WHYTE, Sir William (1843-1914)
[Contemporary typescript copies of two letters written by a Canadian railway executive to President of the Grand Trunk Railway T. G. Shaughnessy, recording in great detail a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway and his impressions of the line and region]
Winnipeg: September 2 and 9, 1901. 4to. 10pp. and 43pp. respectively, plus 31pp. of additional tables of customs schedules and weight of merchandise through Vladivostock.
Early grey cloth, upper cover lettered in gilt.
An interesting contemporary account of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, by an important Canadian railroad executive.
"After a short career with a Scottish railway, William Whyte emigrated to the Canadas in 1863 and accepted a job as a brakeman on the Grand Trunk Railway. Rising through the ranks, he served as freight and station agent at various locations, culminating his career with the company as the assistant superintendent of its central division. In October 1883 he moved to the Ontario and Quebec Railway as its general superintendent and a year later, when this company was leased in perpetuity to the Canadian Pacific Railway, he became the superintendent of the Ontario division. In 1886 he was transferred to Winnipeg as the superintendent of the CPR's western division ... In 1901 Shaughnessy, who had succeeded Sir William Cornelius Van Horne as president of the CPR in 1899, appointed Whyte his assistant to advise him on 'all matters connected with colonization, proposed extensions of the Companys railway system, the development of industries along the Companys lines, the establishment of new business connections and the administration of the Companys lands, town-sites and other properties of that description.' In 1903 Whyte was elected second vice-president in charge of the western lines. He was promoted vice-president in 1910. Whyte's most pressing problem from 1901 was to solve the recurrent blockages hampering the export of grain from the prairies. Under his direction the company constructed nearly 4,000 miles of branch lines within a decade, multiplied its rolling stock, and experimented with ever-larger locomotives" (Dictionary of Canadian Biography). The primary reason for this trip would appear to be to ascertain whether the Trans-Siberian railway would make Siberia a significant competitor to Canada's grain exports. Focusing on Siberia, Whyte's epistolary reports goes into great detail on the route from Cheliabinsk to Vladivostock, the agricultural prospects and natural resources along the way (with a particular emphasis on Irkutsk), and the articles imported. Much of his information came from first-hand examination, as well as conversations with government officials and local merchants. He also comments on the construction of the railroad itself.