular fire on Thursday evening used to connect Richmond and Marpole with trams running on it until the 1950s.

The decommissioned bridge in Richmond's Bridgeport area was engulfed in flames after 8 p.m. on Thursday after a loading bay and private dock on the shoreline of the North Arm of the Fraser River caught fire.

The Marpole Bridge was built in May 1902 by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and was used to connect Richmond and what was then called Eburne, now known as Marpole.

In 1905, the British Columbia Electric Railway Company (BCER) leased the line and electrified it to run inter-urban trams.

The bridge serviced the Lulu Island line, or as it is commonly known as, the “Marpole-Steveston line.” 

The final day of the "once majestic and mighty streetcars and inter-urbans" was supposed to be on Sunday, April 24, 1955, explained Cato Leung, local history buff, urban explorer and volunteer with the Steveston Tram Museum.

"Richmondites, however, refused to part with their dependable tram and even brought it up to the B.C. Supreme Court and were able to convince BCER to allow the Marpole-Steveston line to run an additional three years."

The Marpole-Steveston inter-urban tram ran until Feb. 28, 1958 and was the last tram line to run in the Lower Mainland. However, some freight was still carried along the line until the 1970s.

Leung told the Richmond News that a barge carrying wood chips struck a steel support of the bridge in 1967, resulting in the bridge's 32.3-metre swing span collapsing into the river.

"Not sure how much it costs to repair, but concrete barriers/support were added as a result of this," he said.

In 2014, a fire destroyed a 100-metre section of the creosote-treated wooden trestle on the Marpole side.

And similar to the fire this Thursday, thick smoke temporarily closed the Oak Street Bridge.

The year after another barge collision, in 2016, the CPR removed the swing span and the platform.

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