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Photograph of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne

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Sir William Cornelius Van Horne

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Knights of the Steel Rails

Sir William Cornelius Van Horne - (1843-1915)

The Canadian Pacific Railway hired a remarkable American to manage the building of the railway. Van Horne was said to be an amateur geologist, first-rate gardener, caricaturist, conjuror, mind reader, violinist, practical joker, gourmet, and marathon poker player. He began his railway career in the United States at age 14. Working in an office, he learned Morse code that first year and became a telegraph operator. He worked his way up from ticket agent and train dispatcher, to general superintendent of the railway by the time he was 28. When Van Horne began to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, he boasted that 800 km of track would be laid in the first season. People laughed at the idea. However, 832 km was laid!

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