Friday, July 30, 2021

1914 Canadian Troop Transportation by Rail & Lord Strathcona's Royal Navy Petroleum




How do you organize the movement of Canadian troops by rail? A simplified consolidation of the regulations and best practices (a 'how to' for young officers) was in print beginning in 1880. My water-damaged copy was printed in 1914, before/as the world was blundering its way into war. Many other interesting practices and procedures are covered. I have only extracted the section about the transportation of troops.

In the course of the usual tangential researching to satisfy my curiosity and to avoid error, I discovered an interesting series of facts connecting Lord Strathcona with the modern Middle East. The information is related to developments in transportation and is centred on the period of the Great War ... so it is included as a digression. Hopefully, you will find it interesting as well.



'According to the internet' this label was attached to a piece of military clothing auctioned in Bancroft, Ontario in 2018.
(see the embossed stamp on the title page above).





from: Canada, The Missing Years; Patricia Pierce; 1985; Stoddart.


from the Wikipedia entry on: Donald Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal:

'He raised Strathcona's Horse, a private unit of Canadian soldiers, during the Second Boer War, and became one of the leading supporters of British imperialism within London. After the end of the war, he was appointed among the members of a Royal Commission set up to investigate the conduct of the Second Boer War (the Elgin Commission 1902-1903). He was involved in the creation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, of which he became the chairman in 1909. Lord Strathcona subsequently used his influence to make the company a major supplier of the Royal Navy.'

[Persia: later, more commonly called 'Iran']

*  *  *

A Digression on Lord Strathcona's Royal Navy Petroleum 


Subsequent to Donald Smith's activities, the British government purchased 51% of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1914. The Canadian Pacific steamship Empress of Britain 1905-1924 (i.e. renamed Montroyal in 1924) was converted to oil-firing in 1919. 

... You can draw your own conclusion whether Donald Smith (1820-1914) saw oil as the fuel of the future for the CPR fleet.

The first trials of oil-firing for warships began with the 'torpedo boat destroyer' HMS Spiteful in 1904. Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911 and was involved with the change from coal-fired to oil-fired British warships. 

Coal has 50-75% of the energy density of oil ... AND ... refueling in port with oil was faster and much less labour intensive. Coal had to be moved by hand multiple times as it made its way up from the supply barge, down into the bunkers (in which it was regularly trimmed by hand to maintain the ship's balance), out to the fireroom floor, and then into the fireboxes. Spontaneous combustion of coal was also a problem while it sat in the bunkers.

From 1912, all new British warships were designed to burn fuel oil.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth was the first British dreadnought battleship propelled by oil-fired steam turbines. 

from: Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I; 1919 (reprint: 1990); Military Press.

With the increasing strategic importance of oil in mind, it was necessary to acquire reliable sources of oil and a network of oil refueling stations wherever the Royal Navy expected to be active, viz. 'this vast empire on which the sun never sets' - that was written by George Macartney in 1773.

The map showing the location of known petroleum deposits in 1915 will help illustrate the calculations of the Royal Navy. Coincidentally, some of the CPR cargo ships requisitioned by the Admiralty during the Great War were converted into oil tankers.

from: Our Country and Its Resources; ed: Albert A Hopkins; 1917; Munn & Co.

... continuing with Persia/Iran ...

In 1952 the democratically-elected prime minister of Iran (Mohammad Mosaddegh) nationalized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company's local assets. In 1953, the CIA and MI6 staged a coup to depose him. The descendant of Donald Smith's Anglo-Persian Oil Company was renamed the British Petroleum Company in 1954. 

Initially seen as a harmless, young figurehead monarch in the wake of the coup, the Shah of Iran consolidated his power as an autocratic ruler who was friendly to US and western interests as the 1950s drew to a close.

End of digression on Lord Strathcona's Royal Navy Petroleum

*  *  *


Back to transporting Canadian troops in 1914 ...






from: The World War; ed: Holland Thompson; 1921; Grolier.

Apparently, the 'colonial' Canadians were judged by Kitchener not to have the training necessary to properly integrate with British forces in battle, so they trained and drilled on the Salisbury Plain during the first winter of the Great War. Their habitat became a sea of mud as the result of unusually heavy rains. Proper heating equipment was not available for these soldiers living in tents and the cold rains and mud made everyone miserable and/or sick. Getting into battle was soon expected to be a better existence than continuing to live on the Salisbury Plain.



from: The World War; ed: Holland Thompson; 1921; Grolier.

from: Canada, The Missing Years; Patricia Pierce; 1985; Stoddart.



End of the section from The Guide.


from: Light Railways of the First World War; WJK Davies; 1966; David & Charles Ltd.

As Canadian troops approached the trenches of the Great War, their transportation would often change from standard commercial railways to military narrow gauge railways which were designed to support the front lines. Commodities carried included ammunition - especially large quantities of artillery shells, food, barbed wire, lumber, fodder and bedding for draft animals and other supplies and equipment. 

Specialized Canadian military units and personnel were sent over to become involved in the building and operating of many of these railways ... and simpler human and animal-powered tramways as well. 

Many Canadian civil engineers and workers were familiar with the techniques used in building railway lines across muskeg, as Canada's railway boom had been in full swing as the war started. It was a relatively simple matter to transfer these railway-building skills to the poorly drained sea of mud near the front lines.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Evolution of Rules 1, 2, 3 and Times


Traditionally, having the correct time out on the road meant that you would avoid a faceful of freight train.

Consider the march of technology. A local newspaper columnist once wrote about the traffic radar equipment being introduced in the City of Kingston. In the past, a speeder could reportedly beat a speeding ticket if it could be demonstrated in court that the police officer had not calibrated the radar set with the supplied tuning fork before beginning work that day.

'Forget it. They use this new radar to calibrate the tuning forks.'

*  *  *

It seems that the railway rule books are usually a couple of decades out of date with cutting-edge reality. Historically, railways were often profitable and safe because of their tendency to be conservative. 

This online portion of the CROR (2015) currently (2021) states:

Every conductor, assistant conductor, locomotive engineer, pilot, foreman, snow plow foreman and such other employees as the company may direct, shall, when on duty, use a reliable watch that indicates hours, minutes and seconds and shall;

(i) be responsible to ensure that it is kept in proper working condition so that it does not reflect a variation of more than 30 seconds in a 24 hour period;

(ii) set it to reflect the correct time if it reflects a variation of more than 30 seconds;

(iii) before commencing work, compare the time on their watch with a railway approved time source. Where a railway approved time source is not accessible, obtain the correct time from the RTC or by comparing with another employee who has obtained the correct time. Every crew member assigned to train, transfer or yard service shall compare the time with one another as soon as possible after commencing work.

*  *  *

While every employee is held individually responsible for always having the correct time, one wonders if the prescribed personal timepiece is actually the least reliable source of railway time within a fusee's throw of the locomotive - given all the GPSed electronic telemetric gadgetry therein.

By the same token, employees flagging the headend of a steam-powered train (with the fire therein always threatening to melt the steel around it), ironically, were required to have matches.

Obviously, when one is 'all alone' out in a snowstorm, one must know the correct time, or be able to light a kerosene flagging lantern without using the locomotive's resources. You are individually responsible. You and your crew will also be held collectively responsible. 

*  *  *

I am interested in the concept of time(s). Like many of you, I also enjoy reading old rulebooks and timetables as they allow me to imagine other (probably idealized) periods in railway history. Very small settlements like Schreiber, Ontario once had prosperous watchmaker shops to supply, and to regularly inspect and regulate, the timepieces of all the local running trades personnel and other employees affected by the rules. 

... So what could be better than a 'history book' of the time rules which was designed to provide the 'bureaucratic memory' to the AAR and its members?


This little old book is about 4 inches x 6 inches x 1.6 inches thick and does not like to be scanned.
... pardon my gutters.



[above: not exceed 30 seconds per week - not merely 30 seconds in 24 hours cf 2015 CROR]



The 'current rules' (1940) and Page 20 (referred to above) follow ...



*  *  *

Moving on from rule book time, to time(s) ...

One period of railway history which I find particularly interesting is the nightmare period before railways and railroads began to standardize their individual or collective times ... and before national time zones were established across continents. 

... Solar time was 'our city's time' or 'God's time' ... and it stood preeminent. If you had an actual appointment (rather than a simple 'walk-in and wait'), the city's chiming clock towers could guide your temporal journey to the public building or private office ... where you'd find the affluent professionals, their fancy clocks and watches, and their 'time is money' ethic. 

... Church bells and other calls to worship were also intended to regulate people's temporal journeys back then ... but I digress.

Consider the march of technology. Society required more and more people to be able to tell time from a 12-hour clock face. People became more educated and affluent. People travelled longer distances away from their homes via faster and faster railway networks. 

... People began to notice that their personal timepieces were matching neither the position of the sun, nor the carefully-kept local solar time at the settlements where they detrained ...




And don't even get Sandford Fleming started on railways using only a 12 hour clock!

Did you spot the 5 Canadian cities?

*  *  *

To travel farther through the looking glass of North American railways during the era of local solar time, up trains, down trains, noon guns, and time balls ... perhaps try this earlier post ...


*  *  *

from: GWR Company Servants: Janet KL Russell; 1983; Wild Swan Publications.

Finally, on the Great Western Railway (UK), here is an undated view of a watchmaker within its little shop of horologists. With all the mechanical time-keeping machines located throughout the GWR's dense little railway system, it made sense to have a centralized staff of experts to repair and oversee their use.