Wednesday, September 30, 2009

William Cornelius Van Horne and the Cuba Railroad Company

William Cornelius Van Horne, 1843 - 1915, began working on railroads in 1857, serving in various capacities on the Michigan Central Railway until 1864, then for the Chicago and Alton Railway for whom he served as the general superintendent from 1878 to 1879.

In 1882 he was appointed general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway and in 1884 became its vice-president. Rising to president in 1888, he is most famous for overseeing the major construction of the first Canadian Transcontinental Railway. Van Horne considered the railway an integrated communications and transportation system and convinced the directors and shareholders to create a telegraph service and an express freight delivery service as a complement to the railway.

Knowledgeable in nearly every element of the railway industry, including operating a locomotive, Van Horne later became a shareholder of the Cuba Railroad Company. He was also responsible for launching the sea transport division of the Canadian Pacific Railway, inaugurating a regular service between Vancouver and Hong Kong in 1891 on the Empress luxury liners.

He presided over the expansion of the CPR in the luxury hotel business and participated in the design of two of the most famous buildings in the chain, the Ch√Ęteau Frontenac in Quebec City and Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta. Van Horne served as a governor of McGill University from 1895 to 1915 and was one of the first in Canada to acquire artworks by members of the French impressionist movement. He built the Van Horne Mansion in Montreal and a large summer estate which he named "Covenhoven" on Minister's Island, adjacent to CPR's resort town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick. The island estate still exists today.

The certificate is beautifully engraved by American Bank Note Co. and is signed by Van Horne as president of the Cuba Railroad Company.

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