APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
Nelson Overview


Nelson Electric Tramway Society

Source: Society publications and notes from Harold Geissenheimer

Nelson is a city of over 9,000 residents on a Canadian Pacific line. It is about midway between Vancouver and Calgary. Streetcar service was inaugurated in 1899 due to the promise of rich mineral discoveries. It was one of the smallest street railways operated anywhere in the British Empire. The streetcars carried passengers up and down some of the steepest grades on any conventional street railway. With limited funds, a small group of dedicated employees struggled to maintain service in all kinds of weather in a city whose size did not really justify a street railway. However, the public supported the operation and cars kept operating until after World War II, when the system’s aging track and equipment could no longer be maintained.

In 1982, the Nelson & District Chamber of Commerce became interested in the remains of one of the last cars to run on the line, No. 23. The Chamber and the Vocational Division of Selkirk College applied jointly for a federal government community development grant to cover the initial costs of restoring the car. The work was carried out in several stages depending on the Canada Works grants received. The second grant of CDN$26,000 received in January 1984 permitted structural work to be finished along with much exterior work. A third grant funded seats, windows, and other interior appointments. With the help of Selkirk College and many hours of volunteer labor, the body was rebuilt and electrical and mechanical equipment found from places as far away as Brussels and Melbourne. In 1987, the Chamber turned the project over to the Nelson Electric Tramway Society who completed the restoration and put the car into operation again on Nelson’s waterfront. Operation began on July 1, 1992.

No. 23, is a single end, double truck, deck roof, two-man rear entrance city car. It was one of three cars operated in Nelson at the end of streetcar service in 1949. Following abandonment, all mechanical and electrical parts of the car were sold for scrap, and the body became a change house and then a dog kennel and was stored outside. Now it has been carefully restored with excellent interior woodwork and seating. It is in like new condition. The Toronto Transit Commission, Canadian Pacific Railway, and many volunteer groups helped with the restoration and startup. The Stephenson Car Company of New Jersey built the car in 1906 for the Forest City Railway (Car No. 3334) and then Cleveland Railway (Car No. 934) The three cars became Nelson Nos. 21, 22, and 23 and served to the end in 1949.

The Nelson Electric Tramway Society owns the line and car. Funding comes from fares, donations, and the sale of postcards. Society membership is available for CDN$20.00 per year.

The vintage trolley line operates at or near the shore of Lake Kootenay (west arm) from the downtown Convention Center through the parking lot of the Chahko Mika Mall to the park below the high-level highway bridge to the north shore. The line has a loop at each end and is basically single track with passing sidings on private right of way. There is a two-track car barn located one stop from the east end of the line. Station shelters are provided at most stops. Electric traction power is provided by new construction of simple trolley wire supported by overhead side brackets. The overhead is clean and simple. Service is provided daily from Victoria Day until Labor Day with weekend operations in the Spring and Fall. It is operated by volunteers and is under the jurisdiction of the British Columbia Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Fares charged are CN$2.00 per adult and CDN$1.00 for youth or senior citizens.

Nelson is also served by BC Transit’s City of Nelson bus system. Three city routes are operating on a half hour headway supplemented by a route to the north shore.

[Back to Nelson]