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The Chung Collection

The life and work of Sir William Van Horne Vaughan, Walter, 1865-1922 1920

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Array  The University of British Columbia Library
w-   J \
1920 Copyright, 1920, by
The Century Co. 1
Whoever heard Sir William Van Home tell his vivid
stories and remembers the romantic glamour which he
threw upon the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway will always regret that he did not write his autobiography. He was often urged to write the history
of the Canadian Pacific, and as often promised to do so.
In the summer of 1914 he arranged with Miss Kath-
erine Hughes, the biographer of Father Lacombe, to
collaborate with him in the work. The Great War
intervened, and he died in 1915 without having made a
beginning. His son and daughter, Mr. Richard Benedict Van Home and Miss Adaline Van Home, continued
the arrangement with Miss Hughes, with the object,
however, of having her prepare a biography of their
father. Miss Hughes thereupon industriously gathered
material, which she put together loosely in the form of
a narrative. On my return from Europe last summer
Mr. Van Home gave me Miss Hughes's manuscript and
asked me to write his father's life. Inasmuch as I had
made definite plans to spend the winter in California,
where letters and other original sources would be inaccessible to me, the proposal involved considerable difficulties; without Miss Hughes's material it would, in the
circumstances, have been impossible. I felt, however,
that some personal knowledge of Van Home and his
work during a period of twenty-five years, seven of
which were spent by me in the service of the Canadian
Pacific, gave me one qualification for the task, and ulti- VI
mately I agreed to undertake it, provided I was altogether unfettered in the choice of material and the manner of its presentation, and in criticism. This condition was conceded as a matter of course.
Much of this volume, then, is frankly based on Miss
Hughes's material, and wherever it has been possible I
have used and adapted her rough narrative. If, therefore, these pages be deemed to have any merit, a large
share of it must be credited to Miss Hughes. For their
demerits I am alone to blame. Per contra, any writer
who has had to rely to a large extent on material selected
by another will appreciate one of the difficulties under
which this book has been written.
I wished to include some account of Van Home's impressions of his earlier visits to England and the great
art centres of Europe, but no records are available. A
man who travels forty or fifty thousand miles a year
and enjoys unlimited franking privileges over cable and
telegraph lines is not apt to devote much time to letter-
Van Home once protested against "unauthorized"
biographies because they "suggest that they have been
cooked, pruned, and glossed over to suit somebody, and
therefore lose their value." In his opinion a biography
should be "frank, square-toed, and pungent." Again,
he exhorted a biographer of his friend Lord Strathcona
to make his book "a real one—a strong, fearless, flat-
footed, straightforward work." This life of himself
has, at any rate, been written with fearlessness and sincerity.
Miss Van Home and her brother have cordially given
me every assistance for which I have asked. I am under
a debt of gratitude to Mr. R. B. Angus and Lord
Shaughnessy for their kindness in reading the chapters PREFACE vii
covering Van Home's work on the Canadian Pacific and
for valuable suggestions which I have gladly adopted.
I am under the like obligation to Mr. Howard Mansfield, the chief counsel, and Mr. H. C. Lakin, the President, of the Cuba Company, for reading the chapters
covering Van Home's work in Cuba. I am also specially
indebted to Mr. E. W. Beatty, the President of the
Canadian Pacific, for the loan of indispensable reports
and documents, and to Mrs. Frances B. Linn, the librarian of the Santa Barbara Public Library, for her courtesy in obtaining for me several books of reference which
were not on her shelves. To other kind friends who
have helped me, I offer my grateful thanks.
31 May, 1920.  1
1843-51.   Ancestry.   Birth   and   Child
1854-60.     Schooldays.    Telegraphy.    A
Panorama.   Fossils and Geology.   His
First Post.   Dismissal.   The Michigan
Central.    The Agassiz Club     ..    .    .
1861^67.   Enlistment.   The Chicago and
Alton.    Agassiz.    Drawing.   Marriage
1868-74.   Promotion.   The Chicago Fire.
The St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern. Railwaymen's Clubs. A Strike. A
Practical Joke.    Nursing     ....
1874-79.   The Southern Minnesota.   Es
prit  de  Corps.    Floods.    Grasshoppers
and Prayers.   Putting Places on the
1879-81.   The Chicago and Alton.   President Hayes.   The Chicago, Milwaukee
and St. Paul.   Engines and Cars.    Station Designs.   A Railway Fight.   James
J. Hill.   Fossils and Horticulture    .
1881.   The Canadian Pacific.   Its Inception.   Donald  A.   Smith,  J.   J.   Hill,
George  Stephen,   R.   B.   Angus.   The
Syndicate.   The Charter     ....
1882.   Winnipeg.   The Lake Superior Section.    Hill's   Withdrawal.    Kicking
Horse   Pass.    Major   Rogers.    T.   G.
Shaughnessy.   Organization and Construction.   Van Horne's Driving Force.
Removal to Montreal	
ix Contents
1883. Lake Superior Section. Indians
on the Prairies. Chief Crowfoot and
Pere Lacombe. The Mountain Section.
Eastern Extensions and the Grand
Trunk.   A Government Loan     .     .     .91
X 1884. Tours of Inspection. Vancouver.
Physical Courage. Financial Difficulties.    Sir John Macdonald   .    .    .107
XI 1885. The Second Riel Rebellion. Desperate Financial Plight. Difficulties
at Ottawa. Another Government
Loan. The Last Spike. Silver
Heights.    The First Through Train .  121
XII 1885-86. Creating Traffic. Sleeping-
cars. Politeness. Extensions. Snow-
sheds. Places on the Map. The Van
Horne Range.    Pacific Steamships     . 137
XIII 1887-88.   The Presidency of the Chicago,
Milwaukee & St. Paul. Capitalizing
Scenery. Mountain Hotels. Fight
with Manitoba Government. The On-
derdonk Section 148
XIV 1888-90.   Appointed    President.   T.    G.
Shaughnessy. George M. Clark. The
Grand Trunk. U. S. Bonding Privileges. The "Soo*' and South Shore
Lines.    Prairie Settlements      .    .    .162
XV 1882-90. The Personal SroE. Japanese
Pottery. Painting. Games. Mind-
reading.   Jimmy French 177
XVI 1891. A General Election. Manifesto
Against Reciprocity with U. S. Offer
of Knighthood. The Chateau Fron-
tenac. The First Round-the-World
Tour 188 Contents
1892. Encouraging Farmers and Raising
the Price of Wheat. The Grand
Trunk Seeks an Alliance. The Intercolonial and Atlantic Steamship Service.     MOUNTSTEPHEN  RESIGNS
1893. Commercial Depression. Strengthening the Company's Financial Organization. J. J. Hill and the Duluth
and Winnipeg Railway 217
1893-96. The Duluth and Winnipeg.
Business Paralysis. Floods of the
Fraser. Appointed a K.CM.G. Military Maps. A General Election. The
Manitoba Free Press 233
1896-99. The Loss of the Duluth and
Winnipeg. A Bitter Blow. Atlantic
Steamship Service. Resigns Presidency
of C P. R.   A Holiday in California   .251
1890-1900. Private Interests. The Windsor Salt Co. The Laurentide Pulp Co.
covenhoven. japanese pottery, art
Collections.   Paintings.   Cuba      .    . 262
1900-02. Cuba and the Cuba Company.
Organization. T. F. Ryan. Railway
Construction. The Right of Way. A
General Railway Law. General Leonard Wood. Celebration at Camaguey.
Opening of Railway   ...... 276
1903-05. Hard Times in Cuba. A Government Loan. Railways in the Philippines. The Guatemala Railway.
Death of Mary Van Horne  .... 297
1905-08. Insurrections in Cuba and Guatemala. A Visit to Guatemala. J. J.
Hill Again. The Dominion Steel and
Coal Companies.    Stock-breeding   .
1 xii Contents
XXV 1907-10. A Stock-Market Panic ani^
Spanish-American Investments. Georgian Bay Canal. Equitable Life Assurance Society. Birth of Grandson.
A Circus Party. Resigns Chairmanship
of C P. R.    ......... 326
XXVI 1910-11. Life in Cuba. Sardine Plant.
Town-Planning. Views on Imperialism. Reciprocity and General Election
in Canada 338
XXVII 1912-14. Festival at Joliet. A Whimsical Letter. Humbug. The Key to
Success. Illness. Reading. Convalescence.   Last Visit to Europe    .    .    . 352
XXVIII 1914-15. The Great War. Chairmanship
of National Commission. Second Illness.   Death.   John E. Logan's Verses 364
XXIX Personal Characteristics. Portraits.
Friends. G. T. Blackstock's Appreciation 370
Bibliography  383
Sir William C Van Home, K.C.M.G. .    .    .     Frontispiece
(After a photograph by Notman, Montreal)
Lady Van Home  .    36
(After a photograph by Notman, Montreal)
Sir William Van Home at the age of 39 84
(After a photograph by Notman, Montreal)
Driving the Last Spike .......... 132
(After a photograph by Ross, Calgary)
Moonlight on the St. Croix River .    .    .    .    .    .    .180
(A painting by Sir William Van Home)
The Birch   180
(A painting by Sir William Van Home)
"Covenhoven" 268
(After a photograph by Notman, Montreal)
Frieze at Covenhoven Painted by Sir William Van Home 340
The Dining-Room in the Montreal House 372
(After a photograph by Notman, Montreal)
Corner of Sir William Van Home's Studio   .... 372
(After a photograph by Notman, Montreal)
Railways of Canada, 1880, together with Sandford Fleming's route to Bute Inlet and Port Moody    .    .    . 260
The Canadian Pacific Railway in 1898 260
1843-51.   ancestry,   birth and childhood.
born on February 3, 1843, at Chelsea, Will
County, in the State of Illinois.
Seventy years afterwards, in a bantering letter to a
distant connection who had written him about their
common genealogical tree, he said, "I have been too busy
all my life to cast a thought so far back as my grandfather." Yet, while essentially democratic and eminently free from the weakness of pride in anything so
entirely beyond his own control as the stock from which
he sprang, there can be no question that, at any rate in
his maturer years, he was conscious of his sturdy Dutch
ancestry. On the paternal side his ancestors had invariably married women of that race, while his mother
was born of German and French parents. It may not
be far wrong, therefore, to ascribe to his heritage of
descent something of the elements which combined to
differentiate him from the other men of large capacity
and force who, in the era of expansion which followed
the Civil War, rose to create and consolidate the great
railways which form the arterial system of the industrial life of the North-American continent. That heritage helps to explain how he, in so many ways a typical
3 4      The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
Western American, was gifted with a power of detachment, remarkable among his contemporaries, which
enabled him to ally himself with the fortunes of Canada
as enthusiastically as he could possibly have allied himself with the fortunes of his native state; which enabled
him to appreciate with a most intense sympathy the character and mode of thought of peoples so un-American as
the people of Cuba and the people of Japan; and which
enabled him to find impartial delight in the most diverse
and exotic forms of art and craft.
About the year 1635, when the Dutch Republic was in
the heyday of its maritime power, Jan Cornelissen Van
Home adventured from the shores of Zuyder Zee to
settle in that New Amsterdam which was rising on the
island of Manhattan, and to found one of the Dutch
families that have played so conspicuous a part in the
industrial and political development of the North-American Colonies and the United States. Already a man of
substance in receipt of an annual income from the
Netherlands, he acquired houses and land, purchasing
in 1656 from Jacob Steendara, America's first poet, a
house in Hoogh Straat which was one of the earliest
dwelling-houses erected in the settlement and occupied the site on which 25 Stone Street now stands.
Interested in public affairs, he was one of the signatories
to the Remonstrance addressed, in 1664, to the Directors
of New Netherlands, and counselled the surrender of
the colony to the English forces when succour from
the States-General failed to arrive.
One of Jan Cornelissen Van Home's grandsons,
Abraham, became a leading citizen of New York, residing in Wall Street, with his mills and store-houses
nearby, and acquiring a grant of fifteen thousand acres
of land in the Mohawk Valley.    He filled "nearly every Ancestry 5
office in tne gift of the people," and one of his daughters
was married to Burnet, the English governor of the
colony, whose popularity was ascribed by Mrs. Van
Rensselaer, in "Goede Vrouw of Mana-ha-ta," to "his
alliance with one of the leading Dutch families," whereby Burnet "began his rule in the colony with more
friends and adherents than any English governor had
ever obtained."
The Wall Street merchant, who had eleven children,
possessed sufficient wealth to enable a son of the same
name to acquire an estate in New Jersey about 1720.
In 1725 he built the White House, which is still occupied
by a member of the family, and from which the town of
Whitehouse, N. J., took its name. To this country mansion of Dutch architecture, with a large hall decorated
by an Italian artist, Abraham Van Home the younger
brought his wife Antia Covenhoven, a descendant of
Wolfert Gerritson Covenhoven, who had emigrated
from Amerspoort to New Amsterdam in 1630. Following in the steps of his forefathers, Abraham the younger
added to his landed possessions and erected sawmills on
his farms. His will, to which Cornelius Vanderbilt
affixed his mark as witness, reflects a fine and patriarchal
Dutch care of all his household. Bequeathing a negro
slave as maid to each of his daughters, he left all his
other slaves to his wife; and "after her death, or after
said negroes come to be past labour, they then shall be
maintained by my son Abraham Van Home, his heirs
and assigns, for I positively order that they shall not
be sold to any person whatsoever." The son who was
the chief beneficiary of this will married Gertrude
Wycoff in 1761, and was the father of Abraham the
fourth, who served as a youth, with the rank of Commissary, in the forces of Washington.
j r
6     The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
Several Van Homes were already in the field on the
revolutionary side, or were otherwise actively engaged
in the overthrow of British rule. At one period of
the war Washington resided in the house of a cousin,
John Van Home, in New Jersey. Another cousin,
Philip, who had filled the position of a judge and
carried on business as a wholesale merchant in New
York, was forced by his republican proclivities to retire
to his country place at Middlebrook, N. J., which, from
the lavish hospitality of its owner, was known as Convivial Hall. There he entertained impartially Whig and
Tory, rebel and royalist. At one time the Hall was the
headquarters of the Jacobite Earl of Stirling; at another,
it sheltered Major "Light Horse Harry" Lee and his
officers; and Philip's "well-bred and handsome daughters were the much admired toasts of both armies."
A hospitality that was extended with cordiality to
Washington's enemies as well as to his supporters, to the
Earl of Cornwallis and to the Marquis of Chastellux,
brought Philip under suspicion. Washington ordered
his arrest, but he was released on parole and allowed to
remain at the Hall, where "he and his bright-eyed girls
continued to welcome friend and foe alike, and, it is said,
were often able to mitigate the ferocities of war."
The social position of the Van Home families during revolutionary times as people of good-breeding and
substantial fortune was well assured. Writing at the
close of the war to her sister from New York, Rebecca
Franks of Philadelphia, who afterwards became Lady
Johnston, said of the daughters of David Van Home,
yet another cousin of Abraham IV: "By the bye, few
ladies here know how to entertain company in their own
houses unless they introduce the card-table. Except the
Van Homes who are remarkable for their good sense and ease . . . this family which, remember, again I
say are excepted in every particular."
While the men of the family usually chose wives of
Dutch blood, the women frequently married men of
other races and established connections with many outstanding American families; among others, with the
Bayards, Schuylers, and Ten Eycks.
Upon his release from military service through the
final victory of Washington's armies, the youthful commissary, Abraham, the grandfather of the subject of
these pages, completed his education at King's College,
New York, of which he was one of the earliest graduates. Marrying, in 1785, Anna Covenhoven, a daughter of Cornelius Covenhoven of Corroway Keyport, N.
J., and descended, like his grandmother, from Wolfert
Gerritson Covenhoven, he was ordained a minister of
the Dutch Reformed Church and became pastor of the
Dutch Church at Caughnawaga (now Fonda), New
York. He remained the incumbent of that office for a
period of thirty-eight years, lived a life of great usefulness, and rendered conspicuous service to the communities which were growing up in the central portion of
the state. The area of his ministry was very extensive, his salary and his fees pitiably small, and in the
course of time nine children came to crowd his hearth.
But the goodly heritage he had received from his father,
supplemented by a legacy of $30,000 to his wife from her
father, the "King of Corroway," enabled him not only
to maintain himself and his family in comfort, but also
to support in his establishment no less than twenty
slaves and to offer the abundant hospitality which had
been traditional as well in the family of the Covenhovens
as in his own. He was revered as a minister of the Gospel and renowned throughout the state as a raconteur 8      The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
and a delightful host and companion; and his public
spirit and his private philanthropy won him the esteem
and the love of all with whom he came in contact. By
the people he was affectionately called "the Dominie,"
and, as his years increased, "the old Dominie." Having during his pastorate at Caughnawaga married
nearly fifteen hundred couples and baptized some twenty-
three hundred children, this "high-minded, virtuous,
benevolent, and amiable man" died there in 1840.
Of his four sons, all of whom were educated at Union
College, Schenectady, "the Dominie" entertained high
hopes that Cornelius Covenhoven Van Home, the father
of Sir William Van Home, would enter the ministry.
But the boy, who was more distinguished at college for
his jokes, his strong will, and his quick intelligence than
for his piety, had other aims. Marrying, at the age of
nineteen, a daughter of Colonel John Veeder, he finally
determined to study law. The atmosphere of Union
College, which attracted a large number of students
from the southern states, had been strongly Democratic,
and Cornelius, having begun the practice of his profession, quickly associated himself with the Democratic
party in New York State and secured the warm friendship of Martin Van Buren, another young lawyer of
Dutch blood, who was shortly to become the First Citizen
of the Republic. His professional and political future
seemed well assured when, in 1832, he was moved by
the pioneering instinct to seek his fortune in the West.
Accompanied by his wife and children and followed by
the tender solicitude of "the old Dominie," he set forth
with his emigrant's wagon, and, after undergoing the
hardships and trials inseparable from such a journey,
found a resting place near Chelsea, Illinois.
The early years of his life in the West were clouded mm
Cornelius Covenhoven Van Home 9
with misfortunes. His wife and two children died. His
house and barn and his law books were burned in his
absence. But with the aid of a more prosperous brother
he was enabled to rebuild his home and eventually to
purchase from the State a homestead of three hundred
and sixty acres at Chelsea in the Illinois Valley, alongside the old Oregon Trail. Thither, in 1842, when his
surviving children were provided for, he brought his
second wife, Mary Minier Richards. She was the
daughter of a South German with an anglicized name,
who had emigrated to America when a mere lad, served
with the revolutionary forces, and married Margaret
Minier, a Pennsylvania girl of French origin.
The home to which Cornelius Van Home brought his
second wife was a spacious log-house covered with
sawn timber, lying with its stable and outbuildings well
back from the Trail on the brow of a hill sheltered by
a fine growth of trees. A sawmill stood down in the
valley on the bank of Hickory Creek. But the mill was
seldom in operation and the land was not extensively
cultivated, for Cornelius was a farmer neither by instinct nor by training. He was a lawyer, and while he
waited for a clientele to grow up about him he eked out
a livelihood by dabbling in farming and milling.
Through his political influence he was appointed the first
justice of the peace in his district, the first recorder of
the county, and the first postmaster of Chelsea. From
time to time he would ride to the court-house at the state
capital one hundred and fifty miles away to transact
legal business concerning claims and land-titles, and,
perchance, to discuss politics with his fellow-lawyers,
among whom were Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.
It was in such a home and in such circumstances that
m io   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
William Cornelius Van Home was born, the first of
five children of his father's second marriage. In the
spacious, uncrowded Illinois valley the child spent his
first eight years in play, in such work in the garden as
his small hands could do, and in exploring the wonders
of the woods and the fields. In this fashion was unconsciously laid the foundation of that knowledge of the
earth, its fruitfulness, and its mysteries, to which he was
to have frequent recourse in after-life. There was
neither church nor school in the vicinity of his home.
Remote from towns and stores and poor withal, he had
no playthings except the pebbles in the creek, with which
he loaded his pockets. One day, when about three years
old, he found in the bed of the creek a shiny black pebble
which he joyfully added to his treasures. But before
he reached home his pebble had dried and had become a
dull grey. Not even a resourceful and sympathetic
mother could change that. She could, however, do better, for she showed him that his pebble was slate, and
would make marks on a school-slate which she produced.
Another world was now to open to the child. He
scratched the poor school-slate at every opportunity—
aimlessly at first—until he was induced to "draw something." He was soon able to make crude pictures of
children, horses, and dogs. But, alas, the soft slate came
to an end, and he could not replace it. He searched the
little creek clear up to its source, but while he found
more remarkable stones than any he had ever seen before
and added greatly to his store of pebbles, he could find
no second piece of slate. Coming at last to his father's
sawmill, he told his small woes to the man he found
•working there, who fashioned a piece of coarse lead-
pipe to a point and sent the boy home happy.   The Early Days at Joliet 11
lead, however, had no affinity with a slate, and the boy
turned to the whitewashed walls of the house to make
his pictures, encouraged by his mother, who herself had an undeveloped gift for drawing and who
made a sympathetic critic of her little son's laboured
efforts. This led to pencils and chalks being brought
by his father from Joliet, and before long the walls of
the house, as high as the boy's small arm could reach,
were covered with drawings.
In 1851 Cornelius Van Home, having sold the homestead at Chelsea, moved his family to Joliet, a flourishing town of some two thousand people. A court-house
had been added to its church, its school, and its shops,
and it was receiving a vigorous impetus through the
coming of the first railway to cross its limits. The
new home was a pleasant house with large grounds
on the corner of Clinton and Chicago Streets, where
the opera-house of Joliet now stands. Being "a man
of liberal education, great shrewdness, abundant self-
esteem, and tenacity of purpose," the newcomer quickly
made his influence felt in the growing community.
When, in 1852, Joliet received its city charter, the citizens elected him as their first mayor.
In the same year the young William, who was attending the town's one school, was announced as a participant in the school exhibition or closing exercises. The
second item of the programme was an "Address by
Master Van Home." Garbed as an Indian and brandishing a wooden spear, Master Van Home made a satisfactory first appearance. Every Sunday he and his
brother accompanied their mother to the Universalist
Church; William forsaking the Universalist for the
Methodist Sunday School when he discovered that the f
12    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
latter had the better books. At ten years of age he was
reading every book that came his way, and both in and
out-of-doors was absorbing knowledge as a sponge absorbs water. As soon as he and his pebbles had been
moved into Joliet, he had begun to explore the town and
its environs, with their park-like woods on the banks of
the Des Plaines, with the same eager curiosity as he had
displayed in the little valley of Chelsea. Conscious of
the charm of his new playground, the boy revelled in his
new opportunities for collecting rock-specimens, which,
from the finding of the piece of slate in the creek at his
old home, had become his boyish passion. One day,
observing peculiar markings on a bit of rock-surface,
he hammered it out with a stone. Breaking off the surrounding edges, he found a well defined and symmetrical
figure which he called "a worm-in-the-rock." This he
carried about as a pocket-piece. It was his first treasure, and its possession not only lent him an added importance in his own mind and in the minds of his schoolmates, but sent him searching for other specimens with
increased zest.
Suddenly, on July 7, 1854, his father died of cholera,
which was then epidemic in the state. Writing to his
little grandson in 1914, Sir William Van Home said:
My father died when I was eleven years old, leaving a good
name and a lot of accounts payable and some bad accounts receivable. He was a lawyer who seldom took fees. I can remember
him refusing payment for services not once but many times, when
I felt sure that he had not a penny in his pocket. I could not
understand it then, and I am not quite sure that I do now,, but this
occurred in a newly settled country where all were poor alike,
and my father, perhaps, felt himself richer than the others because
of having a mortgaged roof, while most of the others had hardly
any roof at all.
However, there we were at his death with nothing—my mother, His Father's Death
my two brothers and two sisters, all younger than I. My mother
was a noble woman, courageous and resourceful, and she managed
to find bread—seldom butter—and to keep us at school until I was
able to earn something—which I had to set about at fourteen. f*m
1854-60.   schooldays,   telegraphy,   a   panorama.     FOSSILS   AND   GEOLOGY.     HIS   FIRST   POST.
WITH her garden and her needle and such
trifling sums as the boy William earned out
of school-hours, his widowed mother continued "to find bread," but she was so poor that the
"bread" frequently consisted of hominy for each of the
three meals of the day. The family had to move from
their pleasant house and grounds into a very small cottage, and Augustus, the elder of William's two brothers,
was taken to live with the family of a kindly Pennsyl-
vanian, "Uncle William Gougar," who had been his
father's first neighbour in Illinois.
William continued to attend school. As a pupil he
was lazy, but his lively intelligence and a retentive memory enabled him to stand high in his classes. Finding
his chief amusement in reading and in drawing pictures
that were very often caricatures of his teachers and
comrades, he played few games, but wrestled and fought
with every boy who challenged his prowess. The fighting instinct and sense of leadership which in later years
were to support him in conquering the forces of nature
were already surging up within him. He fought one
school-fellow every time they met, and when they were
punished for fighting by detention after school-hours,
they fought again as soon as they were released.   His
14 Learning Telegraphy 15
prestige was seriously threatened when he was beaten in
a fight with a strong boy who came to Joliet on a visit.
But he quickly recovered his ascendancy by fighting
every boy who offered himself.
Out of school William was his mother's right hand,
making a little money by carrying telegraph messages,
helping her in her work, and chopping wood—a task
which he then detested and upon which all through his
like he looked back with feelings of detestation. He
always said it was the only real work he had ever done.
While waiting for messages to deliver, he sat about the
city telegraph-office, listening to the tap of the instrument and watching the slow unwinding of the tape that
spelled out a message in dots and dashes. In this desultory way the messenger-boy picked up some knowledge
of telegraphy which was to prove of supreme value to
him in his future career. There were at the time only
three telegraph-operators in Chicago, and few anywhere
west of that city. At the telegraph-office he learned
other things than telegraphy—hard-headed bits of wisdom, the swapping of yarns, and the game of poker,
which in after-life he was wont to define as "not a game
but an education."
His evenings were spent in reading and in copying the
illustrations of some old numbers of "Harper's Magazine." Of the pictures thus made he gave panoramic
shows to his schoolmates in a barn, and becoming more
ambitious, when he was thirteen years old he painted in
colours on the back of a roll of wallpaper a panorama
of the Crystal Palace, with the towers and spires of
London in the distance. The panorama, which is alleged
to have been "several score of feet in length," was
mounted on rollers and ingeniously fitted with a crank.
It was exhibited in a tent at a street corner "under the r
16   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
auspices of W. C. Van Home, Proprietor; H. C. Knowl-
ton, Secretary and Treasurer; Henry E. Lowe, Business
Manager." While the Treasurer and Business Manager held the panorama and, by means of the crank, slowly
unrolled it, the Proprietor stepped to the front and explained its salient features. An admission fee of a
penny was charged, but the exhibition attracted so many
grown-up people that the youthful syndicate was able to
increase the fee.
His schooldays came to an abrupt end in his fourteenth year. For the preceding twelve months he had
intermittently attended a new school with a high school
department, and, being caught caricaturing the principal,
he was so severely punished that he never went back.
But if school tasks were forever ended, he had a fascinating study of his own. In the home of a playfellow,
Augustus Howk, he had discovered an illustrated history
of Jefferson County, New York. Turning over its
pages, he was startled to find a drawing of his own
"worm-in-the rock." It was identical with the piece he
carried in his pocket, and in the book it was called a cri-
noid. The drawing was one of the illustrations of a
chapter on geology which the boy at once devoured.
Fascinated by the discovery that his specimen was only
one of a myriad fossil-forms, he spent every Sunday,
in company with Howk, searching the quarries and the
bed of every stream in the neighbourhood. Howk also
began to collect fossils, and their zealous and systematic
explorations attracted the interest of the State Geologist, who gave Howk a copy of Hitchcock's "Elements
of Geology."
This book, with its wonderful story of the crust of
the earth, now became for William the most desirable
object in life.    He could not borrow it, for Howk, hav- Hitchcock's "Elements" 17
ing become his rival in collecting, would only let him
look into it from time to time. But at length fortune
smiled upon him. The Howk family were planning a
visit to their old home in New York. His request,
pressed with all his powers of persuasion, for a loan
of the book during young Howk's absence was refused.
He offered, unavailingly, to buy the use of the book with
certain of his fossils. Finally, he went over them all,
selecting those of which he had duplicate specimens, and
offered the whole of his duplicates. To this offer his
young friend and rival succumbed, and the book was
triumphantly borne to the Van Home cottage the day
before the Howks' departure. The next morning, lest
the bargain should be revoked or other catastrophe befall, William and the book disappeared until the Howks
had gone on their journey. That night and for many
nights, after the day's work was done, the boy pored
over the volume. Then he conceived the idea of making
it his very own.
Since he had begun to carry messages his small earnings had always been handed to his mother, but he had
just been given a tip of twenty-five cents for himself
by the kindly recipient of a telegram. It was the first
money he had ever had to spend on himself, and its
expenditure was the subject of grave deliberation. He
loved then, as all through his life he loved, good things
to eat, but at that moment he loved Hitchcock's "Elements" a great deal more. So he took his quarter to a
small stationery shop and exchanged it for as much
foolscap as it would buy, with the shop-worn sheets
thrown in. That night in the small attic that held his
bed and his books he began to copy the book. Winter
was not far off and the attic was cold, but every night
found him there industriously at work by candlelight. 18    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
Often he worked through most of the night, and in five
weeks' time he had copied in ink and with great exactitude every page, picture, and note, together with the
index of the book. Of his effort he could say later with
comprehending vision, "The copying of that book did
great things for me. It taught me how much could be
accomplished by application; it improved my handwriting; it taught me the construction of English sentences;
and it helped my drawing materially. And I never had
to refer to the book again."
He was now applying himself seriously to the study
of telegraphy at the city office, for, with his schooldays
definitely behind him, he knew that he must work like
a man and learn to do a man's job. When Lincoln came
to Joliet in 1856, he was sufficiently expert to assist in
sending over the wire the story of his reception and
speech on abolition; and in the spring of 1857, when he
was fourteen, the Joliet operator found work for him
as a telegrapher with the Illinois Central Railway Company.
The mechanical superintendent's office, to which he
was sent, was just outside of Chicago; and the work
assigned to him was to his liking and within his capacity.
But something of the same desire for leadership and the
besting of his fellows that he had shown at school
soon asserted itself. A lad of fourteen could only hope
to attain eminence of any sort among the grown men
about him by the exercise of his wits. Such exercise
unfortunately took the form of resorting to practical
jokes, for which he had an ingrained propensity. He
ran a ground wire from the office to a steel plate in the
yards, within view from his window. Every man who
stepped upon the plate got a decided electric shock, to the
amusement of the boy and the bewilderment of the men, His First Post 19
who were noisily declamatory against they knew not
what. This was great fun. But the joke miscarried.
The superintendent himself received a shock. Unlike
the yardmen he had some knowledge of electrical forces,
and he started searching for the ground wire. It led to
his own office. Hot with anger, he mounted the stairs
and demanded of the demure-faced boy his share in the
mischief. The youngster promptly, if reluctantly, confessed that it was all his. Whereupon the superintendent took him by the collar, thrust him out of the door,
and, with a great oath, told him to go and never come
back. The dismissal was definite and final, and the boy
took it philosophically and returned to Joliet very much
more of a man than when he had left it.
In the autumn he worked on a farm until, through
the good offices of a young friend, he was engaged as
freight-checker and messenger by the assistant-superintendent of the "Cut-Off," a forty-mile branch of the
Michigan Central Railway, at a wage of fifteen dollars
a month. Joliet was now a thriving little city; the
freight to be handled was considerable; and there were
many errands to be done for the superintendent. His
duties, therefore, brought him in contact, in a small
way, with the business men of the place, who were
pleased by his assiduity and intelligence.
Before he had been many months in his new position
he prevailed upon the superintendent to urge the construction of an independent telegraph line, which he
offered to operate. The line was duly installed, and in
1858 the boy of fifteen took over the wire the report of
one of the famous debates between his father's old associates, Douglas and Lincoln, on the abolition of slavery.
With more continuous access to the telegraph instrument, the young operator became increasingly expert
J r
20    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
and was soon able to discard the use of the tape and to
receive his messages by sound alone. He was the first
operator in his district to do this and among the earliest
in the whole country. The achievement gave a decided
fillip to his reputation.
The telegraphic work of the office did not, however,
keep him fully employed. He began to understudy
the duties of the cashier, the timekeeper, the accountant, and the other men around him. During luncheon hours and at night he would slip into the drawing-office and copy from the draughtsmen's books. He
copied in this way most of the illustrations in a work
on perspective, and so acquired a knowledge of the principles of the art. A draughtsman was astonished by
the boy's drawings and frequently used his talent for
fine lettering. He also began the deliberate cultivation
of his memory, which was already remarkable, and
would memorize the numbers of a long train of cars as
they passed through the yards; challenging his associates to memory Contests, in which he was usually victorious.
A visit from the general superintendent, who at that
time was the chief executive officer of the Michigan
Central, gave him a definite ambition. In a letter, written shortly before his death to his grandson, he said:
We were at the end of a forty-mile branch of the Michigan
Central Railroad where we were seldom visited by the general
officers of the Company, our little branch not being of sufficient
consequence. But one day, during my eighteenth year, our General Superintendent came. These were before the days of General Managers, and the magnitude of a General Superintendent
was enormous in our eyes.
Everybody from the Assistant Superintendent down was out
to see the arrival of his special train, and as it drew up a portly
gentleman in a long and closely-buttoned linen duster swung him- Young Ambition 21
self down from the official car and came forward to meet his
assistants—came with that bearing of dignity and importance
which consciously or unconsciously attends the great majority of
men who have long been accustomed to command. We youngsters watched with bated breath, and when the mighty man had
gone away to look over the buildings and machinery we walked
around the official car and gazed upon it with awe.
I found myself wondering if even I might not somehow become
a General Superintendent and travel in a private car. The
glories of it, the pride of it, the salary pertaining to it, and all
that moved me deeply, and I made up my mind then and there that
I would reach it. And I did ten years later, at the age of twenty-
I only mention this to show you that an object can usually be
attained through persistence and steadiness of aim, for from that
day on the goal I had promised myself was never out of my mind,
and I avoided every path however attractive that did not lead
in its direction. I imagined that a General Superintendent must
know everything about a railway—every detail in every department—and my working hours were no longer governed by the
clock. I took no holidays, but gladly took up the work of others
who did, and I worked nights and Sundays to keep it all going
without neglecting my own tasks.
So I became acquainted with all sorts of things I could not
otherwise have known. I found time to haunt the repair-shops
and to become familiar with materials and tools and machinery
and methods—familiar with locomotives and cars and all pertaining to them—and to learn line repairs from the roadmaster and
the section-hands—something of bridges from the Engineer, and
so on. And there were opportunities to drive locomotives and
conduct trains. And not any of this could be called work, for
it was a constant source of pleasure.
Although he was thus settling down to work in grim
earnest and beginning to wear the air of a young man
to whom business is the most important thing in life,
he was not neglectful either of his home or his hobby.
Teased by his brothers and sisters for his frequent absorption in thought, he was growing into the mastery 22    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
of his mother's household. While the mother undemon-
stratively devoted herself to anticipating and meeting
the needs of her vigorous and growing son, to providing
food which would appease an appetite which in size and
fastidiousness was as unusual as the rest of him, he, in
his turn, was as undemonstratively devoted to her. As
his small salary grew, his affection was revealed by the
gift of a bonnet or the material for a new dress, and by
the replacement, piece by piece, of the worn-out furniture of their cottage. The new pieces were always of
the simplest lines and of the best material his purse
could procure. No one ever exemplified better than he
the truth of the saying, "the child is father of the man,"
and the taste and good judgment he displayed in this
formative period, between fifteen and twenty, was but
an early manifestation of the interest he never ceased
to take in the worth and the beauty of his surroundings.
Much of his leisure was given to the works of Agassiz,
Miller, and other writers on geology. Sunday, his one
free day in the week, was spent in winter in reading or
in arranging his specimens. In the warmer seasons,
accompanied by a friend of similar tastes and equipped
with a hammer and a bag, he took long tramps in search
of fossils. The country around Joliet was especially
favourable to palseontological research, for numerous
fossils were imbedded in the five geological formations
that came to the surface. With this area ransacked, the
young geologists went as far afield as the Kankakee
River, where they found new species in an exposure of
Cincinnati limestone. From crinoidea, Van Home had
progressed to trilobites, brachiopoda, and fishes; and his
collection contained many specimens which had not yet
been classified. No less than nine have been named
after their discoverer and continue to carry the descrip- H
The Agassiz Club 23
tive suffix "Van Hornei" in the palseontological ency-
The establishment of the Illinois Natural History
Society at Bloomington inspired him and his comrades,
in the winter of 1859, to institute the Agassiz Club of
Joliet, of which he was the first president. The club
secured quarters at a nominal rent on the top floor of a
bank, and it was agreed that each member should contribute to a permanent exhibit. Since the museum
was intended for the public, a Joliet lumber-merchant
was asked to donate wood for the shelving. He refused
to contribute anything toward the advancement of
"a pretended science which aimed to refute the Biblical history of the world." The club made week-end
trips to points as distant as Wilmington and Mason
Creek, twenty-five miles away, where a carboniferous
formation promised them a large new field for their
The boys took their researches quite seriously. They
corresponded with the State Geologist, the Director of
the New York State Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution; and the directions of the Institution for the
care and preservation of specimens were carefully observed. When on one occasion they branched away
from fossils and tried to bottle up a large water-snake
that refused to stay bottled, their experiment led to a
lively scene with neighbours who did not share their
scientific interest. During the Civil War, Howk and
Savage, two members of the club, while prisoners of the
Confederate forces, were caught making a sketch of an
interesting formation near the prison camp. They were
brought before an officer who refused to believe their
story that they were making the sketch for the records
of the Agassiz Club, and it might have gone badly for The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
them if a ranking officer had not proved more credulous
and ordered them to be sent home on parole. The sketch
was confiscated and never reached the president.
The club dissolved when its founder left Joliet, and
his ambition to establish a local museum was never
realized. Many years later his own collection, enlarged
and classified, and especially notable for its specimens of
fossil fish-teeth, was given to the palaeontological department of the University of Chicago. CHAPTER III
WHEN the Civil War broke out, Lincoln's
state, like every other part of the country,
seethed with excitement. In the dingy office
of the Cut-Off the danger threatening the Union became
the absorbing topic of conversation among the men
working or loafing there. Their talk stirred the boy,
and one morning, without a word to anyone, he went to
the recruiting office and enlisted for service in the Federal army. But he was the main support of his widowed
mother, and his exceptional value as a capable telegrapher at a time when the Cut-Off was an important
link in the transportation of troops made his retention
essential to the railway. As soon, therefore, as his enlistment became known to Knowlton, the assistant-
superintendent, the latter provided a substitute and secured his release.
That his employers considered his services to be indispensable did not, however, relieve him from experiencing some days of trouble and anxiety when, the revenues of the Michigan Central having been seriously
affected by the war, Knowlton received instructions to
reduce his staff. The news quickly spread through the
office and the yards, and none of the employees was
more dismayed by the prospect of dismissal than Van
Home. The vision of a general-superintendent's private car was swallowed in the blackness of the future,
25 I
26   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
and the thought of his home and its needs weighed
heavily upon him.
"That evening the Chief sent for me when I was in
despair. He said, 'You know the instructions sent out.
The staff here has to be reduced, but I expect to keep
you on. Now how much of the work can you do?' I
said, desperately, T guess I can do it all.''
To such self-reliance, reinforced by the knowledge
he had acquired of the work of the office, shops, and
yards, opportunities were not wanting, and he quickly
became the assistant-superintendent's right-hand man.
The growing importance of his position did not, however, prevent him from indulging in practical jokes.
One day when he was in charge of the office some gravel
cars escaped from the pit-master, Glassford, and, racing
wild through the yards, charged into the repair shops
where one Williamson was foreman. The operator
diplomatically wired his absent chief, "George B. McLennan Glassford stormed Fort Williamson this morning with a battery of four cars of gravel and completely
demolished the Fort."
Again, word went out that the Cut-Off office had news
of a great Union victory of which there were splendid
and thrilling details. The townspeople were jubilant,
and flags were run up. But the Chicago newspapers,
when they came in, brought no word of a Federal victory, not even the promise of one! Some irate citizens
went to look for the inveterate joker at the Cut-Off
office, but that evening he was sitting, chuckling quietly,
at home.
In 1862 the superintendent of the Chicago and Alton
Railway offered him a position as operator and ticket-
agent at Joliet, with a substantial increase of salary.
The Chicago and Alton, like other western roads, was at Initiative and Resourcefulness 27
the time in desperate straits, but Joliet was on its main
line and the post would bring him directly under the observation of headquarters officials, so he accepted it.
His new duties, which included the sale of tickets and
making change, and the receipt and dispatch of telegraph-messages, also gave him something of great value
—his first experience in the handling of men. He found
occasion, too, to show an initiative and a resourcefulness
beyond the routine of his agency. He saw that the butter brought into the station by the farmers for shipment
was affected in quality and value by standing in a warm
freight-shed. He reasoned that if he could help the
farmer to get a higher price for his butter, he would get
more of the farmers' butter to ship and so increase the
earnings of the road. On his own responsibility, therefore, he fitted up a primitive cold-storage chamber in the
freight-shed. The idea worked so well in practice that
the railway company made general use of it at other
points on the road. His days were long and arduous,
and he sat up late at night with his books, finding it difficult to rise as early in the morning as was necessary for
his work. Seeing him hurry off to the station before the
first train came in, his mother would often slip into his
hands the breakfast he had had no time to eat and warn
him that he "never would amount to anything in the
world if he didn't learn to go to bed and rise earlier."
Railways were outgrowing the early system of moving trains by hand-chart and watch, and the more efficient telegraphers were sought as train-dispatchers. In
1864, therefore, Van Home was promoted to be train-
dispatcher at Bloomington, a divisional point of the
Chicago and Alton, ninety miles distant from Joliet.
The dispatching of trains involved great responsibility
and demanded the closest attention, and his work-day 28    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
was twelve hours long; but he was a glutton for work.
He frequently took on a few hours of the night-dispatcher's duty and found time to inform himself of the
work which was being carried on in the yards, shops,
and offices. These were especially interesting to him
because Bloomington was the seat of the company's
chief car-works and repair-shops, which were equipped
on a scale far more extensive than anything he had
known at Joliet. The information he thus acquired and
the general knowledge he had gained during his service
with the Michigan Central soon gave him some authority among his fellow-employees. His quick wit and
personal force converted this into a recognized leadership. In such disputes as occurred among the men concerning the interpretation of train-rules and similar
matters, he was chosen as umpire.
Familiarity with railway officials had lessened the
young man's awe of general-superintendents. One day
the general-superintendent of the Chicago and Alton
was at Bloomington, arranging a new train-schedule.
The adjustment of the running and crossing of trains
was the basis of train-operation, and was properly regarded as a "ticklish job" and one suitable only for
highly responsible officials. As the superintendent sat
laboriously arranging the threads and pins on the charts,
the young dispatcher stood beside him. He became impatient as he watched, itching for a chance to do the
work according to his own ideas.
"That's a hell of a way to make a time-sheet," he
said at last quietly.
The superintendent rose.
"If you can do it better, take the job!"
He took it and completed the work so satisfactorily Train-Dispatching 29
that as long as he remained at Bloomington the duty of
making the train-schedules was assigned to him.
As a train-dispatcher he no longer had his Sundays
free for fossil-hunting, but his interest in science was
broadening. He remained up all night to make elaborate charts of the progress of a comet, and secured reports of the phenomenon from every alert dispatcher on
the line. The State Geologist, who was his warm
friend, wrote him that the famous Agassiz was passing
through Bloomington on a certain train, and asked him
to look him up. When Agassiz's train arrived, Van
Home introduced himself and travelled with him for
some distance. Their conversation ended with an
arrangement for a correspondence which continued until
Agassiz's death.
He treated his gift for drawing less seriously, but in
leisure moments he would dash off caricatures and
lightly finished sketches; and he did a painting of Starved
Rock, an interesting landmark in central Illinois, which
he sold to a Joliet stationer. While in the service of the
Michigan Central he had composed and humorously
illustrated a manuscript book containing the soi-disant
story of an unpopular official. This had been passed
with great amusement from one end of the line to the
other. At Bloomington all reprimands from headquarters were decorated with laughable caricatures of the
senders, and executive warnings of accidents arising
from negligence, when pasted up under the big clock,
were adorned with whimsical or terrifying pictures of
the accidents in question.
Living economically at Bloomington, he devoted the
greater part of his salary to providing for the comfort
of his mother and two sisters in Joliet.    His brother
r* The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
Augustus was working on a farm; his youngest brother
held a small clerical post. His elder sister secured a
teacher's licence, but her brothers objected so strongly
to their sister doing work outside the home that she
never used it.
One Sunday, in 1866, he surprised his family by announcing his engagement to Miss Lucy Adaline Hurd.
The daughter of Erastus Hurd of Gales-burg, 111., a
civil engineer engaged in railway construction, she and
her widowed mother had come from Galesburg to Joliet
and had settled there. "Tall, slender, and dignified, with
softly waving black hair, hazel eyes, and apple-blossom
complexion," she had been educated at Lombard College, Galesburg. When Lincoln visited that city in
1858, she had been chosen for her beauty and personal
distinction to read the city's address of welcome to him.
Miss Hurd went from Joliet to Chicago every week
to attend Dr. Ziegfield's College of Music. One night,
returning by a late train, she found no one at the station
to meet her. Her home was two milea away and the
young ticket-agent offered his escort. With a deference
to women that was already strongly marked in his manner to his mother and sisters, he hastily crammed his
pipe into his pocket. As he walked on, quite overcome
with shyness, he forgot that the pipe was still alight,
until the odour of burning wool led him to discover that
his coat had caught fire. He silently smothered the
pipe as best he could.
This meeting took place in 1864, while Van Home
was still stationed in Joliet, and thereafter he began
more and more frequently, and as often as he could
run over from Bloomington, to visit Miss Hurd at her
home. When, after two years of courtship, he announced his betrothal, he wished to be married at once./ Courtship and Marriage 31
But about the same time his elder sister became engaged, and since her brothers had protested against her
earning money for herself, the mother argued that they
should now provide her with a suitable trousseau. In
this they cheerfully concurred, and it was not until
March, 1867, that Van Home's obligations to his family
and his financial circumstances would permit him to
Immediately after his marriage his mother, his sister
Mary, and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Hurd, joined the
newly-wedded couple at Bloomington and by his wish
continued permanently to share his home. This somewhat unusual household lived in complete harmony, and
the arrangement worked well. All through his life he
was singularly fortunate in the well-ordered management and serenity of his home. The irregular hours
often forced upon a railwayman by the exigencies of his
employment are apt to strain the temper and the resources of the best of housekeepers, but the women of
Van Home's household ever idolized him, ministered to
his needs, and forestalled his wishes. Except in times of
sicknesses and bereavements from which no family is immune, there never was a moment in his career when the
difficulties of his work or his business were enhanced by
trouble in his home. CHAPTER IV
1868-74.     PROMOTION.     THE  CHICAGO  FIRE.     THE
MEN'S    CLUBS.     A    STRIKE.     A    PRACTICAL    JOKE.
IN 1868 Van Home was promoted to be superintendent of the entire telegraph system of the Chicago
and Alton. The position entailed the inspection
of the telegraph system over all parts of the line and
brought him into more frequent touch with the company's leading officials. Already aware of his record
for efficiency and initiative, they were struck by his force
of character and bearing. The offer of the position
of superintendent of the southern division of the railway quickly followed, and was promptly accepted. He
moved his family, which now included his infant daughter, Adaline, to Alton. Not yet twenty-six years of
age, he now had entire charge over his division of
the company's property, of the transportation of passengers and freight, and of the appointment of agents.
Moreover, he was under the friendly observation of
John J. Mitchell, a director who was already prominent
in western railway circles and who resided in Alton.
The doors of opportunity were opened wide before him.
With the close of the Civil War the development of
western railways was going on apace with a great
revival in industry. New lands were opened up and
new markets created. A desire for travel stimulated the
people.    Small eastern railways were combining to form
32 The Chicago Fire 33
larger and more efficient systems. General Dodge, in
his "hell-on-wheels," was pushing the Union Pacific on
its spectacular course through a region of protesting
Indians, and other western railwaymen were only waiting for financial support to emulate the few who had
already thrown their roads across the Mississippi.
Van Home swam on the crest of the wave, and his
reputation for brains, industry, and reliability spread
from one end of the Chicago and Alton to the other.
"I do not know anyone who more perfectly exemplified
the value of 'doing the next thing well' than Van
Home," said Marvin Hughitt some years later, referring to this period as well as to Van Home's subsequent
In 1870 he was promoted to the Chicago headquarters
of the railway and given entire charge of transportation
over the system. The ideals he held up to the many
employees who were now under his control were those
that formed his own personal standard: the highest
efficiency obtainable, and a concentration on business
so intense that results were not only to be the best possible, but such as no rival railroad could surpass. His
vigilance was unremitting, and often at one or two in the
morning he would go to the train-dispatcher's office to
learn how trains were moving.
In 1871 occurred the memorable fire that destroyed
a great part of Chicago. It started one Sunday morning in October when Van Home was experiencing all
the emotions of a delighted father and an anxious husband, for on the preceding night his wife had given
birth to a son. Notwithstanding his great anxiety, as
soon as he learned that the fire was approaching the
business section and the Union Depot, he hastened from
his home on the West Side to look after his company's
r f
34    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
property. He stood on the top of a tall building to estimate for himself the progress of the fire, and saw in the
distance great sheets of flame rise like waves over the
houses and fall in a trough of fire two or three blocks
ahead. Thoroughly alarmed, he hurried to the station
and planned, with the few employees he found there, to
clear the freight-sheds. As a measure of safety, most
of the rolling-stock had already been removed, but he
procured a shunting-engine of the Chicago, Milwaukee
and St. Paul road which was still in the yards and several flat-cars. Then he went among the crowds on
Jackson Street bridge and offered five dollars an hour
to every man who would help load the freight on the
cars. Many came, but their desire to watch the titanic
conflagration soon tempted them to leave, and the young
superintendent was almost distracted between his efforts
to keep them at work and the constant necessity of
hurrying out to secure fresh helpers. Eventually,
however, he succeeded in transferring all the freight to
a place of safety five miles away. But when he looked
around for the workers to pay them their money, they
had disappeared—and none ever returned to ask for
it. Satisfied that he had done all that could be done
to protect the company's property, he returned to his
home, black as an Ethiopian with soot and grime. Reassuring himself of the well-being of his wife and her
infant, he set to work very quietly and industriously to
strip his home of everything, and more than everything,
that could be spared. He commandeered a grocer's
wagon, and, with his mother's aid, loaded it with clothes
and bedding for the shivering refugees from the South
Side who were camped in the park.
Early in 1872 he again had to move his family and
his household goods and "rocks."    His new home was The St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern      35
in St. Louis. Timothy Blackstone, the president of the
Chicago and Alton, and John J. Mitchell, with some
associates in St. Louis and in the East, had recently
bought the Northern Missouri Railway. They planned
to reorganize it and make it a link in the Chicago and
Alton's growing system. Connecting the Kansas Pacific
with the Alton and Pennsylvania lines, the acquisition
was intended as the first step toward the achievement of
their private ambition to control a trans-continental line.
They organized it, however, as an apparently independent railway under the name of the St. Louis, Kansas
City and Northern.
Van Home was chosen to manage and develop this
road, which embraced five hundred and eighty-one miles
of railway. At the age of twenty-nine he was probably the youngest general superintendent of a railway
in the world at that time. Shortly afterwards his intimate knowledge of railway problems received recognition of a different and gratifying character from his
brother railwaymen. He attended the first annual
meeting of the Railway Association of America and was
appointed the chairman of a committee "to report a plan
for securing uniformity in locomotive reports, etc,"
Installed in his new office, he began with feverish
energy to bring the equipment of the road to a state of
efficiency, and urged the economy of purchasing steel instead of iron rails. He declared his policy to be to give
due consideration to the interests of the patrons of the
line, "fully recognizing the fact that all permanent business relations must be conducted in equity and fairness
and must be mutually advantageous—or they will cease."
And he added that "the highest degree of success in
managing a railroad depends upon making it for the
interest of the largest possible number to avail them- 36   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
selves of its use," and upon their profiting largely by
doing so. Whenever opportunity had offered, as in the
installation of a cold-storage chamber in the freight-
shed at Joliet, he had already acted on these principles
himself; and now that he was clothed with managerial
authority, he was determined that they should be followed by all his subordinate officers.
Inculcating upon the employees of the road the exercise of the most stringent economy, he required them to
give of the best that was in them, but, although he was
a strict taskmaster and disciplinarian, he was no martinet, and exacted of no one such long hours of service
as he gave himself. Of one weakness, however, namely,
drunkenness, he was severely intolerant, and he issued
the most stringent rules prohibiting the use of alcohol
by engineers, trainmen, and others while on duty. He
appreciated, however, the disadvantages of an occupation which took men so much from their homes, and to
provide for their comfort he established clubs and reading-rooms for them at divisional points.
The dismissal of an engineer for drunkenness brought
him his first managerial experience of a strike. The
engineer had been replaced by an efficient substitute
whom the Brotherhood of Engineers erroneously asserted to be a strike-breaker and a scab. Van Horne
refused to discharge him or to reinstate the dismissed
engineer, bluntly telling the delegates who interviewed
him that "the Chicago and Alton have had their nose
brought down to the grindstone too often, and they are
not going to do it this time if I can help it."
The fight was a long and bitter one, and the strikers
indulged in sabotage of the most ruthless kind. The
Brotherhood of Engineers was not then the powerful
and disciplined organization it has since become, but LADY VAN HORNE
y  A Strike of Locomotive Engineers 37
the men were on their mettle, fearless, and hard to beat.
Van Home, however, showed himself to be a first-class
fighting man. Rolling-stock could go daily into the
ditch; repair-shops could become crowded; men could
murmur** and threaten: he was immovable. He was
in the fight to the finish. For weeks his working-day
ran close to twenty-four hours. He astounded his staff
by his disregard of sleep. He was always present to
see the first train go out and the last come in. When
firemen could not be had, he secured volunteers from his
own office-staff to man the locomotives and go out in
the dark to face the unknown dangers of a track on
which obstacles might be placed or switches maliciously
turned. Forty years later he soliloquised, "From the
union's standpoint the scab may be a mean man, but
sometimes he is an heroic one!"
The strike ended in a complete victory for the general superintendent and the company. The men were
gradually brought to realize that if they did their duty,
the management would see that they were fairly
treated, but that there would be no tolerance of inefficiency or unfaithfulness. "A railway," he reminded
them, "was not a reform school." The lesson was
driven home by the dismissal of a conductor for disobeying a train-order and of another employee for a slight
impertinence to a passenger. Peace brought no slackening of discipline. On more than one occasion, as he
stood about in small stations, his knowledge of telegraphy enabled him to detect disobedience, and the accuracy of his deductions, with the swiftness of his punishments, brought him a reputation for, uncanny powers.
It was a happy thing for Van Home that when he
went home at the close of the day, he could leave his
work behind him and become a cheerful boyish compan-
r* 38    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
ion. At thirty-one years of age he is described by a contemporary as being "rather heavy set. His features
were handsome. He had dark blue eyes, an aquiline
nose, and a firm well-shaped mouth. His forehead was
high and quite devoid of hair. His constant manner
was that of a person preoccupied with great affairs."
But grave and thoughtful as he looked, he could still
take pleasure in the perpetration of practical jokes. As
at Bloomington he had once altered the plates in his
mother's fashion journal to a collection of freaks, he
now took liberties with her copies of "Harper's Magazine" before they reached her. He changed a series of
portrait-sketches of American authors by Wyatt Eaton
so that they looked like pictures of bandits and cowboys.
This was so cleverly done that his mother and Mrs.
Hurd were deceived. They protested that it was scandalous of the editors of the magazine, and in shockingly
bad taste, to treat with such buffoonery the persons of
Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow, and other famous
writers. And they might well be excused for being deceived, for some years later when the distorted illustrations were shown, without an explanation, to Wyatt
Eaton, he was himself deceived and indignant. Sometime in the eighties these caricatured illustrations
were borrowed by John A. Fraser, an artist then sketching in the Rockies. From him they passed to R. W.
Gilder of New York, who played them off upon the
cognoscenti of the Century Club. One of Gilder's
friends, an artist and critic, remarked, "They are simply wonderful, and show so much knowledge that it
seems hardly possible they could have been done by any
other than a trained artist with the genius of a Hogarth."
While they lived in St. Louis, Mrs. Van Home was A Successful Nurse
afflicted with small-pox. To send his wife to the city
pest-house, the only provision for such cases at the
time, was unthinkable. Taking only the physician and
family into his confidence, he isolated himself with her
in the attic-study where he kept his fossil collection.
As long as the illness lasted he spent his days in the
room, nursing his wife and amusing himself with his
specimens. At night he changed his clothing, and, having thoroughly disinfected himself, went down to his
office when the staff was gone, attended to the day's
work, and returned in the small hours of the morning
to the study to snatch a little sleep or to resume the care
of his patient. Mrs. Van Home made a splendid recovery. Scarcely a mark was left to disfigure her, the
disease was communicated to no one, and the young
superintendent could regard his first experience as a
nurse with undivided satisfaction.
After two years of his energetic and resourceful management the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern was
fairly on its feet. Its physical condition, its equipment,
and its personnel were such as bade fair to make it a
desirable and valuable addition to the Chicago and
Alton system. Differences, however, arose among its
directors, and Blackstone and Mitchell, abandoning
their cherished scheme of a transcontinental line and
wearying of the enterprise, sold their interest. But
they had no intention of allowing their vigorous superintendent to remain either with the road or in St. Louis.
Among Mitchell's associates were the New York bondholders of the Southern Minnesota Railway. As was
the case with other small pioneer roads suffering from
lack of proper financing, experienced management, and
supporting traffic, the Southern Minnesota was in the
hands of a receiver and in very poor condition.    Mitchell 40    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
persuaded the bondholders that the man who could most
effectively build it up and convert it into a paying property was William Van Home, and prevailed upon him
to leave St. Louis and become its president and general
manager. On October i, 1874, Van Home took up residence at La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Before he assumed his new post, however, the growing recognition of his ability caused him to be selected
by eastern capitalists who were interested in the reorganization of the Union Pacific Railway to inspect and
report upon the condition and requirements of that road. CHAPTER V
THE Southern Minnesota afforded Van Home the
greatest opportunity which had yet come to him.
Although it was a small and comparatively unimportant road, he was now clothed with supreme executive power, being president, director, and general superintendent in one—a general manager who could make
or break towns, build them up by his favour into flourishing centres or "make the grass grow on their streets."
But if the opportunity was exceptional, the task was
commensurately difficult. The Southern Minnesota's
track was the proverbial "streak of rust" on the western
frontier, with a main line of one hundred and sixty-
seven miles running through Minnesota from Winnebago to La Crescent on the Mississippi. At its eastern
terminus connection was made by ferry with the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway. Like many
other small western roads, it had been built with state
aid in the period of extravagant development that followed the Civil War. Its builders had been more interested in railway speculation than in railway operation,
and from the beginning it had led a hand-to-mouth
existence. As originally planned, it was still unfinished.
It was in the throes of a second foreclosure and was
notoriously in arrears for taxes. Of the land grant
given with its original charter, more than one-half had
41 r
42    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
been alienated to meet obligations which should otherwise have been provided for. Parts of the roadbed
were in such disrepair as to threaten a total loss. Men
on the road could say that the pay-car had not been seen
for months. These desperate conditions were intensified by the wave of depression which had swept over the
county after the "Black Friday" of 1873, when Jay
Cooke, the backer of the Northern Pacific Railway, had
been hammered into insolvency on the New York stock
Into the task of rehabilitating this down-at-heels road
and making it a dividend-paying property, operating in
prosperous communities, Van Home plunged with the
utmost vigour. Dismissing some of his predecessor's
staff and replacing them by men who had already worked
with him and in whom he had confidence, he immediately instituted measures entailing the most rigid economy. As a first step to clearing the road of its many
difficulties, he had accurate maps prepared, and, dealing directly with the owners, he settled all outstanding
claims for right-of-way. Multiplying himself, he mastered the details of every department, improved the old
sections of the road, and added to the traffic equipment.
He succeeded not only in meeting all current obligations,
but in discharging many old ones. The first year of his
management saw the gross earnings of the road reach
the highest amount in its history. The operating expenses had dropped from J2 to 56 per cent, of the earnings, and there was a respectable sum in the treasury.
The most roseate prophecies of the new managemer^t
had been exceeded, and the bondholders of the road were
assured by their executive committee that they had every
reason to be satisfied with its improved condition and
"its present efficient manager."    Such prompt and grat- The Southern Minnesota Railway 43
ifying results could not have been reached by the concentrated efforts and ingenuity of any one man, and in
achieving them Van Home had been aided by every employee of the company. Getting into unusually close
personal touch with the employees of every department,
he had sought to excite the interest of all in the regeneration of the road. Contests with money-prizes were
established in many branches of the work, from track-
repairing to engine-driving. The best work at the least
cost was the standard, and the prize-winners received
personal letters from the president which they were
wont to declare they valued more than the prize. In
these and other ways, and by the example of his own
untiring industry, he succeeded in creating an esprit de
corps that stimulated the entire working force. "Just
as poor as crows we were," one of them has said. "We
had to look twice at every cent. But we all enjoyed
working on that road. Van Home was full of ways to
get around difficulties and filled with ideas for improving every branch of the work."
An amusing story is told of the financial difficulties under which the management laboured. In earlier days the company had frequently been obliged, for
lack of money to meet its obligations, to issue warrants
or promises to pay, and unfulfilled pledges returned
from time to time to plague the new management. One
day, in 1875, when Van Home was in St. Paul with two
of the road's bondholders, they passed a pawnbroker's
shop. In the window was a card reading, "Unredeemed
pledges for sale." One of them turned and mysteriously beckoned the others away from the shop.
"Did you see that card?" he whispered. "Better give
the place a wide berth; we might find some of ours in
that lot." jr ;
44   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
Having got his road into something like order and
instituted a regimen of the strictest economy in all operating and maintenance expenditure, Van Home now applied himself assiduously to the task of building up
traffic for the road. Wheat being the chief product of
the tributary country, he set out to secure every possible
bushel. Offering inducements for the erection of flour-
mills and suitable grain-elevators, his efforts were
within six months rewarded by the erection along the
line of six first-class elevators and three large mills.
But as though the road were not already sufficiently
handicapped, new trials had to be faced. In the spring
of 1876 the roadbed was severely damaged by floods,
particularly in the Root River Valley, where it bridged
the winding river nine times in a distance of forty-five
miles. Bridges were washed out; abutments, embankments, and tracks carried away; and for twenty-three
days all through traffic had to be suspended.
This was before the days of properly equipped and
trained wrecking-crews. A few expert men went out
from the shops. Gangs of labourers were recruited
from the settlers, and they were expected to stay at the
work until repairs were finished. The president was on
the scene most of the time, supervising their efforts.
The restoration of the roadbed and track was so urgent
that sometimes the men had to work for two days or
more at a stretch without sleep; but the president kept
them going by a generous supply of good food and
strong coffee. Once, when the men were nervously
wrought up from the exhaustion of continued labour at
high pressure, combined with the stimulation of the
coffee, and were inclined to grumble, a foreman silenced
them with the objurgation, "Damn you! It's a good
thing to have a man like Van Home come around here A Plague of Grasshoppers 45
once in a while with such grub to take the wrinkles out
of your bellies!"
Van Home's faith in good food and its bearing upon
good work found an echo in every eating-house along
the line. It was positively understood that no eating-
house would be tolerated unless the food was the best
possible, and its quality was often personally tested by
Van Horne himself. Nor was he unmindful of his own
needs. When out on the road it was no unusual thing
for him to telegraph ahead for roast-chicken dinners to
be prepared for two, and when he arrived to eat both
of them himself. But if his appetite was prodigious,
it was on no larger scale than his boundless vitality.
An inveterate smoker, and working in his office from
9:30 or 10 o'clock in the morning until 11 or 12 o'clock
at night, with an interval for dinner, he formed the habit
of taking only two meals a day; and he seemed the embodiment of health.
Spring floods and a short wheat crop were not the
only trials which beset his road in 1876. A plague of
grasshoppers, which had already worked havoc in the
northern half of the state, descended upon southern
Minnesota, impeded traffic, and devastated the farms.
Worse was feared for the coming year, and public
prayers for the removal of the plague were proclaimed.
The president of the railway had no faith in the efficacy
of such a remedy. "It's all very well your turning to
prayers," he said, "but I don't believe it will move the
grasshoppers. What you have got to do is to take off
your coats and hustle."
Such an emergency was well calculated to excite
his ingenuity and offered him a problem which he thoroughly enjoyed. He devised a simple plan which he
put into operation along the right-of-way.   Wide pans ff
46    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
of sheet-iron or stretched canvas, thickly smeared with
coal-tar, were drawn by horses over the ground. The
grasshoppers, disturbed by their advent, flew up, became hopelessly entangled in the tar, and at intervals
could be collected and burned. The scheme was so
promising that the farmers adopted it. The state
agreed to supply them with tar; the railway cooperated
by carrying the tar and iron free of charge. Black
heaps of dead grasshoppers soon dotted the prairie.
One day, in a cloud that seemed to be miles in length,
the survivors flew away. Most of the crop was saved,
the net earnings of the road again bounded upward, and
operating expenses were again reduced.
Van Horne could not confine his activities to the
routine of railway administration, varied from time
to time by rate-wars with competing divisions of
stronger roads. He organized a company to build a
railway which would form a western extension one
hundred and sixty miles in length, of his own road, and
secured from the State for this extension the reenact-
ment of an earlier land grant which had been forfeited
by the Southern Minnesota through failure to complete
its line as originally chartered. The quest of a charter
for the company brought him into a new field, into a
milieu which was distasteful and in which his downright qualities were not likely to shine. He had to
make frequent visits to St. Paul to enlighten the State
Assembly as to the need and desirability of the proposed extension and to exercise all his persuasive
powers upon legislators and lobbyists. He impressed
the assemblymen as "a man of commanding intellect
and energy who knew what he knew for certain," and
he obtained the legislation and the land grant he wanted. First Construction Work 47
But his first experience of politics and politicians left
an unpleasant impression which he never lost.
The surveys of the extension were actively under way
in 1877, and when the company was incorporated early
in 1878 the right-of-way was secured and the plans prepared. In creative and construction work he always
took special delight. Construction plans, prepared each
day, were brought to him in the evening and considered,
approved, or altered. Frequently he came to his office
in the morning with new ideas to be incorporated in the
plans, and these his chief engineer found "were remarkable for their originality and wisdom; and if one just
had the knack of grasping his ideas and set to work to
carry them out, they always proved the best possible."
While construction gangs were rapidly pushing this
extension over the Dakota boundary, earning for it as
they went the State land grant of 315,000 acres, the
Southern Minnesota, whose right-of-way was now free
of all claims and whose earnings not only met expenses
and interest charges but were sufficient to pay off old
debts, was attaining a measure of prosperity. In 1877
it passed out of the receiver's hands, and Van Horne
could report that "the condition of the entire property
will now compare favorably with that of any other road
of its class in the Northwest." The board of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway evidently shared
this belief, for they began negotiations which resulted,
early in 1879, in their purchase of the Southern Minnesota for a price highly advantageous to the bondholders
and creditable to the man who had pulled the road out
of bankruptcy. The services of its president were not
transferred with the railway, for, to the great regret
of his devoted staff, he was seized again by Timothy
_jp 48    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
Blackstone and John J. Mitchell for the general super-
intendency of the Chicago and Alton. It was arranged,
however, that he should retain the presidency of the
Southern Minnesota and keep in touch with the construction of the extension.
Some months elapsed before his removal to Chicago,
and he occupied himself in the interval with a scheme
for securing settlers along the line of tjie extension. He
had the insight and shrewdness to grasp the fact that
a settler, cultivating land and creating traffic for the
railway, was of far greater importance and value to
the railway than the price obtainable for the land.
Under his scheme credits were given settlers for all land
broken within one year of the sale at the rate of $2.50
per acre; for all land broken within the second year
of the sale, $1.50 per acre. For all land seeded with
grain within two years of the sale an additional credit
of fifty cents an acre was allowed; and all credits were
to be applied on the first payment due on the land. The
scheme proved a great success. Sales of land along
the extension were so numerous as rapidly to open up
the country and furnish traffic for the road.
In building the extension Van Horne took a keen and
sportive interest in locating and naming stations.
Wherever old Indian associations lingered, he indicated
them in the name, as at Pipestone, where the Indians,
following an ancient custom, still assembled once a year
to get the red stone for making their pipes. One summer day on the prairies, as he was exercising this privilege of putting places on the map and so determining
the site of a future village, a town, or perhaps even a
city, he met a young priest who was driving across the
plains in a buck-board with Dillon O'Brien of St. Paul.
The newcomer was selecting land for a colony of immi- Land Settlement in Minnesota
grants about to arrive from Europe. Van Horne, who
was as quickly appreciative of the young stranger's personality as he was of the value of settlers to the road,
promptly invited him to select the location of two town-
sites for his people and to name them. In this way
Fulna and Iona came on the map of Minnesota and had
for their sponsors two men whose names were destined
to live in the history of the West, for the young priest
afterwards became Archbishop Ireland.
Upon leaving Minnesota, Van Horne closed the most
notable chapter of his life in the United States. He
had had an unusual experience of executive work in
every phase of railroading. Faced with serious competition on a road which had little equipment, he had
learned to make one locomotive or one car do the work
previously allotted to two. He had tested all kinds of
rolling-stock. He had learned to know what to expect
from men. And among railwaymen he had achieved an
outstanding reputation. CHAPTER VI
REGARDING him as an iconoclast in railway
operation, the men of the Chicago and Alton
awaited Van Home's arrival in Chicago with
some concern, but those who took pride in their work
quickly found their fears dispelled. "Everybody
thought Van Horne would tear things. Everybody
looked for lightning to strike. Even the general manager was disturbed over his appointment. But Van
Horne went his gait in a characteristic go-ahead style,
invariably hitting it right."
The fact is that as soon as he began to feel his feet he
also began to apply the principles of the economical use
and operation of rolling-stock which he had formulated for himself on the Southern Minnesota. The one
striking innovation that he effected was an arrangement whereby the road should operate its own dining-
cars and reap the profits arising therefrom, instead of
using, as was the case with all other American lines,
the dining-cars of the Pullman Company. He characteristically ordered that more generous portions should
be served in the Alton dining-cars than were served in
the Pullman cars. And, incidentally, he surprised the
car-builders of the Alton by his intimate knowledge of
50 Losing President Hayes $i
car construction and by the number of new ideas which
he gave them, illustrating with his own sketches how
he wished the work to be done.
Although the Chicago and Alton was an important
and well established railway system, the general superintendent was spared the tameness of unchallenged prosperity. The road was waging a continual traffic-war
with competing railways and at the time was fiercely
battling for Kansas City traffic with the St. Louis, Kansas City and Northern, which had a few years previously
been under his own management. Happily for him his
vitality, energy, and ambition found their completest expression in the joy of conflict, and he fought the battle
for his road with such ability and success as not only to
meet the highest expectations of his friends, Blackstone
and Mitchell, but also to attract the admiration of the
heads of other and greater railway systems.
On one occasion, however, he was completely beaten
by a rival road. President Hayes, returning in 1878
from a tour of the West, desired to pass from Kansas
City through Illinois to his native town of Fremont,
Ohio, and the official in charge of the President's itinerary asked the Chicago and Alton to provide a special
train for the journey. The company, appreciative of
the compliment, gladly assented, and the arrangements
were entrusted to Van Horne to be carried out in the best
manner possible. He made up a special train of the
finest cars he could get, and Kinsley, the Delmonico of
Chicago, was engaged for the catering. The train left
Chicago for Kansas City to meet the President, having
only Van Horne and his friend, George B. Hopkins of
Chicago, as passengers. About five o'clock on the following morning, as the train stood in the yards of the
Kansas City terminal, Van Horne rose, dressed, and 52    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
went out for a walk. Passing the telegraph offices, his
attention was caught by hearing his own name come
over the wire. He stopped to listen. The message
came from an official of a competing railway and was
a request to his general manager to make ready a special
train to take the President's party across Illinois. The
sender expressed his joy at capturing the party from the
Chicago and Alton, and exultantly closed his message
with, "Van Horne will be as mad as hell!"
He went back to his train with the news. There was
nothing to be done but watch the President arrive and
then return home. He said little to his friend of what
he felt: there were occasions when not even a matchless
railwayman's vocabulary could give consolation. To
facilitate the passage of the President over the Chicago
and Alton the road had been "locked" from Kansas City
to the Mississippi River, and the train had to be run
over the line to "unlock" it and restore it to its normal
schedule. As the special flew on, they found crowds of
people loyally gathered at the small western stations to
cheer the head of the nation. This could only intensify
the unfortunate nature of the trip, but notwithstanding
his anger and mortification, Van Home's resourcefulness did not fail him. Rather than see the crowds disappointed he persuaded his friend Hopkins, who had
donned a frock coat for the occasion and was famous as
the owner of the only top-hat west of the Ohio, to stand
on the rear platform of the train and bow to the people.
Hopkins accordingly graciously greeted the crowds,
and being a man of fine appearance, impressed them as
much as the President he impersonated would have done.
The two friends, traveling in such forlorn state with
an observation car, a smoking-car, and several other cars Losing President Hayes 53
at their disposal, sat down to a $10,000 dinner, with
twenty-five waiters to minister to their needs, and a
chef and five assistants in the kitchen, anxious to obey
their slightest wish. The dinner was fit for the gods,
but it was served in gloom and depression. The contretemps was more than a joke; it was an insult to the
Chicago and Alton. The climax came when the train
reached a junction in Illinois where the rival roads came
together, and the two specials met. General Tecumseh
Sherman, who was a member of the President's party,
came into Van Home's car, and complaining that he had
travelled for four days with the President without a
drink, begged for a Scotch and soda. It then appeared
that a rival railway official, who was also a prominent
politician and a member of the Republican National
Committee, had gone west from Kansas to meet the
party and had captured them through the friendly offices
of an official who was ignorant of the arrangements
which had been made with the Chicago and Alton.
General Sherman asked Van Horne to go with him
to see the President, but Van Horne refused. Sherman
finally returned to his train and brought President Hayes
back with him to express his regret for the contretemps.
The story of this episode went the length and breadth
of many states, and every rival railroader was crowing
over the defeat of the hitherto invincible Van Horne.
He felt it keenly at the time, but soon came to regard it
as a great joke.
His superintendency of the Chicago and Alton was of
short duration. His success in resuscitating the moribund Southern Minnesota and the qualities he displayed
in fighting the battles of the Alton so strongly impressed
S. S. Merrill, the general manager of the Chicago, Mil- 54    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
waukee and St. Paul Railway that he became anxious
to secure his services for that road. In 1879 he made
Van Horne an offer that was tempting to a man of his
nature. Unable to compete with their stronger neighbours, the small western railways were gradually being
absorbed into, and consolidated with, the larger systems. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul, which
already owned and operated over twenty-two hundred
miles of railway, had been particularly active in this
work of acquisition and consolidation and was contemplating further extensive purchases. Each of the
smaller roads brought its individual difficulties of operation, and it was believed that Van Home's genius was
necessary properly to consolidate and operate them as
parts of one harmonious system from the Milwaukee
As a result of the negotiations Van Horne again
severed his business relations, but not his friendship,
with John J. Mitchell and Timothy Blackstone, and accepted the new position. Titularly he became the general superintendent of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St.
Paul, but he was vested with the duties and powers of
a general manager.
An unexpected difficulty confronted him on taking
up his duties in Milwaukee. His capacity as a railway
executive could not be disputed, but a number of important officials objected to a new man being put over their
heads. A spirit of antagonism prevailed, and insubordination in the younger officials was encouraged. This
was a situation which Van Horne did not relish, for
although he did not wear his heart on his sleeve, he had
very warm feelings and was sensitively aware of a hostile atmosphere. On one occasion he countered this
unfriendliness by direct attack. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul 55
"Why are you prejudiced against me?" he feelingly
asked Frederick D. Underwood, a young clerk who afterwards became president of the Erie Railroad.
"I am not prejudiced; and, now that I come to think
of it, I have no reason to be against you at all," replied
the other.
But several months elapsed before he could feel that
he had entirely won the cordial support of his fellow-
officers. He went about his work apparently imperturbable and always strong, buoyant, and capable; and in
the end they found his personality irresistible. Always
impetuous, at times he exhibited a masterful temper, but
his outbursts were invariably directed against carelessness or stupidity and were usually dissolved in a big
hearty laugh. His whole nature was positive—positive
in opinion and action, in beliefs and disbeliefs—and he
had small patience with the doubts and fears of the
wavering man. Anything that savoured of crookedness
or double-dealing earned his outspoken wrath and contempt. On the other hand, he never failed to recognize
ability or to acknowledge promptly his own mistakes.
His patience in threshing out business plans and details
was inexhaustible. And in the settlement of all disputes
referred to him he adhered rigidly to justice even though
all his interest and prejudice might lie in the other direction.
In the first year of his service with the Milwaukee
road its trackage was increased from 2231 to 3755 miles,
but he could give only a part of his time to the task of
consolidating the several branches and constituent parts
and, through centralized operation, of welding them
into one well-coordinated system. The road was faced
with a more difficult problem. The ceaseless competition between the railways, many of which had been pre- 56    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
maturely built to anticipate future, rather than to meet
existing, requirements, had resulted in a continual diminution of freight-rates. Where it had been comparatively easy to operate a road profitably on an average
rate of one and a half or two cents a pound, it was now
a matter of great difficulty and grave concern to meet
interest charges and maintain dividends on an average
rate of a cent a pound or less. The only solution lay in
the institution of more economical methods of operation.
For work of this kind Van Horne had exceptional
qualifications. His experience had been unusually comprehensive. To his early grasp of traffic operation he
had added a mastery of construction and administration.
In the early days of his management of the Southern
Minnesota he had been compelled to put into practice
the most stringent economies; indeed, to save its treasury the expense of attorney's fees he had even felt
himself obliged to make some study of railway law.
Moreover, he was a pioneer by nature and not weighed
down with respect for precedent. Many railwaymen
paradoxically called him "an idol-smashing heathen,"
but this was not held against him in a country, and
during a period, generously open to new ideas. By
many he was conceded to be the most ingenious and
resourceful railway operator in America.
Every department of the Milwaukee road in its turn
felt the pressure of his hand, but his most strenuous
efforts were directed to securing the utmost possible
economy in the transportation of freight by increasing
the train-load and lowering the ton-mile cost. Men
who did not know of his earlier study of everything
that went to make up a train or a railroad were astonished at the liberties he took; men who did know re- Revolutionary Methods in Railway Operation    57
joiced in the fertility of his mind. He "made a revolution in the operation of railroads and the cost of operating, and railway presidents of to-day continue to practise the methods introduced by him. He taught the
railway world how to load cars to their fullest capacity.
In fact, it might be said that he created cars on the
Milwaukee by making eight hundred do the work of a
thousand. And it was with engines as with cars, and,
indeed, "with all the equipment."
The locomotive engineers did not relish the new
methods. Fifty years had not passed since the first
steam-engine had been hailed in America as something
supernatural. But twenty years had gone by since the
locomotive had been a novelty in Illinois; and to the
pioneer engineer his locomotive was a sentient thing.
He loved her and hated to put a strain on her. He liked
to see her rest quietly in the shops until he was ready to
take her out on the road. vVan Horne not only ordered
that engines should be utilized to their fullest capacity,
but he had engines sent out with whatever drivers it
was most convenient to employ. Against this practice
the engineers protested in vain, and at times, after long
runs on strange locomotives, they would take another
run on the locomotives they regarded as their own
rather than see them go with strange hands at the
While he increased the load of the freight engine and
the freight car, he showed his appreciation of the value
of the fast freight service in competitive traffic by insisting that fast trains should be so loaded and made up as to
be fast in reality.
The storekeeping and accounting systems were overhauled and reorganized, and this work brought specially
to his notice the cleverness and ability of a young clerk 58    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
in the Milwaukee stores, Thomas G. Shaughnessy, whom
he appointed general storekeeper.
When building the Western Avenue yards in Chicago
for the Alton road, he had surprised his colleagues by
the amount of trackage he had ingeniously worked into
a limited area. Now, on the Milwaukee, he further
elaborated the ladder system of tracks which, although
not originated by him, had not previously been adopted
by that road.
He found work peculiarly to his liking in seeing
that railway stations and buildings on the newly-
built portions of the line were designed with due regard for harmony and attractiveness, as well as for
economy. Up to that time railway buildings in the
West, as elsewhere, had been erected with utility solely
in view. The palatial structures of the twentieth century would have been regarded as chimerical. Thoroughly imbued with a sense of beauty and fitness, as
well in the common things of life as in the rare, Van
Horne now found an opportunity to express himself in
the character of the railway structures. Some of the
designs which he personally supplied to the Milwaukee
road at this time were used; others were carefully filed
away, to emerge twenty-five years later when the Puget
Sound extension was being built, when they were declared by the road's architects to be thoroughly up-to-
date and more in harmony with advanced railroad conditions than any others available.
In later years Van Horne was wont to tell two stories
of these times which illustrate, among other things, the
autocratic power of railway managers in the seventies
and eighties, before the days of Federal or state railroad
commissions, and the rough-and-tumble tactics to which
they frequently had recourse. Rough-and-Tumble Tactics 59
As general superintendent of the Chicago, Milwaukee
and St. Paul he continued to be in close touch with the
operations of the Southern Minnesota, which had been
absorbed by the former road. His friend and divisional
superintendent, John M. Egan, was carrying out the
construction of the extension in accordance with their
original plans. Flandreau had been chosen as a divisional point, and Egan was rushing the road forward to
reach that place by January 1, 1880, and thereby to earn
a substantial bonus, which the municipality had conditionally promised. Suddenly a heavy snow storm delayed the track-laying, and the non-arrival of steel rails
prevented the completion of the last five miles into
Flandreau. A few days before the expiry of the
period within which the bonus could be earned, Egan
ordered five miles of the track further back to be pulled
up and brought forward to the terminal. On these a
locomotive, to meet the condition of the agreement, rode
triumphantly into Flandreau on the very day the time
limit expired, the gap behind being relaid a few months
later. The town of Flandreau, alleging nonfulfilment
of the contract, heartlessly repudiated its obligation to
pay the promised bonus. But in doing so it forgot the
wrath of a general manager with Van Horne at his
elbow. The divisional point—the most coveted distinction of prairie towns—was promptly transferred to
In the winter of 1880-81 the Milwaukee road was endeavouring to secure possession of a small railway called
the Chicago, Rockford and Northern and, after a voluminous correspondence, found itself in the throes of a
dispute with the receiver of the road. One day Van
Horne summoned A. J. Earling, one of the divisional
superintendents, and instructed him to go out and take 6o    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
possession of the road, at the same time giving him an
immense bundle of documents and correspondence.
The bundle, which was far too formidable a mass to
permit of any hurried unraveling of the facts, was to
constitute one of Earling's weapons and to be produced
as proof of the Milwaukee's right to the road. Earling
went off with his bundle of papers, two locomotives, and
twenty men. Reaching the crossing of the two roads,
he had the engines turned on to the smaller one and
stood ready with his men to enforce possession.
When the receiver endeavoured to oust the trespassers and recover possession, he was confronted with the
mass of documents and the twenty men. Ignoring the
papers as inconsequential and finding himself unable to
move Earling by persuasion, he hurried back to Chicago
for a platoon of men. Earling suspected his intention
and telegraphed his chief for more men. The receiver,
finding his platoon inadequate, returned for still other
men. Van Horne met these with a still greater force,
and the contest continued until Earling was supported
on the ground by fully eight hundred men. Five or
six times a day Earling, from his locomotive headquarters at the crossing, would talk directly with
his chief over the telegraph-wire, making reports and
receiving instructions. At the end of each parley Van
Horne would spell out emphatically over the wire the
strategic maxim: "Be sure to have plenty of good provisions for your men. As long as you keep their bellies
full, they will remain loyal." Fortified with good food
against discontent and disloyalty, Van Home's legion
came through a week of threats and idleness with flying
colours. The Milwaukee remained in possession, and
the courts subsequently decided that the two claimants
should have joint use of the road. James Jerome Hill 61
Among the many men with whom Van Home's operations brought him into touch was James Jerome Hill,
and in 1880 the plans of the two threatened to collide.
Hill controlled the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway, one of whose lines ran up toward Canadian territory. Scanning the horizon for profitable
extensions of the Milwaukee system, Van Horne planned
to build a branch from Ortonville in Dakota to tap the
Canadian territory to the north. He had a line surveyed as far as Moorhead, which was the American
terminus of Hill's Red River steamers plying to Winnipeg. Hill and his Canadian associates regarded
western Canada as their own special reserve and were
opposed to Van Home's road securing an entrance there.
Hill met Van Horne and Merrill to discuss the question
of territorial rights, but they parted without coming to
any satisfactory conclusions. Van Horne, however,
learned a great deal of Hill's plans and aspirations for
developing railway business with Canada, while Hill
was greatly impressed by the astuteness of the Milwaukee's superintendent and his designs on Canadian
Engaged himself in the reorganization and resuscitation of a moribund railway, Hill was well acquainted
with Van Home's successful management of the Southern Minnesota and with the invaluable services he had
rendered to the Alton and Milwaukee roads. In 1881
he gave him the opportunity of his life. Up in the wide
northern country that was still represented on American railway maps as a problematic white void, with
"British Possessions" marked across it, a great railway
was being planned. Hill was interested in it. A railwayman big enough for the new enterprise was being
urgently sought.    He unhesitatingly recommended Van 62    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
Horne as the one man capable of directing the gigantic
Before following Van Horne, however, on his "great
adventure," some reference must be made to his private
life and the pursuit of his hobbies during the years in
which he was so rapidly forcing his way to the front.
He had experienced the sorrow of losing his eldest son,
William, who, born at the time of the Chicago fire, died
at the age of five; but his grief had been assuaged by the
birth, in 1877, of a second son, Richard Benedict, who
was the last of the three children born to him.
The pressure of his work at Milwaukee caused him to
drop the collection of fossils which he had actively continued at Lacrosse and at Chicago. In both those cities
he often snatched half an hour from a busy day to discuss fossils with some one who had, perhaps, come many
miles across the country to sell him a trilobite or brachi-
opod. All along the lines he was known as a certain
market for fossils. The men working at Hokab, outside Lacrosse, in a limestone quarry rich in fossils would
telegraph him whenever they uncovered a new stratum.
As soon as possible he would appear at the quarry with
his hammer, procure a box of specimens, and find recreation at night in preparing them for his cabinet. While
residing in Alton he had been tantalized for weeks by
the sight of a fine trilobite embedded in a slab of the city
pavement. Day after day he passed it, until he could
no longer resist it. One morning he came with his
hammer, deliberately smashed into the pavement, and
carried the trilobite triumphantly away. Whenever he
moved—and he moved so often that his mother said
they might as well live in a railway car—his specimens
were treated as jewels and carefully packed by himself.
As long as he continued collecting he kept up correspond- Castor-Oil Beans and Hyacinths 63
ence with St. John and other American authorities.
At Milwaukee he was also compelled to relinquish the
hobby of gardening, which he had taken up at Lacrosse
with the determination of producing finer and larger
blooms than his neighbours. Frequently he walked far
upon the Bluffs to get leaf mold for his roses. His
garden was dug, planted, and tended with his own hands,
and, as it replaced his geological field-work, it gave him
the exercise and refreshment he needed after long hours
of office-work. He studied fertilizers and soil-mixers.
He admired particularly the castor-oil bean, and by massing a number together and coaxing them to a great
height he obtained an effect which aroused wonder and
admiration. He experimented with datura cornucopia,
and produced a triple trumpet flower at a time when
anything more than the double trumpet form was unknown, at any rate in his locality. In his love of fun
and pranks he placed a superbly cultivated skunk-cabbage close to the fence of his nearest neighbour, a clergyman, so that the odour, the only drawback to a beautiful
plant, might excite alarm in the clergyman's family.
His house in Chicago had ample grounds and large
attics and cellars. Some of the latter were light and
warm, others cool and dark, and their various temperatures were exceptionally favourable to the growth
of tulips and hyacinths. With the idea that each rootlet should be uniformly developed to produce a perfect
spike of hyacinths, he used his warm and lighted spaces
to promote growth, and his dark and cool spaces to retard
it. In the end his blossoms were of such beauty and
perfection that, years afterwards, he looked with scorn
upon the best that his skilled gardener in Montreal could
show him, with all the advantage of a conservatory and
up-to-date methods.
IN order to comprehend the magnitude and the difficulties of the task beckoning the young general
manager to Canada, some account of the inception
of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and its purpose is indispensable.
When, in 1867, the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New
Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island
were, with the Northwest Territories, federated into the
Dominion of Canada, the vast area lying between Lake
Huron and the Pacific coast was little more than a wilderness. Almost the only white settlers in this Great
Lone Land were the employees and dependents of the
Hudson's Bay Company, whose trading posts were scattered throughout the Northwest at great distances from
one another. The principal post was at Fort Garry,
now the city of Winnipeg, which in 1871 had a population of only three hundred and fifty souls. The great
mountain ranges completely isolated the colonists on the
Pacific from the prairies and eastern Canada. A small
but prosperous community had grown up on Vancouver
Island, which had steamship communication with American ports on the Pacific but no means of access to the
lands lying east of the Rockies or, indeed, to the interior
of British Columbia. They had long keenly felt the
need of closer communication with other parts of British
64 Canada's Railway Needs 65
North Atirierica, and their interest in obtaining it had
been quickened by the discovery, in 1858, of gold in the
Cariboo District. From Quebec and Ontario the Northwest could be reached only by a circuitous journey by
rail and stage through Chicago and St. Paul or by rail
and steamer to Port Arthur, and thence by saddle-horse,
wagon, and canoe.
For many years prior to Confederation the imagination of engineers and promoters, as well as of politicians,
had been held by the vision of "clamping all British
North America with an iron band," and several ineffectual attempts had been made to obtain charters and subsidies for such a road. After Confederation and the
acquisition of the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company
in the Northwest Territories, the construction of an
overland railway speedily assumed the aspect of a national necessity. The spirit of national unity which had
led to the union of the Canadas and the Maritime Provinces was intensified by the first trial of the strength of
the young Dominion when it was faced, in 1870, with
the task of crushing the Riel rebellion. The fact that
it took ninety-five days to transport troops from Toronto
to Fort Garry over the best, if not the only possible,
route brought home more forcibly than anything else
could have done the need of a western road. Moreover,
several railways—the Central Pacific, the Union Pacific,
the Southern Pacific, and the Northern Pacific—were
either being promoted or in process of actual construction in the United States, and the Canadian people,
though few in number and poor in all but undeveloped
natural resources, were stirred by ambition to emulate
their powerful neighbours.
These, briefly, were the conditions when long-pending
negotiations terminated, in 1871, in the incorporation of n
66   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
British Columbia with the Canadian federation, upon
the express stipulation that the Dominion within two
years would begin, and within ten years complete, a
railway linking up the new province with eastern Canada.
The fulfilment of this obligation by a nation of four
million people and small means was felt to be a tremendous undertaking. The cost of the road would be
at least $100,000,000, and the engineering difficulties
were stupendous. It was not known that a railway
could pierce the Rockies; indeed, Captain Palliser, a competent explorer and engineer, had declared after four
years' labour in the field that a transcontinental line
could not be built exclusively on British territory. The
Opposition, therefore, had sound reasons for protesting
against any attempt to complete the railway within the
stipulated ten years. The government of Sir John Macdonald, however, was determined to redeem its pledge
to British Columbia, and decided that the road should
be built by a company, aided by liberal subsidies in cash
and in land. Sandford Fleming, a distinguished engineer and explorer, was appointed to make a survey and
report, if possible, a feasible route.
It had been decided that the railway should begin at
some point on Lake Nipissing.    A vivid description of
I the country to be traversed has been given by Professor
Oscar D. Skelton in "The Railway Builders":
From Nipissing nearly to the Red River there stretched a thousand miles of woodland, rugged and rock-strewn, covered by a
network of countless lakes and rivers, interspersed with seemingly
bottomless swamps or muskegs—a wilderness which no white
man had ever passed through from end to end. Then came the
leVel prairie and a great rolling plain rising to the southwest in
three successive steppes, and cut by deep watercourses. But it
was the third or mountain section which presented the most serious m
British Columbia's Mountains 67
engineering difficulties. Four hundred miles from the Pacific
coast, and roughly parallel, ran the towering Rocky Mountains,
some of whose peaks rose fifteen thousand feet. Beyond
stretched a vast plateau, three thousand feet above sea-level, intersected by rivers which had cut deep chasms or, to the northward, wide sheltered valleys. Between this plateau and the coast
the Cascades interposed, rivalling the Rockies in height and rising
sheer from the ocean, which thrust in deep fiord channels. At
the head of some one of these fiords must be found the western
terminus. Early in the survey a practical route was found
throughout. Striking across the wilderness from Lake Nipissing
to Lake Superior, . . . the line might skirt the shore of the Lake
to Fort William, or it might run northerly through what is now
known as the claybelt, with Fort William and the lake made
accessible by a branch. Continuing westward to the Red River
at Selkirk, with Winnipeg on a branch line to the south, the
projected line crossed Lake Manitoba at the Narrows, and then
struck out northwesterly through what was then termed the "Fertile Belt" till the Yellowhead Pass was reached. Then the Rockies
could be easily pierced; but once through, the engineer was faced
by the huge flanking range of the Cariboo Mountains, in which
repeated explorations failed to find a gap. But at the foot of the
towering barrier lay a remarkable, deep-set valley four hundred
miles in length, in which northwestward ran the Fraser and
southeastward the Canoe and the Columbia. By following the
Fraser to its great southward bend, and then striking west, a
terminus on Bute or Dean Inlet might be reached, while the valley
of the Canoe and the Albreda would give access to the North
Thompson as far as Kamloops, whence the road might run down
the Thompson and the lower Fraser to Burrard Inlet. The latter
route, on the whole, was preferred.
Sir Hugh Allan of Montreal, the chief owner of the
Allan Steamship Line and a man of wealth and high
business reputation, was induced to come forward with
an offer to build the railway. Shortly afterwards a
company was organized by D. L. Macpherson and other
Toronto capitalists for the same purpose. The government sought, without success, to effect an amalgama- 68   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
tion of the rival organizations, with Allan as president.
Following the general election of 1872, a charter was
granted to a new company organized by Allan, but it
fell through when it was disclosed in Parliament that he
had contributed a large sum of money to Sir John's election funds; and the Premier and his ministry felt obliged
to relinquish office.
The new government, under the leadership of Alexander Mackenzie, after vainly endeavouring to induce
other capitalists to undertake the enterprise, decided to
make it a government work and construct it bit by bit
as settlement and the public funds might warrant. Contracts were let for small sections of the road: one from
Port Arthur westward towards Selkirk; and another
from Selkirk to Emerson on the international boundary,
where it could connect with an American line, the St.
Paul and Pacific, controlled by J. J. Hill and his Canadian associates. Substantial but slow progress was
made on these two sections, and efforts were made to
obtain from British Columbia an extension of the time
for the completion of the road. Nothing, however, was
being done on the Pacific coast; the colonists were protesting against the long delay and threatening to withdraw from confederation. So clamant were they that
the amiable and eloquent Lord Dufferin went out to the
co«ast to assure them of the anxiety of everyone concerned to build the road. They received him hospitably,
declined the offer of a wagon-road in place of a railway,
and promptly renewed their protests and their threat.
In 1878 Sir John Macdonald was swept back into
power on a policy of protection of national industries,
and ^continued for two years the work begun by his predecessor. Contracts were let for the completion of the
line between Port Arthur and Selkirk and its exten- Sir John Macdonald and the C. P. Ry. 69
sion to Winnipeg, and for a distance of two hundred
miles from the last named point. A contract was
also made for the section between Yale and Savona's
Ferry, near Kamloops, after it had been decided to
follow the route adopted by the Mackenzie government
through the Yellowhead Pass, down the Thompson and
the Fraser to Port Moody on Burrard Inlet.
The ten years stipulated for the completion of the
road had nearly expired, and owing to financial depression, changes of government and policy, disputes as to
route and terminus, little had been accomplished. Sir
John Macdonald was advised that the road could be more
expeditiously and advantageously built by a private company, and became converted to the wisdom of that policy.
At the suggestion of his colleague, John Henry Pope, he
turned to a remarkable group of Canadians who had
achieved phenomenal success in the reorganization of a
small railway in Minnesota and had laid the foundations
of great individual fortunes. Of their association in
that enterprise an interesting story is told, which illustrates upon how slender a thread hangs the destiny of
Donald A. Smith was a frugal, ambitious, and tenacious Scotchman who, emigrating to Canada in his early
youth, had risen in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company to the important position of chief commissioner.
His long service with that company had brought him an
unequalled knowledge of the Northwest, and in the
course of his annual visits to the East he passed through
St. Paul, where he met and discussed the railway situation with two Canadians, Norman W. "Kittson, a former
Hudson's Bay factor, and James J. Hill, who had gone
in his boyhood from an Ontario farm to St. Paul and
was carrying on a business in coal and wood.    Kittson jSS
70    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
and Hill were interested in a Red River transportation
company and were casting covetous eyes upon the St.
Paul and Pacific Railway. This small line, of a scant
three hundred miles in length and running through St.
Paul to a point on the Red River, was in desperate
plight. Its Dutch bondholders in 1873 had thrown it
into the hands of a receiver, and its prospects were so
unfavourably regarded that the bonds were practically
unmarketable. Hill and Kittson, having a thorough
knowledge of the railway situation and a firm faith in
the future of the country, were convinced that the road
could be built up into a highly profitable property, and
Smith soon shared their convictions. The necessary
capital, however, was lacking. During his visits to
Montreal Smith frequently spoke of Hill and his plans
to his cousin, George Stephen, another Scotchman and a
highly successful merchant and manufacturer who was
appointed in 1876 the president of the Bank of Montreal, and to Richard B. Angus, yet another Scotch-
Canadian, who was general manager of the same bank.
He introduced Hill to Stephen in 1877, and it was arranged to ascertain the price at which the Dutch would
sell their bonds.
In September, 1877, Stephen and Angus were obliged
to visit Chicago on legal business of the bank. One of
the law's delays left them with a few free days on their
hands, and they decided to visit some other city.
Stephen wanted to see St. Louis, but Angus said, "No,
let us go to St. Paul and see this man Hill about whom
and his railroad Donald Smith is always talking."
Each adhering to his wish, they agreed to abide by the
fall of a coin. The coin said St. Paul, and to St. Paul
and James J. Hill they went. A trip over the St. Paul
and Pacific line dispelled Stephen's doubts concerning The Canadian Pacific Railway Syndicate       71
its prospects and resulted in the formation of a syndicate, of which John S. Kennedy, a New York banker
who had been agent for the bondholders, subsequently
became a member. The Dutch interests were acquired,
the mortgage foreclosed, and the road reorganized as
the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba—destined to
develop in the following decade into the Great Northern Railroad.
Sir John Macdonald could not have approached any
men better able to undertake the construction of the
Canadian Pacific. Their own road touched the Canadian boundary, their steamers plied the Red River to
Winnipeg, and they had a first-hand knowledge and experience of the West and western railways. Donald
Smith, particularly, had been for many years a most
active protagonist of a Pacific railroad, but all the Canadians in the group were actuated by a strong desire to
promote the development of Canada. Stephen was the
most reluctant, but yielded when he was assured that
the burdens of management would fall on other shoulders. Duncan Mclntyre, another Montreal merchant,
who controlled the Canada Central, running from Brockville through Ottawa to Pembroke and under construction from that point to Callander, the eastern terminus
of the projected Canadian Pacific main line, also agreed
to join the syndicate. The government leaders went,
with Stephen and Mclntype, to London to seek capital.
They failed to interest the Rothschilds or the Barings.
The president of the Grand Trunk, Sir Henry Tyler,
offered to build the road if a line through American
territory south of the Lake were substituted for the
Lake Superior section, a condition which the government
refused to accept. Eventually, a firm of Paris bankers
and Morton, Rose and Co. of London, on behalf of 72   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
themselves and their New York house, Morton, Bliss
and Co., entered the syndicate.
A contract was executed between the government and
the syndicate in October, 1880. In consideration of the
company undertaking to build the road within ten years,
the government covenanted to grant all lands required
for its roadbed, stations, workshops, buildings, yards,
dock-grounds and waterfrontage, and to subsidize the
company with $25,000,000 in cash and 25,000,000 acres
of land, to be selected in alternate sections along the line
of the railway in the Northwest Territories, and all to
be fit for settlement. The company and its property
were to be forever free from Dominion or provincial
taxation, and the subsidy-lands until they were either
sold or occupied. The contract stipulated that for
twenty years no line of railway should be authorized by
the Dominion Parliament to run south of the Canadian
Pacific Railway, except such line should run southwest
or westward of southwest, nor to within fifteen miles of
latitude 49°. The company was to have unusual powers
to construct branch lines along the entire length of the
railway; to establish lines of steamers at its termini; and
to construct and work telegraph lines for business of the
public, as well as for its own business. The portions
of the railway already completed by the government—
about one hundred and thirty-five miles of main line
from Winnipeg to Rat Portage and a branch line sixty-
five miles in length from Winnipeg southward to Emerson—were to be transferred to the company. The government further undertook to complete and transfer free
of charge three hundred miles of main line from Rat
Portage eastward to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior,
and two hundred and thirteen miles from Port Moody,
the Pacific terminus, eastward tp Kamloops.    The cap- The Canadian Pacific Railway Charter        73
ital stock of the company was fixed at $100,006,000, and
the company was authorized to issue bonds on the security of its land-grant to the amount of $25,000,000.
Ratification of the contract was bitterly opposed by
the Liberal party, led by Edward Blake, who denounced
the contract as extravagant and certain to involve disaster. They contended strongly for a route running
from Sault Ste. Marie through Michigan and Minnesota instead of north of Lake Superior. They argued
that such a modification would bring to Montreal traffic
from the American, as well as the Canadian, West. An
all-Canadian line should be postponed until warranted by
western settlement and traffic. A rival and, it was alleged by government adherents, a sham syndicate,
headed by Sir William Howland, was hastily organized.
This syndicate offered to build the road projected by the
government for lower subsidies and to forego the monopoly clause and tax exemptions. The Opposition was
outvoted; the contract was duly ratified by Parliament;
and the company was incorporated in February, 1881.
The character of the country to be traversed by the
railway was not without some alluring prospects. For
some distance east of Lake Nipissing the road lay for
the most part through an old and well developed country and commanded the immense lumber traffic of the
Ottawa Valley. The Lake Superior section to Winnipeg ran through many forests of valuable timber and
through mineral lands abounding in iron and copper.
Between Winnipeg and the foot-hills of the Rocky
Mountains, a stretch of nine hundred miles, lay one of
the finest agricultural regions in the world, and in this
district nearly the entire land grant of the company
was located. Coal, to the extent of at least 40,000
square miles, was found to underlie the southern and mm
74    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
western portions of this prairie section. The section
between the Rockies and the Cascade Mountains had
not been thoroughly explored, but coal was known, and
valuable minerals were believed, to exist there; while
on the Pacific slope there were immense forests of
Douglas fir and other valuable timber, with extensive
coal fields in which development had already been begun.
The coast region, besides affording admirable facilities
for shipping and navigation and an inexhaustible supply
of fish, contained much fine land suitable for agriculture, grazing, or fruit-growing.
Immediately upon the issue of the charter, the company was organized under the presidency of Stephen.
The Canada Central was absorbed, and the directors
decided to proceed without delay with the construction
of a branch from Callander to cross the River St. Mary
at the Sault. Headquarters was established at Winnipeg and operations were begun under the direction of
A. B. Stickney, who afterwards became president of the
Chicago Great Western. But a man of great driving
power was the need of the hour. Stephen turned to Hill,
who strongly recommended Van Horne, because of all
the men he knew Van Horne was "altogether the best
equipped, mentally and in every other way. A pioneer
was needed, and the more of a pioneer the better."
"You need," said Hill, "a man of great mental and
physical power to carry this line through. Van Horne
can do it. But he will take all the authority he gets
and more, so define how much you want him to have."
The salary offered by Stephen was the largest that
had ever been given to a railwayman in the West.
Tempting it had to be, for the success of a transcontinental line through the comparatively barren lands of
Canada was extremely problematical, and the railway- Van Horne Goes to Canada 75
man who undertook it was risking his reputation and
his career. For Van Horne the risk was real and
substantial, for none stood higher in the railway world
or had better prospects of advancement. Before he
gave his answer he slipped quietly up to Winnipeg with
Hill and drove a long distance over the plains to see the
country for himself. He was profoundly impressed
with the quality of the grain he saw in the fields, with
the unusually large vegetables, and with the abundant
crops grown by the Red River settlers. Satisfied with
the promise of the land he was specially attracted by the
other aspects of the enterprise. The task was the
execution of the greatest railway project ever undertaken in any part of the world. The natural difficulties
to be overcome were unparalleled. The very immensity
of the work, with all its difficulties and uncertainties,
challenged his fighting instincts and offered the greatest
opportunity that could ever come to him of satisfying
his master passion, "to make things grow and put new
places on the map."
He returned to Milwaukee to resign from the Chicago,
Milwaukee and St. Paul and to accept Stephen's offer. CHAPTER VIII
LEAVING his family behind him in Milwaukee,
Van Horne arrived in Winnipeg on December
31, 1881, bringing with him as general superintendent of the western division, his Minnesota colleague,
Egan. The temperature was forty degrees below zero,
but the city was enjoying the gaieties of the New Year.
He began his work in small temporary quarters over
the office of the Bank of Montreal. His welcome had
something of the chilliness of the Manitoba frosts.
Among his own people on the Milwaukee he had had to
overcome the natural objection of a clannish personnel
to the intrusion of a leader from another camp. Here
in Winnipeg and Canada his reception was coloured by
the underlying national antagonism that prevailed on
both sides of the border. The reluctance of the Canadians and the British on the company's staff to pass
under the direction of a "Yankee" found expression in
the Opposition press, which attacked the company for
entrusting the construction of the railway to an "alien,"
and the government for allowing it. Abhorring graft
and dishonesty in every form, he was able at an early
stage to discover and stop leaks in a rather lax organization which were sapping the life of the enterprise.    He
76 Building the Canadian Pacific Railway        77
dispensed, swiftly and without caring whose feelings
were hurt, with the services of all officers and agents
whom he found to be using the company for the furtherance of their own fortunes. These stern measures, culminating in the prompt dismissal of a popular official
who was engaged in an ambitious scheme to buy town-
sites along the line of the railway in the interests of a
group of speculators, did not lighten the atmosphere of
hostility and criticism. Some echoes of this unfriendliness found their way back to his friends in the western
states, who sent him indignant messages, urging him to
"leave them to build their own road and come back here
to your friends."
If this unfriendliness did not speedily give way to
cordiality, he himself was largely to blame. If his new
associates did not know him, neither did he know them
or their ways, and his blunt outspokenness was apt to jar
upon the nerves of men unused to the vernacular of
western American railwaymen. The professional men,
the civil engineers, were especially ruffled by his undisguised disrespect for their opinions. Let one of them
bear witness—J. H. E. Secretan, who, he once remarked,
was the best locating engineer he had ever known.
Van Horne was a great man with a gigantic intellect, a generous
soul, and an enormous capacity both for food and work . \ . but
we did not like him when he first came up to Winnipeg as General Boss of Everybody and Everything. His ways were not
our ways, and he did not hesitate to let us know what he thought
of us. . . . At first he had little use for our Englishmen and
Canadians, especially the engineers, and he told me once, "If I
could only teach a sectionman to run a transit, I would n't have a
single damn engineer about the place."
Van Horne was too big and far too busy a man to be
much disturbed by the character of his reception.    As Hlf
78    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
the days slipped by, closer contact brought understanding which ripened into mutual respect and liking. His
"amazing versatility and his knowledge—it seemed—of
everything" won the admiration of his fellow workers;
and in the end, his personality, with its heartiness, its
swing, "its magnetism, brought them irresistibly to a
loyal and devoted acceptance of his leadership.
Shortly after his arrival in Winnipeg he went east to
Ottawa and Montreal and met the company's president
and directors and other prominent Canadians. This
visit saw the beginning of a close-knit, confidential, and
abiding friendship between himself and Stephen.
Thereafter these two men were to be the great force
behind the enterprise.
Among all the members of the syndicate,»Hill was
the only one with actual experience of railway management, and Stephen and his colleagues had naturally
looked to him for advice on all matters pertaining to
construction and operation. Now he was to be displaced
by Van Horne. It was impossible for two men so restlessly ambitious and so masterful to work harmoniously
side by side. Moreover, their interests were divergent,
and a difference speedily arose between them.
At the inception of the syndicate Hill and Stephen
formed the opinion that the Lake Superior section could
not profitably be operated, and should not be constructed,
in any event, as early as the remainder of the line. In
the meantime they projected a connection at Sault Ste.
Marie with a branch of Hill's road, the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba, in which they had so great a stake.
To effect that connection they had, upon the organization of the company, decided to build a branch from
the main line of the Canadian Pacific at Callander to the
Sault.   It is beyond question that Hill would never have
_ -«.-_,ii.Mi_____i /. J. Hill and the Canadian Pacific Railway    79
joined the syndicate if he had not counted upon his
American road benefiting, through this connection and
for many years to come, from the haulage of through
Canadian traffic.    He anticipated that the connection
would give him virtual control of the Canadian Pacific.
The construction of the Lake Superior section, affording
a continuous line through Canada from Montreal and
Ottawa to the Pacific, would not only frustrate his plans
for the future, but would deprive his road of the east-
bound Canadian traffic it already enjoyed.    He therefore vehemently opposed it.    The view that construction
of the section should be deferred until warranted by
western settlement and traffic was very generally held.
It had been urged, it will be remembered, by Blake and
the Liberal party.    It had been adopted by the Mackenzie government which had, however, planned to transport passengers and freight across the Great Lakes by
steamer, rather than send them around through American territory.    Sir John Macdonald and his vigorous
chief lieutenant, Sir Charles Tupper, had all along contended, and were disposed to insist, that the line and
the routing of traffic should be confined within Canadian
boundaries.   The   government   leaders   found   their
strongest advocate in Van Horne.   Advancing the idea
of a route skirting the waters of Lake Superior to
Thunder Bay and the utilization of water transportation
to overcome the immense difficulty of providing supplies,
he declared that the difficult lake section could be built
and profitably operated.   His vision had immediately
fastened upon the value of a through traffic which would
make the railway independent of local traffic from the
rocky, uninhabitable lake region, while the thought of
an intermediary connection with a road controlled by
Hill was as repellent to his railway sense as to his per- 80   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
sonal feelings. He was positive in the opinion that the
line should go straight through Canada from coast to
coast, and that the sooner and the straighter it went
through, the better it would be for everyone. This
course was promptly adopted by the directors, new surveys were arranged, and before the close of 1882 some
progress was being made in construction. Hill, intensely chagrined and disappointed by the decision, withdrew from the company early in 1883 and sold out his
stock. He was shortly afterwards followed by Kennedy.
Another matter of extreme importance was settled
during Van Home's visit. The company's charter had
stipulated that the railway should cross the Rockies by
the Yellowhead Pass, and the route chosen by Sandford
Fleming across the prairies from Selkirk to the Pass ran
northwesterly and roughly through the valley of the
North Saskatchewan. The company had decided early
in 1881 to adopt a far more southerly route, which was
a hundred miles shorter and would be likely to prevent
the construction at a later period of a rival road to the
south. The southerly route would bring the line to the
Kicking Horse or Hector Pass, rather than to the Yellowhead. Here, however, they were confronted by a
great difficulty. Between the Kicking Horse and the
Gold Range rose the giant Selkirks. Major Rogers, an
able American engineer engaged by Hill, who spent the
summer of 1881 in a preliminary survey of the range,
was confident he could find a way through; but so far
none had been discovered. The weight of engineering
opinion favoured the Yellowhead Pass, which offered a
route of easy grades and few difficulties of construction.
Van Horne unhesitatingly threw the weight of his faith Rogers Pass 81
in favour of the Kicking Horse, and the directors determined to take a chance and construct the road through
to that point. If no way was found through the Selkirks, the road, after piercing the Rockies, could make
a detour along the curving Columbia. They were not
kept long in doubt, for a few months later, in July, 1882,
Major Rogers discovered a difficult but available pass
which has since borne his name. Rogers and his transit
man, a hard-bitten Rocky Mountain engineer named
Carrol, had been five days up the South Fork of the
Illecillewaet, and were camping one night at the foot of
the great glacier. Their supplies were down to a dog
tent, five plugs of chewing tobacco, four beans, and a
slab of sourbelly. Rogers, pointing to the shoulder of
a distant peak, now called Mt. Macdonald, said they
would probably find a pass there, and it would only take
two or three days to find out. After ruminating for a
few moments, Carrol said, "Well, it may be all right for
you, Major, but we 've eaten our last bannock. You may
be willing to die for glory, but how about me?" The
Major thought a while and then said, "I '11 tell you what
I '11 do, Carrol. If that pass is there I '11 name that
mountain after you," pointing to what for many years
was known as Mt. Carrol, but is now known as Mt.
Tupper. They found the pass, coming through more
dead than alive.
Van Horne used to tell an interesting story of this
typical westerner, a Yale graduate who dressed like a
frontiersman; who loved solitude, poetry, and tobacco
in all its various forms; and who explored for the joy
of exploring and not for any material gains. Following a custom of American railroads, the company rewarded him for his great service in discovering the pass r
82    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
with a cheque for five thousand dollars. Meeting him
a year afterwards in Winnipeg, Van Horne reminded
him that the cheque had not been cashed.
"What!" exclaimed the Major. "Cash that cheque?
I would not take a hundred thousand dollars for it. It
is framed and hangs in my brother's house in Water-
ville, Minnesota, where my nephews and nieces can see
it.    I 'm not here for money!"
Having assured the directors that he would build five
hundred miles of railway during the season of 1882, Van
Horne hurried back to Winnipeg to start operations.
He had already recast and reinforced the administrative
staff. Thomas Tait, who was afterwards to become the
highly successful reorganizer of the state railways of
Victoria, was appointed his private secretary. Kelson,
of the Milwaukee road, was persuaded to throw in his
fortunes with those of his former chief and was appointed general storekeeper at Winnipeg. A major need
remained for a man at Montreal capable of organizing
at that end the supplies and commissariat for the army
of men Van Horne would shortly have in the field. For
this important service his choice fell upon another of
his Milwaukee associates, Thomas G. Shaughnessy, who
was appointed general purchasing agent. By no means
infallible in his choice of men, in this instance Van
Horne builded, perhaps, better than he knew, for
Shaughnessy was destined to become not only the first
and the ablest of his lieutenants but, in the course of
time, to succeed Van Horne himself in the control of the
great transcontinental highway and to develop it to a
magnitude and height of prosperity which few of its
creators could possibly have foreseen.
The proposal to build five hundred miles of track in
one season was held to be ridiculous.    Two governments Building the Canadian Pacific Railway        83
had sunk many millions in construction during a period
of ten years, yet less than three hundred miles had been
completed east or west. During the season of 1881 the
company itself had built only a little more than one
hundred miles. Moreover, not a particle of construction material existed on the prairies. How could a line
of supply possibly be carried in advance for a distance
of five hundred miles in one summer?
While the snows were lying heavily on the ground,
Van Horne began to assemble supplies at Winnipeg in
unheard-of quantities. Steel rails came from England
and Germany, ties from the spruce forests east of Winnipeg, stone from Stonewall, and lumber from Minnesota and Rat Portage. Before lake navigation opened,
rails and equipment were coming in by way of New
Orleans. The men in the yards of his old town, Joliet,
were surprised by the sight of a whole train-load of
steel rails on its way to Winnipeg; but train-loads of
supplies for "Van Home's new road" soon became so
common that they ceased to excite interest.
The prairie contract from Flat Creek (Oak Lake) to
Calgary was let to Langdon and Shepard, a firm of experienced railway contractors at (St. Paul. The day they
signed the contract they advertised for three; thousand
men and four thousand horses. To have a body of men
entirely amenable to his own orders and to set a pace
for the contractors, Van Horne organized a special construction gang to follow in the rear of the contractors
and complete their work. Along the line of the railway
this gang became known as the "flying wing."
Every day saw large quantities of material sent to the
front. Fuel had to be supplied, for the prairies were
barren of all but grass, and when coal ran short the
men had to burn ties.   The stores branch had a line of f"-
84    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
checkers strung out between New York and the Red
River, reporting daily the arrival and the movement of
all supplies. Back in Montreal Shaughnessy was keeping track of the, materials and supplies which were being
swallowed up in the hungry maw of the prairies and
providing for the daily needs of the army of men at
work. Inundations of the Emerson branch by over-
flooding of the Red River brought delay; but as soon as
locomotives could run on the rails without the water
putting out their fires, train-loads of materials were
rushed up to Winnipeg and thence dispatched to the
construction point.
Over five thousand men and seventeen hundred teams
were working at high pressure on the prairie section all
the summer, to fulfil the general manager's boast. Long
as are the summer days in the Northwest they were not
long enough, so night gangs were put on the bridges
and on the handling of lumber and rails. Fortunately
there was no need of advance companies of men to clear
the land, for the undulating plains bore neither forest
nor bush. Following upon the heels of the locating parties came the ploughs and scrapers, tearing into the old
buffalo land, moulding it, and branding it to the new
bondage of progress. Behind these, on the new-laid
road were hauled the boarding-cars and the construction cars laden with material for disciplined battalions
of track-layers. As each gang finished its work on one
lap it moved automatically to the one ahead. Behind
these road-builders were other thousands—trainmen
bringing up materials and Gargantuan supplies of meat
and flour, cooks, tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters, sadlers, and doctors. The line threaded its
way across the western plains at the rate of between
two and three miles a day. SIR  WILLIAM  VAN HORNE AT THE AGE  OF  39 f
-1 Building the Canadian Pacific Railway        85
There were fully ten thousand men employed upon the
prairies, the eastern section, and the branch lines during
the season, and Van Horne was the brain-centre directing all. Compared with the task upon which he was
now engaged, his former labours on the Southern Minnesota and the Milwaukee railroads had been child's
play. But the greater the task, the greater the zest with
which he laboured and the greater his enthusiasm for
the goal to be achieved. He was bent on breaking all
records in railway construction, and whether at the front
or in his dingy headquarters at Winnipeg keeping track
over the telegraph wire of every mile of progress, of
every pound of material or provisions consumed, he
enjoyed himself to the full. He moved about continually, "going like a whirlwind wherever he went, and
stimulating every man he met." From the end of the
steel rails he would descend from his shabby little car
and drive in a buckboard over the prairie, observing
and noting everything. At night he rested in the construction camps, where the food and lodgings of the
men came under his survey. When his official work
was done he sketched his fancies on buffalo skulls or
organized foot-races and target-shooting among the
In his Winnipeg office, where a maze of matters always clamoured for immediate attention, he found time
between hurricanes of work "to talk on any conceivable
subject." His powers of endurance were such as to give
rise to many legends which still linger in the West. Certainly he worked all day and every day, and frequently
far into the night. Occasionally he would spend a night
at the club, playing poker or billiards, never willing to
relinquish the game until he had beaten his opponents
either by superior skill or by the supremacy of greater
*j 86   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
physical powers. "Then," as a contemporary has recalled, "about 6 A.M., when the rest of us were nodding
in our chairs, he would rub his eyes and go down to his
office for a long hard day's work."
The lines already built out of Winnipeg did not escape
his attention. His unexpected visits to the station-yards
were as eventful as ever. They left men with a new
and more vigorous conception of traffic handling, as
well as a lively admiration for a vocabulary of picturesque vituperation. The operations under his direction
required a great driving force which he was well able
to furnish. His methods were often drastic and sometimes ruthless, but without employing them he probably
could not have accomplished what he did.
"If," he said, "you want anything done, name the
day when it must be finished. If I order a thing done
in a specified time and the man to whom I give that order
says it is impossible to carry it out—then he must go."
Anything like inefficiency aroused his instant wrath,
and he would dismiss out of hand all the employees in
a yard where he found the traffic stupidly handled. The
"Winnipeg Sun" reported such an incident in a bit of
journalese typical of the time and place:
Van Home is calm and harmless-looking. So is a she-mule,
and so is a buzz-saw. You don't know their true inwardness
until you go up and feel them. To see Van Horne get out of
the car and go softly up the platform you would think he was an
evangelist on his way west to preach temperance to the Mounted
Police. But you are soon undeceived. If you are within hearing
distance, you will have more fun than you ever had in your life
/   Self-willed, determined and dominant, gifted with a
natural genius for construction and an intuitive grasp Building the Canadian Pacific Railway        87
of engineering problems, and thoroughly versed in the
practice of western railroads, his ideas frequently
clashed with the theories of British and Canadian engineers.
"He always acted," one of them has said, "as if nothing were impossible. He hated the expression 'can't/
and he deleted the word 'fail' from his dictionary. He
was n't always right. He was the kind who would go
out to the side of a mountain and say, 'Blow that down!'
He wouldn't ask if or how it could be done; he would
just say, 'Do it P Sometimes the thing was impossible
under ordinary circumstances, but he had such luck.
Some accident or other would happen so the thing could
be blown up or torn down without any harm coming
of it, . . . His luck, his daring, and his fearlessness just
carried him through."
It is more probable that his success in wrestling with
engineering difficulties was due to the application of his
strong common sense, his experience, his genius for construction, and the large view he was compelled to take.
These advantages were not always possessed by the
trained engineer who had to carry his ideas into effect.
An anecdote is related which shows his forceful methods.
One day a locating engineer was summoned to his
office. He found the general manager at a desk covered with plans and profiles. Van Horne threw a profile
over for his inspection.
"Look at that. Some infernal idiot has put a tunnel
in there.    I want you to go up and take it out."
"But this is on the Bow River—a rather difficult section.   There may be no other way."
"Make another way!"
As the engineer stood irresolute, another question was
hurled at him,
4 88    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
"This is a mud tunnel, is n't it?"
"How long would it take us to build it?"
"A year or eighteen months."
The general manager banged his desk with his fist,
and cracked out an oath like a thunderclap.
"What are they thinking about? Are we going to
hold up this railway for a year and a half while they
build their damned tunnel?   Take it out!"
The engineer took the objectionable profile and proceeded to take himself away. At the door he turned,
seemingly studying the profile.
"Mr. Van Horne," he said, "those mountains are in
the way, and the rivers don't run all right for us. While
we are at it, we might fix them up too."
As he left he had a glimpse of the big chief lying back
in his chair, shaking with laughter.
The order went out to the locating staff, and after several determined but seemingly hopeless efforts a Scotch
engineer effected a location which avoided a tunnel. He
was rewarded for his work by the gift of a handsome
As the summer wore on it became evident that construction on the prairie seqtion would fall far short
of the five hundred miles the contractors had undertaken to build. The time lost through the Red River
floods had not been made up. Out on the plains Van
Horne called a counsel of contractors and engineers
and in uncompromising terms insisted that the five hundred miles should be^ completed. The contractors
declared it to be impossible, but under threat of cancellation of their contract they obtained large reinforcements
of men and horses from St. Paul and redoubled their
efforts.   The arrival of winter finally compelling them to Building the Canadian Pacific Railway        89
stop, the company's own gang was ordered up, to continue work as long as possible on the frozen track.
The five hundred miles of main-line track had not
been laid^ but 417 miles had been completed, together
with 28 miles of sidings, and 18 miles of grading were
ready for the next season. In addition to this, over 100
miles of track had been laid on the Southwestern branch
in Manitoba. The feat of building five hundred miles
across the prairies, which every one had ridiculed as
being impossible, was regarded as "a wonderful accomplishment, and only a Van Horne with his marvellous
energy, determination, and power of organization, and
his great faith in his work, could have done it."
The progress of the railway astonished the people of
Canada, and the directors of the company were highly
gratified. The government was completing its section
of the road to Thunder Bay, and the company had acquired by purchase a line between Montreal and Ottawa
which allowed them to operate a continuous line from
Montreal to Lake Nipissing and from Rat Portage to
Moosejaw. In all, during the year 1882 620 miles of
railway had been located, 508 miles built, 897 miles of
telegraph built, and 32 stations and some scores of other
railway buildings erected. The progress justified the
directors in officially informing the government that,
although they were given by their charter ten years
within which to complete the line, they would in all likelihood be able to complete it by the close of 1886.
Van Home's stay in Winnipeg was drawing to a close
when a fire, caused by a cigar-butt carelessly thrown
into his wastepaper basket, damaged the company's
offices and the bank. The work of both institutions had
to be carried on in Knox Church, Van Home's office
being in the vestry-room.   Ogden, the auditor, was at 90   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
hand in the Sunday School-room, compiling figures at
the teacher's desk, primly set on the traditional platform. The bank transacted its business in the church
When the season's work was finished Van Horne
transferred his offices to the headquarters of the company in Montreal. During the spring he had made arrangements for bringing his family to that city, where
he had selected a spacious stone house on Dorchester
Street, hard by the residence of Donald Smith. CHAPTER IX
VAN HORNE had set work going on the prairies
with such impetus that a few months of the
coming season of 1883 would see the road well
up to the mountains. There remained the two difficult
sections, the mountain and the Lake Superior. The
cost of constructing the latter would be enormous. A
pamphlet issued in London by the Grand Trunk Railway's supporters, who were actively opposing the new
line, described the country north of the lake as "a perfect
blank, even on the maps of Canada. All that is known
of the region is that it would be impossible to construct
this one section for the whole cash subsidy provided by
the Canadian Government for the entire scheme."
Van Horne was under no illusions as to the gravity of
the undertaking. It had been his idea to build as near
the lake as possible, in order that supplies for the work
could be transported by water. Contracts for the line
had been let and supplies assembled. It remained to
provide an efficient steamship service. Following unsuccessful negotiations with the owners of a short line
of railway running from Toronto to Collingwood, water
transportation was assured by the acquisition of the
Ontario and Quebec and its leased line, the Toronto,
Grey and Bruce Railway, which gave him a lake port
at Owen Sound on Georgian Bay.
JjLJ r 	
92    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
From Owen Sound supplies were rapidly sent forward
to points one hundred miles apart on the north shore of
Lake Superior. Rude portage-roads were blasted out
with dynamite and large quantities of supplies shipped
during the winter months so that the frozen inland lakes
and trails might serve. With the advent of the summer
sun these small lakes were crossed in boats, and wagons
were used over the intervening distances to the supply-
bases. Dog-trains were employed for local distribution
and to haul food to the various construction camps.
Quarries were opened up to provide stone for the
heavier work, and on Van Home's initiative three dynamite factories were established north of Superior, with
an output of three tons a day; thereby effecting in one
stroke a large saving in the cost of explosives and eliminating a serious difficulty of transportation. On one of
his visits of inspection he found men struggling to lay
rails over a mosquito-infested swamp. His search for
a remedy resulted in his importing from Chicago the first
track-laying machine to be used in Canada. Its uncanny
powers so startled the French-Canadian track-layers
that they were with difficulty prevailed upon to use it.
In the meantime his expectations of progress on the
prairie section were being handsomely realized. From
the beginning of April, when grading recommenced, the
head of steel pushed forward in the path of La Veren-
drye out of the central plains into the more populous
region inhabited by Blackfeet apd Piegans, fur-traders,
and the Mounted Police. The rate of progress surpassed that of 1882. Day after day the average advance was three and a half miles, and in one record-
smashing drive of three days twenty miles were covered.
Old-timers, missionaries, and Indians would come
at times to some vantage point and look on,  fasci- Indians on the Prairies 93
nated, at the great serpent of steel wriggling over the
plains. To Pere Lacombe, the famous missionary to
the Blackfeet, who in 1857 had organized the first
ox-cart transportation across the Canadian plains, the
spectacle, astounding as it was exhilarating, reminded
him of "a flight of wild geese cleaving the sky." But it
was saddening, too, for it meant the beginning of the
end, and no dignified end, of his "brave chasseurs des
prairies," the Blackfeet. J||y
Van Horne felt no other incident to be so impressive
and significant as the appearance one evening of an
Indian chief on the prairie. He suddenly came on to the
top of a bluff not far from Van Horne. An upright
eagle feather in his hair disclosed his rank. He was a
man of dignified, impassive bearing. Slipping from his
pony to the ground, he sat in moody silence, contemplating the great work driving remorselessly over the hunting-ground of his fathers. He watched a long while
alone in silence; then disappeared behind the bluff as
swiftly as he had come.
But the railway-builders were yet to hear from the
Indians. Widely-scattered groups had been encountered in Manitoba and on the central plains. They were,
however, but feeble shadows of their fighting forefathers, and the railway-builders, as they approached the
territory of the Blackfeet, derided the rumours which
reached them of an Indian uprising. They entered the
Blackfeet reservation with unconcern, but one morning
found that the first rail laid upon the Indian lands
had been torn up in the night. The still warlike Indians were determined to repel trespassers upon their
territory. The Blackfeet had already held a war council
when, some time previously, the locating engineers
crossed the reservation set aside for them by the govern- 94   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
ment. Now the younger element among them strongly
urged fighting, if the invading pale-faces continued to
tear up their land to make a trail for their fiery horse.
The Blackfeet had a genuine grievance. The government had undertaken to extinguish the title to any Indian
lands required for the company's right-of-way, but had
neglected to warn the tribe of its action and of its
intention to give compensation. Crowfoot, the Black-
foot chief, was an old man of noble character, distinguished as a warrior and councillor. He had always
treated the whites most fairly, and he now felt himself
wronged and insulted. His young warriors were loudly
indignant, and plans for an attack were freely discussed.
This denouement, however, was fortunately averted by
Pere Doucet, the amiable young missionary to the tribe.
Feeling himself incapable of controlling them if Crowfoot were once to consent to a rising, he secretly sent a
courier to his more robust colleague, Pere Lacombe, at
Calgary. This most picturesque of missionaries was
not only one of Crowfoot's warmest friends but an idol
of the warring tribes, having always traversed the plains
with immunity. Lacombe rode posthaste to Crowfoot's
village and, learning from the chief that the matter was
indeed serious, obtained a large supply of tea and tobacco
from the trading post and prevailed upon Crowfoot to
call a council. Assuming the authority of an envoy of
the government, he explained the white men's need of a
small portion of the reserve for the iron road and undertook that the government would generously compensate
the tribe by a grant of other lands. Mollified by the
deferential courtesy and persuaded by the arguments and
promises of this old prince of Indian diplomats, the
Blackfeet solemnly agreed in council, amid much ceremonial smoking, that the government might build its
as Father Lacombe and Chief Crowfoot 95
road undisturbed. The flames were extinguished so
quickly and effectively that few realized how great the
danger had been.
Van Horne, however, was instantly appreciative of the
service Chief Crowfoot had rendered the company, and
himself designed and presented to him a perennial pass
over the Canadian Pacific Railway. This token of courtesy and gratitude so appealed to the aged chief that he
had the pass framed and wore it during the remainder
of his lifetime suspended by a chain on his breast.
One day the tracklayers' lively pursuit of the graders
and surfacing-gangs who had preceded them rested on
the Bow River, and the jubilant whistling and bell-ringing of a construction-engine echoed among the foothills of the Rockies. It announced to the thrilled inhabitants of Calgary's tents and shacks that the railway
had come. The event was considered so important that
the first through train from Winnipeg to Calgary carried, besides Van Horne himself, a distinguished party
of the road's builders and friends, including George
Stephen, Donald Smith, R. B. Angus, Lord Elphinstone,
and Count Hohenlohe. At Calgary they add^d the inimitable Pere Lacombe to their number. During luncheon in the president's car, Van Horne playfully suggested that in recognition of the missionary's services
at the Blackfoot Crossing he be made president of the
Canadian Pacific. A meeting of the directors was thereupon held. Stephen resigned the presidency, and Pere
Lacombe was duly elected in his stead. The genial
missionary held sway for one hour, during which he
formally confirmed Van Horne as general manager,
declaring, amid the party's applause, that no one could
be found to replace him. When the train disappeared
in the east, Pere Lacombe was left at the Crossing with 96   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
wonderful memories for Crowfoot and Pere Doucet
of the genial ways and charming company of the "gros
bonnets" from Montreal.
Heavy and trying work was accomplished during the
season of 1883 by the surveying and locating parties of
engineers who followed Major Rogers' proposed route
oyer the Rockies and the Selkirks. The summer season
in the mountains is short, and so great were the difficulties of the trackless heights and valleys to be crossed
that in September of that year Sandford Fleming, who
was essaying a trip over the Selkirks to Kamloops, found
engineers at Calgary who doubted if he could possibly
get through. Fleming, who was highly experienced as
an explorer, had never before found anything so dangerous and difficult. In his narrative of this journey
over the two mountain ranges, contained in his "Old to
New Westminster," he paid a remarkable tribute to the
engineers of this section and to every man who followed
their scouting parties. The trail led down gorges and
along narrow ledges of rock on which even the pack-
ponies occasionally lost footing and rolled down into
the abysses below, across torrential streams and rapids,
and through rough forest areas devastated by fire. His
painful progress along what he calls the "mauvais pas"
of Kicking Horse he described as the greatest trial he
had ever experienced; and this path of danger, unlike
famed Chamounix's few hundred yards, was six miles
in length. Nevertheless, the road continued to climb
toward the summit of the Rockies. It went slowly, for
the graders now met only solid rock and hardpan, instead of virgin prairie; but before the year had ended
the summit had been reached.
Whether at headquarters or traveling in his car to Building the Canadian Pacific Railway        97
the various bases of construction Van Horne was ever
spinning a web of ideas that extended from the Rockies
to Montreal and from Montreal to the Atlantic. A
skeleton of a great system was beginning to emerge
from the dust of construction, and he must clothe it
with the living tissues of traffic. Traffic was a thing that
would not wait on completion, for the credit of the road
had to be built up. Having effected an organization
adequate to grapple with the problems of construction,
he had now to call upon all his ingenuity and unquenchable optimism to fortify the road in the eastern and
settled portions of Canada so as to provide the system
with the traffic that would enable it to live.
In this work he had to contend with the active hostility of the Grand Trunk Railway Company, owned in
London and controlled from there. That company's
system, extending from Montreal through the province
of Ontario and forming connections across the American boundary with affiliated railways, was then the
largest in Canada, and its management regarded the
new transcontinental railway with jealousy not unmixed
with fear. They were determined to do all within their
power to restrict the activities of the newcomer to the
territory west of Ottawa and to prevent it from competing in the East with their own system. With this
object in view the Grand Trunk's directorate sought to
obtain from the Canadian Pacific the control the latter
had acquired early in 1883 of the Ontario and Quebec
Railway. The Canadian Pacific was proceeding to consolidate and link up this road with the Credit Valley and
the Atlantic and Northwest, a short line running out
of Montreal, so that, when completed, it would furnish a
direct line from Montreal to Toronto and St. Thomas. 98    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
Stephen being in London in April in the interests of his
company, a tentative agreement was reached between the
presidents of the two roads.
Van Horne, however, saw speedy collapse ahead if
his road had to depend upon local traffic through the
great empty spaces of the West, and the tentative agreement was immediately frustrated. Instead of yielding
what the company held, further opportunities must be
sought for developing traffic in the paying East. It
was his maxim, coined from the ore of experience, that
a new railway must keep on growing; otherwise it dies
or is eaten up by one that is growing. Purchases of
existing roads in the eastern territory and their extension were as necessary a part of the enterprise as were a
great number of local feeders in the West. Without
them the main line would be a vast body without arms
or legs, a helpless and hopeless thing which could not
live without constant governmental aid.
It was known from the beginning that the Grand
Trunk, with its lines to Chicago, would not consent to
the diversion of a pound of freight or a passenger from
any of its territory east of the Great Lakes. Without
these eastern acquisitions and extensions, therefore, the
main line of the Canadian Pacific would be of little
value to the Dominion of Canada, and every dollar of
private capital put into it would be absolutely lost. The
company could not wait a minute. On the entire main
line there was no traffic whatever except for a few miles
about Winnipeg, and therefore the most important of
the connecting and developing lines had to be made
ready by the completion of the main line to avoid absolute starvation. t§|||
In addition to the acquisition and development of
existing railways in the East and the planning of branch Building the Canadian Pacific Railway 99
lines in the West, Van Horne set about creating traffic
that would grow up with the railway. Grain elevators
were built at Winnipeg and Head-of-the-Lake; flour
mills, destined to become among the greatest in the
world, were started at Lake-of-the-Woods; timber lands
were purchased in Ontario for the manufacture of lumber. He began to plan the string of hotels which were
one day to attract countless thousands of tourists.
Neglecting no detail that would tend to ameliorate pioneering conditions on the prairies, he originated a department store system on cars, which were left on sidetracks at the various points for two or three days at a
time, so that women in the new districts might do their
shopping. He encouraged physicians to settle in the
new communities that were springing up, and helped to
establish a hospital at Medicine Hat.
Van Horne borrowed the idea of the government's
experimental farm at Ottawa and, with Stephen, planned
to establish experimental farms along the railway west
of Moose Jaw. Opponents of the road were decrying
this region as a sandy desert unfit for cultivation, and
this impression had to be corrected. In October a special train left Winnipeg laden with men, teams, and
farm-machinery, and equipped with boarding-cars.
Ten farms were located and the ground at once broken
by the plough. When spring came all would be ready
for the first season's operations, and the farm buildings
would be quickly erected.
The season of 1883 saw the road's mileage in actual
operation increase from 748 to 1552 miles. Connection
had been established between the eastern and western
sections by the purchase of three Clyde-built steamers
to ply on the Great Lakes. The gross earnings exceeded
five million dollars, and the operation of the lines had loo    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
been so astonishingly skilful that there was a handsome
balance over running expenses.
But the company's coffers were empty.
Warned by the fate of many American railways
which, like the St. Paul and Pacific, had been plunged
into bankruptcy through excessive borrowing on the
security of bond issues, the directors of the Canadian
Pacific from the beginning had adopted the policy of
financing the road by sale of its common stock. They
proposed, by keeping its fixed charges at a minimum, to
avert all risk of losing control to bondholders and of the
inevitable sequel, a receivership. But common stock
was by no means so easily realizable in the money-markets as bonds, and their efforts to finance the road by
this means were constantly baffled by the manoeuvres of
competing roads. Van Horne had been convinced that
the line would collapse if it surrendered its eastern feeders to the Grand Trunk. That company was determined
to force its collapse just because it had not surrendered,
and so influenced the London market that its rival's
securities went begging. Hostility to the new enterprise, fostered, it was believed, by Hill and the Pacific
railways in the United States, closed the New York
market. A bad harvest in Manitoba and the breakdown
of a frenzied speculation in land, which had followed in
the wake of the railway, weakened the faith of the company's supporters in England and elsewhere. Opponents found abundant ammunition for their attacks
upon the company's credit in the utterances of the Liberals, who had declared in Parliament that the road for
many years would not be able to pay its running expenses; that for six months in the year it would be
idle on an ice-bound, snow-covered route; and that, in Building the Canadian Pacific Railway       101
the words of Edward Blake, the mountain section would
not pay for the grease on the axles.
The company, moreover, found itself severely handicapped by a course which it had itself taken. In an
endeavour to secure purchasers for a contemplated issue
of common stock, Stephen, advised by English and
French financiers, had persuaded the government in
November, 1883, to enter into an arrangement to guarantee the payment of dividends amounting to three
per cent, on the stock for a period of ten years. The
company deposited with the government a sum of
over $8,700,000 as the first instalment of some $16,-
000,000 which would be required to make good the
guaranty. Under the arrangement the balance, amounting to $35,000,000, of the company's authorized capital stock was deposited with the government, subject
to withdrawal as and when it might be sold by the company.
In view of the government's guaranty, the stock,
which had fallen in price to $40, bounded upwards. It
rose quickly to $65, when all hope placed in the scheme
was completely dashed by the bankruptcy of the Northern Pacific. All the stock markets of the world became
profoundly depressed, and the stocks and securities of
American and Canadian railways were hastily thrown
overboard. The confidence that had marked the outlay of capital in American railways during the preceding three years was completely upset. The credit of
the Canadian Pacific, its means and resources, and the
capabilities of the Northwest Territories as an advantageous field for emigration and colonization were systematically decried and assailed by the most calumnious
and unfounded statements.    By such means, and by -m
102    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
urging the possibility of the whole remaining $35,-
000,000 stock of the company being at any moment
placed upon the market, any rise in the market value of
the stock was effectually prevented. The dividend
guaranty not only failed of its purpose, but the lock-
ing-up of so large an amount as $8,700,000 threatened a
complete check to the company's operations.
Construction, however, had to proceed. Even a temporary delay would cause total disaster. The company's
authorized capital stock was $100,000,000, but less than
$31,000,000 had been realized upon the sale of $55,-
000,000 of stock. The sale of land-grant bonds and
land sales had provided about $10,000,000 more; the
earned cash subsidy exceeded $12,000,000. The receipts, in all, had been less than $53,000,000, while the
expenditures amounted to nearly $59,000,000. A temporary loan had been effected on a pledge of $10,000,000
in stock. The company was heavily in debt, and its directors saw no possibility of securing aid, except from
the Canadian government. Stephen urged that the government was bound to furnish it, the road being national
in scope and effect.
Sir John Macdonald, aware of the storm of criticism
such a loan would evoke not only from the Opposition
but from many of his own followers, cabled to Sir
Charles Tupper who, retaining the portfolio of Minister
of Railways, was acting as High Commissioner for Canada in London. Tupper, who had been a most ardent
protagonist of the railway, promptly sailed for Canada,
and on his arrival ordered an investigation by government officials of the company's financing. The investigators reported their entire satisfaction with the company's accounts and integrity; and Van Horne was sum- A Government Loan 103
moned to a meeting of the cabinet to explain the company's progress and needs.
Rumours of the negotiations quickly stirred the enemies of the road to action. The Grand Trunk made a
final effort to have the Canadian Pacific relinquish its
eastern feeders, or be denied government aid. While
Sir John Macdonald was being bombarded with letters
of protest from Joseph Hickson, the general manager in
Canada of the Grand Trunk, the Canadian Pacific was
informed by cable from London that the press and financial circles in that city were being organized against it
on the ground of its demands upon the government "to
enable it to go out of its legitimate sphere to compete
with and injure the Grand Trunk Railway Company."
This had particular reference to the acquisition and extension by the Canadian Pacific of the Ontario and Quebec system, and ignored the fact that while the Ontario
extension had cost the company little more than
$3,000,000, the company was seeking a loan of not less
than $22,500,000. The cable concluded with an offer to
negotiate for the joint working of the lines.
The conduct of the negotiations with the government
was in Stephen's able hands, but the attacks of a rival
road brought Van Horne to the front. In a characteristic letter to Sir John Macdonald he stated that the Ontario and Quebec system had been "leased and finally
bound to the Canadian Pacific for a term of 999 years,
and we will be unable to treat for its sale until the end
of that time."
Carrying the war into the enemy's camp, he boldly
proposed the purchase from the Grand Trunk of that
company's line between Montreal and Quebec, and intimated that a connection would be made between the pm
104    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
Ontario and Quebec system and the main line of the
Canadian Pacific which would make the latter quite independent of the Grand Trunk in Ontario. He declared
The necessity to the Canadian Pacific of perfect independence
is manifest when the fact is considered that the Grand Trunk
Company have a line of their own to Chicago, arid that not one
of their passengers or one pound of their freight from any point,
going to the Northwest, can be delivered to the Canadian Pacific
at Callander or other point east of the Great Lakes without direct
loss to the earnings of the Grand Trunk.
When the Ontario and Quebec system is completed, it will be
superior to the Grand Trunk in distance, in grades, in equipment, and in every other particular, and its cost will be less than
one fifth of that of the corresponding section of the Grand Trunk.
It will pass through a well-developed country, and will have from
its opening a large local business, and will be so situated as to
command its full share of through traffic.
I have no hesitation, therefore, in asserting that the lines by
means of which the Canadian Pacific will secure independence will
not cost them one dollar, but on the contrary will largely add to
their profits.
With these Parthian thrusts at the enemy—the assertion of the necessity to the Canadian Pacific of its complete independence and of its character as a truly national line, and defiant repudiation of the Grand Trunk's
or any other claim to limit the expansion of the new
road, Van Horne appeared in the arena as no mean contender for the Canadian Pacific. For a long time the
spurs of battle were rarely put aside.
The application for the loan was the signal for an
explosion from the Liberal party, and the time of Parliament was taken up by long and acrimonious debates.
Even within his own ranks the Premier met obstruction,
but his inimitable leadership and the storming tactics A Government Loan 105
of Sir Charles Tupper forced its adoption by the party
caucus. Some of his colleagues, however, bargained
for a quid pro quo for the eastern provinces if they were
to commit the country to this immense loan for building
up western Canada. Sir John reluctantly had to meet
their demands, and the policy of granting subsidies to
local railways, entered upon in 1882, received a harmful stimulus, eventually becoming at once the weapon
and the bribe of political opportunism, to the detriment
of Canadian political ideals.
In the face of vehement opposition, but helped by the
telling effect of a declaration that if the loan was made
the company would have the completed line ready for
operation in the spring of 1886, Sir John succeeded in
passing a bill through Parliament authorizing the government to lend the company the sum of $22,500,000
upon the security of a first charge—subject to some existing mortgages and liens—upon the whole of the company's property. Under the ensuing contract with the
government, made in March, 1884' the company undertook to complete the line by May 31, 1886, instead of
May 1, 1891. The sum of $7,500,000 was to be advanced at once to extinguish the company's floating debt,
and the balance was to be paid in instalments proportionate to the progress of the work. The payment of a
sum due to the government under the agreement for the
guaranty of dividends yras postponed for a period of
five years.
With this relief, Stephen, Van Horne, and their colleagues could survey their enterprise in a new spirit of
optimism, which was reflected in their annual report by
a forecast that the entire main line could be completed
by the end of 1885. The shareholders, at the annual
meeting held in May, 1884, learned that Van Horne had 106    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
been appointed vice-president of the company, while
Duncan Mclntyre, apprehensive of further financial difficulties, had retired from the directorate. Donald
Smith, however, who, owing to political differences with
Sir John Macdonald, had hitherto kept in the background, now joined the board and took his rightful place
as one of the executive committee. CHAPTER X
DURING the season of 1&84 Van Horne, who
took a far rosier view of the financial situation
than his colleagues, Stephen, Smith, and Angus, threw himself with unabated vigor into the work
of pushing construction. The government having
handed over, to be finished by the company, the three
hundred mile section from Rat Portage to Thunder Bay,
the line was complete between Port Arthur and the
Rockies. The other government section from Port
Moody, the Pacific terminus, to Kamloops, had progressed about a hundred and fifty miles eastward to Lyt-
ton. There remained the enormously difficult and costly
sections through the mountains and north of Lake Superior. - ISgj
To expedite completion of the former Van Horne now
decided to work from both ends, and commenced construction from Kamloops eastward. Work had begun
on the Lake Superior section in the spring of 1883, and
some three hundred miles of track had been built, but
by far the heavier part of the section remained to be
covered. In the meantime, however, on a revision of
surveys, a new and improved location had been found,
which, it was thought, would greatly reduce the cost.
In July Van Horne accompanied Collingwood Schreiber, the government's chief engineer, on a walking tour
Jul 108    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
of inspection of the unfinished road north of Lake Superior. He amazed Schreiber by his energetic mode of
traveling and his powers of endurance. His figure was
becoming corpulent, and a long walk was an infrequent
form of exercise. One day they set out to inspect a
stretch of eighty-two miles between Nipigon and Jack
Fish. Fire had recently swept through the country and
in places was still smoldering. The weather was excessively hot and the location through the blackened
forest extremely difficult to traverse. Yet when they
reached an engineer's camp at night, both of them limp
and sore, the irrepressible Boy was still alive in the general manager. He suddenly leaped from his seat and
challenged Schreiber to a foot-race. The latter declined, to the secret joy of his exhausted companion.
Such a trip was bound to be marked by adventures.
They started one afternoon on the return journey westward in a steam launch from Jack Fish Bay for Red
Rock, intending to inspect a stone-quarry on the way and
connect with the Port Arthur train. The boiler of the
launch soon began to leak badly, but Van Home's time
was always mortgaged in advance and he would not
hear of putting in to shore. He and Schreiber, with the
engineer, spent the night paddling the launch through
the heavy waters of Lake Superior. It was dawn when
they reached the quarry. Here another misfortune befell them. The engineer met with an accident and was
obliged to remain behind. There was nothing for Van
Horne and Schreiber to do but to paddle the launch the
rest of the way to Red Rock alone.
They found over nine thousand men at work on the
section, boring their way through the hardest and toughest rock in the world; matching man's ingenuity against
the obstacles of "200 miles of engineering impossibili- Building the Canadian Pacific Railway       109
ties." The cost was appalling. For one mile on the
east shore of the lake the rock excavation alone cost
nearly $700,000, and several other miles cost half a
million. Over the innumerable muskegs and hollows
which alternated with long stretches of rock, Van Horne,
in order to save time and money, decided to make extensive use of trestle-work. The cost of carrying the
line high on timber trestles was only a tenth of the cost
of cutting through hills and making solid embankments
through depressions; and the trestles could be filled up
later by train-haul.
In August he went out to inspect the mountain section. To reach the Pacific he had to travel west by an
American road. The first problem to engage him upon
his arrival at the coast was to decide upon the site of a
new Pacific terminus. Port Moody, an early choice of
government engineers, which was named as the Pacific
terminus in the company's charter, he found to be unsuitable and inadequate in harbor facilities for the ocean
traffic which he foresaw. After a careful survey of
the ground he decided upon a more advantageous location at the entrance to Burrard Inlet. Here, during the
following year, after the British Columbia government,
in consideration of the extension of the line from Port
Moody, had granted the company an area of nine square
miles, a city was laid out, to which Van Home gave the
name of Vancouver in honor of the English navigator
who had explored the adjacent waters.
Returning east, he traveled by train to the rail-head
of the completed portion of the railway being built by
the government, from Lytton to Savona's Ferry by
stage, and along the Cariboo trail built during the rush
of gold-seekers to the Fraser. At Savona's Ferry he
was joined by an old friend and consulting engineer, no   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
Samuel Reed of Joliet, and the two traveled by boat
to Sicamous, and thence by freight-teams which crossed
the mountain lakes on scows. From Revelstoke the remainder of the journey to the summit of the Rockies was
by pony-train, an arduous method of locomotion for a
man of his build. The almost unbroken trail was that
which Sandford Fleming had already traversed and described, made more difficult by an early fall of three
feet of snow. No one who went over it ever anticipated
taking the journey again. Nothing was ever done to
improve it. It was littered with cast-off blankets, saddles, and other impedimenta, and numerous carcasses of
pack-ponies bore witness to its hazards. When the
snow lay on the ground, a step on what appeared to be
solid earth was rewarded by immersion to the waist in
mud and slush. To add to the trials of the journey, the
party missed one of the depots in the mountains, their
rations ran out, and they had to continue for two days
without food. Van Home's fastidious stomach rebelled against a bannock made of flour which had leaked
into the cook's saddle-bag, where it had lain with a
curry-brush and other ill-assorted articles.
The men along the right-of-way were quick to discover that the "boss" had no sense of personal fear.
He would take any curve on a railway at any speed an
engineer would drive. Despite his bulk, he would not
be turned back by the perils of any vantage point that
called him and would go where few but trained and accustomed workmen dared to follow. While the accompanying engineer dared only trust to hands and knees,
Van Horne walked imperturbably on two loose planks
over the Mountain Creek trestle, whence a few days
previously several men had crashed to death in the
swirling torrent of the ravine a hundred and sixty Physical Courage ill
feet below, and as imperturbably returned. He was
equally devoid of apprehension concerning his dignity
or appearance. His driver missed the ford at Seven
Parsons Coulee, and the two were thrown into the
stream. While his clothing dried, Van Horne spent the
rest of the day in a construction camp, where, absorbed
in the problems of the moment, he was oblivious to the
inadequacy of his temporary garments, though these afforded much amusement to every man in camp. The
commissariat had not provided for men of his girth,
and could only furnish him with a flannel shirt and a
pair of trousers, split up the back and laced with a
clothes line.
On another occasion an engine-driver demurred to
taking his train across a dangerous trestle.
"Here," said Van Horne, "get down, and I '11 take
her over myself."
"Well," said the engineer, "if you ain't afraid, I guess
I ain't neither."
Of far more moment than his courage and insouciance
was the enthusiasm and faith in the work with which
everywhere and at all times he inspired the men working with and under him. His boundless vitality enabled him, it seemed, to project his own spirit into the
thousands of men engaged in the work. He always
seemed to be on the spot or never far away. "Mr. Van
Horne dropped in on us here and there, surveying the
work and inspiring it. We never knew when he was
coming, but he was so completely in touch with all the
work that he gave the impression of being on our section
all the time."
Coming from the Rockies to the plains he found Calgary, Medicine Hat, and Regina rising out of mere collections of shacks and tents into bustling towns, and 112   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
feverishly trading in town lots. Here and there along
the line men were harvesting a crop which fully justified
his earlier hopes. The new West was definitely taking
shape. Winnipeg already supported a population of
over twenty-five thousand, of whom six thousand were
dependents of the Canadian Pacific. There he met a
hundred members of the British Association of Science
who, having held their annual meeting in Montreal, had
been invited by him to see the West for themselves.
Seeing is believing, and he confidently expected that
upon their return to Europe they would furnish an extensive and intelligent leaven to the prevailing European
notion of Canada as a land of snow and wild Indians.
The whole trip from the Pacific to Montreal filled him
with satisfaction. The British Columbia coals were the
most valuable on the Pacific coast. The richness of the
fisheries was almost beyond belief. The valleys of the
Selkirks and the Gold Range were covered with magnificent forests of Douglas fir, spruce, and other conifera.
He had finally settled with Reed the permanent location
of the line through the mountain section, and whatever
doubts he had entertained of the value of that region
had been dissipated. A careful study of the prairie section had convinced him that the company had made no
mistake in adopting the more direct and southerly route,
instead of that by way of the Yellowhead Pass. He
reported to the directors that the Canadian Pacific had
more good agricultural land, more coal, and more timber between Winnipeg and the coast than all the other
Pacific railways combined, and that every part of the
line, from Montreal to the Pacific, would pay.
While he could rightly feel content with the progress
of construction and the road's prospects, the company
was rapidly approaching another financial crisis.    In Building the Canadian Pacific Railway       113
March the directors had hoped that the government loan
of $22,500,000 would provide all the money necessary
to complete the road. Before the close of the year the
company was heavily in debt, and it was apparent that
further assistance would have to be obtained. A large
saving had been effected on the cost of the mountain section, but it had been absorbed in extra expenditure on
the Lake Superior section. Under the terms of the contract with the government the loan and subsidy money
could only be drawn from the government for the bare
cost of construction and a stipulated amount of rolling-
stock. But other things had been found indispensable
—terminal facilities, workships and machinery, elevators, and the usual improvements required upon all
new railways. The lien given by the company to the
government as security for the loan covered the whole
of its property and stripped it of every resource it possessed for meeting these needs, except its unsold stock.
That resource had been rendered unavailable, owing to
some extent to the remedies provided by Parliament in
case of default by the company in performing the conditions on which the loan was granted, but in greater
measure to the unfair and malevolent attacks of the
company's enemies, acting in concert with political opponents of the government and aided by a venal section
of the press.
Confronted with more than twenty-six hundred miles
of completed railway, the Grand Trunk's adherents
could no longer protest that the Canadian Pacific was
merely a scheme "to take off the hands of the astute
Canadian and American syndicate the bonds of a number of non-dividend paying lines" or "to foist their
worthless securities on too confiding capitalists." They
and other enemies of the company had changed their 114   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
tactics and during the whole of 1884 sought in the most
unprincipled and unpatriotic manner and by every
method of vilification and depreciation to wreck the enterprise.
By these means investors were alarmed and the stock
made practically unsalable. It was selling at about $60
a share when the loan was made, and it was expected to
advance to $75 or $80. It had, however, fallen below
Notwithstanding the emptiness of the company s
treasury, the directors, believing that the company's ultimate financial salvation lay in a speedy opening of traffic over Canada, ordered thousands of men to be kept at
work all through the winter. Material and food-supplies would go forward to the men, and they and the
contractors could wait for their money. Their very
isolation would keep them on the work until spring,
when money must be forthcoming. This bold course
was greatly facilitated by the reputation Van Horne
had acquired on every part of the line as being, in some
sort, a superman. He inspired the business men of the
country with his unfailing optimism, and the big wholesale houses of Toronto and Montreal gave the road
credit and more credit, and still more credit, to the
amount of millions. Supplies poured into the construction sections, where Canadian Pacific cheques passed
as currency. Only a few men knew that the last links
of the Superior section were being built on faith and
credit, and not on money. A small merchant in a lumbering centre who had supplied thirty-five thousand dollars' worth of meat on credit, being asked if he were
not afraid, replied, "I am not. Van Horne will carry
this thing through. If he can't, no one can. Then I '11
start all over again." A Financial Crisis 115
With a floating debt rapidly approaching seven million dollars and under an imperative necessity of spending several additional millions for equipment, Stephen
was kept as busy refuting slanders and repelling assaults on the company's credit as his vice-president, in
the field, was busy devising methods of hastening construction and providing future traffic. The brunt of
the attacks fell upon these two men, who had most reason to be satisfied with what had been accomplished.
They had falsified all charges against the syndicate of
insincerity in offering to build the more difficult and
costly sections with such small subsidies. On the other
hand, they had refuted the political attacks based on
the grounds that the subsidies of cash and lands were
"wantonly extravagant" and that the whole scheme was
one of personal enrichment. They had harnessed nature and accomplished the impossible. Yet with the end
in sight, the company's existence had never been so
For Stephen and for Donald Smith much more than
the fate of the Canadian Pacific was trembling in the
balance. Merchants might give credit, sums due to
contractors be held up, and wages be deferred, but payments, and large payments, had to be made to save the
credit of the company. These two determined Scotchmen, who had committed themselves heart and soul to
the undertaking, stood nobly in the breach. On more
than one occasion they had come to the rescue of the
company with loans obtained upon their personal credit;
now, for the same purpose, with a courage that will always do them honor, they had borrowed heavily upon
the pledge of the securities they owned.
"It may be," said Smith at a gloomy meeting of the
directors, "that we must succumb, but that must not 116   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
be," raising his voice and gazing around the company,
"as long as we individually have a dollar."
Before the issue was settled these indomitable and
persistent men had pledged nearly all they possessed in
the world to sustain the enterprise.
In January, 1885, Sir John Macdonald arrived in Montreal on his return from a visit to England. His seventieth birthday was at hand, and the "Old Chieftain" was
made the object of a popular demonstration. He was
given a public banquet, where, amid many glowing eulogies of the newest and greatest factor in Canadian development, he stated that in the whole annals of railway
construction there had been nothing equal to the achievement of the Canadian Pacific.
The directors heard these fervent praises with gratification, but they were soon to learn the practical value of
oratory at political celebrations. Stephen's request for
assistance met with a firm refusal from the Premier.
When the last loan had been made a year earlier it had
been understood that the company would require no
further help; yet here they were again, knocking at Sir
John's door and demanding other millions, while rumour
was actively representing the directors as millionaires
fattening on government subsidies. Their application
gave apparent confirmation to the Opposition's taunts
that the Canadian Pacific meant to keep its hands in the
government's pocket to pilfer the people's money.
Many of Sir John's followers were convinced that Canada had done enough for the development of the western
Stephen's mission to the Dominion capital soon leaked
out. The press began to hint alarming stories: the company would not meet its April dividend; its stock was
being attacked in the London market; it was making A Financial Crisis 117
purchases with notes at four months, instead of paying
cash. The directors denied the dividend story; it was
useless to deny the others. Shortly afterwards the price
of the stock fell below $34, and labourers were finding their way back to Montreal from Sudbury with complaints of wages unpaid.
Van Horne was especially singled out, in press and
pamphlet, for abuse. He was reproached with having
no Montreal antecedents. "A Mr. Hill of St. Paul" was
responsible for introducing him to the syndicate, and
Mr. Hill was sharply censured for bringing in with him
men from the western States, "individuals who work
after his school." "No one but Mr. Van Horne is responsible for the Canadian Pacific line as it is located
and constructed. If there be merit in the extraordinary
rate at which the track was pushed along the level
prairie, it is his. If there be blame in the choice of
route, in the multitude of curves, in the heavy grades of
the Kicking Horse Pass, in the prospect of the railway
being periodically crushed and rendered inoperative by
the descent of immense masses of snow and ice, the fault
is his. Mr. Van Horne had the whole unchallenged direction of the resources of the company."
One critic found fault with the construction of the
road, its bridge-work, grades and curves, and asked the
public to remember that the company had dared to build
a transcontinental line without a chief engineer. "It is
a matter of notoriety that he is the one directing power
of the operations on the ground—Mr. Van Horne whose
experience has been that of a telegraph operator, freight
clerk, conductor, and, I believe, general superintendent;
who has never had the slightest experience in engineering duties, even in the humblest capacity."
The absence in England of the company's political 118   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
champion, Sir Charles Tupper, heightened the grave
anxiety under which Stephen had labored since Sir John
Macdonald had so coldly received his request for assistance. Sir John, who had political cares more immediate and pressing, was not anxious to discuss the unhappy state of the Canadian Pacific and resorted to all
the tricks in the repertoire of the most astute politician
in Canadian history to elude Stephen. Moreover, the
Canadian Pacific leaders were not particularly his
friends. He cherished a deep-seated grudge against
Donald Smith, who was cordially disliked by many Conservatives and regarded as Sir John's personal enemy.
Stephen and Angus had his esteem, rather than his
friendship, and perhaps he had not outgrown his early
prejudice against the imported railway genius of whom
he had spoken as "Van Horne, the sharp Yankee" and
who was distinctly persona non grata to his most
trusted adviser, John Henry Pope. However this may
be, there can be no question that Sir John's position was
one of great difficulty. He had to face a strong Opposition and propitiate a watchful press. His followers,
even his cabinet, were divided. And he feared the fall
of his government if he took to Parliament a proposal
which seemed to justify the prophecies of his adversaries.
In March Stephen summed up the position and the
needs of the company in a formal letter to the Premier.
He urged that the unsold stock be cancelled and the
company be allowed to issue in lieu thereof first mortgage bonds to the same amount, namely $35,000,000, as
and when they could be disposed of. He asked, in addition, for a further loan of $5,000,000, and suggested a
plan for securing the government loan of the previous
year. A Financial Crisis 119
The negotiations with the government were almost
entirely conducted by Stephen and the company's general counsel, Johfi J. C. Abbott, but Van Horne, whose
duties kept him much on the road, was frequently
required in Ottawa to fortify Stephen with facts concerning the progress of construction and current expenditure, as well as estimates of future requirements.
On these occasions he endeavoured to assist the negotiators by soliciting the support of the leading politicians
and business men who congregated at the Rideau Club
and elsewhere. Some he met were men to whom the
company owed money, and he used all his powers to
strengthen their faith in the enterprise, picturing its
splendid future in graphic words and with unique vision.
To Collingwood Schreiber and Sir John's colleagues
in the cabinet he painted equally vivid pictures of the
panic which would ensue if the government refused its
aid. More than $92,000,000 had already been expended
on the system, of which $55,000,000 was government
money. Such an enterprise, he urged, could not be permitted by sane men to fail for lack of a few millions
more. Banks, not alone the Bank of Montreal, but
those supporting the contractors and merchants as well,
the wholesale houses, the whole country, were imperilled,
and the crash that might come would injure Canada for
years in the money-markets of the world.
Succeeding one day in cornering Sir John himself in
a corridor of the House of Commons, he said,
"Sir John, we and you are dangling over the brink of
"Well, Van Horne," replied the Premier, "I hope it
will be delayed a while.    I don't want to go just yet."
Sir John paused to speak to "an old friend," and when,
a few moments later, Van Horne turned back to 120   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
the spot, the elusive statesman had disappeared and a
bewildered, flattered stranger stood in the corridor,
looking after him with amazement.
Public concern for the company's position was daily
increasing. Street gossip dwelt on the fact that its
stock did not recover on the market. Mclntyre's retirement from the board of directors, even Hill's withdrawal, assumed special significance. The company was
in extremis. And it nearly was, for a strike was threatening at Beavermouth because no pay was forthcoming.
Men on the north of Lake Superior, wearying of the
wilderness and bent on getting away from it, were
threatening to lynch a contractor because he could not—
they believed would not—pay them. Yet, knowing
these things and many more arid worse, Van Home's
faith and confidence shone undimmed, and he would betray no weakness of the company to the public.
One morning a creditor sought him, asked for the
money due him, and expressed grave fears of the outcome.    Came the instant and emphatic reply:
"Go, sell your boots, and buy C. P. R. stock." CHAPTER XI
THE position of the company was, therefore, desperate when one day at Ottawa Van Horne was
depicting to Schreiber the ruinous consequences
if Sir John Macdonald persisted in his refusal to help.
Schreiber surprised him by saying that Sir John and
some of his colleagues realized the extreme gravity of
the situation, but their opinion was not shared by their
followers, and at the moment the House was more concerned over the Redistribution Bill and a threatened
rebellion of the Metis Indians in the Northwest.
Van Horne jumped at the idea that if the Canadian
Pacific could put troops in the West to take the Metis
by surprise and crush the rebellion, the government
could not possibly refuse the desired financial aid. He
left Schreiber, happy in the belief that the idea would
solve all their difficulties, and at once made an offer to
the government to transport troops from Ottawa to
Fort Qu'Appelle in eleven or twelve days, if forty-eight
hours' notice were given him. Inasmuch as there were
a hundred miles of uncompleted gaps in the line north
of Lake Superior, the minister receiving the offer was
incredulous, but on Van Home's assurance of his ability to carry it out, the offer was accepted. The only
alternative was to wait until navigation opened up on
I3J 122   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
the Lakes, and in the meantime the rebellion would
make serious headway.
When the telegraph flashed to Ottawa the first news
of open revolt, the governmentxalled upon Van Horne
to carry out his plan as speedily as possible. He was
traveling to Toronto in his car when the message came,
and he kept the wires busy with instructions to the company's officials all along the line and with messages to
the Premier, the Minister of Militia, and others. His
experience in handling troop-trains at Joliet during the
Civil War was now proving valuable to him. In making his offer to transport troops he had stipulated that,
in order to avoid interference of any kind by the Militia
Department and the confusion arising from a division
of authority, both the transportation and commissariat
of the troops should be under the complete and exclusive
control of his company. Within forty-eight hours of
the notice from the government, trains were waiting at
Ottawa for the two batteries ready for the front; and
so thoroughly had he laid his plans and so efficiently
were they carried out that these men disembarked at
Winnipeg four days later. The impossible had again
been accomplished.
The route of the batteries and that of thousands of
infantry who followed was by train to the head of steel
on Lake Superior; thence for miles through the frosty
wilderness packed into open f reighting-sleighs; again by
rail to the next gap in flat-cars on which the men sat or
lay exposed to biting winds and frost. There were two
quick marches over the ice, and at Red Rock they found
trains waiting to take them into Winnipeg, Calgary, or
Fort Qu'Appelle. The men from eastern shops and offices experienced all the hardships of the winter trail
as they marched or rode through the biting cold of the The Second Riel Rebellion 123
North Shore. Their footwear was soaked during the
sunny day in the slush on the ice and frozen stiff on their
feet at night in the open construction cars; but twice a
day warm and plentiful meals, with Van Home's inevitable strong hot coffee, were served to them from
the construction camps; and the journey ended without
serious suffering to any.
The prompt arrival of the troops resulted in the second Riel rebellion being quelled before it could set the
whole West ablaze, and demonstrated, as nothing else
could have done, the value of the Canadian Pacific as
a means of binding the Canadian provinces. The Canadian public was so interested in the rebellion that at
first it gave little heed to this triumph of expeditious
transport, though the German General Staff was instantly so impressed by its speed and efficiency that it
instructed the German consul to furnish a detailed report. Later, however, when the public had time to reflect, it sensed the importance of the achievement.
Criticism of the Lake Superior section was stilled and
its value as a Canadian and Imperial asset was forever
established. The government, too, could palliate its
carelessness in allowing the insurrection to rear its head
by dwelling on the proved wisdom of its policy of insisting on an all-Canadian railway.
During the negotiations for troop transportation one
of Sir John's ministers had told Van Horne that if his
road could carry it out successfully, "it would put a new
face on the question of the loan." Van Horne had delightedly repeated this; and now, elated by success, he
felt fully assured that the government would recognize
the service as evidence of the railway's national importance and promptly come to its aid. The directors,
however, were doomed to further disappointment. 124   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
Sir John could not yet see his way to acknowledge
that it was practicable for him to agree to a new loan.
While the company's friends were growing embittered
with him for his delay, there was strong opposition
among some of his colleagues and A. W. McLelan, his
Minister of Marine and Fisheries, was threatening to
resign if the loan was conceded. Stephen was nearly all
the time at Ottawa, ever urging his case upon the government. Harassed by the fact of the early maturity
of the company's notes and of the bank's refusal to make
further advances, he made what he hoped would be a
final appeal to the Premier:
It is as clear as noonday, Sir John, that unless you yourself
say what is to be done, nothing but disaster will result. The
question is too big for some of our friends, and nothing but your
own authority and influence can carry anything that will accomplish the object. ... I endeavoured to impress upon him [the
Minister of Finance] again that the object of the present application to the Government is to save the life of the Company. . . .
I stayed over here to-day in case I might be wanted. It is impossible for me to carry on this struggle for life, in which I have
now been for four months constantly engaged, any longer. . . .
If the Company is allowed once to go to the wall the remedial
measures proposed will be useless, because too late.
The appeal brought no response. A few days later
Van Horne, who by telegraph and personal visits was
keeping in constant touch with the situation in Ottawa,
telegraphed Stephen:
"Have no means paying wages; pay car can't be sent
out and unless we get relief we must stop. Please inform Premier and Finance Minister. Do not be surprised or blame me if immediate and most serious catastrophe happens."
Still the Prime Minister vouchsafed no reply. A Financial Crisis 125
Late one night, in the lobby of the Russell House, two
of Sir John's colleagues in the cabinet, Mackenzie
Bo well and Frank Smith, sat discussing the subject of
the loan with George H. Campbell, another of his parliamentary supporters. Campbell was one of many friends
of the company who had exerted all his influence in behalf of its application. Every effort had been made, and
everyone who could assist in any way had been called in
to help. He understood Sir John's obduracy to be due
not to his dislike of Donald Smith but to the fear that the
government could not carry a bill through the House.
In the middle of the discussion they saw Stephen come
down in the elevator and go to the desk to pay his bill.
Realizing that he was returning to Montreal, Frank
Smith said, "He must be leaving. I must go and see
him." He joined Stephen, and then beckoned to his
companions, who went hurriedly over and heard Stephen say, "No, I am leaving at once. There is no use.
I have just come from 'Earnscliffe,' and Sir John has
given a final refusal. Nothing more can be done.
What will happen tomorrow I do not know. The position is hopeless."
After much persuasion Smith induced Stephen to remain in Ottawa, promising that he and Mackenzie Bow-
ell would make another effort to secure Sir John's consent. They drove to Earnscliffe for a midnight interview with the Premier; Stephen, exhausted by mental
strain and deferred hope, retiring to his room. They
returned two hours later, having failed in their mission.
Stephen was now reduced to a condition of absolute
despair and convinced that the government had deserted
the company. He was unusually, almost morbidly,
sensitive. The impending bankruptcy of the company
and loss of his entire private fortune, together with the II
126   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
humiliating treatment he had received through many
weeks of tense anxiety at the hands of Sir John, had at
length broken even his resolute spirit. He wept one
day in Schreiber's office. He remained, however, in Ottawa upon the urging of Frank Smith, who pledged himself to secure Sir John's consent or resign from the
Among the directors of the company, Van Horne almost alone seemed not to know what it was to be
beaten. He stood out, a figure of sturdy cheerfulness
and buoyant courage. A suggestion being made to him
that whatever happened he need not worry over the outcome—there were as good posts waiting for him in the
United States—he answered determinedly:
"I 'm not going to the States. I 'm not going to leave
the work I 've begun, and I am going to see it through.
I 'm here to stay. I can't afford to leave until this work
is done, no matter what position is open to me in the
United States."
But the apparent futility of his many visits to Ottawa
and of his unceasing efforts to impress the supporters
and friends of the government to the point of forcing
their leader to surrender could not fail to depress him
and shake his faith. Failure meant the collapse of the
greatest railway enterprise in the world, one whose control satisfied his every ambition as a railwayman. Besides the financial ruin of his friends, Stephen and
Smith, and of many mercantile houses, it meant his own
return to the United States, defeated, beaten; not by
nature or through lack of endeavour, but by political exigencies which it had been impossible to estimate or to
foresee and over which he had no shred of control. He
was up against a stone wall. Sitting gloomily one day
in Schreiber's office, he said very slowly and softly, A Financial Crisis 127
"Say, if the government doesn't give it, we are finished!"
The one bright spot in the darkness was the success
of the indefatigable and resourceful Shaughnessy who,
in Montreal, was accomplishing the Sisyphean task of
upholding the company's credit. The company owed
millions, and its treasury held but a few borrowed thousands; but he was making every dollar do the work of a
thousand. By persuasion and promises of future
patronage on the one hand, and on the other by threats
that if they now demanded their money, the company
would never do another dollar of business with them, he
was staving off needy and importunate creditors until
the government came to the rescue.
Even as Van Horne was beginning to taste the bitterness of defeat, the pressure of Frank Smith and the
forces marshalled to his aid, together with an eleventh-
hour realization of the consequences to himself, to his
party, and to Canada if he took the other path, forced the
Premier to yield. Calling a caucus of his followers, Sir
John once more swayed them by the spell of his consummate leadership and ensured the passage of a measure of relief. McLelan alone remained obdurate atad
formally tendered his resignation. Notice of resolutions in aid of the company was given by Sir John in the
House on April 30, 1885.
The resolutions provided for the cancellation of the
$35,000,000 stock in the hands of the government and
the issue of $35,000,000 first mortgage bonds, of which
$15,000,000 would be available to the company for disposal; the government agreeing to accept the balance as
security for an equal amount of the company's indebtedness of some $29,880,000 to the government. The remaining $9,880,000 was to be secured by a second charge if
128    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
on the unsold lands of the company. The whole $29,-
880,000 was to be repaid to the government by May 1,
1891, and the government was authorized to make a
temporary loan of $5,000,000, repayable within a year
and secured by a deposit of $8,000,000 first mortgage
bonds, which could be withdrawn, pro tanto, on payment
of any part of the loan.
Nothing was to be given for the completion of the
contract. The only thing asked in the shape of money
was the temporary loan of $5,000,000, and the security
was ample. With his followers in line behind him, there
could, therefore, be no question of Sir John's ability to
overcome the opposition to the measure. But Stephen
and his associates were yet to go through many weeks
of terrible anxiety. Sir John refused to give the Canadian Pacific bill precedence over a hotly contested Redistribution Bill, and its passage through the stages of
parliamentary procedure was distressingly slow. With
"a lake of money" ahead, there was still not a drop to
satisfy the thirsty creditors or tide over other pressing
needs. Holders of the company's notes were becoming
more and more clamorous, and Shaughnessy was at his
wit's end. The company, therefore, asked the government, as an interim measure of assistance and to stave
off immediate disaster, to guarantee the Bank of Montreal in making an advance of one million dollars.
On one of the last days in May, Van Horne, with other
directors, waited in the anteroom to the Privy Council
chamber at Ottawa for the cabinet's decision, experiencing the unpleasant thrills of suppliants in suspense
and vainly endeavouring, through the double doors of
the chamber, to catch the trend of discussion. Finally, to
their great relief, John Henry Pope, ever the company's Another Government Loan 129
staunch friend, came out to intimate that the government
would guarantee an advance of a million by the bank;
and Van Horne raced joyously to the company's office to
telegraph the glad news to Shaughnessy. The operator
seemed so slow that Van Horne impatiently pushed him
aside and ticked off the message himself.
On the strength of the government's guaranty this
sum was advanced in instalments by the bank, and was
paid"out as soon as received. It was little more than the
proverbial drop in a bucket. But by this means and by
extensions of time extorted from reluctant creditors the
company was barely enabled to keep its head above
water. And only barely. By the middle of July the
Canadian Pacific bill had not yet become law. Overdue
obligations were piling up. Construction could not be
stopped.    Every day was pregnant with disaster.
On July 13 Stephen and J. J. C. Abbott journeyed to
Ottawa to get Sir John's answer to a last despairing appeal for immediate action or further aid. The cabinet
was in session in the council chamber, and they waited
in the anteroom. They sat patiently watching the chamber door through the long hot afternoon, and did not
learn until a late hour that, shortly after their arrival,
the ministers had departed, unseen and unheard by
them, by another door.
"I feel," said Stephen, utterly broken and dejected,
"like a ruined man."
"On one fateful day in July," writes Professor Skel-
ton, "when the final passage of the bill was being tensely
awaited, the Canadian Pacific, which now borrows fifty
millions any day before breakfast, was within three
hours of bankruptcy for lack of a few hundred thousand  dollars."    But  so  skilfully, and  shrewdly  had 130   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
Shaughnessy handled the company's creditors that no
claim had been pressed with a lawsuit and no note of
the company had gone to protest.
The bill finally passed on July 20, and the temporary loan of $5,000,000 became immediately available.
The sequel may as well be told here. Under the terms
of the enactment the directors were now in a position to
dispose of $15,000,000 first mortgage bonds. The problem was to find a buyer. It was decided that Stephen
should go to London and approach the great banking
house of Barings. He was greatly astonished and delighted beyond measure when, early in an interview
with the head of the firm, Lord Revelstoke interrupted
him and stated that he was prepared to purchase the
whole issue at 91^4 per cent, and to make the entire
payment within a month.
Van Horne and Angus were together in the boardroom when Stephen's cablegram announcing the glad
news reached them. They could only give vent to their
relief and their joy by capering about like boys and by
kicking the furniture.
The Canadian Pacific was yet to pass through many
periods of financial stringency and more than once to
touch the bottom of its purse. But never again had its
directors to ask the government of Canada to help
them with the loan of a single dollar.
By the first of July in the following year, 1886, the
company paid off all its debt to the government, $20,-
000,000 in cash and the balance in lands at $1.50 an
During the whole of the period covered by these painful experiences with the Dominion government construction had been going steadily forward. In May
there was a continuous line from Callander to Port Ar- Driving the Last Spike 131'
thur. By June the rails were laid to a point near the
summit of the Selkirks, forming a continuous connection from Montreal westward for a distance of nearly
twenty-five hundred miles. The government section of
two hundred and thirteen miles between Port Moody and
Savona's Ferry, better known as the Onderdonk section
from the name of the contractor who built it, was finished; and the section, which had been operated for some
time past by the contractor, would soon be handed over
to the company. On the section between Savona's
Ferry and the Selkirks, the only remaining gap between
Montreal and the Pacific, the work was so advanced
as to justify the expectation that the rails would be
laid before the end of September. Moreover, negotiations were concluded for the acquisition of a line owned
by the Province of Quebec, running along the north
shore of the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec, which would give the company the desired exit for
its summer traffic.
The last remaining gap from the Selkirks westward
was rapidly closed. On November 7, 1885, trie tracklayers met at a spot in Eagle Pass between Sicamous and
the slopes of the Gold Range, and here, in the presence
of Van Horne, Sandford Fleming, James Ross, and
several of the company's officers, and surrounded by
workingmen, Donald Smith, always "in the van," drove
the last iron spike of the millions which linked Montreal with the Pacific Ocean, the spike being held in place
by Major Rogers.
"The last spike," Van Horne had said, "will be just
as good an iron one as there is between Montreal and
Vancouver, and anyone who wants to see it driven will
have to pay full fare."
But the blows that drove the iron home reverberated 132    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
throughout the Empire. They drove the final rivet in
the bond that unites the nine provinces of Canada and
makes one nation of their peoples. They brought Yokohama several hundred miles nearer to Liverpool and
London. They enabled the merchants of Montreal and
Toronto to stretch out and grasp the products of the
valleys of the Fraser and the Columbia and trade directly with the tea-growers and silk-weavers of Japan
and China. They opened to the farmers of Manitoba
and to the colonists on the Pacific coast new and greater
markets for their crops, their coals, their forests, their
fish, and their ores. They added a great Imperial highway to the defences of the Empire.
The station which was erected to mark the spot where
this simple ceremony took place was called Craigellachie.
"At the inception of the enterprise," wrote Van
Horne, "one of the members of the syndicate wrote Mr.
Stephen, pointing out they were all now fortunately
situated and in going into the Canadian Pacific enterprise they might only be courting trouble for their old
age, and urging that they ought to think twice before
committing themselves irrevocably. To this Stephen
answered in one word, 'Craigellachie'—which appealed
to the patriotism of his associates, and not another
doubt was expressed. It was a reference to the familiar
lines, 'Not until Craigellachie shall move from his
firm base, etc' I heard of this when I first became connected with the company, and was much impressed by
it, and determined that if I were still with the company
when the last rail should be laid, the spot should be
marked by a station to be named 'Craigellachie.''
"Stand fast! Craigellachie!" was the heartening slogan which the cable had flashed across the Atlantic
from Stephen to his associates when the company seemed   Driving the Last Spike 133
tottering to its fall. And they had stood fast. Stephen
and Van Horne had reason to be proud of their accomplishment as they stood there with the workmen almost
in the shadow of the towering Selkirks which they had
harnessed and broken to their wills. Only forty-six
months had elapsed since Van Home's arrival in Canada, and he had flung "across the vast unpeopled spaces
of a continent," a railway which Alexander Mackenzie,
the Canadian Premier, had declared in 1875 "could not
likely be completed in ten years with s\\ the power of
men and all the money of the Empire." Ten years had
been allowed the company by the government for the
completion of the line. Van Horne had built it in less
than five, and had smashed all records in railway
And still as he strove he conquered
And laid his foes at his feet.
Inimical powers of nature,
Tempest and flood and fire,
The spleen of fickle seasons
That loved to baulk his desire,
The breath of hostile climates
The ravage of blight and dearth, . . .
He, with a keener weapon
The sword of his wit, overcame.
His unprecedented speed had been repeatedly attacked as an extravagant and unreasonable policy, but
the people had come to realize what he and his colleagues
had perceived from the very beginning, namely, that the
Canadian Pacific had to be built with the greatest possible speed or it would involve its builders in disaster
and throw back the development of Canada for a generation.   But whatever fame attaches to his name for his I
134   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
unparalleled feat of railway construction, he would have
been helpless without the zealous cooperation of a devoted staff: the construction managers and engineers,
the operators of completed mileage, and, not least, the
able band of officials at Montreal upon whose exertions
the progress of the railway builders was largely dependent.
If his share in the achievement were the more spectacular, he always insisted that Stephen's had been the
more difficult. "My part was easy. I only had to spend
the money, but Stephen had to find it when nobody in
the world believed in it but ourselves." It had been
Stephen's task to find the sinews of war under the most
adverse conditions; to wring assistance from an unwilling government; to battle with powerful and unscrupulous enemies in the money markets; and through all to
uphold the faith of associates, shareholders, and creditors. He was a man of great possessions, but he had
not hesitated to stake them all. His determination and
courage, which can hardly be said to have faltered, even
in the bitterest moments of his struggle at Ottawa, had
been the decisive force for victory.
It has been well said that "the Canadian Pacific is as
truly a monument of public as of private faith," but that
such a monument was erected as early as 1885 was due,
before all else, to the courage and energy of these two
men and to the loyal support given them by their colleagues, Donald Smith and R. B. Angus.
Congratulatory messages poured in upon the little
party from the Queen, the Marquis of Lome, and other
notabilities. Her Majesty, early in 1886, marked her
high appreciation of Stephen's splendid services by bestowing a baronetcy upon him.    In the following May Silver Heights 135
Smith was created a Knight Commander of the Order
of St. Michael and St. George.
The completion of the main line and the return journey of the official party who witnessed it afforded Van
Horne an opportunity for springing upon them one of
the surprises which he loved to plot. One of Smith's
several Canadian residences was "Silver Heights," a
few miles outside of Winnipeg. He had ceased to occupy it since business cares had compelled him to divide
his time between Montreal and London. It was now
closed, servantless, and only partly furnished. To celebrate the road's completion, Van Horne conceived the
idea of giving Smith a surprise party at his own house.
Spare rails and sleepers were used to build a spur from
Winnipeg to the house, cooks and domestics were hastily
engaged, furniture hired, and good things to eat and
drink sent up. Within a week all was ready. When
the special train entered the spur, Smith was talking
and did not notice that the train was backing. At last
he happened to look out of the window.
" 'Why, we are backing up,' he said; and then, 'Now
there's a very neat place. I don't remember seeing that
farm before. And those cattle—why, who is it besides
myself, that has Aberdeen cattle like that? I thought I
was the only one. This is really very strange.' Suddenly the house came into view. 'Why, gentlemen, I
must be going crazy. I 've lived here many years and I
never noticed another place so exactly like "Silver
" 'Silver Heights,' called the conductor. The car
stopped and some of us began to betray our enjoyment
of the joke. After another glance outside he began to
laugh too.    I never saw him so delighted."
1 if.
136   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
On the evening of June 28, 1886, a throng of Montreal's citizens assembled at the Dalhousie Square station to witness one of the greatest events in the history
of the Canadian nation since the confederation of the
provinces. The first through train from the city of
Maisonneuve to the Pacific was standing there. The
guns of the Montreal field battery boomed as it slowly
drew out upon its long journey of 2905 miles. CHAPTER XII
1885-86.       CREATING       TRAFFIC.       SLEEPING-CARS.
UPON his return from Silver Heights to Montreal Van Horne found a letter awaiting him
from Jason C. Easton, the Wisconsin banker
and railway president.
"I am counting the time when your five years' engagement with the Canadian Pacific will be up," he
wrote, and if Van Horne were at liberty to accept it,
a presidency would be offered him in his old field, "and
your acceptance would make me the happiest man in
But if Van Horne had been free to leave, he could
not have been tempted to abandon the immense field for
the exercise of his creative energies which Canada still
afforded him. The main line was complete, the railway, as an efficient transportation system, was hardly
begun. The quality and character of the line built
by the company was everywhere of a higher standard
than that fixed in the contract with the government.
But the rapidity of construction had necessitated the
use of temporary structures which had to be replaced.
Stone or steel must eventually be substituted for wood
in thousands of culverts and bridges. Vast stretches of
trestle-work must be replaced by permanent structures
or filled in.   Work of this kind had already been be-
137 138    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
gun, but years would elapse before the roadbed could
be finished in permanent material. Operating equipment, rolling-stock of all kinds, shops, yards, engine
houses, stations, docks, and the thousand and one necessities of a railway must be provided for the unexpected
development of traffic already reached and for the still
greater volume of traffic which was certain to follow.
Construction of branch lines in the East and the West
must go vigorously forward. Profitable connections
had to be established with American lines. Everywhere
along the line traffic had to be stimulated and, indeed,
So far as the direction of construction had permitted
Van Horne from the beginning had given his keenest
attention to the development of traffic. Upon his arrival in Canada almost his first question to Stephen had
been, "Have you given away the telegraph, the express,
the sleeping-cars ?" Receiving a negative reply, he advised the company to adopt the policy of retaining all
these auxiliary services which earlier American and
Canadian railways had relinquished to external companies. Everything out of which money could be made
was to belong to the company, and no friend or director
—least of all himself—was to profit by a personal interest in any service which could properly be undertaken
by the company itself. "I expect," he said, "the sideshows to pay the dividend." In the light of his experience, "express companies take all the cream off the parcel
traffic and leave the skim-milk to the railroads."
In 1882, therefore, he had procured the incorporation
of the Dominion Express Company, whose stock was all
owned by the Canadian Pacific, to carry on the express
service of the line, and obtained a capable manager
from an American express company at St. Louis.   In Creating Traffic 139
somewhat similar fashion he established the Canadian
Pacific telegraph service. With every mile of railway
constructed the telegraph poles were erected and wires
strung, and a telegraph service was provided from one
end of the road to the other and at all points touched by
the various branch lines. To establish the service on a
nationally commercial basis, he created a telegraph department which he placed under the direction of Charles
R. Hosmer.
As soon as the road had crossed the prairies, Van
Horne had the bleaching buffalo bones collected and
shipped to eastern factories. American cattlemen were
invited over to the rich grass regions of the Territories and a beginning was made in live-stock traffic.
Wherever he went in Manitoba he kept reminding people that "men can grow the goose wheat or any other
soft kind in many places, but no country can grow a
finer quality than you can right here in Canada. Don't
neglect your opportunity." A study of the kinds of
wheat best adapted to the soil and climatic conditions
led him to the conclusion that the "Red Fife," which
had been introduced by a settler from Scotland, produced the finest crop, and as an inducement to its wider
adoption he offered to carry it free for any farmer buying it for seed.
Before Van Home's arrival in Canada flat warehouses had been employed for the storage of grain. His
experience in Minnesota enabled him to point out that
if Canada desired a reputation for grain of superior
quality, it must have more modern elevators in which
the grain could be satisfactorily cleaned and graded.
The first elevator at Fort William which had a capacity
of one million bushels, looked so large that it was prophesied that there never would be grain enough in the West f^m
140   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
to fill it. But by 1886 other large elevators had been
built at Port Arthur and Owen Sound, and a chain of
small receiving elevators had been erected at way-stations, extending three hundred miles west of Winnipeg.
The economy exercised in the construction of the railway, its light gradients and easy curvature, and the company's freedom from a heavy load of fixed charges
enabled the company to establish tolls for the carriage
of passengers and freight far lower than those of neighbouring lines in the United States. Before the close of
1885 the wisdom of that policy was already manifest in
the development of business along the line.
Appreciative of the value to the railway of uniform
politeness and courtesy to passengers and customers,
Van Horne succeeded in imbuing the personnel of its
service with the same appreciation.
"You are not," he said, rebuking a conductor who had
quarrelled with an irritable passenger, "to consider your
personal feelings when you are dealing with these people. You should not have any. You are the road's
while you are on duty; your reply is the road's; and
the road's first law is courtesy."
He had a way of "getting men to do work well simply
because it made him happier," and the train- and station-
men were quick to respond. They exhibited a pride in
the road and its equipment, in the grandeur of the
scenery through which it passed, and manifested an
anxiety to please which greatly gratified the patrons of
the line. "It was quite touching," wrote Lady Macdonald, "and something new in railway life to find the
brakemen . . . grieving over the smoke and apologizing
for it."
Lest this attractive feature of the service should fail
of public recognition, Van Horne caused posters to be Creating Traffic 141
printed and stuck up in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg, bearing the legend,
On the Canadian Pacific Railway
He followed up this eccentric announcement with
others still more bizarre.
On the Canadian Pacific Railway
On the Canadian Pacific Railway
directed public attention to the size and quality of meals
served in the company's dining-cars.
The grotesque distortion of a name in
by thunder!
Bay Passes the Canadian Pacific Railway
stamped indelibly on the mind the fact that the company's trains, on their way westward to the prairies
and the Pacific, now skirted the romantic shores of
Lake Superior.
Having inaugurated, so far as its facilities and resources would permit, the policy of the company building,
owning, and maintaining all its rolling-stock, Van Horne
took special interest in designing the sleeping- and parlor-cars so that they should furnish the maximum of
comfort and offer an aesthetic appeal. He engaged the
artists Colonna and Price for their interior decoration,
supplementing or modifying their designs in accordance
with the dictates of his own taste.    Illustrating with a 142    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
comical sketch the discomfort of a tall fat man miserably drawn up in one of the short berths with which the
sleeping-cars on American railways were fitted, he had
the Canadian Pacific cars constructed of larger dimensions in height and width and equipped with longer and
wider berths.
Upon completion of the main line, the Canadian Pacific pushed out vigorous tentacles in every direction in
its search for traffic. Branches or extensions were
rapidly constructed to Buckingham, near Ottawa, to secure the traffic afforded by the phosphate mines on the
Lievre River; to the copper mines near Sudbury; to
Vancouver and New Westminster in British Columbia;
to Holland, Whitewater Lake, and Deloraine in Manitoba. Connections were made with independent lines
running from Dunmore to the coal-mines at Lethbridge,
and from Regina to Long Lake. The extension of the
Ontario and Quebec was advancing to Montreal, where
a bridge in course of erection over the St. Lawrence
and a short line connecting the bridge with the South
Eastern, already principally owned by the company,
would enable the Canadian Pacific to form a connection
with the Boston and Lowell and obtain access to the New
England states and the Atlantic seaboard. A bridge
was also begun over St. Mary's River at Sault Ste.
Marie in concert with the Minneapolis, St. Paul and
Sault Ste. Marie or "Soo" line and the Duluth, South
Shore and Atlantic, by means of which a direct line,
extremely advantageous in point of distance, would be
furnished to Chicago, Duluth, and St. Paul. Another
extension of the Ontario and Quebec from Woodstock
to the Detroit River was nearing completion. And an
agreement was made with the government for the construction of the so-called "Short Line Railway," run- Creating Traffic 143
ning from Montreal by way of Sherbrooke and Lake
Megantic and across the state of Maine to a connection
with the railway system of the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In order to give the "Short
Line" access to the Atlantic, Stephen had obtained Sir
John Macdonald's assurance that he would give the
Canadian Pacific running rights over the Intercolonial
Railway, owned by the government, to the ports of St.
John and Halifax.
In 1886 Van Horne took the first of his annual inspection trips from Montreal to the Pacific. On these trips
he was invariably accompanied by some of his co-directors and other chosen friends, and they became famous
for good company and good cheer, and for the boundless vitality, bonhomie, and practical jokes of the host.
Seated in the observation compartment of his private
car, the "Saskatchewan," Van Horne spent the days
in following with critical eyes the thousands of miles
of steel which vanished in rock cuttings or tunnels or
was merged in the distance, and in discussing local problems with divisional superintendents and engineers who
traveled with him over the sections of the line under
their supervision. At night his car stood in a siding,
and the party retired at a late hour after a game of
poker and an evening full of fun.
On the Lake Superior section he saw a large amount
of work being carried on in widening cuttings, raising
and widening embankments, ballasting, and filling trestles. Heavy work was also being done in filling the
insatiable muskegs so as to provide a solid roadbed for
the track. Before it was finally filled in a famous muskeg west of Port Arthur swallowed up, one after the
other, seven layers of rails, and when Van Home's train
passed over it the track crept and rose and fell in waves
il 1
144    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
of many inches. A director objected to returning over
this dangerous stretch, and Van Horne humoured him.
He brought him back the same way at night, when he
was asleep.
In the prairie section there was an increasing movement of immigrants, and the grazing country that
spreads eastward from the base of the Rockies was rapidly filling up with cattle from eastern Canada and the
United States. He found the line throughout this section in a satisfactory condition. He had shown this to
be the case in 1885, when opponents of the road had
alleged that its hasty construction had resulted in slipshod work and an unsafe track. He had countered
them by inviting prominent residents of eastern Canada
to accompany him from Winnipeg to the foothills of the
Rockies, promising to cover the distance of eight hundred and forty miles between dawn and dusk. In the
long July days of the Northwest this promise was safely
fulfilled, and the travelers were sent home as living
refutations of the attacks upon the roadbed and equipment.
A large amount of work remained to be done to place
the mountain section in effective working order, but the
weightiest problem to be solved was the protection of
roadbed and trains from the mountain avalanches which
had been regarded by many as an insuperable objection
to the route through Kicking Horse and Rogers passes.
During the winter of 1885-86 a little band of engineers
had remained in the mountains with their snowshoes
and dog-trains to observe the snow-slides. Upon their
report there were now building thirty-five snowsheds
with a total length of four miles, so designed as to carry
avalanches over their sloping roofs without injury to
the roadbed—the first of their type on the continent. Snow-Slides and Snowsheds 145
These did not entirely solve the problem, for year after
year the engineers reported new slides and the need
of snowshed extensions. In 1887 nine men> rebuilding
a demolished bridge, were carried off by a fresh avalanche and buried forever in the white silences. In the
same season an Imperial representative, sent out to
study the availability of the road as a mail route to the
Orient, was detained for thirty-three days by snow-
slides. Eventually the snowsheds were improved by a
system of triangular glance-works, suggested by Van
Horne, which guided the avalanches and directed their
course right and left from the openings which had to
be left as fire-breaks between the sheds. This development, however, was still unthought of when he and his
guests crossed the mountains in 1886.
From Nipissing to Vancouver the party passed
through rising villages and settlements and stations
which he had taken great delight in naming. Majestic
Mount Stephen and shining Mount Sir Donald commemorated the names of the greatest of his associates, while
Estevan and Leanchoil, their cable code-names, further
immortalized the memory of the same two Scotch-
Canadians. Among many others, the names of Hem-
ing, Langevin, Bowell, Tilley, Palliser, Keefer, Moberly,
Cartier, Schreiber, Caron, Secretan, and Crowfoot bore
testimony to Van Home's appreciation of services rendered the road. Revelstoke, Clanwilliam, Lathom, Glei-
chen, Boissevain, and Eldon recalled the names of some
of the company's adherents on the other side of the
Atlantic. Agassiz had been remembered. There were
names to commemorate, builders, politicians, engineers,
bishops, mounted policemen, and Indian chiefs, but
there was no Van Horne. When, in 1884, an enthusiastic admirer had changed the name of Savona's Ferry to
J The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
Van Horne, the general manager had promptly restored
the name of the old pioneer who had dwelt by the river
since the days of the gold rush. His own name, however, was soon to be used by another, when Dr. Vaux,
the Alpine climber of Philadelphia, named the Van
Horne range of mountains in British Columbia.
The train ended its westward journey at Port Moody,
for the extension of the track was not yet completed to
the tents and fir-stumps which littered the townsite of
Vancouver. Chinese coolies were clearing this area;
docks were being built in accordance with the plans Van
Horne had sketched out during the previous year; and
he made arrangements for the immediate construction
of a handsome hotel.
In the plenary powers of the company's charter Van
Horne had always found a source of inspiration. He
had persistently dwelt on the need of Pacific steamships
for the creation of through traffic and the development
of the country at large.
"Canada is doing business on a back street," he said.
"We must put her on a thoroughfare."
He had been impatient to see steamships owned by
the company navigating both oceans, but to realize even
a part of this dream an Imperial subsidy was necessary.
Carefully studying the sources and shipping of tea, silk,
and other Oriental commodities, Van Horne had prepared an official memorandum on trans-Pacific connections which gave, most detailed information of eastern
mail subsidies and trade possibilities. He had emphasized as forcibly as the most ardent Imperialist the military value of the Canadian route as an alternative to the
Suez Canal for the transportation of troops to the East,
and had already demonstrated its Imperial value by
transporting heavy ordnance to Hong Kong.    All his
Mt  ^B£ A Pacific Steamship Service 147
efforts in this direction would necessarily tend to divert
to Canada trade enjoyed by the Pacific ports of the
United States, but this in no way concerned him. In
his official capacity Van Horne was no longer an American. He was not, on the other hand, a Canadian. He
was simply, body and soul, a Canadian Pacific man—a
genius of transportation working out His own destiny
in the organization of land and sea traffic.
In May, 1886, the company had formally tendered to
the Imperial government for a fortnightly mail service
across the Pacific at a speed of fourteen knots, the highest speed contracted for up to that time on ocean voyages. They offered to build under Admiralty supervision first-class vessels of eighteen knots, adapted to the
carriage of troops and to conversion into armed cruisers.
Meanwhile, cargoes of silk and tea had been secured in
the Orient for sailing vessels chartered by the company.
Van Horne watched the first of these as it sailed in to
the docks at Port Moody. It was a fitting finale to his
tour of inspection, for the ship slipping quietly to its
moorings marked the end of an enterprise which had
lured men since the days of Marco Polo. What Cham-
plain had dreamed, and Cartier and Hudson braved so
much to do, was now accomplished. The shortest way
westward from Europe to "far Cathay" had been opened
up by the son of an Illinois pioneer and his Scotch-
Canadian associates. CHAPTER XIII
AT the beginning of 1887 Van Home's contract
with the company expired, and he received from
Jason Easton a definite offer of the presidency
of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul. Expressing
the hope that he was ready to come back to his old home,
Easton said, "The question of salary will cut no figure
and will of course be very large, and you will have all
freedom of action. ... If you give me any encouragement and things work out as I now expect, I will go to
New York at once. ... I can't sleep nights until this
is off my mind."
Van Horne telegraphed his refusal of the offer, and
Easton wrote again, "Your telegram of this evening is
about what I might expect. ... If the St. Paul Company could have secured you as its head it would have
had the ablest railroad general in the world, all that
Grant was to the U. S. A."
Van Home's decision to remain in Montreal snapped
the last link with his earlier career. He was already
so completely identified in the public mind with the
Canadian Pacific as, in effect, to be regarded as the
company itself. Henceforward his lot was finally cast
in with Canada's.
Although the heavy construction work of the pre- Land Settlement in the Northwest 149
ceding five years was over, there was left an aftermath
of disputes and litigation with contractors on the Lake
Superior section and with the government concerning
the condition of the Onderdonk section. Throughout
1887, and until these differences were finally settled by
arbitration, the task of protecting the company against
the exorbitant claims of contractors and of establishing
its claim against the government made considerable inroads upon Van Home's time. His Montreal office,
too, now had all the marks of a busy audience-room.
Deputations came from every quarter of Canada to lay
the needs of their localities before him, for the Canadian
Pacific was not only a common carrier, but was also
Canada's greatest commercial agency. Demands for
branch lines and for help for new industries poured in
upon him. A caller was fortunate who did not have
to spend two or three days on the doormat before securing an interview. But the greater number of visitors
were not in quest of the company's assistance. They
came to him for advice as a man fertile in ideas and
prompt and positive in his judgment; and very many of
them went away with their schemes entirely upset or
radically modified. But such draughts upon time and
patience are a tax which few heads of great railway
organizations can escape.
The strain of construction over, Van Home's mind
was freer to turn to the settlement of the prairies.
With three hundred million acres of arable land, one-
third of which was capable of producing the highest
grade of wheat; with coal deposits which geologists were
beginning to estimate in hundreds and thousands of
millions of tons; and with vast timberlands to the north,
there was a region of such immense potentiality that its
free lands might well have been expected to summon jp^m
150   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
the land-hungry from the ends of the earth. Moreover, its promise had already borne fruit in bountiful
crops on the small area under cultivation and in the
first shipment of ranch-cattle to England. A wheat
surplus of ten million bushels in Manitoba had obliged
the company to establish a large flour-mill at Keewatin.
The free homestead lands in the railway belt and south
of it as far west as Moosejaw were being rapidly taken
up, and it was the policy of the company not to press
the sale of its own lands until the free government lands
in their vicinity were settled, when a better price could
be obtained for them.
To promote the settlement of the government lands
and hasten that of the company's, Van Horne inaugurated an aggressive and persistent campaign of advertising of a varied and versatile character, which was to
be carried on for many years. Special efforts were
made to divert from the New England states the large
stream of emigrants still pouring out from the Maritime
Provinces and Quebec. Priests were appointed colonizing agents to induce the French-Canadians in New England to leave the factories for the wholesome outdoor life
of the West. The press, the platform, and the distribution of letters from satisfied settlers were supplemented
by the engagement of a corps of the best artists and
photographers to furnish, by brush and camera, pictures of the wonderful scenery of mountains, lakes,
rivers, and forests. Elaborate brochures were prepared
describing the unsurpassable attractions of the country
for the hunter and the fisherman. Artists, editors, men
of science, churchmen, politicians, and manufacturers
were sent through to the Pacific, treated royally, and returned to their homes to talk or write or lecture on the
opportunities offered by the newly-opened lands.    From Land Settlement in the Northwest 151
Europe were invited men of wealth and station, friends
of Sir George Stephen who were already interested, or in
the future would be interested, in the welfare of the
company itself or in the country through which they
were taken.
It has been aptly said that Van Horne "capitalized
the scenery." But sight-seers could not be attracted to
the mountains and rivers of British Columbia unless
suitable accommodation were provided for them. The
company's charter permitted it to operate hotels, and
Van Horne now began to realize a long-held dream by
starting a system of picturesque hotels commanding
the choicest views in the Rockies and the Selkirks. He
found recreation and delight in sketching, suggesting,
or modifying the elevations and plans of these structures.
But there was one mishap. When a New York architect had amplified his sketches for an attractive hostelry
at Banff, the builder turned the hotel the wrong side
about, giving the kitchen the finest outlook. One day
Van Horne arrived and saw the blunder. His wrath
amply illustrated the description of a colleague: "Van
Horne was one of the most considerate and even-tempered of men, but when an explosion came it was magnificent." However, by the time the cyclone had spent
itself a remedy was forthcoming. He sketched a rotunda pavilion on the spot, and ordered it to be erected
so as to secure the coveted view for the guests.
A station was required at Banff to replace the primitive box-car that had hitherto done service. The builders were at a loss for a design. Discussing the problem
with his officials on the spot, Van Horne seized a piece
of brown paper, sketched a log chalet, and, pointing to
the wooded mountain slopes, said simply, "Lots of good
S m
152    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
logs there. Cut them, peel them, and build your station." This was the genesis of the artistic log-stations
in the Rockies. For Sicamous was designed a station
that rose up from the lake like a trim, compact ship.
Van Horne also found scope for his fondness for
architectural design in the East, notably in the new
headquarters of the company on Windsor Street, Montreal, where a massive structure was erected, impressive
as a Norman fortress and typifying by its solidity the
character of the corporation it housed. \ Nor did Bruce
Price's later designs for the Chateau Frontenac at Quebec and the Place Viger Hotel at Montreal escape radical modification by his pencil.
He was not invariably happy in his own ideas and
suggestions or in his approval of the plans of others.
But he had a cultivated artistic taste, a well-developed
sense of fitness, and a remarkable grasp of requirements;
and his directions were always given with an assurance
that was difficult to gainsay.
The winter of 1887-88 saw the culmination of a long
and bitter contest which, arising out of the monopoly
clause in the company's charter, threatened at one time
to rupture the federation of the Canadian provinces.
It will be remembered that the charter provided that for
twenty years the Dominion government should not authorize construction of any line of railway running south
from the main line of the Canadian Pacific to any point
within fifteen miles of the international boundary. The
object and spirit of this provision was, on the one hand,
the temporary protection of the interests of the Dominion in the Northwest, and on the other the protection
of the Canadian Pacific during its infancy from invasion
by lines from the south. The necessity for such protection was obvious, for if once connection were per- Manitoba and the Canadian Pacific Railway    153
mitted at the southern boundary of Manitoba with
American railroad systems, there was practically no
limit to the encroachments that might ensue; and railway lines were already pushing northward from Chicago
and St. Paul to the border, threatening to tap the prairie
section of the Canadian Northwest and to deprive the
eastern section of the Canadian Pacific of the traffic
necessary to its support and efficiency as part of the
through line. The company, therefore, had deemed it
essential to the procuring and safety of capital and, in
general, to the success of the enterprise that the traffic
of the territory to be developed by the railway should
be secured to it for a reasonable period. Without this
provision the necessary capital could not have been
secured and the railway could not have been built.
The political desirability of this protection was equally
obvious, for the heavy burden of taxation put upon the
older provinces for the building of the railway could
only be justified by the binding together of the detached
provinces and the extension it afforded them of their
trade and manufactures over the entire northern half
of the continent.
Winnipeg at the time was a mere village, and the
settlements in Manitoba were mainly confined to a narrow fringe along the Red River. The province hailed
the signing of the contract, and hardly a voice was
raised in objection to the so-called "Monopoly Clause."
Feeling, however, that the clause placed upon it a
moral obligation to provide railway facilities as rapidly
as possible in southern Manitoba, the company, almost
simultaneously with the commencement of work on its
main line, had laid out and begun work on a system
of four hundred and thirty-three miles of branch lines
extending south and southwest from Winnipeg.    It 1
154   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
had gone further. For the purpose of promoting the
development of the country, it had made its rates for
freight and passengers on a scale far below the
rates of any of the railways in the United States
similarly situated; and an enormous reduction in the
rates theretofore paid by the people of the province
to and from the East over American lines had followed the opening of the line between Lake Superior
and Winnipeg. Yet no sooner had operation of the
line started than complaints arose that the rates on
outgoing wheat were excessive and that the monopoly
clause deterred immigrants from settling in Manitoba.
Development of the prairie section west of Winnipeg
had been rapid. Winnipeg was growing into an important city and, with other rising towns, was suffering
from the effects of a "land boom"; and the natural and
inevitable consequences of over-speculation were mistaken for the need of railway competition. This idea
was fostered by individuals having selfish ends to serve;
by towns seeking advantages over others in trade; by
local politicians striving for popularity; and by politicians at large for party ends. The usual means were
employed to create and keep up a ferment—sensational
articles in the local press, unfair and false comparisons
of rates, and inflammatory speeches and appeals to prejudice. The Manitoba government declared its intention
to construct a line by way of the Red River Valley to the
international boundary, there to connect with a line
advancing northward from the Northern Pacific Railway and supposed to be building under the auspices of
that company. In May, 1887, Stephen telegraphed
Norquay, the provincial Premier, protesting against the
proposal as a breach of faith toward the holders of the
$134,000,000 private capital invested in the Canadian Manitoba and the Canadian Pacific Railway    155
Pacific, and threatening that if the mischievous agitation
continued and the Canadian Pacific were treated as the
public enemy of the people of Winnipeg, the company
would at once remove its principal western shops from
that city to Fort William.
In June the Provincial government enacted legislation authorizing the construction of a road to the boundary. The Dominion government, exercising its power
of veto, promptly disallowed the legislation as being
ultra vires of the province. A second measure shared
the same fate, and Manitoba became thoroughly aroused
and indignant. A company chartered by the Provincial
government, notwithstanding the veto of the Dominion,
proceeded with the construction of its road, and a temporary injunction was obtained in the Manitoba courts
by the Minister of Justice of the Dominion to restrain
the builders and the Provincial government from proceeding with their illegal operations. While the injunction was pending the Canadian Pacific at dead of
night built a spur-line about two hundred yards long
across the path of the new railway, and an interlocutory
injunction was then obtained restraining the rival road
from crossing the line of the Canadian Pacific.
This clever but useless bit of tactics served only to
heighten the passions of the people of Manitoba. Nor-
quay insisted that the road would be built "at the point
of the bayonet if necessary," and men talked of a third
Northwest rebellion.
In November the court granted a permanent injunction, but by that time construction of the Red River
Railway had stopped for lack of money and Norquay's
government had dissolved.
Entrenched in statutes and court decisions, the position of the Canadian Pacific now seemed impregnable.
* r
156   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
But "the sovereign will of the people" had been aroused.
They echoed the fallen Premier's talk of bayonets and
applauded the local press, which, as one of its milder
forms of abuse, dubbed Van Horne "the Great Mogul of
Monopoly." The latter, however, giving evidence before the Railway Committee of the Privy Council at
Ottawa in December, declared, on the contrary, his belief that railways should enjoy perfect freedom in construction; that the protection of existing lines was a
fallacy; but that the course taken by his company in
Manitoba was absolutely necessary for national reasons,
namely, for the preservation to Canada of the trade and
traffic arising within its boundaries.
The ferment created by the speculators and politicians
in Manitoba, however, reacted upon the Dominion government. Greenway and Martin, the aggressive young
leaders of the new Manitoba government, stormed
Ottawa with a new weapon against disallowance. The
question of Provincial Rights, framed by them and destined to survive for many years as a political battle-cry,
was now first projected into Canadian politics.
The question was one so charged with political trouble, and Manitoba was so urgent in its agitation, that
Sir John Macdonald finally promised Greenway that
there should be no further disallowance of Manitoba's
railway legislation, and early in 1888 he secured from
the Canadian Pacific the relinquishment of its monopoly
privilege in consideration of certain financial guaranties. The sequel furnishes another example of Van
Home's love of battle and his unwillingness to accept
defeat until he was counted out.
Martin, "the stormy petrel of Canadian politics," became Railway Commissioner for Manitoba and at once
proceeded with an extension to Winnipeg of a line from Manitoba and the Canadian Pacific Railway    157
Portage la Prairie, intending eventually to connect it
with the Northern Pacific. His plans, however, necessitated a crossing of the Canadian Pacific's branch line
to Pembina, and the permission of the Railway Committee of the Privy Council at Ottawa was necessary to
cross a Dominion railway. Permission was slow in com- 1
ing, and the Canadian Pacific announced its determination to resist any crossing until permission was granted.
Meanwhile, the new grade was being built up close
to both sides of the Canadian Pacific track and track-
laying was in progress. The provincial builders, declaring that the company was exerting unfair influence
to delay the Railway Committee's permission, decided
to anticipate that formality by starting a crossing over
the company's line, in the same fashion as the Canadian
Pacific had stolen across the Red River road in the preceding year.
Such a decision took matters out of the abstruse realm
of parliaments and politics into a field in which Van
Horne was master. He sent instructions to William
Whyte, the general superintendent at Winnipeg, and
felt confident of the outcome. Word reached Whyte
that a crossing was about to be attempted. Within an
hour an old C. P. R. engine was ditched at the point of
crossing, and he was on the spot with a force of two
hundred and fifty men from the company's shops to prevent its removal. In his private car, drawn up at the
crossing, were a number of special constables and two
magistrates. Workmen of the provincial line came up
to study the situation. At first they fraternized with
the company's men. Cabinet officials, policemen, and
citizens from Winnipeg rushed to the scene. The chief
of the provincial police informed Whyte that the appointments of his special constables had been cancelled. il
158   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
The justices of the peace in Whyte's car as promptly
swore them into office again. As the day wore on more
men were brought to the crossing by both sides. Whyte
had his men attach a hose to a locomotive and threatened
to throw live steam upon the opposing forces if they
Winnipeg flamed with excitement, and Van Horne,
who at long distance from his office in Montreal was
playing as merry a game of bluff as he had ever known,
was violently attacked by the press. "The vigour and
point of the expressions about him would probably make
even the imperturbable Van Horne wince could he hear
them." A St. Paul paper, speaking out of the fulness
of experience, urged its Manitoba neighbors to cool
down, for the situation was one of "ineffable absurdity."
So indeed it was.
Manitoba's Railway Commissioner, however, thought
otherwise. On the fifth day he had a hundred and
thirty men sworn as special constables and called out
the local troops under Colonel Villiers. These peaceably pitched their tents within view of "Fort Whyte,"
where the general superintendent and his forces continued to hold their ground. At another point, where
their rivals threatened to lay a diamond crossing,
Whyte's men built a fence about the railway, and lay
inactive and alert behind the barricade. Some farmers
came up to them with staves as weapons, talked
ominously of lynching, but retired without a clash.
Whyte asserted stoutly that he and his men would stay
on the ground and the dead engine would lie on the
crossing as long as the other railway persisted in its
intention to cross.
"We are here," he said, "to protect the company's interests, and if necessary we will tie up the whole western Manitoba and the Canadian Pacific Railway    159
system and bring in every man to hold the 'Fort.'"
Extravagant reports of the incident were sent to eastern Canada and England. Attempts were made by the
Northern Pacific's friends in Manitoba to effect a crossing at three different points, but everywhere they were
foiled by Whyte's vigilance. The contest lasted for a
In the meantime, while awaiting the decision of the
Railway Committee, the company had sought to obtain
an injunction from the courts restraining the provincial
road from trespass. The courts now refused to grant
an injunction* and the company was obliged to submit to
the crossing.
The competitive line was completed, but in a short
time the local press was attacking the Northern Pacific
for its high traffic rates as violently as it had attacked
the Canadian Pacific, and was even accusing it of collusion with the latter.
Hardly was the fight with Manitoba concluded when
Van Horne was obliged to proceed to the Pacific coast to
give evidence in the arbitration with the government
concerning the Onderdonk section between Port Moody
and Savona's Ferry. In 1881 the government had undertaken to construct this section on a standard equal to
that of the Union Pacific and to hand it over to the company in as good condition as that of the remainder of
the main line. But owing to the unexpected cost of
construction, the government had taken alarm and had
lowered the specifications, with the result that the section was in an unsatisfactory condition when it was
transferred to the company, which had been put to
great expense to remedy these defects. The company
was now claiming to be reimbursed for its expenditure
and seeking an arrangement whereby the whole section i6o • The Life and Work of Sir William Van Home
would be brought up to the requisite standard without
further expense to the Canadian Pacific.
The train to which Van Home's car was attached carried the arbitrators, Chancellor Boyd, the chairman,
Thomas C. Keefer, a distinguished engineer, and George
Tate Blackstock and Walter Cassels of the Ontario Bar,
as well as counsel and witnesses for the contending parties. All these were especially interested in viewing the
mountain section built by the company, for the government was contending that the Onderdonk section wa$
in no whit inferior, and its counsel and engineers were
endeavouring to fortify their case by instituting a comparison with the "dangerous grades and unprecedented
curves" in the mountains, particularly condemning the
Big Hill, a four per cent, gradient down the Kicking
Horse Canyon between Hector and Field. Van Horne,
aware that trains were accustomed to run slowly over
this stretch of road, sent word at Canmore to the locomotive engineer to take the train over the Rockies at a
good speed.
"We will show these fellows," he said, "that our road
is fit to run on, though the Onderdonk is not."
The engine-driver obediently made the trip of forty-
nine miles to Laggan in an hour. Then, moving more
slowly over the summit, he slipped down the Big Hill
at the rate of eighteen miles an hour. The trip was
made with such speed and ease that the commissioners
and party could hardly credit the statement that they
were already down the Big Hill.
When the train stopped for water at Field, Van Horne
sauntered down the platform and asked the engineer if
he did not think it safe to run faster. Charles Carey
was a fearless driver and a favourite with Van Horne
because of his skill and daring. A Merry Ride in the Mountains 161
"I '11 go just as fast as you want," he replied.
"Then give these fellows a merry ride, just to let them
know they are on a railroad. Run her as fast as you
like, provided you don't ditch them."
Carey knew what was wanted. He increased the
speed, letting the engine hum over the steel at a pace
that delighted Van Horne. The cars rocked; the armchairs and loose furniture of the private car piled together like a ship's furniture in a hurricane. Men held
to their seats with difficulty, and in one of the lighter
cars not all were successful in doing that. "Adirondack" Murray's dinner was spilled over him. The train
raced through the lower canyon of the Kicking Horse.
What recked the dizzy passengers that they were traversing a most interesting section of rockwork or, emerging from the canyon's gloom to the luminous valley of
the Columbia, could see the radiant peaks of Sir Donald
and Mount Stephen ? In the stretch of fifty-one miles to
Golden, made in an hour, the engine never stopped or
slackened speed. As a breath-taking climax, the seventeen miles between Golden and Sir Donald were made in
fifteen minutes; and when Carey's engine was stopped
just beyond Sir Donald, Jimmy French, Van Home's coloured porter, ran up to him.
"You tryin' to kill us ?" he cried. "All dose genmuns
back theah are under the seats. Only the boss left," he
added proudly, "sittin' up in his chair with his pipe."
Having been taught their lesson of respect for the
safety of the Canadian Pacific's track and equipment
and the skill of its engineers, the party was given a rest,
and the train gently looped the loops over the trestles of
the Illecillewaet, winding screw-wise down the canyon's
sides and making two and a half miles of progress in
six miles of travel. CHAPTER XIV
ON his return in August, 1888, from the Pacific
coast, Van Horne found himself the duly
elected president of the company in place of
Stephen. The latter retained a seat on the directorate and intended to devote himself to the financial
interests of the company in England, where he proposed to take up his permanent residence. The change
was not unexpected. To a man of Stephen's wealth
and dignity of rank and position the well-ordered
beauty of England's countryside and the pleasantness of
her social life were well-nigh irresistible. He cherished,
moreover, a deep resentment against Sir John Macdonald for the sufferings and mortification he had experienced at Ottawa, and, having reluctantly entered upon
the Canadian Pacific enterprise and made great sacrifices
to patriotism, he was indignant at the unworthy motives
constantly attributed to him by a section of the Canadian
press. He was now intensely chagrined and disgusted
by Sir John's refusal, owing to political exigencies, to
redeem his promise to give the company running rights
over the Intercolonial from Moncton to St. John and
Halifax; and he had made known to his friends his
determination to shake the dust of Canada from his feet.
The moment was well chosen.   The Canadian Pacific
162 The Presidency of the Canadian Pacific Ry.    163
was firmly established. Despite an exceedingly light
crop in Ontario and a steady diminution in the rates for
passengers and freight, the company was prospering.
Numerous branches were in course of construction between Quebec and the Pacific, and the connections necessary to full completion of the system were now few in
Van Home's promotion to the presidency of the company could not materially affect or increase his responsibilities. He had already had full control of operations. Yet it could not fail to be a proud moment in
his life when, at the comparatively early age of forty-
five, he became the titular and acknowledged head of a
system embracing over five thousand miles of railway,
stretching vigorous fingers out to all points of the compass, owning fourteen million acres of land, and possessing assets of $180,000,000. In the magnitude of its
business it would not bear comparison with the great
systems entering New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago,
but it had, for him, the inestimable advantage over all
of them in the promise of a future to which there were
no apparent limits. He now held, too, the unchallenged
primacy in Canadian railway affairs, and since the further development of the Canadian Pacific offered the
greatest inducements to his creative impulses, he could
rightly feel that there was no position in the railway
world so enviable as his own.
His work as a railway-builder had been phenomenal,
but before coming to the Canadian Pacific he had had
small experience of large business or financial affairs.
He was fortunate^ therefore, in having an able and
zealous body of assistants and a prudent and sagacious
financial adviser in R. B. Angus. At the beginning, the
official personnel had, of necessity, been recruited from 164   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
the officers of other American and Canadian railways,
but he had adopted the policy of promotion from the
ranks; and the wisdom of such a course was already
apparent in the remarkable esprit de corps which prevailed among employees of all grades.
Upon Shaughnessy, who had become assistant general-manager in 1885, Van Horne had thrown increasing responsibility; and Shaughnessy was well able to
bear it, for he was endowed with all the qualities that
go to make administrative capacity of the highest order.
Van Home's talents shone in other directions, and from
the first he leaned heavily on Shaughnessy's strong business sense and acumen. Traffic was in the hands of
George Olds and David McNicoll. I. G. Ogden, a
genius in accountancy, filled the office of comptroller.
The operation of trains and local interests were in the
safe hands of such men as William Whyte, T. A. Mack-
innon, and Harry Abbott.
In George Mackenzie Clark, the chief solicitor, he
had an able and shrewd adviser, and the best railway
lawyer and one of the best poker-players of his time in
Canada. Clark, who had a unique record of service as
a county judge in Ontario for a period of over thirty
years, was persona grata to Sir John Macdonald and
the Conservatives, and a man of high personal character. His unbending integrity, happily shared by many
of his profession, was once tested by no less a combination of forces than Van Horne and J. J. Hill. These
inveterate enemies chanced to find a mutual interest in
effecting some railway deal. Van Horne consulted
Clark about it, and was told that the transaction was
statutorily forbidden and therefore could not be carried
out. On the following day he entered Clark's office
accompanied by Hill, and the two put forward all the The Hostility of the Grand Trunk Ry. Co.    165
arguments they could to bring about a change of mind.
"I have told you," said Clark in a tone of finality,
"that what you propose is illegal. It therefore should
not be done, and I will have nothing to do with it."
"Well, Judge Clark," said Hill, "you are not at all
like my counsel, Mr. .    He lies down on his sofa
most of the day, and when I go into his rqom and say,
'Look here, Mr. , I want to do so and so.   What
about it?', he looks up and says, 'Well, Mr. Hill, of
course it's illegal, but you go ahead, and I '11 get you
out of trouble.'"
Van Home's promotion was greeted with renewed
attacks from London of a most impertinent and unscrupulous character both upon the road and upon the
new president's personality. Describing him as "a foreigner and an alien," and alleging that "the road, though
built with Canadian money, is intended for foreigners,
and no doubt the day is not far distant when foreigners
will own and control it for the purpose of making money
out of it," Sir Henry Tyler, president of the Grand
Trunk, and his supporters urged that the government
should take over the road and divide the profits with
the company. Jealous of the Canadian Pacific's development in what they regarded as their own territory and
incensed at its projected connection with the "Soo"
and Duluth lines, these ill-informed and ill-advised men
now entered upon what was to prove a last desperate
campaign of the long war they had waged upon the
intruder and strove by means of a flood of false and
damaging statements to discredit the company. Their
immediate object was to prevent the company from obtaining the capital necessary to complete its line from
London to Detroit, the construction of which had been
forced upon the company by the failure of its earnest 166   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
efforts to lease one of the Grand Trunk's spare lines.
Their tactics frightened many of the holders of Canadian Pacific shares and bonds into selling out at prices
far below the value of the securities, but the company
secured the desired capital on more favourable terms
than ever before in its history.
Breaking the silence which, in public, he had hitherto
maintained against the attacks of these adversaries,
Van Horne seized the opportunity afforded by an annual
meeting of the company's shareholders to administer
a temperate but stinging rebuke. In the course of his
remarks he said:
I wish, in the first place, to express the hope that unfriendly
remarks or impertinent comments upon the affairs of our neighbours will never characterize the meetings of the shareholders of
this company. For my own part, I would prefer not to refer to
their affairs at all; but lest continued silence should be misconstrued, I feel that I should, on this occasion, say a few words
about the attitude of the Grand Trunk Company, as indicated by
its acts in Canada and by the utterances of its president in England; and as to the latter, especially, I feel that I am more than
justified in what I have to say by the increasing freedom of his
remarks concerning this company, with which his shareholders
are entertained at their half-yearly meetings, and which clearly
indicate that he lacks that first requisite of good neighbourhood,
the faculty of minding his own business.
We have, as you know, scrupulously refrained from interference with any of the projects of the Grand Trunk Company, or
with its legislation or financial operations; and in our every-day
relations we have as scrupulously avoided rate-cutting and unfair
competition in any form. But almost every project and measure
of your company, from the time of its organization up to-this
day, has met with the active hostility of the Grand Trunk Company at every turn—in the Dominion and Provincial Parliaments,
in the money markets and in the public press. It is hardly necessary to go beyond the reports of the half-yearly meetings of the
Grand Trunk Company for proof of this.   At these meetings A Rebuke to the Grand Trunk Railway Co.    167
the most mendacious and absurd statements concerning the Canadian Pacific Railway seem to be received without question, and
insinuations against the credit of your company are greeted with
cheers. At the last meeting their president boasted of the successful interference of their officers in Canada with some of our
recent legislation—unwarranted interference with legislation relating to our internal affairs and in no way concerning the Grand
Trunk; and on the same occasion he indulged again in his often
repeated hints about impending disaster to your company. Our
offence is that in the necessary development of our railway system—in securing that independence which you know to be absolutely necessary to the success of the enterprise, we have come
into competition with the Grand Trunk in certain districts, and
that we have been obliged to go and get what the Grand Trunk
would not bring to us. But when your representatives signed
the contract with the Dominion Government for the construction
and future working of the Canadian Pacific Railway, they bound
you, without knowing it, perhaps, to an unwritten obligation, but
one from which there was no escape, to do practically all that
has been done since, and to do some things which have yet to be
done. The interests of the Grand Trunk were already firmly
established in the direction of Chicago, and they could not be reversed and made to fit in with yours. What is not to their interest the Grand Trunk people will not do, if they know it. They
saw, perhaps as soon as any, what the building of the Canadian
Pacific Railway implied, and they fought against it from the very
beginning, and with a Bourbon-like disregard for the logic of
events, they are fighting against it yet. They say a great deal
about the aggressiveness of the Canadian Pacific, about its extensions and acquisitions in Ontario, regardless of the fact that since
the Canadian Pacific came into existence the Grand Trunk has
absorbed in that province more than two miles of railway for
every one made or acquired by the Canadian Pacific, aside from
its main line. They wouid have it believed that the Great Western, the Midland, the North Shore, the Grand Junction and other
railways were acquired in frantic haste and without higgling about
prices because they would be profitable to their shareholders,
and not for the purpose of depriving the Canadian Pacific of
connections. They would have it believed that the Northern and
Northwestern Railways were acquired for the same reason, and 168    The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
with the friendly desire, at the same time, to secure a connection with the Canadian Pacific, and not for the purpose of preventing the Canadian Pacific from reaching Ontario from the
Northwest to advantage.
They also say a great deal about the assistance the Canadian
Pacific has received in the way of subsidies, forgetting that the
Grand Trunk and the lines amalgamated with or held by it have
received many times the amount of subsidies in Ontario and Quebec that the Canadian Pacific has received for its lines in these
provinces; and they forget to say that the Ontario and Quebec
railway, between Montreal and Toronto, about which so much
complaint has been made, was built without any subsidies whatever.
Every line made or acquired by the Canadian Pacific in Ontario was made or acquired with special reference to its necessity
to the general system of the Canadian Pacific Company—and in
no case because of mere profit in itself, but in no case, either,
without the certainty that it would be profitable. Whether or
not the extensive acquisitions of the Grand Trunk Company in
Ontario bring profit or loss to that Company does not concern us
any more than does the fate of the Canadian Pacific shareholders
concern the president of the Grand Trunk, according to his latest
half-yearly speech.
I should feel proud of the entire responsibility for the present
geography of the Canadian Pacific railway system if it all rested
upon me, for I believe that no mistakes of any consequence have
been made, and that the results have more than proved the wisdom of all that has been done; and I am confident that, with a
knowledge of the reasons which have actuated your directors
and with the results before you, there is little that you would
wish undone, or that you could afford to have undone.
Had you stopped at the completion of your main line across
the continent, your enterprise would have come to ruin long ago,
or, at best, it would have existed only as a sickly appendage of
the Grand Trunk. Like a body without arms, it would have
been dependent upon charity—upon the charity of a neighbour
whose interest would be to starve it. But to-day you have neither
the Grand Trunk nor any other company to fear, and the
monthly returns of net profit may be confidently depended upon
to furnish a conclusive answer to all the misrepresentations which
! A Rebuke to the Grand Trunk Railway Co.    169
have been so industriously showered upon us for the past eight
Van Horne did not sacrifice the company's interests
to his resentment against the Grand Trunk. At the
time of his address to the shareholders he was on the
eve of concluding an important traffic arrangement with
the enemy. His allusion to the acquisition by the Grand
Trunk of the Northern and Northwestern lines had reference to a move whereby that company had decidedly
stolen a march upon him. The Canadian Pacific was
labouring under a serious disadvantage, in time and
expense, in carrying the growing traffic between Ontario
and the Northwest and the Pacific coast over its very
round-about line by way of Smith's Falls. To overcome this advantage Van Horne had proposed, early in
1888, to utilize the Northern and Northwestern, which
gave a connection between Toronto and North Bay, a
point close to Sudbury Junction on the main line of the
Canadian Pacific. This would reduce the distance from
Toronto to Sudbury to 309 miles, as compared with 528
miles by way of Smith's Falls. But the Grand Trunk
had stepped in, bought the lines, and checkmated him.
Van Horne had immediately caused surveys to be made
for a direct line between Sudbury Junction and Toronto,
which would answer not alone for the main-line traffic,
but for that of the lines by way of Sault Ste. Marie as
well. A favourable route had been found, seventy miles
shorter than that of the Northern and Northwestern,
but in order to avoid the outlay of capital necessary for
construction, Van Horne had come to the conclusion
that it was expedient, despite the longer haul of seventy
miles, to effect an arrangement with the Grank Trunk to
handle the traffic from Toronto to North Bay over its
newly acquired lines. 170   The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne
Before the agreement with the Grank Trunk could be
effected the "Shore Line" was opened for traffic between
Montreal and the Maritime Provinces, and on the same
day a through train service was established by way of
the "Soo" line to St. Paul and Minneapolis. A few
weeks later the other American line connecting at Sault
Ste. Marie, the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic, was
also opened for business. The extension of the Ontario
and Quebec to Windsor and Detroit was practically completed, and the Canadian Pacific made an agreement
with three American roads for connections to Chicago,
St. Louis, and other western and southwestern points,
and for the