Consulter nos archives / Consult our archives

La majorité des documents conservés par le Centre d'archives et de documentation de l'ACHF sont disponibles pour consultation.

Most of the documents kept by the ACHF Archives and Documentation Center are available for consultation.

Canadian Rail 437 1993

Lien vers le document

Canadian Rail 437 1993

Canadian Rail

, I
$ 4DO
Canadian Railway Troops

.. I.e. ..,/
1918 75th Anniversary of the End of World War I 1993

~ .<. e;;,-

IS$N 0008~!5
EDITOR: Fred F. Angus
CO-EDITOR: Douglas N,W. Smith
ASSOCIATE EDITOR (Motive Power): Hugues W. Bonin
IBUTION: Gerard Frechene
For your memb9rship in the CRHA, which includes a
Canadian Rail, write 10:
CRHA, 120 Rue St-Pierre, 51. Constant. Ove. J5A 2G9
CARTOGRAPHER: William A. Gcrmaniuk Rates: In Canada: $30 (including GST).
LAYOUT: Fred F. Angus outside Canada: $27.50 l U.S. funds.
Printing: Procel Printing
… ………………………………………………. 216
TANK CAR 112Q4 ……… , ………………… , ……. ROB BLACKBURN …………….. 220
THE 1993 CRHA CONFERENCE ………………………………………………. JEREMY SPORRING ………….. 221
REViEWS, … , ………. , … , .. …… , … . …………. ,, … ,, …….. , ………… , ….. .,., ………………. , …. 222
AND FUTURE OF THE CRHA …. , .. ,,., …………. ,, .. ,, … , …. _._._ .. w •• •• ••••••••• w …. _ ………….. _ ••••••••• 227
Canadian Rail is continually in need 01 news, stories. histoncal data. photos. maps and olner material. Please send ali contributions 10 the
editor: Fred
F. Angus. 3021 Trafalgar Ave. Montreal. P.O. H3Y 1 H3. No payment can be made 101 contributions, but the contributar win
be given credit lor material submitted. Material will be returned to the contributor il requested. Remember Knowledge is ollittlevalueunless
it is shared with others.
PRESIDENT: Waller J. Bedbrook Frederick F, Angus J. Christopher Kyle Douglas N.W. Smith
VICE PRES.: Charles De
Jean Alan C. Blackburn William Le Surl William Thomson
W. Johnson James Bouchard Aobert V.V. Nicholls Richard Viberg
TAEASURER: Robert Carlson Gerard Frechelle Ernest Ottewe
ll A. Stephen Walbridge
SECRETARY: Bernard Martin Mervyn T. Green Andrew W. Panko Michael Westran
The CRHA has a number of local divisions across lhe country. Many hold regular meetings
and Issue newsleller
s. Further information may be obtained by writing to the division. FRONT COVER: A narrow-g{m,~~
s.-. John N.B. Ell 407
P O. 6cx 22. St;tlion II
~P.O. H3B3J~
Box 962
Sm/ItI, F …. Ont. K7 ~
PO Bot: 1714
~a… K715V6
P.o, Box 5649. TemWaI
ToronIO.OnI. ~5W lP3
51 ~ 0…. l2R6W8
CIO IiIn Mio::hn:Ie. s.c:r-,
c..1Q;Iry. Albefla T2N 3M7
O. Box 611l2. SIaIIoo-C­

PO Box 31
~. B.C. VOE 2SO
PO. Bo. ~oo
Cranbrool. B.C. VIC ~H9
123 V …. SIt_
Nelson. B C. VIL 2VB
Prn::e George. B C V2N 2S6
PO. 1): H)06, S!alioo -.
V~. B,C, Y6C 211
a.ncr. AI»d
VIctorIa, Be veT IBI
ammul/ilion I rain o/Ilre Calladian Rail­
way Troops {Qkill,~ allillelY shells (0
I~ /ron/line through a shaaercd Iil­
loge somewhere in France ill Sep­
!Im(/, 19/7,
Nalionaf Archiv/!,~ (if Canada. PhOlO
No. PA-1757.
As part of its activities. the CRHA operates
the Canadian Railway Museum al
Oelson I
SI. Constant. Que. which is about t 4 miles
(23 Km.) from downtown MontrCQI. It is
open Irom late May
to early October (daily
until Labour Day). Members. and their im­
mediate ami~. are admitted lree 0 charge.

The Canadian Railway Troops in World War I
Lest We Forget
By Fred F. Angus
November II, 1993 marks the 75th anniversary of the end
of World War 1. After more than four years of incredible bloodshed,
and suffering, an armistice was signed at 5:00 A.M. on
Monday, November II, 1918 and six hours later, the eleventh hour
of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent and
greatest war in history, up to that time, was over. This
significant anniversary is an appropriate occasion for an article on
the Canadian Railway Troops, and other units associated with
them, during the First World War.
This article does not seek to glorify
or justify war, neither
does it discuss the political and moral factors which led to the
of such a disasterous conflict. The reader will, no doubt,
have his
own information and opinions on these matters. It is
certainly not a history
of World War I; only enough background
information has been
given to place the work of the Canadian
Railway Troops in proper perspective. It is intended to tell
of an
amazing feat
of Canadian railroading, with some quotations from
people who were actually there. This is the story
of the construction,
operation and maintenance, carried out under the worst possible
of thousands of miles of railway line, both narrow and
standard gauge, along the lines
of the Western Front in France and
Belgium between 1915 and 1918.
War I was, of course, fought throughout many
different areas
of the world, as far south as the Falkland Islands and
as far north as the Arctic Circle, including the interior of Africa,
South Pacific islands, the eastern Mediterranean, and the
of Turkey. However, it was on the Western Front, a line
of miles long from Switzerland to the North Sea, where
so many
of the battles were fought and where the war was
eventually decided.
For almost three and a half years, November
1914 to March 1918, the line was more or less stabilized, scarcely
more than a few miles, while the opposing sides dug in and
engaged in trench warfare. This involved constant attacks, often
vast proportions, upon the enemy entrenchments and, despite huge
losses and appalling casualties, gains were measured
in yards
rather than miles.
It was not until the great German offensive of
March 21,1918 broke through the Allied lines that some mobility
was restored to the battles. Eventually the Allied cOlullerattacks
in stopping the advance of the German armies which
thus lost their last chance to break tmough and win. From
June to
November the Allies advanced and finally, on November 11, the
war ended. During the long period
of trench warfare, and also of
the advances during the last four months of the war, the transportation
of supplies to the front lines was of extreme importance and the
of the Canadian Railway Troops played a major part in the
eventual victory.
From the very beginning of railways, there was some
awareness that this new form
of transportation would be of use in
war as well as peace.
One of the earliest, if not the earliest, cases
of troop movements by rail during hostilities occurred right here
in Canada.
The year was 1837 and the occasion was the employment
of the Champlain and St. Lawrence Rail Road, which had opened
only the year before, to move British soldiers during the Lower
Canada rebellion
of that year. In 1854, during the Crimean War,
the British
War Office commissioned the firm of Peto, Brassey and
Betts (the
same finn that built the original main line of the Grand
Trunk Railway)
to build a railway to carry supplies to the army
besieging Sebastopol. This railway, comprising 39 miles
of track,
17 locomotives and many freight wagons, was built by the
contractors at cost price as a public duty.
However it was not until
the 1860s that the first major use
of railways in war occurred. In
1861 the American Civil War broke out and lasted for four long,
bloody years. This conflict, the largest
ever fought in the New
World, is often described as the first modern war. Covering a
territory stretching hundreds
of miles, the war was fought on many
fronts and required great mobility
of both troops and supplies. The
importance of the, already quite substantial, railway network in the
United States became quickly apparent
to both sides, and struggles
for important rail lines and terminals played an important part
the war. The Union (North) had a majority of the nations railroads,
while the Confederates (South)
were at a disadvantage railway­
wise, a factor which played a significant role
in the eventual Union
The efficiency of moving the army by rail was noted, at
first hand, by a twenty year old ticket agent and (starting in 1864)
train dispatcher who worked for the
Chicago & Alton Railroad at
Joliet, Illinois. His name was William
C. Van Horne. Twenty years
later he was General Manager
of the Canadian Pacific Railway,
and, in 1885, he used this knowledge, learned during the Civil War,
to move the army
to the Canadian West in record time, over the
unfinished CPR main line, thus contributing to the quick end
of the
North West rebellion. This great feat
of logistics attracted attention
abroad, especially
by the British War Office and the German
General Staff.
Other nations, noting the importance
of railways in the
Civil War, reacted in
different ways, ranging to indifference to
serious plarUling. One nation which took the concept of military
of railways very seriously was Germany. As early as 1870 the
Germans massive movement of the military by rail played an
important part in their victory over
France in the Franco-Prussian
War, and, on a much larger scale, it allowed the German armies to
move quickly to the French and Belgian borders in 1914 on the
of World War 1.
On June 28, 1914
Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was
assassinated in Sarajevo
in Bosnia, a country which is once again
tragically in the news. This precipitated a major crisis which
resulted, at
the begitU1ing of August 1914, in the outbreak of World
1. Very soon Canada was deeply involved and for more than
four years would make incredible sacrifices, including more than
60,000 lives. In the early days
of the war it was beJieved that the
armies would be ranging over wide areas
in a very mobile war;
there would be no need to construct new railway lines, but
rather the e
xisting lines would be used. It was also widely believed
that one side would soon be victorious and the war would last only
a few weeks, or
at the most a few months. Thus none of the
belligerent nation made any serious attempts to consider a railway
The situation in Britain was typical. There, railway workers
had been encouraged to enlist, about 100,000 had done so, and
most had been placed
in the infantry where their railway talents
of no use. By the time the importance of railway construction
work was realized, many
of these workers had been killed or
otherwise incapacitated.
In the early stages of the war the French General Staff was
entirely responsible for construction and maintenance
of railways
in the British as well as the French zones of operation in France.
Six railway construction companies
of the British Royal Engineers
were sent to France
in 1914 but were not permitted by the French
to do any significant amount of work. About the same time some
Canadian railway contractors requested permission to raise a
railway construction unit but, for various reasons, this offer was
At this time most schemes involving railways concerned
the already existing standard-gauge main line
s; the idea of nanow­
gauge light railways to supply the troops
in the trenches had not yet
en given serious consideration. The old ideas died hard. In the
of 1914, the President of a finn manufacturing light
railway equipment asked Lord Kitchener
ifhe intended to use light
railways in the coming operations. The reply was
That is not our
of working. Later, Angus McDonnell, a railway contractor
from Vancouver, stated the benefits
of light railways to the Chief
Engineer of the War Office. He was simply shown the door!
The situation soon changed. By November, 1914, the
opposing armies had dug in, and trench warfare had begun in
-_. Worxln9 OrgonrZO/fon
-_. Mdory Or90nuol,on
earnest. Atfirst the armies dug trenches and erected crude barricades
using sand bags and barbed wire. Soon, however, much more
permanent works were constructed, with concrete fortifications,
earthworks, gun emplacements and miles
of barbed wire. These
lines bristled with almost every known type
of weapon, and were
connected by.miles
of tunnels and deep trenches. The two opposing
lines faced each other across a strip, varying
in width from a
hundred yards to more than half a mile, known as No Mans Land.
The entire system
of front line fortifications became known simply
The Trenches. Here were fought some of the worst battles the
world has ever seen.
It slowly, very slowly, dawned on the British War Office
that some more efficient means than hauling
by horses over
muddy, shell-damaged roads had to be devised to move the
of supplies needed at the front. The idea of specially­
constructed light railways now seemed to be a feasible answer. The
idea caught on. As early as September
17, 1914 the French
government had accepted, with s
ome reservations, British assistance
in railway construction, so the company of the Royal Engineers
were no longer idle. It would not be long before the Canadians were
involved as well.
For twenty years before the war Canada had built more
railways than a
ny other part of the British Empire, so it was only
natural that Britain would think
of Canada when the idea of
railways in the war zone was considered. On January 21,1915 the
British Almy Council sent word that it would be glad to have a
of Canadian railwaymen. On February 2 the Dominion
government replied that it would arrange for the recruiting, in
of a force of about 500 men for railway repair and
reconstruction work
in Europe during the continuance of the war.
At the request
of the government, the CPR, through its President,
O. Shaughnessy, undertook to organize this corps, to
name the officers and select the men.
The force was named the
Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps, and it consisted
of 507 officers and men, largely, but not entirely, recruited from
CPR employees. It was organized as shown in the following chart,
from the Canadian Railway and Marine World for April, 1915.
Dnr1i/f5 Dr{IIi.,~ttor
A , ,/;
f~~~n?~;~:d$J 5;::J! ! 0<0;: -i1IWZ?fT2i::.~,a;f:
:~y E%:::jIJ~kr } or! : or; ,-TOOfzowt ~:i
:~ Cr.w W~ r.M5: rew. ___ ~ ___ ~ ~;i·
,…,——=—=-=—==-=-::-~—-:— —.– —-
Or anlzatlon Chart, Canadian Overseas Railway Construction Corps.

Recruiting for the CORCC
began on March 12, was completed
by May
15, the force was mobilized
at Saint John, N.B. in May and June,
and shipped overseas with little delay,
sailing from Saint John on the
Herschel on June 14, 1915. The
CORCC, under its commanding
officer Colonel C. W .P. Ramsey CMG,
arrived in England on June 25,
underwent two months of training,
and on August 25 was inspected by
King George
Vand setsail for France.
travelling via Southampton and Calais.
In September, 1915 authorization was
given for the recruiting
of a reserve
base consisting
of two officers and
140 men. This work was undertaken
by Frederick
L. Wanklyn, General
Executive Assistant
of the CPR who
became honouralY Lieutenant Colonel
of the corps. During the time this
reserve base was in England it
performed work on the rail ways there,
especially in the Newcastle area. After
these reserves were exhausted, further
of the CORCC was
taken from the general reserve
of the
Canadian Railway Troops. The
CORCC was the first of the force of
Canadian railway workers to serve, a
force which reached a nominal strength
of almost 15,000 by the wars end.
A recruiting car Jar the No.1 Construction Batlalion in Toronto in the spring oj 1916. The car
an old Toronto Railway open cal, modified by the men oj the Batlalion. Note the sign on the
oj the cal reading TO BERLIN. It was going to be a long, hard trip.
Canadian Railway
& Marine World (CRMW), July, 1916.
e. WP. Ramsey, C.M.G. OjficerCommanding
the CORCe.
The first assignment of the CORCC was at Alveringhem,
Belgium, about six miles west
of Dixmude, where it was attached
to the Second and Fifth Divisions
of the Belgian Army. Its work at
that time consisted
of the construction of reinforced concrete
machine gun emplacements, observation towers, artillery
emplacements, shell proof shelters, standard gauge railway mounted
gun emplacements, 2-foot gauge railways and trench train lines. A
mechanical plant was also suppl ied and operated at Forthem for the
of materials from barges to the light railway system.
The high quality of the work is demonstrated by the fact that the
artillery emplacements successfully withstood di.rect hits from 11-
inch armour piercing shells;
in one case a shell, striking directly in
the embrasure, cut 4 feet from the barrel
of a six inch gun without
seriously damaging the emplacement. A light railway system
foot gauge, using 9-pound rail, was constructed for the calTying of
supplies, ammunition and other stores from Forthem, about five
miles behind the lines, to Dixmude, then paralleling the trenches
in both directions from that point. This was the first light railway
ever constructed immediately behind the front line on either the
British or Belgian fronts.
It was a somewhat primitive affair, being
operate partly by horses and partly by manpower, but
it was a
decided improvement over the previously-used horse and hand
transport. The CORCC strongly advocated an extensive, power
operated system
of 2-foot gauge railway, using 30-pound rail, but
this was not approved since the higher authorities still believed that
a breaktluougll was just around the corner, a breakthrough that
would restore the war
of movement and so make light railways
Members of the CORCC laying narrow-gauge track near the front lines. CRMW, August, 1918.
unnecessary. While some light railways were established in 1916,
it was not until 1917, when all means
of transport other than
railways had failed, that the large scale network
of light railways,
long advocated by the CORCC, came into being.
Near the end
of October, 1915, the Corps was recalled to
England with orders to proceed
to Salonika (in western Macedonia)
to work on the Salonika -Uskub Railway. This transfer never took
place for, just at this time, the enemy broke through the Serbian
lines and many
of the railway lines, on which the CORCC would
have been working,
were lost. Accordingly, the corps was returned
to France by
November 5 and divided into two companies. One
went to Audricq, the central railway supply depot of the British
Armies, and worked on the extension
of the yards there. This depot
then consisted
of 40 miles of track; this had been extended to 120
miles by the end
of the war. The other company went to Wippenhoeck,
in Belgium just south-west of Ypres, and a few weeks later it was
joined by the
company from Audruicq which had finished its work
The CORCC was then attached to the second British AImy
and started work on standard gauge lines in the area. The railheads
at that time were from 15 to 25 miles behind the front lines since
advanced railways for handling supplies were still almost
and were considered dangerous and unreliable. They were, of
course, dangerous but so were all types of transportation near the
front lines.
The CORCC remained in the area of Ypres until August,
1916, during the huge offensive on the Somme.
It is in this period
that official thinking turned more and more towards railways,
including light railways, as the answer
to the transportation
The first work undeltaken in the area, late in 1915, was the construction
of a standard-gauge line from Wippenhoeck, on
the main line, to Dickebusch, a point south
of Ypres and only a mile
and a half from the front lines.
The idea was that it would be used
for railway-mounted gun spurs and possibly small amounts
stone traffic for repairing the roads. As work advanced, strong
arguments were made that the line should be used for advanced
supply and ammunition transport. Gradually this idea took hold,
and authority was given for the construction
of advanced railheads
on this line. This was the first advanced standard-gauge railhead
behind the British front. Early
in 19 I 6 the corps built a new line to
the north which eventually connected with the old main line north
of Ypres. They also built a metre-gauge yard on the Belgian
railway at Ghyvelde.
In the spring
of 1916, the Canadian AImy at last approved
the idea
of establishing a power-operated 2-foot gauge railway in
the Ypres salient. This was undertaken by the First Tramways
of the Canadian Engineers (which will be discussed
more fully later) but a detachment was furnished by the
to lay track and generally assist in this work. Much of the railway
was built from salvaged materials, and in the beginning was
The first motive power was provided by two
1O-ton locomotives abandoned in the German
advance and fished
of Dickebusch Lake. Primitive as it was, this line was an
of what could be done by light railways and was the
of the system that was eventually built.
In March 1916, shipments
of steel standard-gauge box cars began
to arrive from Canada; these required final assembly and this work
was done by the
CORCe. A total of 1300 cars were assembled
before improved plant and labour were available, at which time
An ammunition loading station, October, 1917. Note the horses in the distance. National Archives of Canada, Photo No. PA-2122.
work was turned over to the British
army mechanical staff. During this
work, the
CORCC had the somewhat
unpleasant experience of being
present at the blowing up of some
15,000 tons of ammunition in the
Audruicq dump, only a quarter mile
from the
car yard. Thankfully the
ammunition did not go
off all at
once or it would have made an
explosion of almost nuclear
proportions. Nevertheless the
explosions, which were set off by
German bombs, continued for three
days and, in some cases, threw shells
for nearly a mile.
As rai I way work progressed,
the need was felt for
more track
construction equipment, there being
no such modern equipment avai lable
in the area. Eventually, after much
pleading, pelmission was given for
One of the two steamshovels, supplied by the Dominion government through the CPR, at work at
in November, 1917. CRMW, September, 1919.
the acquisition of two 70-ton steamshovels and two standard­
gauge track pile drivers; these were supplied
by the Canadian
government through the CPR, and they arrived in June,
19 I 6. From
that time until the end
of the war both steamshovels and pile drivers were constantly employed,
in many cases operating 24 hours a day.
During the final German retreat in 1918,
the pile drivers drove the
great majority
of the piles needed on the new bridges from the
Somme to the coast.
On the railway in a captured area of No Mans Land. Notice the pile of sandbags
After the commencement of the
of the Somme, it was decided by the
Imperial General
Staff to make greater
of railways, and more especially of
light railways in forward areas as used by
both the French and the Germans.
accomplish this, Sir Eric Geddes was
appointed Director General of
Transportation with power to reorganize
all the transportation services on the British
Western Front. Sir Eric quickly looked
Canada for direction to supervise and
direct the construction
of railways. It was
agreed that Canada should furnish five
of construction men, to be
known as the Canadian
Railway Troops,
and that Colonel Stewart
should proceed
CRMW, August, 1918.
The CORCC continued as a unit until the end of the war and
won an impressive number
of awards for bravery: one Companion
of St Michael and St. George (CMG), 9 Distinguished Service
Orders (DSO),
10 Military Crosses (MC), 6 Distinguished Conduct
Medals (DCM), 20 Military
Medals (MM), 6 Belgian Croix de
Guerre. From mid-1916 on, the
CORCC was joined by other units
from Canada which
became the Canadian Railway Troops and
which expanded very greatly the work
of railway construction on
the Western Front.
In May, 1916, after personal representations had been
made to several British
War Office departments, it was finally
decided to ask Canada to furnish another unit, approximately 1000
strong, for railway construction work. This battalion, initially
Lieutenant-Colonel J. W. Stewart of Vancouver, was known
as the
239th Overseas Railway Construction Corps. Due to various
delays in organizing and recruiting, this corps did not reach France
March 22, 1917 by which time it had become the Third
Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops.
July I, 1916 was a
day which changed the course of the war
and, perhaps, the history
of the world. On that day began the battle
of the
Somme. The British armies suffered 60,000 casualties on the
first day alone, a slaughter unequalled in any previous war and
possibly the worst in
anyone day of any war in history. The Somme
campaign continued for months with little significant advance,
if any, were measured in feet. Eventually the armies became
bogged down in the mud as constant shelling reduced the ground
to a sea of mud which swallowed up friend and enemy alike and
all roads. The summer of 1916 finished any serious
of a quick breakthrough which would end the war. For more
than two more years the carnage would continue, ·all within a
relatively small area, and would require the moving
of immense
of supplies, not to mention the transportation of troops
to the front and the evacuation of casualties. The railway was the
only practical means
of getting through this wilderness, and the
Canadians played a major
part in building and maintaining these
railways. to France immediately to
act as Deputy
of Light Railways, as well as
being in immediate command
of the Canadian Railway Construction
Battalions upon their arrival in France. Lieutenant
Colonel Angus
McDonnell (who, we will remember, had advocated light railways
away back in 1914 but had been rebuffed) was delegated to remain
in England to organize the units and to follow Lt. Col.
Stewart as
in command on completion of the organization. On January
1, 1917 Stewart, by
now promoted to Brigadier-General, was
appointed Deputy Director General Transportation (Construction)
made directly responsible to the Director of Transportation for
all railway constl1lction, thus having supervision
of the work done
by the Royal Engineers Railway Construction
Companies (whose
strength was then 5312
of all ranks) in addition to all work done by
the Canadian Railway Troops.
The first five battalions of the Canadian Railway Troops
The First Canadian Overseas Construction Battalion, which
had reached France in October 1916 and was working on Standard­
gauge railways, became the First Battalion, CRT.
The 127th Infantry Battalion, then at Bramshott, England,
became the Second Battalion, CRT and proceeded to France on
II, 1917.
The 239th Battalion, previously discussed, became the
Third Battalion, CRT.
The Fourth and Fifth Battalions, CRT, were organized at
Purfleet, England and proceeded to France
in February, 1917.
Things were now moving at ever-increasing speed in
of the campaigns scheduled for 1917. In March, 1917
it was decided
to organize five more Battalions of the Canadian
Railway Troops, and as more units arrived from Canada they were
sent to Purfleet to be organized. By April I, there were six
Battalions in the field, and by the end
of June, 1917 all ten were
fully operational. So quickly had official thinking turned around
that the majority
of these units were employed on light railway
construction and maintenance and. from mid-1917 until the end
the war, all the light railway construction on the British Westem
Front was carried out by the Canadian Railway Troops.
The organization of the Canadian Railway Troops was
separate from the Canadian Corps. Their headquarters was established
A light Railway goods yard at Dixie Siding, behind Vimy Ridge, ill October, 1917. Steam locomotives were not usually used close to the
frOIl! lines because their smoke would give away their position to enemy gUllners. National Archives of Canada, Photo PA-2126.
at the British Armys General Headquarters in France. This
enabled Brigadier-General Stewart to fill the dual capacity of
General Officer Commanding of the Canadian Railway Troops,
and Deputy Director
of General Transportation.
The Canadian Railway Troops proved their worth soon
after their anival. In February and March, 1917, the Germans had
made a strategic retreat on the
Somme, and the first of the railway
battalions to alTive were able to push forward standard gauge and
light railway lines with surprising speed
.in spite of the atrocious
weather and the thoroughness
of the destruction wrought by the
enemy during the retreat.
In April, 1917 began the battle
of AlTas, and it is here that
the Canadian Railway Troops, and,
in fact, the Canadians in
general, scored one
of their greatest triumphs, an event which is
still looked on
as an important turning point in Canadian history.
On Easter Monday, April
9,1917, against seemingly impossible
odds, the Canadians, under Sir Julian Byng, later
to be Baron Byng
of Vimy and Governor General of Canada, attacked and captured
Vimy Ridge, then the strongest German fortress on the Western
After all the frustrations and horrendous losses of the
Somme campaign, the capture, in a matter of hours, of this
position seemed nothing less than a miracle. For several
weeks prior
to the opening of the attack the weather had been
extremely bad, and the ground in the battle area was like a quagmire. Nevertheless, the Canadian Railway Troops had laid
rails to within a short distance
of the front Jine. Then, as soon as
the infantry advanced on that memorable Easter
Monday, the
railway battalions constructed new lines on the heels
of tile
fightUlg men. Supplies and ammunition were carried forward
standard and narrow-gauge lines, and the wounded were evacuated
over them to the very doors
of the field ambulance dressing
stations and the casualty clearing hospitals. It was the first time
the war that such work had been accomplished. Within a week of
the opening of the campaign, trains were running to the top of
Vimy Ridge, and by the end of April light railways were running
forward to the British ration dumps which were now
some distance
ahead across the level plain.
In the summer
of 1917 began the Passchendaele campaign
in many ways, was worse than the Somme, a year before.
Here, the drainage system
of the low-lying ground had been
completely destroyed
by the incessant shellfire with the result that
the entire terrain became a seemingly endless sea
of mud of an
especially tenacious variety. Attempting to attack
over such
ground with the enemy firing evelything possible at you is warfare
of the most horrifying and gruesome kind. Eventually, in the late
of 1917, the attack bogged down and petered out with little
accomplished beyond adding greatly
to the ever lengthening
casualty lists. By this time some people were seriously wondering
the heavy train had too much headway
Moving supplies on a light railway recently laid over captured ground. The duckboards, shown
on both sides
oj the line, were necessary to avoid gelling bogged down in the mud.
to be stopped, and in addition the
brake gear had been blown away by
another shell. Climbing back
to get
the brakes
on the cars, Samson came
across the wounded guard. He had
been knocked off the top of the truck,
and his foot catching
in the framework
of the car,
he was being dragged
along with his head and shoulders
bumping along the ballast. The
Canadian Sergeant released his foot,
but failed
in his attempt to gather him
up into the rapidly moving car. About
a hundred yards ahead was another
ammunition train, its cargo of high
explosive shells being unloaded at a
battery position. By good luck, and a
knowledge of braking learned on the
grades in the Rockies, Samson
managed to slow down his train just
it reached the standing trucks, and
a serious collision and explosion were
avoided. Then, although the shell fire
was extremely
heavy, the sergeant
went back and rescued the wounded
guard. Samson won the Military Medal
CRMW, August, 1918.
if the war would ever end, if it did, whether there would be anyone
left to see the day. During all this tragic time the Canadian Railway
Troops were as determined and successful as ever, building and
rebuilding, sometimes many times over, the railways which had
become the lifelines
of the Canadian forces. The difficulty of the
task facing the Canadian Railway Troops
in the Ypres salient may
be gauged from the fact that during the summer
of 1917 the average
of breaks in the light railway lines due to enemy shellfire
was about 100 per day (more than four every hour), in the areas
the Second and Fifth British armies alone.
One account, reported in the Canadian Railway and Marine
World for November 1917, sounds almost like fiction; but it is true
is only one of very many such incidents in the history of the
Canadian Railway Troops:
During one of the recent attacks, SergI. Oscar Samson,
of Alberta, was seriously wounded in the arm. Instead of
trekking for medical assistance back to the rear,
he attempted
to carryon at his job of mending lines destroyed by Hun
shells, so that more ammunition could
be rushed up. Finally
his arm got
so painful he decided to go forward on the track
that had been mended to an advanced dressing station he
knew of.
His wound had been fixed by a comrade, and his
arm was tied up
in an improvised sling. Samson climbed on
a tractor that was hauling a trainload of Stokes gun ammunition.
When they got
to a junction near the front line, both guard and
driver were wounded
by splinters from a high explosive shell.
The little train had made the crest of the grade and was
gathering momentum
every second, with the driver of the
tractor hanging limp and unconscious from his seat. Samson
pulled him
up to a place of safety and shut off the engine, but for his splendid exhibition of pluck.
An incident that shows the high morale of the Railway
Troops was a comment made by an engine driver on the narrow
gauge. A war correspondant asked the driver, who was operating
in an area subject to shelling bombing and gas attacks, What gives
you the
most trouble in running one of these tractors?. He replied
simply: Shes
off the iron a little more than Id like. Despite the
dangers, his
chief concern was of derailments!
Other stories
of the exploits of the CRT will be told in
section IX following.
Constructing and maintaining these ever-extending railways
required very great quantities
of supplies plus the transportation
systems to deliver them to where they were needed.
Some material
came from England, but much was shipped from Canada. A major
of rails and track supplies came from track of the Canadian
Northern and Grand Trunk Pacific railways in Alberta and British
Columbia. Consolidation
of these lines, following their takeover
by the
Dominion government, had left many miles of track
redundant, for the two lines paralleled each other, often only a few
hundred yards apart, for many miles.
In 1917 and 1918 this track
was taken up and the rails, fish plates and other material were
shipped to France for use on the Western Front.
By March 1918 both sides were worn out.
The only
prospect for a change
in the stalemate seemed to be the impending
of troops of the United States which had entered the war on
the Allied side on April 6, 1917. By early 1918, American soldiers
were arriving in France but, so far, not in large enough numbers to
shift the balance. Realizing this, the Germans made
one last bid to
break through and win the war, and so, on March 21, 1918 they
launched a huge offensive which broke the allied lines and, for a
time, threatened to do
exactly what had been
planned. Much of the track
laid by the Canadian
Railway Troops was
overrun and passed into
enemy hands. Seven
battalions of the CRT were
thdrawn and were
employed for a time on the
construction of a rear
defense trench system.
system extended over a
of 30 miles, and
comprised about 120 miles
of trenches. This was an
extremely trying time for
the CRT. For a time they
were transformed from
construction workers into
fighting men. As the enemy
advanced on Amiens, the
railwaymen organized
Lewis gun teams and held
their positions until relieved
by members
of the New
Zealand Division. Three
The moving of tanks on the rail lines was a difficult job. 111 November, 1917, the troops moved 460 tanks in one
for the successful attack all Cambrai. CRMW, September, 1919.
of the battalions were organized into the Canadian Railway
Brigade (a fighting force), but this was short lived as it was realized
that railway construction was so important that the
CRE was
disbanded and its members returned to construction duties. In the
meantime, tluee more battalions
of the Canadian Railway Troops
had been formed, making a total
of 13. The Second and Third
Canadian Railway Labour Battalions became the
11 th and 12th of
the CRT, and, in addition, the 13th Battalion, CRT, was formed
from the personnel at Purfleet, England.
By the early summer of 1918 the tide had turned and the
crisis had passed.
The great German advance, after tluee months,
had lost its push and, graduaUy, the Allies advanced again. At this
time the Canadian Overseas
Construction Corps (the CORCC
which we have already considered), the 58th Broad Gauge Operating
Company (to be considered later), the 13th Light Railway Operating
Company, the 69th Wagon Erecting
Company and the 85th Engine
Crew Company were brought under the Headquarters, Canadian
Railway Troops, and the whole formed into the corps
of the
Canadian Railway Troops.
About this time Brigadier-General
Stewart was appointed Director
of Construction, a position which
was responsible for all construction
of a civil engineering character
in the
zone of the British almies.
One part of the history of the CRT that requires consideration
their service in what is now known as the Middle East. In the
of 1918, during the final offensive against the Turks in
Palestine, British General Allenby called for a party
of expert
bridge builders. The War Office requisitioned the services of the
Canadian Railway Troops, and six officers and
250 men were
selected from those
in France who volunteered for this special
They left for Palestine on September 20, 1918, and served
in the area of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Operating conditions were
extremely unpleasant. Although the Troops were
not under
enemy fire, they suffered greatly from the climate. The
temperature was almost always over 100 degrees and frequently
reached 120.
The air was also very humid because of evaporation
from the Dead Sea, and there were also scorpions, centipedes,
stinging spiders and mosquitoes.
The Canadians were affected by
Malaria as well as Influenza, and at one time in October not
than six men were able to work at one time. They did, howeer,
have help from the Egyptian Labour Corps and, with this help, by
October 6 the railway was passable all the way to Damascus.
As the s
ummer of 1918 advanced the spirits of the Allies
rose and, for the first time in four years, it appeared that the end
might not be all that far ahead.
The stalemate had been broken and
the armies were advancing.
The Canadian Railway Troops were
at work, just as much as before, perhaps even more so
in order to keep up the supp
ly lines to the advancing army. By
November the CRT had reached a strength of 14,877 plus 1,087 in
CRT Operating Companies and 3,364 Troops in England. This
compares to a total of 7,340 nominal strength of the Imperial
Railway Construction Corp
The advance continued until the City of Mons, in Belgium,
was captured early on the morning of Monday, November 1 I,
1918. This was where the British Army had first engaged the
enemy in August, 1914. By now both sides realized the futility
continuing the war and early that morning the armistice was
signed. At
11 :00 A.M. the fighting stopped and the war was over.
The main work of the Canadian Railway Troops had ended; some
jobs continued for a few more months, but before very long the
units returned to England and by June, 1919 the
CRT had been
They had won 489 honours and decorations for
bravery during the war.
Among the units engaged in railway work on the Westem
Front, the Canadian tramways companies did their share
of the
work with the best, although their work
is not as generally known.
They were not part
of the Canadian Railway Troops, but were,
throughout their history, part
of the Canadian Corps.
The First and Second
Tramways Companies, Canadian
Engineers, were authorized, fOlmed, worked and were demobilized
in France and never existed anywhere else than in the forward area.
The first company, the Composite Pioneer Company, Canadian
Corps, was formed on May 19, 1916 to construct and operate light
railways in the Ypres sector, and the personnel were drawn from
the First, Second and Third Canadian Pioneer battalions, as well as
CORCe. There were about 280 members of this first company
under Captain D.H. Williams.
Major Goldie DSO was Field
Engineer and Major R.
P. Rogers was Assistant Field Engineer.
The company built and operated about 40 miles
of 2-foot
gauge, equal
to the French 60-centimetre, track and the first power
for operating was the two small locomotives, previously mentioned,
which were salvaged from Dickebusch Lake. On September 3,
1916 the company left Vlamertinghe and moved south with the
Canadian Corps to Albert, for the battle
of the SOffilne. There they
did good work on the lines from Albert to Becourt Wood and
Pozieres, working with tractors (small internal-combustion
locomotives) up to Gordon dump. From there on, the trains were
moved by horse or mule power until sufficient ballast was available
to make the track fit for tractors beyond that point.
The company
left the Somme on October 26, 1916, and returned to the Lens front.
At that time a portion
of the company, under Lieutenant S.F.
Workman, proceeded to Bois-de-Bray and formed a second company
which became the Canadian Engineers Second Tramways Company.
By the time
of the capture of Vi my Ridge in April 1917, the
2-foot gauge lines were hauling about 125 tons a day, but after that
time the tonnage steadily increased as new lines were opened up.
Construction was carried on steadily throughout 1917, and the
ground won
at the battles of Vimy Ridge, Hill 65, Avion and Hill
70 was covered with 2-foot tracks, so that by the end
of 1917 the
Canadian front was better served
by light railways than any other
of the British front. About June 1917, the transport of guns
was inaugurated; these ranged in size from the standard 18-
International No.1, one of two cars converted by the Canadian
Engineers First Tramway Company
to move and fire 1S-pounder
guns on the
2 {oot gauge railway lines. CRMW, November, 1919.
pounder field gun to the large 8-inch howitzers. In fact some
batteries chose positions which were entirely dependant on the
tramways for the moving
of guns, ammunition and all other
supplies. After the capture of Vimy Ridge the company established
a fixed location for its headquarters, this was at Lens Junction,
Souchez and Ablain St. Nazaire, and the headquarters
remai.ned there for fifteen months. During this time the track was
upgraded; rails were renewed, more ballast was put in, crossings
were repaired, grades were revised and the whole system was made
more efficient. Nevertheless, the work was very dangerous for the
whole area was exposed to enemy shell fire at all times, and in front
of Vimy Ridge operation was only possible at night. Trains were
dispatched on these single-track lines on a station-to-station basis
similar to the English system
of passing control of a train from one
signal box to the next.
In contrast, the British tended to dispatch
thei r trains from a central control point.
By the end
of 1917, the company was handling almost 700
tons and making over
2000ton-miles daily. Traffic was worked as
far as the tramways yards at Lens Junction by the Army Light
Railway, with steam, and from there forward in army cars by
Three types of these were in use:
20 H.P. simplex, capable
of hauling 15 tons.
40 H.P. simplex, capable
of hauling 30 Ions.
45 H.
P. gasoline-electric, capable of hauling 45 tons.
The Mechanical Bug, a locomotive made by the Canadian COJps Tramway officers with the help of a corporal. The engine is from a
motorcycle, the fly-wheel from a sugar refinery, and the belt from a mine head smashed hy artillery fire.
Archives of Canada, photo No. PA-2712.
The army cars were usually double-truck flats and gondolas
which weighed 2 1/2 tons empty and could. carry 10 tons. In
addition the company had, for local traffic, a considerable number
of small springless cars with a capacity of 1 1/2 tons, as well as
some captured German cars which had a capacity of 5 tons. The
next step was to undertake troop movements; in the winter of 1917-
18 this grew to considerable dimensions, sometimes two battalions
would be brought up, and two others brought back,
in a night.
Regular night trains were run
to take work crews to their positions
on the defense lines, the regular schedule handling 1200 men per
night. In addition, hospital trains were run on a regular schedule to
and from the forward dressing stations.
The construction department
was housed at three locations; two
of these, although far forward,
were somewhat sheltered. However, at the third, known as Whi

Bang Corner, the section lived constantly alongside the infantry in
support, and on two occasions shell fire was so bad that almost the
whole section became casualties. Nevertheless, the average number
of trains operated per night was 25, and on one memorable night,
37 trains
were run.
In the spring of 1918 gas warfare was carried on extensively,
and the tramways companies
played an important part. Gas
cylinders would
be loaded on the cars, moved well forward, and
then electrically connected and detonated by remote control. In
this way about 1500 cylinders would release gas at once. Another
operation was providing special cars from which
18-pounder guns
could be
fi red. Two of these cars were built and named International
No. I and
No.2. They, together with another car for ammunition,
be moved, with a 20 H.P. tractor, to a point just behind the
front line, would spe
nd the night harassing the enemy, moving to
avoid retaliation, then pulling back before dawn leaving no trace.
On August 11. 1918, the company moved, by road and by
standard-gauge railway, to Amiens, and later rejoined the Canadian
Army at An-as. By now the Allies were quickly advancing, and the
two tramways companies worked unceasingly to keep the railhead
up to the advancing annies. In places they crossed the old no­
mans-Iand and linked up with the captured German tracks; this
was a risky undertaking for the enemy would
of len sabotage or
booby-trap the lines before retreating. By September, average
daily tonna
ge was 723, with 4003 ton-miles, rising in October to
1243 tons and 7268 ton-miles. The all-time record for one day,
in mid-October, was 1782 tons and 10,325 ton miles! Construction
continued, one
of the major works being the building of a bridge
across a standard-gauge yard; this was completed
in three days. In
the yard itself, every frog had been blown up by the retreating
enemy, and this also had
to be repaired.
By November 3, the end of steel was at Valenciennes,
while the
enemy was just beyond the eastern edge of the town.
in order to speed up construction, standard-gauge track and
metre-gauge street
car lines were re-gauged to 2-feet, and the lines
continued, albeit by a somewhat roundabout route, making
use of
the existing tracks. On November 10, the advance parties crossed
from France to Belgium and were at Quievrain, while the main
party was preparing to move there and continue to build
foHowing the advancing army. Then, early on the morning
November 11, orders were received that construction was to cease;
the war was over.
The companies continued to maintain the
existing lines until January 24, 1919 when they were relieved by
231 stForward Light Railway Company, whereupon, on February
1. 1919, the units were demobilized and subsequently returned to
Main S.G. Line
(Not to Scali)
S+ondard 6age
60 em. line
60 em. Projec+ed
A schematic diagram showing the layout of the standard-gauge, narrow-gauge and tramway lines on the Western Front.
CRMW, August, 1918,
The light railway system, with its complex activities,
spreading over wide areas by a smail army
of officers and men,
required careful organization to perform its services, maintain
discipline and ensure proper working. There had to be an unbroken
of responsibility from the sapper to the general, and there had
to be full provision for constructing and operating the light railway
Light railways generally commenced from where the
standard-gauge lines ended and continued forward to where they
connected with the trench tramway systems which we have already
considered. Sometimes, especially
if the enemy had retreated,
there was overlapping between the light railways and the standard­
gauge; this was an advantage because it provided more than one
where supplies could be trans-shipped from one system to the
other. Operating companies usually located their camps and
terminals away from railheads and ammunition dumps in order
avoid, as much as possible, enemy shelling and bombing. The
main line usuaUy ran forward to where it connected, by means of
a wye, to a branch line that ran parallel to the line of trenches but
or three miles behind it. From this branch line, other lines
off towards the front, connecting with the trench tramway
Some of these tines were connected by cross tracks in
order to provide lo.ops;·as, well as alternate lines tracks
were broken
by enemy shell fire.
Commlll1ication was achieved by means
of a telephone
system which was built and maintained with considerable difficulty,
Radio communication, although in existence, was not sufficiently
developed to permit dispatching trains by radjo.
The telephone
system began at General Headquarters and ran to a super control located at an intermediate point behind the armies.
From there
separate lines were run
to central controls, and thence to district
controls. By this system, super control handled the distribution
motive power and rolling stock between almies, while central
control handled the same distribution between operating companies.
Corps light railway offices were connected by separate wires to
central controls and to army headquarters.
From the district
controls, two traffic lines were run wherever there were tracks,
one, which connected all stations, was known as the block-to­
block line, while the other was the through reporting line which
connected main stations or report centres. Each station was
equipped with a telephone box which had a lever which could be
moved to either side when conversing with adjoining stations, or
left in a through position when a through connection was needed.
Stations connected with the through wire had small switch boards
by which connections could be made between the two wires.
district control wanted to talk to an intermediate station up the line,
the nearest report centre was called on the through wire, and the
report centre then called the station and made the through connection
by plugs on the switchboard. Breaks in the line were
so frequent,
due to shelling, as well as the concussion
of our own guns, that each
district control had linemen constantly on hand to
repair the
The complexity of the arrangement is shown by the fact
that the total extent
of all these telephone lines was more than 2000
Motive power consisted
of steam locomotives and internal­
combustion tractor units. Steam locomotives were used in daytime
up to the point
of enemy observation, and to all points at night. The
tJactors were used at other times and places. There were four types
of steam locomotives: Baldwin 16-ton 2-6-0s working at 180 psi,
steam pressure and carrying 400 gallons
of water and half a ton of
Amm. Depot …….. ,….
Amm. Distribvtion Lines ====0
Amm TranshipmenT
R. E.Tramways ……
R. L Ropeways ••••••••• ,.::::
coal. American IS-ton 2-6-2s quite similar to the Baldwins.
Hunslett IS-ton
2-6-0s built in England. Other small locomotives
also built
in England. The tractors were of 20 H.P., 40 H.P. and 6-
ton, similar
to the tramways ones already discussed. They had
armour plated sides and tops so were heavier than those employed
on the trench tramways.
The cars were a varied lot, ranging in
capacity from 1 to 10 tons and were classified
by letter as follows:
A and B were
I-ton with removable sides. C were 3-ton with
removable sides. D were IO-ton with four drop doors on the sides.
E were IO-ton with two drop doors on sides as well
as well bottoms.
F were IO-ton flats. G were IO-ton flats with wells. H were flat cars
equipped with 1500-gallon rectangular steel tanks. In addition,
there was a large
number of I-ton tip cars together with a
miscellaneous mixture
of French IO-ton cars and captured Gennan
7 1/2-ton cars of various types. Special flat cars for loading 6-inch
and 8-inch howitzers were also built and, by 1918, covered box
cars with sliding doors were used to handle wounded stretcher
as well as rations and mail. Finally, there were work cars,
including a 6-ton wrecking crane, about the largest that could be
used on a 2-foot gauge railway.
Traffic was moved
by direct orders from Army Light
Railway Headquarters. A typical order might read:
Order 52.
Place 33
empty D class cars at road crossing near station X,
Mar. 10, 1917, at 20 oclock, to move working party of 20
officers and 1,000 other ranks to end of steel on C13line. Order
power for 20.15 K. Returning movement leave end of steel 3
Mar. 11, 1917. Repeat. As each order was completed,
central control was infonned and the order would be marked
off its
books. Trains were operated on the block-to-block system by
telephone dispatch. District controls had the most work and
required a competent staff
of dispatchers working 8-hour tricks
under a
chief dispatcher. Dispatchers had the rank of sergeant,
while the chief dispatcher had the rank
of regimental sergeant­
major. Thus orders would
be carried out from a military, as well
as a railway, point of view. Stations were installed wherever required along the line
and consisted
of dugouts, shacks or any old buildings suitable for
the purpose. They were manned by two men, one for day shift, one
for night, and were equipped with watches, lamps, flags and train
register books. At each main station there would be a larger staff,
some having as many
as 20 men, including yard staff, telephone
men, switching crews etc. Stations were called by a system
telephone rings; intermediate stations between District Control
and the first main station were called direct on the block-to-block
by using 2, 3, 4 or 5 rings as required, in a similar manner
stations beyond the first main station were called on the through
wire. That way, district control could speak
to any station and keep
in touch with the traffic. Because
of the heavy traffic every care
had to
be taken to avoid congestion, tieups and accidents. No lights
of any kind were allowed at night and it was not easy to keep traffic
moving tluough areas that might have been gassed, shelled or
bombed. In order to minimize the number
of trains, locomotives
were often double headed, and often pusher locomotives were used
on grades. Destination stations were infonned well
in advance of
the expected arrival time of a train so that personnel would be
available to unload the train quickly and reduce idle time. Wrecking
gangs were constantly on hand to repair the line
in the event of its
damage from any reason, including shelling, bombing or damage
caused by derailments or collisions.
The men of these wrecking
crews had
to know every inch of track, even in total darkness, and
had to be on call all the time to clear any damage, often under
enemy fire, since no equipment could be left out on the line
daylight. Their tour of duty was only over when every train
destined for their section had been delivered, and all empties
returned before daylight. The work was so nerve-racking that the
crews were allowed one day
off out of every three. Water for
locomotives was obtained from wells, streams, rivers, canals or
shell holes, and was pumped into overhead
or underground tanks.
If water was scarce, water was brought
in by tank cars. Such were
the conditions under which the light railways were operated from
1916 until the end
of the war.
In this consideration of the Canadian railway construction
in World War I, we should devote some space to the work of the
Canadians on the
Stand~rd-gauge railways. A typical unit was the
58th Broad Gauge Operating Company. On October 20, 1916, the
of Militia recommended that a section of troops, to be
known as the No. 1 Section, Skilled Railway Employees, be
organized. On January 3, 1917 recruiting began and the unit,
commanded by Captain A.H. Kendall, former Master Mechanic
the Ontario District of the CPR at Toronto, was mobilized at the
Guy Street barracks
in Montreal. It left Bonaventure station on
March 1, sailed from Halifax on the S.S. Ansonia on March 4, and
in England on March 15. Soon after it arrived, the unit was
renamed the 58th Broad Gauge Operating Company (Canadians),
and it
anived in France on April 19.
At first it was planned to split up the company and assign
the men to different locations, but then, near the end
of May. 1917,
an event took place that changed the minds
of the authorities and
provided the BGOC with its first big job. A 12-inch gun on railway
mountings, weighing about 185 tons, had been derailed at Audruicq.
It had been on the ground for 50 hours and was defying all efforts
to get it back on the tracks, causing much inconvenience to the
railway operating crews. The 58th
BGOC was ordered to rerail it,
and rerail
it they did, in the surprisingly short time of 4 1/2 hours.
After this display
of efficiency, Headquarters decided that the
company would remain intact and work as a unit.
The unit worked
on trains on the standard-gauge lines until the end
of the war.
in June, 1917 the BGOC, with reinforcements from
the Royal Engineers, proceeded to Merris, a newly constructed
British railway depot, about 300 yards west
of Strazeele (Nord)
Here were based 15 locomotives, 3 Menyweather pumps,
an emergency stores car, a tool van and a smaU supply of coal. The
locomotive depot was established at Merris with sub-depots
at Bailleul, Steenwerck and Berguette. At Merris the number
locomotives was increased to 40 of various types, ranging from the
little Belgian type 25 0-6-0s, which had hand brakes on the tender
but none on the engine, to the big 2-8-0 Baldwins. Among them
were locomotives from Great Britain,
some from Belgium, some
Baldwins and a few Canadians. Needless to say
it was difficult to
maintain a supply of spare parts needed to keep the locomotives
running. At first there were no facilities whatever for maintaining
locomotives, and these had to be painstakingly built. Water was
taken from the nearest ditch, using the Merryweather pumps. Coal
was ordered from Headquarters and received
in train load lots from
Dunkirk and Dieppe (names destined to be famous in the next war).
Coal trains were usually unloaded directly on to the ground using
the labour
of Chinese coolies or Gelman prisoners. On account of
the bad water the locomotives had to be washed out every 10 days.
When possible the locomotives were double crewed, but when
traffic was heavy and men were scarce
it was necessary to pool
them all.
On the lines
of the Nord Railway of France the trains were
on the automatic block system, and
on the lines of the Railway
Operating Division the station block system was used.
lines were divided into sections and at each station hand, or at night
lamp, Signals were given to locomotive crews
in accordance with
the rules. No locomotive was permitted to proceed into a section
until the crew was furnished with a train order, printed
in French
and English, indicating that the section was clear, or that the
preceding train had left not less than 10 minutes previously. If a
was occupied the train could proceed at caution provided
the engineer signed the train order and gave
up his copy at the end
of the section to which it referred. All trains were allowed to run
at caution except ambulance trains which were run on the
absolute station block.
A trestle on the Frevent -Hesdin railway line in France. This trestle was 600 feet long, 40 feel high and contained 150,000 [b.m. of limber.
11 was built by the Canadian Railway Troops in only 7 days. CRMW, August, 1919.
When railways ahead were being
or shelled by the enemy, especially
at night,
it was necessary for train crews to
be especially alert, for the telephone lines
were frequently blown up. Night operation
was very difficultdue
tothe almost complete
of light in the yards. Crews were
often required to run trains over unfamiliar
territOlY, without a pilot, at night. Sometimes
they would find themselves on a heavy
descending grade, would whistle for brakes
and tnIst to luck to find themselves still on
the track at the bottom
of the grade.
In the spring of 1918 came the
greatest crisis faced by the BGOC. Starting
at 4:00
A.M. on April 9, (exactly one year
after the capture
of Vimy Ridge), the area
in which the BGOC was operating was hit
by intense enemy bombardment. The railway
telephone lines were blown up
continually, as were some
of the stations,
plus the control office at Merville.
situation worsened as more destruction
occurred. At 2:00 P.M. it was reported that
the enemy had crossed the line at Leventie
and was advancing rapidly.
The continuous
shell and machine gun fire soon
made this
of the line of little use for traffic.
Canadian Railway Troops working on a standard-gauge line running alongside a narrow-
gauge light railway. CRMW, December, 1919.
Supplies were taken to the rear where
possible and roUing stock ·and personnel were
withdrawn to
The number of casualties was increasing greatly but it
was not advisable to run heavy ambulance trains too far forward.
Accordingly a train
of flat cars was made up and run as far as
possible picking up the wounded and canying them to a hurriedly­
established field hospital at Berguette depot. Meanwhile Almentieres
had been captured by the enemy, and the situation deteriorated
until April
12, when the Second Army headquarters ordered the
BGOC to evacuate at once all lines in that area. By this time Merris
depot was being subjected
to a bombardment of shrapnel, high
explosives and gas shells, and
much of the track had been destroyed.
Less than an hour after the unit left, the enemy passed through
Merris depot, but later was driven back, and the east leg
of the wye
fonned a section
of the British front for the next few weeks.
Despite greatdifficulties, the evacuation was carried out successfully.
Although the majority
of the old established lines had been
captured by the enemy. new Jjnes were speedily built. and on
5, 1918 the whole unit was ordered to proceed to Conchil-le­
Temple, to operate for Canadian and Royal Engineers construction
companies building the new double-track lines from Etaples to
Conchil, and the new single-track line from Conchil to Candas.
Here there
were fifteen Baldwin 2-8-0s to handle the main traffic
of Abbeville.
During all this trouble there was a pleasant interlude when,
on August 8, King George V paid a personal visit to the line. in
order to
see the Canadian construction and operating troops at
work. A special train was quickly assembled and made a trip from
Conchil to Legiscourt; surely one
of the strangest Canadian Royal trains in history. This was not the only special train operated for,
al other times specials were run for Marshal Foch, Field Marshall
Sir Douglas Haig, General Pershing, Sir Herbert
Plummer and Sir
Julian Byng.
On August 27 the unit turned the operation
of these lines
to the Australians and then moved to the Chemin Vert British
railway depot. In
September and October the BGOC moved
several times, generally foJlowing the advancing Allied armies.
On the lines from Chaulnes. through Cambrai, to Bouchain, and
from Cambrai
to Caudry, much inconvenience was caused by the
of delayed-action mines. However the unit was fortunate
that, considering the large
number of mines placed, only three
locomotives were damaged by these explosions. During the week
ended October
3,1918, the unit handled the following numbers of
cars: 2490 Troops and remounts; 9921 Supplies, ordnance,
ammunition and general traffic; 884 Construction materials; 1605
Ambulance cars; a total
of 14,900 loaded cars.
On November,
II, 1918, several ammunition trains were
ordered back to the base, and no more
came up. After the last big
of casualty clearing stations, ambulance trains were
used for French civilian prisoners
of war, many of whom returned
in a very weakened condition.
These trains were also soon used to
transport French and British prisoners
of war who were not able to
travel on troop trains. As soon as the French and Belgian lines were
connected, the BGOC had fifteen Baldwin
2-8-0s double crewed
working between Cambrai and
Germany. The unit operated the
first troop train into Duren,
Germany over the Valenciennes­
Mons-Liege line.
Editors Note: The following article
was written by Corporal Herbert
early in November, 1918, just before the
armistice, and appeared in Macleans
Magazine at that time. It was then reprinted
in the Canadian Railway and Marine World
for March, 1919. It is so good, and so well
describes the conditions under which the
CRT worked, that we reprint it in full. It
should be noted that terms like
The Hun,
The Boche, Fritz and Jerry all refer
to the enemy.
Tommy is, of course, the
British soldier. A Blighty was a non-fatal
wound which would require the victim to be
evacuated to England.
One of the most remarkable
features of this war
is the record of the
Canadian Railway Troops. You can The main line
of the narrow-gauge railway passing through the town of Lievin. The
construction sub-section men were billetted in the cellars
in the foreground.
imagine the Frankenstein of war not CRMW, November, 1919.
unlike a monstrous human being. The
is General Head Quarters, the heart is G.H.Q. Railway
Troops; the arteries and veins are the endless lines of track
supplemented by the roads department and the mechanical
transport which take the place of capillaries, or smaller veins
on the surface of the war god; the stomach, liver and kidneys
are the Army Service Corps producing and distributing
nourishment; the battles are the blood corpuscles fighting
along the veins and arteries; the lungs are the Red Cross, the
Army Medical Corps, the hospitals, convalescent homes and
rest camps, cleansing and renewing the blood; the nerves
are the engineers with their wires, telephones and wireless,
overhead, along the tracks and underground. The morale of
the army
is its soul or spirit, dependent upon its general
condition of health. Keep that
in mind and you will see the
importance of the work of the Railway Troops. When the
body is attacking or being attacked the outcome hangs
in no
small degree upon the unbroken transportation of nourishment
to every part and more particularly to the part in danger.
The Imperial War Office gave the building and
maintenance of these arteries
to the Canadian Railway
Troops, now numbering
14 battalions, under the headquarters
command of Brigadier-General
J. W. Stewart, C.M.G. The
first battalion
to carryon this work was the Canadian Overseas
Railway Company, all skilled railway men with high rates of
pay, recruited from Canadian railways. This company put
some splendid work at Dickebusch in April and May, 1916.
The units and details were recruited
in Canada and shipped
to the Canadian Railway Depot in England, where they were
drilled and trained till a battalion was formed, or they were
sent as drafts
to augment the strength of battalions already
in France.
These troops were armed and equipped
in the same
manner as their military cousins, the Engineers. They carry
the Webb equipment, rifle, bayonet, ammunition and gas mask. Their own mechanical and mule transport
are responsible
for their tools. A square red patch with a square hole planted
square between the shoulders of the tunic
is their distinctive
the same being the cause of many a witty remark and
much profane comment on the part of these strenuous
troops. At the beginning they were composed of specially
recruited officers and men with railway experience. Later the
ranks were filled
up with Canadian casualties. Quite a number
of these recruits wore the blue shoulder straps indicating that
they were men of the first contingent. Sometimes they wore
two, three and even four gold stripes, speaking words of
praise for our modern surgery and hospital system, while
bearing a mute witness to the stamina and spirit of these
peerless soldiers.
As far as possible the officers were selected from men
with railroading careers behind them. Advancement
by merit
was often rapid.
In the 5th, for instance, was a young officer,
Lieutenant L——, a Canadian, whose home
is in Puyallap,
on Puget. Sound. He came from Canada with the rank of
corporal and reverted to the ranks according
to the rule on
arrival in France. He was made full corporal two weeks later,
a sergeant
in six weeks, and in three months was sent up for
his commission. Another lieutenant, an experienced railway
man, was found digging a latrine
in the honourable capacity
of a sapper. A general, walking over the job, recognized him,
came over, shook hands, and sent him
up for his commission
on the spot. There were more promotions from the ranks in
the Canadian Railway Troops than in any other branch of the
service. This was one of the secrets of their wonderful
efficiency, for they fulfilled the Napoleonic maxim and make
them out of mud.
At the time of writing they had laid something over
miles of track, almost equally divided between standard
and narrow gauge. The standard gauge branched everywhere
A painting, by Leonard Richmond, showing a Canadian Railway Construction Company 01 work/n the deepest railway cut in France. This
painting was done for the Canadian War Memorials, and was exhibited at the Royal Academy
111 London, England.
CRMW, March, 1919.
from the main French lines, alleviating congestion which had
become chronic, releasing the central arteries of traffic for
the business which
is keeping France the least injured of the
allies outside her frightful battle grounds, maintaining the
mines, the farms, the credit and the industry of La Belle
France. From these tracks, immediately behind the lines,
stretched out a veritable cobweb
of narrow gauge, feeding
the guns, the troops, the trenches, and carrying the wherewithal
to every sector of this complicated war machine. The power
on the narrow gauge was mostly petrol motor, aided by a
number of dinky locomotives of about
15 tons. The cars on
the light track were nearly all open, while the ammunition
trucks were a special build with a sunken hold
in the centre.
When the Canadian Railway Troops were at work
standard gauge lines they were similar to any civilian gang at
work. But when laying narrow gauge, sometimes right across
No Mans Land, and often under fire, they were armed and
ready with a machine gun squad for each company, stretcher
bearers and a
Red Cross sergeant. This was the most
dangerous kind
of work, for the enemy guns were promptly
trained on any spot where rail-laying activities were noted.
was particularly dangerous when an advance had been
made and our lines of steel
had to be extended over the
conquered territory; for, then, the enemy strove furiously
hamper consolidation and rained shells on us.
To illustrate what happened when it was necessary to
build in the wake of an advancing army, I shall tell of the
events under the German guns at the first battle of Cambrai.
The astonishing victory of General Byng
on November 20,
1917, gave the army under his command a vast amount
shattered terrain, from Bullecourt to Villars, 26 miles across.
Over the ground the cobweb
of steel was immediately spun.
The night
we started work was bitterly cold and frosty. The
hoar frost hung like a mantle of crisp wool over every living
and inanimate object. The Fifth C.R.T. had the job and
Co., in advance on 20 little cars, dropped off at midnight
about a mile from the slag heap at Hermes. The chug­
chugging of the petrol motors ceased, only the bellow of the
big guns near at hand made the night hideous.
A momentary chaos was reduced to a semblance of
as the C.R.T. moved from the steep embankment
under a mUltitude of
burdens -stores, canteen and
quartermasters tools, tents, grub, a blacksmiths shop,
orderly room, officers tents, field kitchens, and blankets.
Tent floors wriggled
in grotesque contortions through the
black drop curtain
of the night. Dawn broke upon a camp in
the being, the tents standing above circular holes, making a
ft. shelter with a surrounding bank to afford some protection
from shrapnel.
A travelling workshop on the narrow-gauge railway 0/ the Canadian Railway Troops, in June, 1918. This shop could be moved quickly to
wherever its services were needed. National Archives o/Canada, photo No. PA-2713.
The men secured a breakfast of hot tea, bacon, bread
and butter, jam and hard tack, and, as they ate, they took a
keen first survey of their new location. Just above them on
the ridge was a cemetery buried
in foliage. A large brown
cross and the eternal figure of The Man of Sorrows dominated
the view. Behind them were rolling ridges of red soil, ploughed,
harrowed and hacked
by shell fire. On the far horizon to the
right was Bourlon Wood, a sepia blanket laid over the loins of
a white horse. To the centre was Fontaine Noyelles, with its
red roofs and one tapering grey spire, then LEscaut straggling
between the rows of poplars. Their speculations were broken
by the ascending scream of a high velocity shell.
Krrupp came the report – a geyser of earth rose and
fell 200 yards away. Fritz was seeking that big gun battery
behind the last ridge. Again, and once again. came the
scream and thud of shells. The Hun was distributing his
punches like a drunken man
in a bar-room.
Brraap! and up went a section of the mule transport.
Brraap! A hut held
by an Imperial Labour Battalion
was demolished and scattered like chaff on the storm wind.
Stretcher bearers
on the double! came the cry.
So D. Co. gobbled its last morsel of bacon, tipped up
the final drain of tea, and silently and sadly proceeded
move camp. Once more the circus act was repeated. A
thousand pieces of material were hauled across the ridges
and along the hollows on the stalwart shoulders of grunting
and cussing sappers. Three times that day they moved
escape destruction. By nightfall they had made a fairly safe
pitch near a disused trench line and several old German
In the meantime, of course, nothing had been done
in the matter of tracklaying. But the following morning reveille
sounded at 6.30, and at
7, with dawn breaking clear, they
were off
to lay the first mile of the narrow gauge.
D. Co. was split up into its component platoons, nos.
14, 15 and 16. Sixteen was put at grading, Fifteen at
laying out ties, rails, bolts and spikes, Fourteen at bolting and
spiking, Thirteen, the mechanical gang, were put at cutting
rails, laying frogs, points and switches. The ground was good
just here, despite the enemy bombardment. The surveyors
had done their work well. We decided that D.
Co. could lay a
mile of track a day.
A. Co., coming along behind, would
unload ballast and attend
to the lifting and lining of the track.
B. and
C. Cos. were working on another three miles across
the Demicourt Road.
The great Wimereux viaduct on the line between Boulogne and Calais. The Canadian Railway Troops have reinforced it with heavy timbers
and built a floor, made
up oj two layers oj steel rails, as a protection against bombing. CRMW, August, 1919.
The morning was clear and sparkling blue and the
enemys observation balloons seemed quite near. The sappers
bent to their tasks, however, and paid
no attention. Snatches
of song drifted by
on the morning breeze and spike malls rang
lustily against the steel. The songs they sang were not the
songs you
have heard at home. They were all comic with a
queer and tantalizing twist -railway songs that helped along
the work and had something of the swing of the deep-sea
chanties .
is a verse and chorus for example, led by
Corporal D——, the comedian and football centre of
D. Co.:-
One day our Uncle Sammy, he had a war with Spain,
Not all the boys
in blue were in the battle slain.
They were not killed by bullets. Oh! not
by any means,
For most
of them that died, they were killed by pork and
Stung right! Stung right! S-T-U-N-G.
Stung right! Stung right! Easy mark was
Oh! when the war is over and once again Im free,
Therell be no more Trips around
the world for me.
This was the metal of their morale. After four years of
war they were laughing at the worst Fritz could do -and many
of them were twice and thrice wounded veterans.
In the meantime the enemy observation balloons
above LEscaut had given the tip to the batteries in Bourlon
Wood. Brraap, Brraap, Brraap!,
big stuff came reaching
out for the track. A pelting shower
of earth, stones, and
shrapnel fell among the men
at work. Platoon by platoon they
downed tools and ducked forthe Imperial
advanced trenches.
No one was caught that time. The cooks made tea in the
trenches, and the
men ate their lunch of bully beef, cheese,
bread and butter and jam. After half
an hour of this Fritz
turned his attention
to the howitzer batteries in the sunken
road, so
D. Co. sallied out and to work again. By five oclock the first mile was down. All the guns had gone to supper. The
little cars were humming down the track and the tired troops
sprang aboard and off they went for home.
But the day was not
over yet. Half a mile towards
Hermes they met a blowout. A high
velocity shell from the
northern sector
of the German lines had tossed the track into
a junk pile. The tired troops looked at the mess with disgust.
Well, guess were
in for it, said a sergeant. One platoon can
to this job though. The choice fell on No. thirteen.
have known it! growled the men. Always unlucky!
have our number changed.
The other three platoons went on. The
men of Thirteen
to work with a will. Broken rails were unbolted, the
spikes drawn, and the twisted mess flung overthe embankment.
The shell hole was next blocked and filled with dirt from
outside the ditch. Spare ballast was scraped
up and new ties
were inserted. Mauls and wrenches were then applied
to the
of tightening up. Rails had been carried from up the
track, and
in a jiffy the track was repaired. Three rails in 23
minutes, gauged, lined and ballasted! Thirteen followed their
comrades with the knowledge of a job well done.
It was a happy crowd that swarmed round the hot
mulligan dixies that night – a gang of
big school boys, ages
running from
19 to 57, tired but happy and hungry as wolves
in view of a solid meal! To make things complete, the orderly
corporal arrived with arms full of mail. The great
big event in
every Tommys life was the mail -parcels and toothsome
candies, fruit cakes, cigarettes, books, tobacco, socks,
handkerchiefs, letters from mother, father, sweetheart, wife
and dear, sweet bairns.
Shells, wounds, cold, hunger, hardship, the grisly paw
of death ever near, the fretful sergeant and the haughty
officer, and a months pay lost
on the Crown and Anchor
board -all were forgotten. The man who
received a letter or
a parcel hurried away, a glad light
in his eyes, a warm glow
in his heart, for he had come to the end of a perfect day.
But this was not the end, not on this particular night.
The Last Post had just blown and the boys were all beneath
the blankets and a rosy glow worm
in the dark was the
cigarette of each tired and contented sapper. Suddenly
overhead sounded the unmistakable organ hum of a
Fritzy plane. All lights out was given by, threeblasts.on the
sergeant-majors whistle. The droning of the motors came
very near and the troops held themselves still
in breathless
suspense, for this was not the first time they had met hell from
German aircraft. The sound died away. Then out of the vast
and silent sky came brraap and bellow upon bellow of aerial
The men rushed from their tents
in their night clothes.
Half a mile away, the station at Lillers was ablaze. Petrol
tanks were flaming into the dark
in vast flashes of flame and
smoke. The warehouse was
on fire. Fall in sounded. The
R.T. sprang into their clothes. Tools were snatched up and
off they went. When they reached
la gare, or the station, they
saw thousands of French civilians leaving their little homes
and flying
to the open fields or the nearest dugout. Old
women, old men, young women and children
in every article
of night attire were scurrying away from the dreaded air raid.
Wherever possible the sappers helped them along and told
them Fritzy part tout-de-suite and, as though supporting
their strenuous western optimism, the anti-aircraft opened a
terrific barrage. The
big blopping of the Archies was broken
by the racket of the machine guns.
The station was like a scene from Dantes Inferno –
only more
so. Grotesque mushrooms of black smoke blotted
out the moon and stars.
Red, purple and yellow flames
in fantastic wreaths along the avenues of hell. Little
figures rushed hither and yon like manikins
in torment. And
every minute a hot shell exploded with a dull, far off roar amid
the conflagration. Two petrol tanks had been destroyed and
an ammunition train blown up. A Red Cross clearing station
had been struck, and the huge warehouse levelled with the
tracks. Everywhere writhing blue and gold snakes of petrol
marked the path of danger.
As they died out and flickered into
blackness, the sappers rushed
in, regardless of the hot
shells, ready
to blow up at every point any second, and began
to clear away the mounds of smoking debris. This was part
of their work.
Ahospital siding, with two rails blown clear away, was
repaired. The crater was filled
in, new steel laid on new ties
and the whole line spiked and bolted up in half
an hour. The
men toiled like ruddy fiends in the afterglow of hades. A Red
Cross train from the main track was shunted into the new
siding. It contained the bodies of two Red Cross nurses with
their delicate white hands folded meekly overtheircourageous
in death.
The men-of the C.R.T. by this time had reached the
wreckage of
the ammunition train. It looked as though some
monstrous upheaval
of nature had tossed it into a forest of
twisted girders, hanging shreds of timbers and the burnt
skeletons of wagons, tipped
in weird gestures of destruction.
The sappers tackled
it with a cheer. From the south side a
wrecking crew of French engineers were removing the large pieces with a powerful wrecking crane and windless. The
worst of the junk was heaped about a vast crater made
in the
centre of the main line by
an aerial torpedo.
Dawn broke with the work being carried on. Carloads
of ballast were shot into the cavity. As the grade was made
level the new steel was laid, and the wrecking crane moved
up and hauled away the awful junk piles.
In the meanwhile a
company of C.R.T
.s had rolled all the hot shells off the track.
And as they toiled at this dangerous task, protecting their
hands with wet mitts and gunny sacks, they kidded one
another along.
Look out there, Bill. That blinking 9.2
is going up!
Aw! Quit yer kidding. I dont want a Blighty now. Im
due for a Paris leave. And the lad would go
on, rolling the hot
shell down the track.
I wonder some guy wouldnt come round with a drink
of rum -Gee! Im all in, says one.

All you need is something to warm your cold feet,
replies his pal,
in spite of the obvious fact that both their boots
were burning
on the hot track.
Hell! I wonder them French Pollies dont come through
with a bottle of Von Blink? queries another.
it, you dud! says the next one, You make a
noise like a lamb.
By 9 a.m. the great northern road was clear. The new
rails were fast and straight. The immense traffic of the
Chemin de Fer du Nord rolled
on towards the battle lines and
tired Canadian Railway Troops sought their blankets for a
game of shut eye till 2 p.
m., when the work up under the
guns would begin again.
And so the days and months went
by. First it was a
case of laying narrow gauge right
up under the guns, with
every kind of shell ploppi
ng around. Then, if they were lucky,
it was standard gauge away back; which meant Y.M.CA
concerts and lectures, sports, baseball and football, maybe
some boxing, and all the mental and moral pabulum which
had built our splendid morale.
No one has heard the history of the C.R.T. when the
German advance last spring swept through the Lys salient.
The Portuguese Division retreated, after four days and nights
of gas shelling, when human flesh and blood could stand no
more. Merville and its three all-important bridges over the
canal, were left undefended. Into this breach the general
command plunged three companies of the 11th C.R.T., the
only available troops during those momentous hours. This
was a strategic point
of the utmost importance, for, if it fell,
Lillers would be
in danger and the whole British line from
to the sea threatened by a flanking and rear attack. The
troops held
the bridges with machine guns, bombers and
riflemen till the Jocks and the Australians came up
on either
flank of the retreating Portuguese.
A little later, when the line was bending at
La Bassee,
Bethune, Locon, three battalions of the C.R.T
., the third, the
fifth and the seventh, were held
in reserve, thus releasing
Imperial battalions for the front lines. The fourth and the sixth
fought hand to hand battles with the
in the Cambrai salient in November,
1917. The first day the
sixth lost their
field kitchens, their equipment and their
tools. The second day they went after
Fritz and took some of his field kitchens
before Bourlon Wood. The scrap the
sixth put up was largely instrumental in
checking the German waves before
Marcoing and Gouzeaucourt. And again
the sixth was caught
in Velu wood during
the spring advance
in 1917, and again
they fought their way clear of the
surrounding Huns.
The C.R.T. are the handy men
of the British front. They have tackled
everything from railroading
to strafing
the Boche, from taking up ammunition
to taking out the wounded -from laying
and running the narrow gauge
to shooting
down enemy aircraft with their Lewis
A section of newly laid track along the path of the Canal du Nord in France on November 27,
1917. CRMW, September, 1919.
guns. (the 11th shot down a German
in the apple orchard at Merville).
The Railway Troops have played
an important, and a
most strenuous, part
in the campaign now waging which, we
are convinced,
is going to end the war. I am writing this at a
point 40 miles
in advance of the positions we held two months
ago -and the C.R.T. have laid steel all along that broad slice
of reconquered territory!
It has been perhaps the most rapid
bit of railroading the world has ever seen.
To show how great the hazard has been, I want to tell
of the last advance of our victorious armies before Arras and
along the valley of the Scarpe, when two platoons were sent
up to repair a narrow gauge line under fire. They relaid 123
shell breaks
in six days. They had to live in dugouts. Each
night the enemy put over every kind of shell, Rubber heels,
Coal boxes
, Whizzbangs and bombs from his aircraft. The
Hun was doing all
in his power to delay the advance by
shelling and bombing our arteries of traffic.
The first morning out the C.R.
T. lined up in the square
before the station, near the quivering bodies of four
disembowelled horses, while members of the Veterinary
Corps were busy shooting these poor Long Faced Pals
save their pitiful sufferings. The Red Cross were busy taking
away dead and wounded Tommies. A 12-inch shell from a
long-range naval gun had dropped on a ration-train of the
Army Service Corps with frightful consequences. The second
morning the Boche blew up a motor lorry
in a mechanical
transport park near
by. The third morning he smashed the
corner of a cemetery; and bricks, gravestones, shrapnel,
rubble and dead bones fell among them. The sixth morning
the Hun got four of their transport mules, wounded the
transport cook, and killed two Imperials
in horse lines quite
to the C.R.T.
Nights were made hideous by every kind of explosion
to these duels of the big guns. When these two
platoons finished their job they were congratulated on parade
by the general commanding the division. The morale of these
troops at such a time of intense nervous strain
is shown by
the fact that the clink, or guard tent, standing directly under
the range of the German guns, was never dug
in or sand­
On the fifth morning one of the defaulters, waiting a
court-martial for a few hours A.w.L., was struck by a flying
on the ankle while busy shaving. He calmly picked up
the brick, while shell pieces were rattling down all around him,
walked over to the nearest dugout and said: -Look at that!
Jerry tried
to give me a free hair cut. Then he proceeded to
finish his shave while the earth went reeling and vibrating to
the ceaseless impact of exploding shells, any of which may
have meant the end of all things for him.
During this last great advance the 5th –
in which I am
humble unit -have leap-frogged their companies along the
narrow gauge and at this time of writing are actually connecting
up our lines with German steel beyond Lille. You see a dozen
little cars behind a petrol motor, or a Baldwin dinky locomotive
rolling along chock and block with troops going
up; ammunition,
kits, tents, grub, then more railway material, then ballast from
the slag heaps of mines. The farther the line stretches the
it gets. Truly the veins of the War God are Canadian
in structure, Canadian in skill and Canadian in spirit.
The names of some of our commanding officers are
household words
in France. -General Jacky Stewart,
Colonel Griffin O.S.O., Major Purdee with his Artemus
Ward brand of humour and his Champion Baseball Team,
Major Adjutant Bimbo Sweeny, Major Grant, Major Harrison
in charge of the 11 th at Merville -these are only a few. There
are hundreds unknown
to fame, but deserving of the highest
honours, kind-hearted, modest gentlemen from every province,
doing their duty as they see it from day
to day.
The keynote of the Railway Troops
is efficiency. It is
only by maintaining a high grade of efficiency that the work
be done, and the success this branch of the service has
is something that Canada may well prize.
cure since antibiotics had not been developed.
Striking friend
and foe alike. as well as civilians
the world over, the flu kiIJed more people in
fOLir months than the war had killed in fOLir
years. Although the CRT did suffer, along
with everyone
else, from the flu, the strength
of the forces was not seriously affected, and
the work carried on.
end, when it came, was quite sudden.
Although all realized that
the war could not
last much longer, the final surrender and the
signing of the armistice took many of the
troops by surprise. Early on the morning of
November II, 1918 it was announced that all
cease at precisely 11:00 A.M.
An interesting, never before published. account
of what happened that day is contained in a
letter written
by Richard F. Angus (the uncle
of your editor), who was on active service,
from Mon
s, BelgiLim on November IS, only
days after the war ended:
A section of badly shelled track on one of the standard-gauge lines in France.
CRMW, January, 1919.
Well the war, or rather hostilities, are
over at last. I expect there is grand rejoicing
in Montreal just
As the autumn of 1918 advanced, so did the allied armies.
the first time since the outbreak of war in 1914 it seemed that
victory was not far ahead. How far aJlead no one knew, and the
horror of the battles continued. Tile Canadian Railway Troops
were in the thick of the action, laying new lines. repairing damaged
track and, more and more frequently, repairing captured German
rail lin
es. As we have noted before, the danger from delayed-action
was very real. As the enemy retreated they left behind many
to catch the unwary soldier. These booby-traps were
usually well concealed and took many forms. The ones that gave
the CRT the most trouble were the delayed-action mines that were
planted in and around structures, tracks and other facilities. At first
designed explosive charges were used, but later, as the
enemy retreat gained speed, unused shells, bombs, or anything that
would explod
e, were planted. They were set off by ingenious time
fuses which contained a large percussion cap and a spring-loaded
firing pin. The spring
was tied back by a wire encased in a tube.
Specially prepared acid was placed in the tube and, when it ate
through the wire, the spring would bring the firing pin hard against
the cap, exploding the whole charge. By varying the strength of the
acid, the time until the explosion could be adjusted. This time
varied from half a
day to as much as 35 days. Detecting and
removing these mines was a dangerous job, since they were well
concealed and would go off WithoUt waIhing, sometimes under a
passing train. After the armistice, the Germans pointed out the
location of many of the mines and they were dug out, or, if too near
the set time, were detonated in situ.
hazard, which appeared in the last weeks of the
war, was the worldwide epidemic of influenza. This disease,
commonly called the 1918 Flu or the Spanish Flu, had no direct
We are at present billeted in Mons
where we arrived on the morning of the 11 th just before the
came into effect. We had left our billets in a village
near that
town early in the morning to work on a blown railway
near the town. We were very much surprised at not
hearing any gunfire, as we had not heard of the armistice. But
at about
8:30 the major came up and told us that it would be
in force at eleven oclock. We then marched into the town and
took part in the first parade in the town at the Grand Place.
Punctually at
11 oclock 15 aeroplanes flew over head and
started shooting off flares. Three cheers were called for king
Albert, the Brabacone, Marseillaise and God Save the King
were sung and then we marched through the streets.
whole town was bedecked with flags, goodness only knows
where they were all dug up from, and the streets were packed
with people in their Sunday go to meeting clothes.
The enthusiasm was tremendous, people ran
out and
kissed the soldiers and danced and sang and carried on like
a bunch of loonatics I
sicl, but altogether it was very impressive.
The men have been treated very well here and
many a bottle
which has lain hidden under a cellar floor has been
dug in
honour of the troops.
We have splendid billets in the swankiest part of the
our mess being in a railway presidents house and our
sleeping quarters in a mine owners.
So it was over at last, and the remaining duty of the
Canadian Railway Troops was to work on repairing the damaged
lines as the victorious armies marched into Germany to begin the
occupation which was to continue well into the 1920s. In sheer
numbers alone, the work of the Canadian Railway Troops had been
impressive. From April, 1917 until the end of the was they had
constructed 1169 miles of standard gauge, and 1404 miles of
. ,:: . ~ ~ …
r r
Page 213
,~ … ~. . . ~ ~ .
Canadian Lighl Railway officers making use oj their observation car built in their yard near Lens, September, 1917.
National Archives
oj Canada, photo No. PA-3807.
nalTow gauge. This is equivalent to a line from Montreal to a point
just east
of Kamloops B.C. In addition the constant maintenance
and rebuilding
of damaged line was as much work as the actual
Their casulty rate was more than 13%, for a total of
1,977 members of the Canadian Railway Troops were either killed,
wounded or captured by the enemy.
During 1919, the Canad ian Rail way Troops were demobilized
and they,
or those who were left of them, returned to Canada.
Gradually the world adjusted
once again to peacetime and everyone
hoped that this would indeed be
the war to end all wars and that
never again wou
ld Canadians be called upon to fight in battle.
Unfortunately they were called upon again, little more than twenty
years later,
.in an even bigger war, and the hope of world peace
seems as remote
as ever.
of the railway equipment, that had not already been
destroyed in action, was scrapped after
the war, but some was
salvaged for re use elsewhere.
Our member Mr. David Davies
(who wrote the recent article about KamJoops) recalls see
ing a 2-
foot gauge Baldwin steam locomotive operating on a slate hauling rai
lway in Wales. This locomotive had once been used on the
nalTow-gauge lines
of the Western Front.
Today it is three quarters of a century since the guns
stopped firing on the Westem Front. Few
of the veterans now
remain, for any surviving veterans
of World War I would have to
be well
over 90 years old at the present time. Soon there will be no
one left who can remember, at first hand, the work
of the Canadian
Railway Troops.
The story of their achievements were well known
during and soon after the war, but today few know abo
ut the work
they did and many
of the histories of the war do not even mention
the Railway Troops.
Many relics still exist, many of them buried in the earth of
the old battlefields. One interesting account comes from Dr.
R.V.V. Nicholls, Honourary President
of the CRHA: During the
summer of
1980 I visited Vimy Ridge near Arras. By pre­
arrangement, made back
in Canada, I was met there by the
r, Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. In the company
of the local museum director,
we went down into one of the
subterranean galleries. There are miles of
these tunnels
Some of the cap badges worn by members of the Canadian Railway Troops in World War I.
which were built by Canadian Army Engineers at the time of
the assault
on Vi my Ridge. They were provided with narrow
gauge tramways built and operated by the Canadian Railway
Troops. Most of these galleries are now considered too
dangerous for anyone to venture along. Even
we three went
into a part not open to the public. There
we found one of the
four-wheel cars used on the tramway
to carry ammunition
and stores forward, and the wounded and dead backward.
The metal parts of the car were
in good condition, but the
wooden parts were somewhat deteriorated.
On behalf of the
CRHA I renewed my request that the Canadian War Museum
donate the car to us, and arrange for
it to be transported to
Ottawa en route to Delson. This would serve as a memorial
to the Canadian Railway Troops. The Director readily agreed
and the car was safely brought to the surface. Within a few
weeks it was crated and transported
to Canada. It is now at
the Canadian Railway Museum, but not presently on exhibition.
As we mark 75 years since the restoration of peace
following what was then the bloodiest war in history, we should
remember the Canadian Railway Troops as well as those who
fought beside them
to preserve our way of life and our country.
is what Remembrance Day is aU about.
The author has relied on a number of sources in writing this
of the Canadian Railway Troops. tlie best sources were
the articles published in the Canadian Railway and Marine World
during, and especially soon after, World War
1. In many cases,
whole sentences have been quoted, their number making it difficult
to acknowledge individually. Especially noteworthy is the splendid
article on the CRT which appeared in the March,
1919 issue and
which has been quoted in full and so acknowledged. Dr. R.V.V. Nicholls has provided some source materials,
as well as the account
of his visit to Vimy Ridge in 1980. He is
planning to write a book on the Canadian Railway Troops for
which he
is gathering information. He would appreciate the favour
if anyone having infonnation on the subject would contact him at
P.O. Box
519, Merrickville, Ontario KOG lNO.
Canadian Railway and Marine World, April 1915, p. 129.
Ibid. July 1916, p. 279.
Ibid. November 1917, pp. 427-428.
Ibid. August 1918, pp. 323-328.
Ibid. January 1919, p. 14.
Ibid. March 1919, pp. 117-120.
Ibid. July 1919, pp. 367-369.
[bid. August 1919, pp. 411-414.
Ibid. September 1919, pp. 467-47l.
Ibid. October 1919, pp. 521-522.
Ibid. November 1919, pp. 575-578.
Ibid. December 1919, pp. 631-637.
Ibid. January 1920, pp. 1-4.
Canada in the Great World War, United Publishers of Canada,
1921, Vol. II, pp. 263-265.
Ibid. Vol. V, pp. 308-326.
TheCanadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919, By Colonel G.W.L.
n, C.D., Ottawa, 1962, pp. 485-492.
AnllY Museum Newsletter, No. 23, U.S. Almy Center of Military
History, Washington, D.C.,
1983, pp. 14-21.
7Stll Anniversary of Mount Royal Tunnel
Canadian Northern electric locomotive 602 in the Mount Royal tunnel shortly before service began in 1918.
National Archives
of Canada, photo No. PA-185768.
Seventy-five years ago the attention of the world was
occupied by the news from the fighting lines as World
War I at last
drew to a close. Every day, news bulletins told that the end
of the
cataclysmic struggle was not far ahead. At the same time, however,
the world-wide influenza epidemic was killing people at a
faster rate than the war. With these momentous events taking place
in world history, a local event, long anticipated, did not make the
news it would have in less troubled times.
That event was the
of the Canadian Northern Railways Mount Royal Tunnel.
The Canadian Northerns plan had been made public in
1912, and
work began that year. The actual tunnelling had gone
quite quickly,
and the tunnel faces actually met in December,
1913. After that many delays, some caused by financiaLconsiderations,
others caused by the war, combined to
put off the completion date
well beyond the time originally plalUled. At length, however, the
work was completed and, on October 21, 1918, the first regular
passenger train passed tluough the tunnel.
The turmel is a very interesting one and ranked among the
great tunnels
of the world. At the time of its completion, only one
turUlel in Canada, CPRs Connaught, was longer. During construction it was predicted that difficulties would be comparatively few, and
so it turned out. Very little water was met with, and this was where
expected, near the west portal where the limestone contacts the
older rocks.
The core of the mountain was almost exclusively
Essexite, a basaltic volcanic rock,
somewhat hard to drill, but
otherwise quite unobjectionable.
In consideration of the electrical operation, the headroom
required under bridges was reduced from
221/2 feet to 16 1/2 feet.
NearCartierville, the suburban
streetcar line was calTied underneath.
The northern suburbs of Montreal were brought within 20 minutes
of the heart of the city.
Today, the suburban line is being rebuilt, and the tunnel
will enter into a new life as the key element
of this system. At this
writing, a special train is scheduled to
be run on October 21, 1993
in connection with the 75th anniversary. Motive power for this
train will be electric locomotive 6711, the
same engine which, as
60 I, inaugurated the service through the tunnel three-quarters
of a century ago! Although the old equipment will soon be retired,
the future
of the tunnel is bright as it starts its second seventy-five
Canadian Nationals New St. Clair Tunnel
On Thursday, September 16, 1993, a Sod Churning ceremony was held at Sarnia, Ontario to commemorate the start of the boring
of the new S.c. Clair tunl1ellinking CaQ.ada all.9. the UIJited States. The old tunnel, in use since 1891, is too small to admit double-stack container
cars and high-level automobile carriers. The machine which will undertake this boring
job had been named Excalibore, a name chosen
after a contest for the best name submitted by a local resident.
Mr Lyle Leckie won the contest for this name. In case you were wondering,
the name comes from Excalibur which was the magical sword
of King Althur in fifth century Britain. Although the machine was
ceremonially started on September
16, actual work was not scheduled to begin until well into October, since it was necessary to train
personnel to operate Excalibore.
A delegation from the CRHA, consisting
of President Walter Bedbrook, Kingston representative Bill Thomson, and your Editor,
Fred Angus, attended the ceremony.
We did not attend as VIP guests, but as members of the news media. This allowed access to all areas
of the work site, and also provided handouts and photos not given to the VIPs. After the speechmaking, the machine started to turn, and
of balloons were released. We also saw the double-stack train, posed to show that it would not fit the tunnel, and, later, Amtraks
Toronto-to-Chicago train the International passed through the tunnel, followed by a special train for the invited guests. Altogether
it was
a most interesting and historic day.
. .. ~:
… t.,,·
ABOVE: Artists conception, showing how double-stacks and automobile carriers will go through the new tunnel. CN Photo.
OPPOSITE, TOP. A section oj the new tunnel superimposed on a section oj the original tunnel of 1890. Photo by Waller Bedbrook.
oj the machine ready to start work. Photo by Walter Bedbrook.
RiGHT: Mr. Lyle Leckie, who named Excalibore, holding a framed photo of it, presented 10 him by Mr. Tellier
of CN. Photo by Walter Bedbrook.
, ~. II
flExca iQore
to.~ipmeli InC.
~()ROtt1() CA.nAO. .
ABOVE, TOP AND BOITOM Both Ends of Excalibore. Note the double-stack train in the background. Photos by Walter Bedbrook.
The special steel-reinforced concrete tunnel liners en route from Woodstock, Ontario. CN Photo.
BOITOM, LEFT: A double-stack train on the track leading to the old tunnel. It wont fit! Photo by Walter Beelbrook.
BOITOM, RIGHT: Amtraks International, bound for Chicago, enters fhe tunnel. Photo by Walter Bee/brook.
The Restoration of Tank Car 11204
By Rob Blackburn
During 1992 and 1993, our 1916 Procor tank car was restored to its former appearance. The car had been stored outside since its
arrival at the
Museum in 1962, and the thirty years of exposure to the weather had sadly deteriorated the paint job. Although the car had
modern trucks when it arrived, these were subsequently replaced with arch bar trucks of the type it would have had when new in 1916.
The top photo shows 11204 as it appeared before the restoration began, while the bottom photo depicts it as it is today. It has taken
two s
ummers to restore her, with limited funding, but with sheer drive and just a one man crew, anything is possible!
-. f ·.~/,./,.I~
The 1993 CRHA Conference
By Jeremy Sporring
The 1993 CRHA Conference was hosted by the Toronto
York Division and saw a total attendance of twenty delegates.
On the evening of July 29, the early arrivals to the conference met
informally for registration at the brand new Koffler Institute
Pharmacy Management on the University of Toronto campus.
Next morning saw the presentation of four interesting
papers at the
same venue. First up was Keith Nordlund ofCN North
America with a slide presentation on
the St. Clair Tunnel project.
This provided an overview
of the entire project and highlighted the
engineers careful study of the construction of the original tunnel
in the planning
of the new bore. This was followed by Jeff Young
from the Ontario Ministry
of Transportation who enlightened us
on the many aspects
of the current high speed rail study in Ontario
and Quebec.
Our third presenter was Dana Ashdown with a paper
on Locomotive building in Toronto. Lastly, one of the delegates,
Wheal, gave us a glimpse into the
past relationship
of the railways, the
Toronto waterfront, and the city itself
with his talk
on the Toronto Railway
After lunch we were guided on
a streetcar
and walking tour which took
us to the watelfront via the Bathurst
Street bridge and included stops at the
Jolm Street roundhouse and Union Station.
We concl uded the day atthe CHP
Hen tage
Centre which is operated by a co-operative
of historical organizations including the
Toronto and
York Division.
Later that evening some delegates
travelled on
the new Scarborough Rapid Transit and were treated by the driver who opened his cab
door and operated the normally computer-controlled train
by hand.
The foJ lowing day the Annual General Meeting was held,
and then the delegates visited the
T&Y Omer Lavallee
Archives room for a
lighllunch and a chance to view some
of the collection. We also had a short tour of the industrial
buildings and railway spurs in the immediate area.
That evening saw the Conference Banquet held at Victoria
Station Restaurant which
is constructed partly from boxcars
and a caboose. Following the meal, the collective breath
the delegates was taken away by two slide presentations by
Greg McDonnell.
The first, set to music and a railway
sound track, featured shots from his book Signatures
Steel. The second was comprised of snowplows and trains
doing battle
in southern Ontario winters in the mid 1970s.
On a sunny
August 1st we arrived at the South Simcoe
Railway at
Tottenham in time to catch the first run of the
day behind
CPR 136. After a pleasant run we went to a
nearby road crossing
to photograph this 1883 survivor
pulling a combine and coach. Returning to Tottenham allowed
a look at the rest of the railways collection.
Following lunch
we visited the King Township Historical
Society Museum containing the 1851 King station.
The exterior
restoration on this building is complete, and the interior work is
continuing. A fine
museum of the local area is also located in a
former school on the property.
Our last stop was a brief visit to the Maple station, still used
GO trains, and then we returned to Toronto to conclude the
Chris Kyle and
Tony Rubin deserve special mention for
their attention to the delegates throughout the conference, and the
Toronto & York Division is to
be commended for arranging an
enjoyable weekend on relatively short notice.
Book Reviews
As the year end holiday season approaches, some people begin to think about Christmas shopping. This year there is an excellent
of publications of railway interest to tempt those interested. From the mountains of British Columbia to Bermuda (with two on the
latter) and from steam through stations, schedules and stamps to street cars, there
is.something of interest reviewed here. We hope you will
enjoy them.
By Douglas N.W. Smith
P.O. Box 1369, Station B
Ottawa, Ontario KIP 5R2
Price: $21.88 including all taxes and postage.
This 68-page compendium of information and stories
relating to passenger
trave.! by rail is a book that should appeal to
anyone who is in any way interested in the subject. From historical
events to the latest developments, from street car lines to
transcontinental trains, there
is something here for everyone. The
Canadian Rail Passenger Yearbook begins with a review of
passenger train happenings during 1992. It thencontrnues with a
long article about the CPRs Great
West Express, one of Canadas
lesser-known name trains. Following this, there
is an article on the
of Montreals commuter trains followed by a nostalgic
of photos, all in full colour, taken by the late great Omer
Lavallee. Articles on the centenaries
of electric street cars in
and Montreal, information on CPs Fort series cars, and a commemoration
of Montreal Central Stations 50th anniversary
then follow. Finally, a Heritage Photo Gallery, comprised
photos old and new, ends the book.
Notable in this book
is the considerable use of colour, of
uniformly high quality, in the illustrations. Of course many
historic older photos exist only on black-and-white, however
colour photos have been used to a considerable extent. Altogether,
the Canadian Rail Passenger Yearbook
is a worthy addition to the
rail enthusiasts library. We hope it will live up to its name, and that
we will have the pleasure
of seeing annual editions of this work.
Reviewed by Fred
F. Angus.
By David Nason
Published by New Ireland Press
217 Aberdeen Street
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B
Price: $12.95
This book, which won the CRHA Book Award for 1992, is
a one-volume history
of New Brunswick railways from the earliest
to. the present time. Following an introduction, there are two
basic sections to the book, the first which deals with the six large
railways, and the second which describes short and branch lines,
in all, which connected to, and often became part of, the
larger companies.
In 136 pages, the author explains the reasons for the
of each railway, the plans that were made and the lines
actually built; often far short of the dreams of the original planners.
Each history is brought
down to the present day, or to the time of
abandonment of each line. The book contains 46 excellent
photographs, some never before published, ranging in date from
1850s to the 1980s. One feature that is very useful is a small
map that appears with each chapter. This is an outline map of New
showing the route of the railway which is discussed in
that chapter. Near the end
of the book is a similar map which shows
all New Brunswicks railways, both existing and abandoned.
There are also copious end notes, as well as a good bibliography
of source material consulted.
so many New Brunswick railway lines having been
abandoned, and the prospect
of many more abandonments in the
future, the appearance
of a one-volume history of the railways of
New Brunswick is a timely addition to Canadian railway literature.
Reviewed by Fred F. Angus.
The Story of Atlantic Canadas Railways
Shirley E. Woods
Published by Nimbus Publishing Limited
P.O. B
ox 9301, Station A
Halifax, N.S. B3K 5N5
This 220-page hard-covered book covers the history of
railways in Canadas four easternmost provinces, New Brunswick,
Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, from their
inception to 1992.
It begins with the Great Railway Meeting
which t
ook place in Halifax in 1851, but actually goes back to the
beginning; a horse-operated tramway constructed at the
Albion coal mine near Stellarton, Nova Scotia in 1829. After the
early days, 1829 to 1852, there are chapters on Tracks to
Confederation 1852 -1867,
The Intercolonial 1867 -1876,
Prince Edward Island 1867 -1875,
Newfoundland 1868 –
The Building Boom 1870 -1914, Sunshine & Shadow
1915 -1945 and, finally, A Distant Whistle 1946 -1992. Tn this
book we read
of the promoters that first planned the railways, the
politicians, schemers and rogues, not to mention the engineers and
builders who actually
got the job done. We read of the great years
of the railways and then the postwar years of slow decline as the
railway systems tried hard, but often vainly. to adapt to changing
Today two provinces are without railways, Newfoundland
(exclud ing Labrador) and Prince Edward Island, while much
of the
Nova Scotia and
New Brunswick lines are gone or are threatened.
There are many beautifully-reproduced photos in this book, as well
as maps. drawings,
acknowledgements and bibliography. Cinders
& Saltwater
is extremely informative, yet is written in a style that
pleasant to read, and invites the reader to continue following the
story until its end.
Reviewed by Fred F. Angus.
On Track
The Railway Man Service
in Canada
SU88D McLeod OReUly
The Railway Mail Service in Canada
By Susan McLeod OReilly
Published by the Canadian Museum of Civilization
Hull, Queb
ec J8X 4H2
In cooperation with the National Postal Museum and Canada Post
Price $17.95
This book, which will be of considerable interest to
enthusiasts and stamp collectors, is the story of the
of mail by railways in Canada. As well as simply
transporting the mail, the railways also operated travelling
office cars, called RPOs, between 1854 and 1971. Sadly, and
rather unaccountably, the Post Office in Canada has ceased using
railways to move the mail, although
other countries, including the
United States, continue
to do so, and have built new equipment for
this purpose.
On Track tells the story in an enjoyable, readable, way and
yet contains a very great deal
of impo-rtant facts, liistorical dates,
and information on the service
tluoughout its existence. It also
includes material on the Newfoundland
postal service before and
after Confederation with Canada in 1949.
The photographs and
other illustrations are unmatched.
Not only do they show trains,
stations and mail cars, but also documents, stamps, envelopes,
cancellations, mailboxes and
most other pieces of equipment used
in post offices and mail cars from the earliest to the latest. The
section on postal markings shows many rare covers dating from the
s to the 1970s (one, with an 1858 Grand Trunk cancellation,
carries a three-penny Beaver stam
p, Canadas first stamp design),
and we
even see examples of the cancellation dies used to make the
The illustrations are of excellent quality, mostly in
black-and-white since they are old, historic photos, but sometimes
in colour. One notab
le photo is a rear-end view of the first through
CPR transcontinental train photographed on July 3, 1886. It
appears inside the book and also on the cover; for some obscure
reason the latter reproduction is in mirror reverse, although the
CPR are the right way around!
On Track is available in both English and French (where
it is
called A Fond de Train), and it is highly recommended to the
of Canadian stamps as well as the rail historian.
Reviewed By Fred Angus.
By Colin A. Pomeroy
Available from:
The Bermuda Railway Museum
37 North Shore
Hamilton Parish, FL04 Bermuda
Price $19.00 U.S., postpaid.
A small book about a
small railway describes this well
written and well illustrated 117
page book about a fascinating
standard-gauge railway
that served the idyllic islands of Bermuda
from 1931 to 1948. Its early history and development is described,
including proposals from the
1890s, to enabling legislation and
implementation by British investors 1928-31.
The role played by
the prohibition of motor vehicles, 1908 -1946, set the stage for the
ys construction, and the repeal of that prohibition in 1946
led to the rapid erosion
of railway traffic, followed shortly
eafter by abandonment.
The line was entirely single track with short passing
at frequent intervals. Safe operation was enforced by a
British token system. Passenger trains, typically a motor car and
a trailer, provided flexibility in
operation and very low axle
weights, an impoltant matter since 10%
of the line was on bridges
or trestle work.
Routine operation during the years
of the Great Depression
is described, followed by World War II, when the tremendous
increase in traffic that was thrust
on the railway led to rapid wear­
of equipment. The decline of the railway, 1945-48, is covered
in a fair amount of detail, and mention is made that the investors
in the Bermuda Railway Company Ltd. never received a penny in
The railway cost over a million pounds to build and
yielded only 115,000 pounds when sold to the government of
Bermuda in 1946.
Chapter 2 covers tickets, timetables and fares, while
Chapter 3 presents A Drivers Log, one day in the life of
equipment engineer Bill Kitchen who drove a boat train on this
Chapter 4 describes and illustrates the fascinating 1/4
mile long private miniature Ferry Reach Railway that
the estate of Vincent Astor to the Ferry Reach private halt of the
Bermuda Railway.
TI1e Ferry Reach Railways streamlined 2-6-2
was the only steam locomotive ever to operate on Bermuda.
er 5 describes The Line Today, as the BellTIuda
Railway Trail, opened to the hiking public in 1984. About 18 miles
of the original 23 mile line are preserved as a trail, less most of the
bridges that were dismantled in 1948. This chapter is particularly
well illustrated since it
is contemporary and a walk on the trail is
described in detail. Appendices cover (A) Rolling Stock Roster,
(B) Stations, (C) Bridges, (D) Profile, (E) Yard Layout, (F)
Stamps, (G) Biography
of Harold Jennings Kitchen, Chief Engineer
and General Manager, (H) Bibliography. Typography appears to
be by word processor.
Maps are sketches. Photographicreproduction
ranges from fair to good. This
is all acceptable because it allowed
of a specialized subject that will appeal to a very small
market niche, and is more than adequate.
For anyone with an interest in the Bermuda Railway, this
book will answer
most of your questions. For those who are not yet
acquainted with it, this book will stimulate your interest to visit
this most idyllic vacation place.
Reviewed by
Ray Corley, from a four-page review prepared
J. WiUiam Vigrass.
The Story of the Bermuda Railway
By David F. Raine
Published by
Pompano Publications
Bridge House
AJ1 Gallery
No. 1 Bridge Street
Georges GE05 Bermuda
This is another fascinating book on
the Bermuda Railway
which, in 96 large format (8 1/2 X 11 inch) pages, tells the story
of this short-lived but most interesting island railway. Starting
with the first proposals for a railway
in 1893, just 100 years ago,
the chapters are entitled
An Unfortunate Beginning, The Growing
Need for Change, Towards the Starting Line, Into the Age of
Rail, Operating for the Common Good, The War Years, One
Final Chug to the Terminal. There are 45 illustrations, including
two good maps and many well-reproduced photographs
the construction and operation of the line, stations, scenery,
tickets, as weJl as views of the right-of-way today. At the end there
is a list
of Acts, dating from 1924 to 1953, which pertained to the
Bermuda Railway. This will be a good place
to start for those who
want to know even
more details about the Bermuda Railway.
by Fred Angus.
An Introduction to the Canadian Guide Collection
By G.T. Bloomfield
Published by The University of Guelph
Guelph, Ontario
NlG 2Wl
Price $10.70 including taxes and postage.
The Canadian Official Railway Guide, which began
in 1864 and ceased in 1991, covers most of the
of Canada. The definitive collection of these Guides is
owned by the library of the University of Guelph which acquired
them from the publisher
in 1982 and subsequently updated them
to the final issue in 1991. This book is a brief history of the Guide,
with illustrations from certain issues and information as to how the
of Guelph collection may be accessed.
In 1864 the Canadian Guide was simply a collection
passenger timetables of the Grand Trunk RaiJway; however it soon
expanded and
in 1866 became the International Railway Guide.
Three years later it changed to International Railway and Steam
Navigation Guide, and
in 1909 it became The Canadian Official
Railway Guide.
In March, 1893 a fire in the offices of the publisher
destroyed their entire file collection of back issues
of the Guide.
of these earlier issues were replaced, but the collection of
pre-l 893 copies is, unfortunately, incomplete, although sti
1/ extremely
significant. However, from 1893
to 1991, a period of almost a
century, virtually all issues are present, making the collection a
mine of information to the researcher.
by Fred Angus.
The Country Stations in Western Canada
By Charles W. Bohi and Leslie S. Kozma
Published by Roundhouse Sales
6519 104 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
T6H 2L3
Price $52.95 postpaid.
Once the railway depot was central
to the lives of western
Canadians. Canadian Pacifics Western Depots -the long-awaited
sequel and companion to Canadian Nationals Western Depots –
as much of that record, setting the historical context for
raiJway construction
in Western Canada, provides the general
criteria which influenced rural station design, traces the evolution
of CPR country stations in western Canada, and discusses the
unique demands created for those who lived in them.
In addition to the text, more than 200 photographs illustrate
the various station designs employed. And finally, tluee rosters
present detailed infOlmation about virtually every Canadian Pacific
depot constructed
in western Canada.
By Ian Baird
by Orca Book Publishers Limited
P.O. Box 5626, Station
Victoria, B.C. V8R 6S4
This 112-page soft-cover book describes and illustrates
these rapidly-disappearing buildings from both an historical and
aesthetic perspective. There is an introduction which includes a
of CPR lines in British Columbia, showing the locations of the
stations. There is a brief history, then a discussion
of the architectural
of the stations.
The following sections correspond to the various Divisions:
Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Kettle Valley, Kootenay, Revelstoke.
seventy stations are illustrated, the reproduction
of the
photos ranging from somewhat
muddy to excellent. The front
cover depicts a partially hand-coloured view of the old station at
Field with the Mount Stephen house in the background. This book
is an invaluable record
of these stations that are so rapidly
By Mervyn T. Green
By Lome H. Nicklason
by Pacific Coast Division, CRHA
P.O. Box 1006, Station A
Vancouver, B.C. V6C 2Pl
These two publications by our Pacific Coast Division will
of great value to researchers concerned with the history of
railways in British Columbia.
The bibliography lists the great majority of publications
which contain material on B.C. railways, while the map, which
colour coded, shows the history of railways of the Mission.
Abbotsford, Huntingdon area. These are very worthy works and
highly recommended for those interested in the railways of British
By Henry Ewert
Published by Sono Nis Press
1745 Blanshard Street
Victoria B.C.
V8W 2J8
Price $16.95
Anyone who has read Henry Ewerts previous book on the
B.c. Electric will know that this book on Victoria is an excellent
work. Done in the same style, but this time confined to Victoria,
the book covers the history
of the system from its start in 1890 until
the end
of all street car service in 1948. An epilogue brings the
transit story up to date as well as discussing the fate
of the retired
This J 72-page book has 136 very clear photos, many
dating from before 1900, plus maps, timetables and illustrations of
street car ephemera such as tickets, transfers and rulebooks. There
is a full roster of all Victoria street cars, plus notes, bibliography
and an index.
The front cover bears a fascinating photo, taken in the early
of car No. 16 derailed on a sharp curve. This car, the only
one of its type to run in Canada, had a six-wheel radial truck and
was similar to those used
in Boston at that time. In 1896 this car
was the one which crashed through the Point Ellice bridge killing
55 people, the worst-ever street car accident
in North America.
This story, plus many more dealing with this interesting system, is
covered in this
book which is a must read for anyone interested
in Canadian street railways.
Reviewed by Fred Angus.
The Past and Future of the CRHA
The Past
As ])ar1 of the hi!>tor), of ollr A.s:;ocialiull Ihat is being
a.~scmbled. lI,e wish to include a list flf the dozens of trips thaI the
5SOCiaiion members enjoyed. These commenced in June. 1932.
A fairly
compleu~ li~1 of trips organized hy the CRHA in
Montreal has been compiled thr
ough 1963. Some. but not perhaps
all. of the trips through 1975 h
ave: also Occn listed. Would anyone
has a list, or call emllpi]e one, please lei us know. InfonTImion
we need i
s: Date, Railway. bus line cIC., Destination. Engine
number, cc.
have lx.1:[1 very active uv..:r the years in arranging
of their members. We would like to include a list of alilrips
l~kcn by C:;lCh Dili~ion. from the beginning. lnfonnalion under the
tillc.~ lisled above would be llpprceiatcd.
Copies ofCan:ldian Rail (and ils. predecessof. Ihe CRHA
News Re
pon. being assembled fOf Ihe As.socialion hislory arc now
e.~(.Cpl for Ihe following: Nos. 31 through 84. 91,100,
101. 102. 104. 105. 106.lOlt IOJ. III. 113.lfanyonehasanyof
these copies. and would loan thcm for copying (or. benef slill.
would like to donate Ih
em) we would be very grateful.
Please address any answers 10 Ihese enquiries 10:
Stephen Walbridge
196 Lakevicw Ave.
Pointe Claire.
1I9S 4C5
Many thanks for your help.
The Future
This issue completes Canadian R:lil for 1993, and also Ihe
1(Xllh issue Ihill your editor has produced. It is milc-slone and an occasion 10 reneel on the past and on me fmure.
Is il Time for a new editor,? The firsl Canadian Raillhatl worKed
on as edilOr was No. 338, for March. 1980. Ln those days lhe
wa.~ in the small formal and appeared monthly. In
January, 1
983 the present format and bi-monthly frequency was.
adopled; however the tOlal conlents per year wa.~ increa~ and has
ed 10 iJ)c{Case. This year Ihere has b«n II total of228 large­
ormat P.1ges l)Toduced. A major change took place in 1990. when
layout by mealls
of computer was introduced. This has s.aved
iderable money Ulld has allowed the usc of special layout
echniques not lwailable with conventional Iype.sclling. It also
makes for a much
closer inh.:raction between the editor and the
final layout.
he question i~, what ne:o;17 Mysclf nd all who are
associ:llt:d with Canadian
RRil would like to continue improving
expanding the poblicalion. in order to bring the members mort::
and belleT lInic1e.; of historical imeTCsl. There is one ~tuillbling
block; MONEY! It CO~IS money 10 produce Ca.nadian Rail. and also
10 mail iL The unit COSI would go down if our membership would
se. Unfonunately. our membership is decreasing at an
alarming mte.
The problem i~ Ihal very few new members are
joining t
he CRHA. nOI enough 10 make up for those who. through
dealh. old age.
or Olher reasons. have ce.1Sed 10 be members. If this
trend cOnlinues il
is difficult 10 IJredicl what will happen to our
Association in Iht: yea~ ahead. The members of the CRHA can help gre:u
Iy by becoming. in effecl. salcspc~ons for the Association,
sprc~ding Ihe word and trying to get friends and associates to
join. Getting new members is the ONLY way 10 ensure a bright
for the CRIIJ. Please think about it.
TIIC Directors have sun fit 10 implement a small increase
in the m
embership ducs for 1994. Beliee me. it is nocessary to
and hopdully improve. the qualilyofCnadian Rail. We
all sincerely hope lhal all of you sec il in Ihis Iighl and will
ly renew your membership as you have done in Ihe pasl. In
return, we will work on funher improements in 1994. lbe use of
colour photographs is now a real possibility and will be tried where
I)()ssible. nombly onlhc covers of some issues. There arc also plans
Iu improve the layout. and also to increase the amount of material
produced during the yel1f.
This brings us 10 the last point. We would seriously like 10
know what m~teri~1 you would like to sec in Canadian Rail. ilnd if
you would like to ~e Ihe same editorial team continue in office.
It has been
our beJiefthat Canadian Rail is an historical publicalion,
therefore the
anicles are of hblorical subjects. But. after aiL
history begins
in the immediate past. and many recent events are
just as much a.~ tho~ of the laSI century. So please leI us
know w
hm you think of our articles. and. perhaps. write onc or IWO
for tile magazine. It is illllTCsled members who provide lllany of
our :lrtieles.
In Ihe rne:lmime. all those who produce Can:ldbn Rail
wish all
of our members a happy and prosperous 1994.
Fred F. Angus. Editor. October 18. 1993.
BACK COVER. All arli:lts (OIlClPlioll 0/ the Samia {)Orwl o/Ihe lIew Sf. eMir /lIIIIId. IIQw be;1 CQflSfrllLud by eN North Amerim. Ulllikt·
til/ origiJUlI Wllne/, opelled ill 1891, lire /lCW 0111 williralldle doublc-s/(Id cOII/f/jllr,. cars (1/1(1 fliglr-/tId (//llolJlobik carritrs. The old II/I/I/(I
lIiIl be dosed. bill 1/ facodrs will br prcscrIld as all hiSlOricollll{)III/1JI11I/ f(l Ihis l:rcm/I!(If of lIilleIeem{, celltur) engineerillK. II is reported
111m Ihe n,.igilllli rUI s/(Ille r(,IIIOIfd dllring Ihe COlls/ruclioll will fJ< (lSill (111)1111(/ Ihc IWI Iol/als CIS shown.
PlIO/() t()IIIIt~Y oleN NOfrh Am(!riC(l.
Canadian Rail
120, rue St-Pierre, St. Constant, Quebec
Canada J5A 2G9
Postmaster: if undelivered within
10 days return to sender, pos1age guaranteed.
~—,–… –
-.. -…. –
lettermail Posl~lrttre

Demande en ligne