William Cornelius Van Horne
The General Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), Van Horne’s job was to make sure the railway got built, pushing it west to meet up with the tracks being built into the mountains from Vancouver. Van Horne’s energy and drive were legendary. He joined survey teams and hefted a sixty pound pack through the wilds of the Rockies. No detail of the railway was too small for him to overlook. He had many and varied interests and hobbies, a restlessly curious mind; he slept very little. He would be an excellent dinner and drinking companion.
An engineer and a surveyor for the CPR, he was probably best known as the inventor of Standard Time. Once trains started crossing great expanses at great speeds, it became necessary to develop time zones. Before then, time was pretty much up for grabs, decided by every town or region as they saw fit. Fleming divided the entire world up into 24 zones. What’s less well known about him is that he invented something called Cosmic Time, which is the same all over the world. He actually had a special clock which shows Standard Time and Cosmic Time. Cosmic time never caught on. (But one of the interesting things about time zones in The Boundless, is that they’re a bit dodgy. Whenever the train passes through a time zone, there’s a little, shall we say, shimmer. An adjustment. A moment of confusion, maybe just a few second, which makes sleight of hand all the easier.) Fleming would make a good train companion, although his beard was so huge and terrifying, I wouldn’t want to sit directly beside him.
Known as the Miraculous Maren, she was one of Zirkus Dante’s star performers. An expert wire walker, she was also an accomplished escape artist. Her disappearing act was first rate. I’m sure she’d have all sorts of fascinating stories to tell, since she worked in circuses pretty much from birth on. Also, she’d probably be pretty good in a scrape. It’s always good to have a tightrope walker and a lock picker around.
Steele may be the closest thing we have to a Canadian Action Hero. He was sort of the first Mountie. (Actually he was the third to be sworn in, but no one knows about the first two.) An officer of the newly formed Northwest Mounted Police he marched across the country to the west, parlayed with Sitting Bull, battled Big Bear, and kept law and order in the Klondike during the Gold Rush. He was a mountain of a man, and conveyed unassailable authority. It’s possible he might be a bit of an egomaniacal bore, but if I were on an eleven-kilometre long train, a rolling city, like The Boundless, I’d want Steele there to keep law and order, especially if there was a rowdy saloon car, and a shooting gallery, and a circus menagerie.
Yeah, I’d want a sasquatch aboard too, safely caged at the back. But it might be pretty cool if he broke loose on the train….
Kenneth Oppel is the author of well known series’ Silverwing and The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. His latest book The Boundless was published on September 4th through David Fickling Books. You can read my review of The Boundless here, and find out more about Kenneth and his books via his website.