From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne

By Valerie Knowles | Go to book overview

Chapter Seven
Cutting Costs

In January 1883, Van Horne could look back on a year in which, claimed the Victoria Daily Times, “the amount of work accomplished [had been] perfectly astonishing.”344 Although frost had stopped the grading crews on November 13, track-laying had continued until early January, a month of brutal cold on the Prairies. By that time CPR rails were in sight of what is now Maple Creek, Saskatchewan, 585 miles west of Winnipeg. Approximately 418 miles of track had been laid since work began in April. Since 110 miles of track had also been laid on the southwestern branch in Manitoba that same year, the number of main line track miles laid in 1882 totalled 528; to this total should be added a further 57 miles of sidings. Any informed observer would have to concede that the hard-driving general manager had made good on his rash boast that he would build 500 miles of track during the 1882 construction season.345

The previous year’s accomplishments certainly gave Van Horne plenty of reason to rejoice. Nevertheless, he well knew that almost overwhelming problems still remained to be tackled. These were the difficulties and costs associated with construction in the Rocky Mountains and around the north shore of Lake Superior, that vast inland sea that seduces by its beauty and intimidates by its ferocious storms, which materialize suddenly and lash relentlessly. Of a magnitude hitherto never experienced, these construction problems would tax his determination and ingenuity to the limit during the ensuing construction seasons.

Meanwhile, in the opening months of 1883, the general manager continued to maintain a frenetic pace. In February, before the start of the new construction season, he hustled off to New York, where, he informed Addie, he was “very busy.” On his return to Montreal, he plunged into a gruelling routine that called for him to toil until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. every

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From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Table of Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Acknowledgements 11
  • Prologue 13
  • Chapter One - Growing Up in Frontier Illinois 17
  • Chapter Two - Early Career 37
  • Chapter Three - Rapid Advancement 55
  • Chapter Four - New Challenges and Hobbies 83
  • Chapter Five - New Horizons 95
  • Chapter Six - Toward the Last Spike 117
  • Chapter Seven - Cutting Costs 147
  • Chapter Eight - The Final Push 175
  • Chapter Nine - All That Grant Was to the U.S.a 209
  • Chapter Ten - Van Horne at the Helm 239
  • Chapter Eleven - Art for Art’s Sake 283
  • Chapter Twelve - Family Matters 299
  • Chapter Thirteen - Cuba Beckons 325
  • Chapter Fourteen - Building the Cuba Railroad 339
  • Chapter Fifteen - Chasing the Money 367
  • Chapter Sixteen - Dodging the Grim Reaper 397
  • Afterword 429
  • Bibliography 433
  • Notes 443
  • Index 495
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