Tri-Town Trolleys: The Story of the Nipissing Central Railway


138 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88954-247-3






Reviewed by Les Harding

Les Harding is author of The Voyages of Lesser Men: Thumbnail Sketches
in Canadian Exploration.


The author of Tri-Town Trolleys, who has written about railways before, discovered the existence of the Nipissing Central Railway while conducting research into the history of the Ontario Northland Railway and its predecessor, the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway. In an out-of-the-way museum Mr. Helm came across a very peculiar photograph. It showed an electric streetcar in the wilds of northern Ontario. The author’s research was immediately diverted and this book is the result.

The Nipissing Central Railway operated from 1910 to 1935, calling itself the most northerly electric railway in the world. It was a tiny line operating only twenty miles of track at its peak. The railway served the towns of Cobalt, Haileybury, and New Liskeard in the clay belt of northeastern Ontario. What made the NCR so unusual was that it was essentially a commuter train operating streetcars in the far north of Ontario.

The book contains a number of interesting black-and-white photographs of the NCR in operation. Other photographs, taken by the author, record the NCR’s sad remains. There is more text here than is found in most railway books. The author has an unfortunate habit of using exclamation points at will and at times waxes poetic about “indefatigably determined” locomotives rending the vast forests and cleaving the giant rocks. But for all that, the text is a concise account of the NCR’s construction, operation, trials and tribulations, and eventual decline and fall due to the Depression and the automobile. The book is sure to be of value to those interested in obscure rail lines or in the history of the Tri-Town area.


Helm, Norman, “Tri-Town Trolleys: The Story of the Nipissing Central Railway,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,