William Cornelius Van Horne’s travelling parlour of power was his office on the rail car “Saskatchewan,” custom-built in 1883 and used by the magnate during the construction of Macdonald’s national dream. It is on display in the Great Hall of Exporail in Saint-Constant, Quebec. Van Horne ferried founding fathers and prospective investors aboard Saskatchewan during junkets meant to cajole funding for completion of the CPR.
Van Horne, formerly of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, first came to Canada in 1882 as general manager of the CPR. He is credited with the rapid completion of the main line between Montreal and Port Moody. Later, as the CPR’s president starting in 1888, he commanded the highest salary ever paid at that time to a railway manager.
The DCB emphasizes that Van Horne “liked big things: the largest and best locomotives, the biggest salary earned by a North American railway executive, generous (sometimes double) meals, big Cuban cigars, the massive Camagüey hotel, the huge gardens and broad roof of his beloved Covenhoven [his summer home on Ministers Island, New Brunswick], the unusually large rooms and high ceilings of his Montreal home, the size of many of his own paintings and most cherished works of art, the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains and the CPR’s hotels, his visions of world-wide systems of commercial transportation and trading, and the greatness of the British empire. This passion for bigness, complemented by a usually keen eye for detail, was matched by exceptional energy, vision, and enthusiasm which made it possible for Van Horne to achieve or obtain many of the great things he so prized. His interests were numerous and varied, but construction of the CPR was his greatest contribution to Canada.”
Theodore D.Regehr, “VAN HORNE, Sir WILLIAM CORNELIUS,” in EN:UNDEF:public_citation_publication, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 11, 2014.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/van_horne_william_cornelius_14E.html.
Exporail: The Canadian Railway Museum: http://www.exporail.org/en/