Mackenzie, Sir William

Sir William Mackenzie, railway entrepreneur (b in Eldon Twp, Peterborough County, Canada W 17 or 30 Oct 1849; d at Toronto 5 Dec 1923). Though he was both a teacher and local politician, his chief interest was business. He was a gristmill and sawmill owner in his native Kirkfield, Ont, and then a railway contractor 1874-91 in Ontario, BC, Maine and the North-West Territories. In 1891 he became part owner of the Toronto Street Railway, the first of many such investments on 3 continents. In 1899 he helped found a company later called Brazilian Traction (BRASCAN), and was its first chairman.

With Donald MANN, in 1895 Mackenzie had begun to assemble prairie railway lines and charters that would form the nucleus of the CANADIAN NORTHERN RAILWAY. Completed in 1915 from Halifax to Victoria, it was one of 3 Canadian transcontinental railways. In 1911 both Mackenzie and Mann were knighted. National and personal economic difficulties resulted in the nationalization of the Canadian Northern in 1918. Eventually, with the Grand Trunk and Intercolonial railways, it became part of the CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAYS system. Mackenzie's career personifies the optimism and energy of the economic boom, 1896 to 1913.