Old St. Andrews



Anecdotal Sir William



Anecdotal Sir William Van Horne


may 31/1894
Van Horne and the Telegraph Boy.
An amusing incident in which President Van Horne and a check boy in the employ of the CPR Telegraph Department figured, took placed, in the Company’s office, in Victoria one evening last week, says the Montreal Star. The railway magnate entered the office to send off an important message and as there were several customers sending messages at the time, he quietly waited his turn. As soon as they had finished their business, he handed his message to the boy, who carefully counted the words. In the corner Mr. Van Horne had written “D. H.,” and when the boy saw this he seemed puzzled for a moment or two, but quietly asked: “Will you please show me your pass, as I have to put the number on the message?”
            A look of astonishment passed over the president’s face which soon gave place to a smile. In reply he asked the lad how old he was. “Fourteen years old, sir,” was the quick reply. “And how long have you been in the company’s employ?” was asked. “About four months, sir,” the boy replied with a somewhat puzzled look. “Well, my lad,” said Mr. Van Horne, putting his hand in his pocket, and pullout a $5 bill, which he gave to the boy, “you are the smartest boy I have ever seen, and some day you will be president of the CPR. Send that message as soon as possible, and never mind the number of my pass, as I haven’t seen it this year. But it will be all right.”
            Mr. Van Horne with a smile then left the office, while the boy didn’t seem able to realize the situation at all, and when told by one of the operator, who had quietly enjoyed the scene, that he had been talking to the President of the CPR, his amazement may be imagined.        


Sept 17/1903
Some Anecdotes of the Great Railway Man
New York, Aug 11:
A civil engineer now in New York, but formerly employed on the construction of the CPR in Manitoba, tells the following anecdotes of Sir William Van Horne, then Mr. Van Horne, when the latter was in charge at Winnipeg:
            One of the construction engineers named S---, a somewhat original character, running short of hay for his horses, had foraged a little from a neighboring farmer. The latter magnified the incident and entered a bill against the CPR for very considerably more hay than was taken. The account eventually reached Mr. Van Horne who wrote with business briefness across the back. “What do you know about hay?” and sent it to Mr. S--. The latter replied with a four page treatise on hay, explaining how to clean land, plough, sow, harvest, ship and sell hay. Shortly after Mr. S--- left the company, presumably to take up farming.
            The following shows a side of human nature rarely seen. After the CPR construction was completed, the directors were moved to especially reward certain of the engineers who had done particularly good work, by the presentation of a little check for one thousand dollars. Among those to get this welcome souvenir was one Major Mc--, a good-hearted Hibernian, who had a very modest idea of his own attainments, had never pushed himself forward much and had always been content with a small salary and usually was penniless a few days after he got it, the receipt of this check caused the major much wonderment, he wouldn’t understand why it had been sent to him.  The company, on the other hand, were equally astonished, for several weeks had passed yet the check had never been presented for payment. They then sent a deputy to interview the Major; and the latter explained how he couldn’t understand why the chick had been sent him, and besides he had never before seen so much money at one time and that—well, that he had framed it; and he pointed to the check neatly framed over his bed.
            Shortly after this the Major received a summons from Mr. Van Horne who told him that the Company were so pleased with his work that they had decided to present him with a small token which they hoped he would accept in the spirit in was offered; and with that Mr. Van Horne took from his desk a gold watch with the Major initials engraved on it, and laid it in front of him. When the recovered from his astonishment he murmured his thanks, and reached over to take the watch; but Mr. Van Horne quickly covered it with his hand, saying, “But I have strict orders from the directors, Major Mc---, not to give you this watch until you cash that check.”


August 18/1904
A Story of Sir William Van Horne
When Sir William Van Horne was president of the CPR, the racing of that company’s and the Grand Trunk trains into Montreal was a constant source of danger to the public. Agitation grew hot. The city passed a law to prohibit it. Van Horne, called his engineers together one morning, and read aloud the ordinance.
            “Now men,” he said, “that the law, and you’ve got to obey it. I shall suspend any engineer who breaks it. That’s all I’ve got to say, except this, heaven help the engineer that lets a Grand Trunk train beat him into this town!”—London Scraps


June 10/1909
Sir William Van Horne in England
. . . Then Sir William passed on to talk of his Island at St. Andrews in the Province of New Brunswick, which he says is to him the wisp of hay in the donkey’s bridle—always leading him on. He is constantly looking forward to spending long leisure weeks at St. Andrews, but rarely gets there at all. The wisp of hay at St Andrews is a picturesque country home with a beautiful flower garden, every flower in which he knows. There he plants trees, and grows strawberries that have no equal in the world. IT is an idyllic life that Sir William goes in for there, albeit more in imagination than in reality, a life indeed remote from the bear garden of the Stock Exchange in which so many have their only recreation. So remote, in fact, that as he painted his joys, I began to think he was a true Arcadian.
            “But, Sir William,” said I, “do you never at St. Andrews divert some little time away from the panting of your trees and strawberries and spend it cutting coupons?” The twinkle that so often lighten those marvellous eyes of his, and which for a time seemed to be dreaming itself away, returned and flashed upon me. “When on my island,” he answered, “I do no business; and as to cutting coupons, the man who cuts coupons in this life is not the man who does useful thins. The man who is valuable and wise is the man who buys common stock and makes it pay dividends.”


Oct 28/1909
Prompt Sir William
A good many years ago a prominent railway contractor was in Sir William Van Horne’s office at the CPR headquarters at Montreal talking over some work that was in progress. The contractor and Sir William, says the Montreal Star, had a pretty lively discussion, and the former suddenly said: “Who is your chief engineer?” “I am the chief engineer,” said Sir William. “Well,” said the contractor, “you had better get another. You are going to have a bad accident, and the first thing you know you will be sent to jail.”
            Sir William punched a bell, and Mr. P. A. Peterson responded. “Peterson,” said Sir William, “you have served us long and faithfully, and you are hereby appointed chief engineer of the CPR.” Home Journal.


March 16/1911
Sir William Likes Men Who Do Their Duty
Sir William Van Horne has gone to England. It is rumoured that the object of his visit is to finance the Grand Falls pulp scheme. The St. John Times, in speaking of his departure from that port, says of Sir William:--
            “An incident that gives an insight into the character of the man, occurred as he was walking from the train to the steamer, smoking a cigar. A policeman stepped up to him and politely informed him that smoking was not allowed on the docks. Sir William promptly threw away his cigar. When a reporter who was with him remarked that the policeman evidently did not recognize him, he replied curtly: “He was perfectly right. That’s what we pay him for.”