Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Biography & Autobiography Business

From Telegrapher to Titan

The Life of William C. Van Horne

by (author) Valerie Knowles

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2004
Business, Historical, General
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2004
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2004
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Winner of the 2005 Ottawa Book Award for Non-fiction , the 2005 University of British Columbia Award for Best Canadian Biography, and the Canadian Railroad Historical Association Award for Best Railway Book of the Year.
William Van Horne was one of North America’s most accomplished men. Born in Illinois in 1843, he became a prominent railway figure in the United States before coming to Canada in 1881 to become general manager of the fledgling Canadian Pacific Railway. Van Horne pushed through construction of the CPR’s transcontinental line and went on to become company president. He also became one of Canada’s foremost financiers and art collectors, capping his career by opening Cuba’s interior with a railway.

About the author

Valerie Knowles is an Ottawa writer who has taught history and worked as an archivist. In addition to writing for newspapers, magazines, and federal government departments, she has published several non-fiction works, including Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-1997. This is her third book for Dundurn Press.

Valerie Knowles' profile page


  • Short-listed, Ottawa Book Award for Non-fiction

Editorial Reviews

From Telegrapher to Titan is more than a biography; it is a first-rate work of business history, covering in detail the development of railways in 19th-century North America. -Graeme Voyer, Winnipeg Free Press, May 2, 2004.

This book is a must for any student of Canadian railway history.

Rail Canadien

This biography is a significant contribution to the history of Canadian transportation.

Winnipeg Free Press

Valerie Knowles has done an excellent job in describing the man and telling his story. The book is easy to read and, as in all good history books, includes a broad range of references. It is certainly well worth the read and is a must for anyone who wants to learn more about Van Horne.


Knowles has constructed an admirable biography of the railway titan ... providing a different perspective of the much-told story of the CPR, and also a portrait of Canada at the turn of the last century and the larger-than-life pioneers of Canadian transportation.

McGill News Alumni Quarterly

... her biography will remain a good reference book for all aspects of Van Horne's life and career for a long time to come.

The Beaver

Other titles by Valerie Knowles