In wartime, railways played a key role transporting troops, and train stations were the scene of many a sad farewell. This photograph by Victoria photographer Ernest Crocker shows a Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train laden with soldiers about to depart from Vancouver ca. 1915. But Canadian railway companies did much more than move troops. During World War I, the Corps of Canadian Railway Troops (initially known as the Canadian Railway Troops) were part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
The CPR played a major role in the war effort, putting all its resources at the disposal of the British Empire—its railway, ships, shops, hotels, telegraphs and, most important, its people. Aiding the war effort meant moving and billeting troops, building and supplying arms and munitions, arming, lending and selling ships. CPR also made loans and guarantees to the Allies, to the tune of $100 million. The company took on 6,000 extra people, giving them jobs during the war.
When the fighting was over, CPR found jobs for former soldiers. 7,573 CPR enlistees came back to jobs with the company, and CPR employed an additional 13,112 who made it back from overseas. CPR set up, and formed the major part of, the Canadian Overseas Railway Reconstruction Corps—a group of skilled railway workers and engineers who went overseas during and after World War I to rebuild Europe’s railway infrastructure.