Abstract: Railroading a Renegade: Great Northern Ousts John Hendry in Vancouver

Frank Leonard


This paper probes the troubled relations between J.J. Hill's Great Northern Railway Company (GN) and Vancouver lumberman and railway promoter John Hendry, the president of the GN local subsidiary, as the transcontinental established the last of its Pacific termini in Vancouver during the period 1901-1908. An examination of the surviving records reveals a kind of pandemonium that swirled around GN actions concerning Hill's erstwhile Canadian partner. When the parent concern finally obtained effective control of the local property, a GN officer described the company's affairs in this episode as a "horrible muddle." Drawing on Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., the paper follows the lines of authority and communication between the Vancouver periphery and St. Paul headquarters in the corporate entity that was the GN. But it contends that the actions of company officers in this phase of terminus acquisition did not constitute the "rational economic response" that Chandler associates with administration. Thus, the analysis of this episode departs from the arc of American writing on the GN that suggests that its management was characterized by "efficiency" and "competence." The paper is part of a broader investigation of the activities of railway companies at Pacific termini from Prince Rupert to San Diego.