From Telegrapher to Titan


  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.


Ottawa Book Award for Non-fiction


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.

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.

Branchline (June, 2005)

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

Winnipeg Free Press (May, 2004)

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 (January, 2004)

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

Rail Canadien (September, 2004)

... 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 (October, 2004)

About the Author

Valerie Knowles

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014

Valerie Knowles

Valerie Knowles is a journalist and writer who has published eleven non-fiction works. From Telegrapher to Titan: The Life of William C. Van Horne won the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography for 2004 and the City of Ottawa Non-Fiction Book Award for 2005. She lives in Ottawa.