(This president's message was originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Interchange magazine)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Railway Association of Canada.

Prior to 1917, Canada’s railway industry worked collaboratively for a common cause, predominantly the war effort. The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), for example, was a tremendous supporter of the military, providing equipment, lodging, personnel and financing. By 1917, the Third Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops, made up largely of employees of the CPR, began building a railway in France to supply the army with needed material. Logistics wins wars and it is because of the efficient and timely deployment of rail that Canadian troops were able to capture Vimy Ridge in April of 1917.

Roughly six months later, representatives from Canada’s railways met in Montreal to create a national volunteer board – originally called the Canadian Association for National Defence and, subsequently, the Canadian Railway War Board – to coordinate industrial activities related to the war. Because the group was so successful in advancing the interests of railways in Canada, it continued its work beyond the war effort. The Canadian Railway War Board was dissolved and reborn as the Railway Association of Canada. It was also around this time that the federal government created Canadian National Railways, now CN.

During this period, rail was the primary mode of transportation for people. Just as troops and their equipment were carried across Canada and loaded onto ships, politicians and the monarchy travelled by rail across the country to meet citizens and give speeches.

Every Canadian has an idea of the link between the creation of the country and the construction of a coast-to-coast railway network. But few are aware of railway troops’ tremendous commitment and sacrifice towards the success of our war effort.

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the collaboration between railways in Canada, it is the legacy of these brave railroaders, who brought their expertise to this great cause on behalf of their country, which gives us pause and makes us proud to represent Canada’s railways today.

Michael Bourque
President & CEO
Railway Association of Canada
@bourqrail

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RAC President, Michael Bourque

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