Maybe this recommendation is a bridge too far. I don’t want to bore you with a book about tunnels, bridges and stuff like that. But really, Incredible Crossings: the History and Art of the Bridges, Tunnels and Inland Ferries That Connect British Columbia by Derek Hayes is an engaging read about something that we barely even notice. After all, there probably is not a person in Richmond who hasn’t crossed at least one of our bridges (unless it’s a baby born in Richmond Hospital). We take those crossings for granted. For many of us, they’ve basically always been there. But there was a point where getting from town to town and city to city was an ordeal: either we had to wait for a ferry, or drive tens of kilometers out of the way, or take a train because the only reasonable route out the city was the Interurban tram.
Derek Hayes is a local historian who I recommended a few years ago with his Historical Atlas of Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley (still worth a read): he writes historical atlases and histories British Columbia, North America, the UK, and more. The books are filled with photographs and stories of the history of the areas covered, from Indigenous settlements to modern metropolises and many of the villages and towns in between.
In Incredible Crossings, Hayes highlights as many bridges in the province as he can find, with a particular focus on the Lower Mainland. There are whole sections devoted to each arm of the Fraser River (Arthur Laing, Marpole Rail Bridge, Oak, Knight, all on the North Arm, for example), as well as sections for each area of the rest of the province. Historical photos as well as pictures taken by the author himself abound, with many of the shots being artistic views and compositions of the structures showing angles we never otherwise consider as we pass over (and probably shouldn’t if we are the ones in the driver’s seat).
According to the author, this book was born of the need to change plans during COVID travel restrictions: he was expecting to write about another of his passions, railways, when a trip to Japan was cancelled. The result is a look at how beautiful our province is, with stunning scenery and surprisingly interesting ways to access it, from bridges to ferries to unusual cable supported air trams that used to transport cars. Discover a new way of looking at our province that might have never “crossed” your mind.
Steven McCreedy is a library technician at the Cambie Branch of the Richmond Public Library