The National Railways
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Dec 1922, p. 334-339


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Creator:
Thornton, Sir Henry, Speaker
Media Type:
Text
Item Type:
Speeches
Description:
The task to try and make our Canadian National Railways System not only pay, but also to meet the transportation requirements of the community and to become the pride of the people of Canada. Gaining the confidence of the people of Canada, particularly the shipping and travelling public, and gaining the confidence and arousing the enthusiasm of officers and men on the railway. A request for confidence and support that is justified by action. Keeping the people of Canada as fully acquainted with the doings of their railway system as the welfare of the property permits, through the medium of the Press. Gaining the confidence and support of those who work on the railway, the officers and the men. The speaker's desire to undertake as soon as possible, a study of the development of the water power of Ontario in a logical, constructive fashion, in order to settle the difficulty which Ontario has experienced on account of having no coal at our doors. The essential need for a cheap and adequate supply of fuel, or power, for industrial development. Having to develop on the railway system that old question of team work.
Date of Original:
11 Dec 1922
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Language of Item:
English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
THE NATIONAL RAILWAYS
AN ADDRESS BY SIR HENRY THORNTON, K.B.E., PRESIDENT, CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS.
Before the Empire Club o f Canada, Toronto,
December 11, 1922.

THE PRESIDENT, Sir William Hearst, introduced Sir Henry who was received with three cheers and a tiger.

SIR HENRY THORNTON.

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,--I thank your President for his very kind introductory remarks, and I thank you for the enthusiastic and courteous way in which you have received those remarks. As Sir William has said, your presence here is an eloquent testimonial to the interest you take in your railways, and in the Canadian National System. Certainly, with such an enthusiastic population back of me in the attempts which the directors and myself will undertake to make your railways a credit to the people of Canada, the knowledge that you are behind me is half the task. Gentlemen, I thought I knew something about railway work before I came to Canada; I thought I knew something about Canada as well; but I am very much in the position of the young man of Hebrew persuasion who graduated from his university after having pursued a very expensive course. He came to his father, who

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Sir Henry Thornton, K.B.E., was educated at St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire, and at the University of Pennsylvania. He was General Superintendent Long Island R.R., 1911-14; General Manager Great Eastern Railway, England, 1914-22, and is President Canadian National Railways, 1922.

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said: "Well, what are you going to do?" The boy said, "I think I shall go to Aberdeen." "Why to Aberdeen? You know very well that none of our persuasion ever made a living in Scotland." But the young man replied, "Yes, father, I am going to Aberdeed to finish my education." (Laughter)

Now, Gentlemen, I think this is the largest audience that I ever inflicted myself upon, and I hope that the operation will be painless, and that you will all escape with no cold chills or other maladies.

All forms of human activity are really forms of sport. It is competition, it is the desire to do something which is difficult, that lures us into all sorts of outdoor and indoor forms of competition. In pursuit of this conquest, some of us attempt to play golf, and perhaps we make up in depth what we lack in distance. Again, there are those of us who aspire higher, and endeavour to conquer the snow-clad heights of Mount Everest. Then there are certain courageous individuals who are willing to undertake the task of trying to make the Canadian National Railway System pay. (Laughter) But, at any rate, it is always the lure of the difficult which attracts men who really have red blood in their veins. That is the task which concerns you and me, to try and make our Canadian National Railway System not only pay, but also to meet the transportation requirements of the community and to become the pride of the people of Canada. (Applause)

I have said it so many times that it is hardly worth while to repeat it, but if I ignore the subject, perhaps some will think I am weakening. Therefore, again I must touch upon the activities of the nefarious politician. I can only repeat what I said before, and, incidentally, the masterful way in which your Chairman handled the proceedings of this meeting, as well as the effective way in which he eliminated all possible political discussion, leads me to think that really he should have my job. (Laughter)

Well, Gentlemen, my task involves two fundamental things: first to gain the confidence of the people of Canada, and particularly the shipping and travelling public, and secondly, to gain the confidence and arouse the enthusiasm of officers and men on the railway. It is very easy to make promises and to talk, but it is very difficult to talk without saying something, and I have had rather a steady job since I came to Canada, of talking considerably and saying little, chiefly because it is not in the interest of the Railway System that my thoughts and opinions should crystallize before I have had an opportunity of fully examining the position.

Gentlemen, it is an extraordinarily difficult thing to possess an open mind when one listens to such formidable and impressive arguments as I had the pleasure of hearing this morning from the delegates of your Board of Trade with respect to locating the headquarters of the System in Toronto, (applause) and it is all the more difficult to resist arguments which appeal to reason when they are likewise accompanied by such as those which appeal to both the head and the heart. But at any rate, Gentlemen, the matter in respect of which the delegates from the Board of Trade came to see me this morning is one upon which I can give no great encouragement; and when I say that, I mean no more encouragement than any other city. Suffice it to say, however, that the arguments were forcibly presented, and those of us who have to decide this question will certainly give to the city of Toronto every consideration and every sympathy.

In the conduct of this railway, which is yours, I hope that in its administration, by fair and just dealing, by a true consideration of freight and, passenger rates, by a full recognition of the demands of all the different parts of this Dominion, I hope by doing all that, we who are in charge of this administration will gain your confidence and your support. I only ask that you give to us that confidence and that support which you think our action justifies. Promises are not of much value until they are translated into action. Promises should be made with just as much care as you put up collateral because when you have cashed your promises, if they are made without due consideration, they become extraordinarily embarrassing. That is the reason I am going to be exceedingly careful in making any promises. But at any rate, Gentlemen, we approach this task with the view to being really and honestly the servants of the people of Canada, and to that extent, and only to that extent, we ask your support.

Another thing that I shall hope to do from time to time, through the medium of the Press, is to keep the people of Canada as fully acquainted with the doings of their railway system as the welfare of the property permits. It is right that you should know what the position of the Canadian System will be with respect to properties and all those things which interest us jointly. So I am very anxious that there should be complete information, just as complete as possible, furnished to the people of Canada with regard to their railway system.

Now, if we can gain the confidence of the public, there is one thing more than is required, and that is the confidence and support of those who work on the railway, our officers and our men. No general ever won battles unless he was practically backed up by a courageous, patriotic and enthusiastic army. The human element is a vital factor in the administration of any great property such as this one of ours. Confidence in the staff, in the officers and in the men, is inspired by the ready settlement of complaints, by just and fair treatment, and by as liberal wages as the condition of the property will permit. I hope that if we pursue this course we shall gain your support, and that our men shall take a pride in their work.

Now if you look at the map of Canada and study the mineral portion, you will see that between Winnipeg and Nova Scotia there is apparently very little, if any, coal. But Nature in her wisdom has given you a substitute for coal, and that is, an almost unlimited potential source of water power. It seems to me that the province of Ontario is perhaps more interested in that problem than any other, and that the development of the problem will determine to a large degree your future industrial prosperity. I am anxious to undertake as soon as possible, and in connection with the proper authorities of the province, and the proper municipal authorities, a study of the development of the water power of Ontario in a logical, constructive fashion. I believe that if this can be done we shall, to a large degree, settle the difficulty which perhaps you may have experienced on account of having no coal at your doors. A cheap and adequate supply of fuel, which is another way of saying "power," is essential to the industrial development of any community, and therefore it does seem to me that the development of the water power in the province of Ontario is of vital importance to you. (Applause) I hope to take up this work in a constructive fashion and in logical sequence with your public authorities, that we may work to one end, that is to say, the development of your full water power sources of energy.

One of the most essential things which we shall have to develop on our railway system is that old question of team work. Team work is born of a variety of things. It is born first of comfortable living conditions, because no man can become very enthusiastic about his employer unless he is living in comfort and in decency and under sanitary conditions. It is also born of a feeling of justice. And last, by no means least, it is born of esprit de corps. Now, if we develop team work amongst our men and amongst our officers, and if we can in turn secure the co-operation of our shippers, I do not think there need be any particular doubt about the result. (Applause)

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, I should like to speak at much greater length and much more to the point, but I know that you will appreciate that until I have had full opportunity of examining the position that confronts me, I cannot say very much. Furthermore, I have got to go to Belleville this afternoon, because I have a suspicion that when I arrive there, Belleville may perhaps want to be the headquarters of the Canadian National System. Primarily, I am going there to participate in a dinner to be given to the Vice-President of the Grand Trunk Railway, Mr. Robb, who is a resident of Belleville; but I have not much doubt that the people of Belleville will not be slow in putting forward the advantages of their city, just as others have done; consequently, I shall have to cut this address rather shorter than I should like.

May I in conclusion thank you all very much, from the bottom of my heart, for the trouble you have all taken in coming here to listen to me? As your Chairman has said, your presence here is of itself an indication of the interest you take in our problem, and that is a compliment which I deeply appreciate; therefore I am deeply grateful to you for having come, and I hope that upon some future occasion we may meet, and that I may have the opportunity of making announcements which will interest you more than the rather rambling and general remarks which I have made today. (Loud applause)

SIR WILLIAM MULOCK, at the request of the President, expressed the thanks of the Club to Sir Henry Thornton for his address.

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The National Railways


The task to try and make our Canadian National Railways System not only pay, but also to meet the transportation requirements of the community and to become the pride of the people of Canada. Gaining the confidence of the people of Canada, particularly the shipping and travelling public, and gaining the confidence and arousing the enthusiasm of officers and men on the railway. A request for confidence and support that is justified by action. Keeping the people of Canada as fully acquainted with the doings of their railway system as the welfare of the property permits, through the medium of the Press. Gaining the confidence and support of those who work on the railway, the officers and the men. The speaker's desire to undertake as soon as possible, a study of the development of the water power of Ontario in a logical, constructive fashion, in order to settle the difficulty which Ontario has experienced on account of having no coal at our doors. The essential need for a cheap and adequate supply of fuel, or power, for industrial development. Having to develop on the railway system that old question of team work.