From a successful early career in railroad, Van Horne developed the Chicago, Milwakee & St. Paul Railroad system into a major competitor of James J. Hill's Great Northern. Hill was so impressed with Van Horne's skills, he recommended the latter as a director of the Canadian Pacific Railway, a position which Van Horne accepted. "The story of the building of the Canadian Pacific is mainly a history of his achievements in overcoming stupendous difficulties . . ." (DAB). A long period of success and growth followed and Van Horne resigned in 1899, only to begin a series of South American and Cuban ventures of which this Cuba Railroad was one.