On February 3, 1843, one of North America’s most accomplished men was born. Born and raised in Illinois, William Van Horne started working in the railway business at a young age. After an impressive railway career in the United States, he was lured north to Canada in 1881 to become general manager of the fledgling Canadian Pacific Railway. In this capacity, he pushed through the construction of the CPR’s transcontinental line and then went on to become the company’s president. During his time with the CPR this hard-working visionary moved it into such non-railway sectors as maritime fleets, agricultural and timber lands, grain elevators, flour mills, and hotels. In fact, he has been credited with establishing an international tourist industry of significant dimensions in Canada.
A man of prodigious energy and imagination, he also built a railway in Cuba and became Canada’s foremost art collector and one of the country’s leading financiers. For all of his amazing achievements, Van Horne was knighted in 1894. When he died in 1915, church bells throughout Cuba tolled to mark his passing, and when his funeral train journeyed across Canada, all traffic on the CPR system was suspended for five minutes.