Grandpa Marchington – WWI Rail Engineer

WW1 Tramway in action

While fighting overseas in World War 1, Grandpa Marchington transferred to the Canadian Light Railway Operating Company and worked at the dangerous task of building the supply lines for the front.

In reading of the tramways, care should be taken not to confuse them with the light railways. In the corps area, the light railways, built by French, Imperial, or Canadian Railway Construction Battalions, ran from the standard gauge railhead to the battle area.

There the tramways began. They were the same railways in that the narrow gauge was the same and the trucks were the same. But the engines were no longer steam. Telephone control replaced semaphore control, and the men who built the tramway lines were chosen from the infantry — shell-tried, war-hardened veterans. They were old railway men, most of them, who talked of the C.N.R., the G.T.R., and the C.P.R. as a man talks of his friends.

They worked under shell, and often machine-gun, fire and called it “blighty.” They watched their tracks blown up and repaired them “under the guns.” They told stories of engineers their hearing dulled by the noise in their cabins — who were deaf to the warning whistles of shells which signalled passengers to jump and who continued at their posts until they were blown up with their engines.

The story of the tramways is a story of great service paid for in casualties, and it is a romantic story of dogged determination and proved success against great difliculties.

From: “In Winter Quarters, 1917-18”