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

By Valerie Knowles | Go to book overview

Chapter Fourteen
Building the Cuba Railroad

First on the agenda was the purchase of an existing railway, the launching of surveys, and the acquisition of land. This was to be followed by construction, Van Horne contending that when the necessary authority could be obtained both to cross roads, rivers, and other public property that lay between the company’s parcels of land and to operate a railway, very little would remain to be done.834 In other words, he hoped — and probably expected — that once an elected legislative body had been established the railway would be so far advanced that no authority could or would want to kill it. Van Horne conceded, however, that his company was taking a great risk in plunging ahead, fully realizing that developments could interrupt its work “temporarily, and possibly for a long time.”835 But there was no time to be lost. More to the (unspoken) point, if the company did not move quickly — before the end of the American occupation — it risked the possibility of having to submit a competing bid for the construction of a central railway.

Before proceeding with construction the company purchased a majority of the stock of the Sabanilla & Moroto Railroad, which ran from Santiago to San Luis, a distance of twenty-nine miles (together with a branch line of twelve miles).836 Van Horne regarded this railway as the key to the whole enterprise, not only because of its location but also because of its charter, which gave it practically a monopoly in the vicinity of Santiago.837 The acquisition of this road would enable the Cuba Company to build its trunk line as quickly as possible from Santa Clara to a connection with the Santiago Railway at San Luis, a distance of 337 miles. When the need arose, branches would be constructed from this trunk line to areas of the country being opened to development.838

West of Santa Clara, however, the company would rely on established railways for all necessary traffic connections. This ran contrary to Van

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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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