Hot Docs 2018: The Trolley

The history of the streetcar is told in the IMAX documentary The Trolley. First arriving towards the end of the 19th century, there was once a time when there were thousands of trolley companies around the world. However, with the arrival of the automobile and other forms of public transportation, the trolley started disappearing around the world. However, streetcars continued to thrive in cities like Toronto and recent rise of light rail has seen the trolley make a comeback.

Directed by Stephen Low and narrated by Maurice Dean Wint, The Trolley is an IMAX-shot documentary that looks at the history of streetcars worldwide. Being a Canadian documentary, there is a particularly strong focus in the film on the TTC and its “red rocket” streetcars. However, the film also takes a look at LRT systems in Europe and Hong Kong and how the trolley has started to make a major resurgence in recent years.

Running at a brisk 45 minutes, The Trolley hearkens back to the many education IMAX documentaries that were quite prominent in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed the film is well shot, with many POV streetcar shots that puts you right in the action. While The Trolley can be viewed somewhat as a fluff piece for the TTC, it is an interesting fact that Toronto’s 83 km streetcar system is one of the longest continuous trolley services in the world. While their presence may annoy car-loving commuters, there is a certain majestic charm to the trolley.

8 / 10 stars
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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).