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How important was the use of "troop trains" during times of war and peace?

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As a new form of transportation, railways were often used during times of war and peace. In Canada, one of the earliest known cases of troop movements by rail was to move British soldiers during the Lower Canada rebellion of 1837. In the United States, the railways played an important role during Civil War (1861–1865) as both sides required great mobility of troops and supplies. Due to its substantial network of rail lines and terminals, it provided a considerable advantage to the "Union" or the "North" in achieving final victory. With the rapid expansion of the Canadian West, it resulted in the construction of the new Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) across the Prairies to eventually reach the Rockies. In 1885, in response to a provisional government established by Louis Riel (22 October 1844 – 16 November 1885), thousands of volunteer militia soldiers set off for North West Canada to suppress the rebellion. This included 53 men of the Ottawa Company of Sharpshooters who undertook a nine-day journey to Winnipeg on the still incomplete CPR – which today would take less than two days to travel the same distance. During the call to arms during the Great War, the use of troop trains was essential for transporting newly enlisted soldiers from across the country to the hastily prepared camp of Valcartier, Québec, the primary training base for the First Canadian Contingent for overseas service in 1914. It is here that over 35,000 troops trained and prepared for war. Shown in the photograph is an ice sculpture commemorating the centennial of the beginning of the First World War and depicts soldiers saying goodbye to their loved ones as they board a train to depart for war. The Troop train ice sculpture was unveiled on 6 February 2014 in Confederation Park – Ottawa, Ontario.

André M. Levesque

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