Eight months after entering WWI, Pres. Wilson nationalized the railroads.
The railroads were in financial straits due to rising taxes and operation costs, on top of prices that were fixed by law. Wilson saw they were unable to support the war effort and set up the U.S. Railroad Admnistration to streamline them. Over 100,000 new railroad cars and almost 2000 engines were ordered.
The Railroad Control Act (passed in March 1918) stated the railroads would be turned back over to the owners within 21 months of a signed peace treaty. In March 1920, the railroad owners again took possession of their property.