Cy Warman: Pioneer Railroad Writer
 
Cy Warman
22 June 1855 - 11 April 1914

(The following is based primarily on information found on the Internet, so hardly constitutes in-depth research. While a goodly number of sites had details about his life in the U.S. before coming to Canada, for subsequent years information found was exceedingly scant. Conflicting details have been resolved using the best-guess system.)

Born in Illinois in June 1855, Cy Warman grew up on a homestead given to his father by the U.S. government for gallant service in the Mexican War. He had a meagre education, and got his first job, at the age of five, as water boy for a railroad construction crew. When he was older he thought about being a wheat buyer, but lost all but 50 cents when the market crashed on his $1,000 investment. He failed at several other business, and went to Colorado in 1880, first helping to plant an orchard in Canon City, then moving on to work a 12-hour night shift in a smelter and reduction plant.

Colorado was in the midst of a railroad binge, and Warman was attracted to it. He decided to be a locomotive engineer. The Denver & Rio Grande hired him as a general labourer. His second day on the job, doing a particularly hot and dirty task, he impressed the foreman who recommended that he be promoted to fireman. Three years later he was an engineer on what he called "The Perpendicular Run" from Salida to Leadville. One run was enough. But his experiences during this period gave him a future livelihood recounting the noises, smells, humour and romance of railroading. He began developing his flowing writing style. The railroad poems, read to fellow railroaders, had the cadence of locomotive wheels clicking on the rails. Never particularly strong physically, Warman had to give up the railroad work in body, but never in mind or spirit.

He began writing verses and short stories about railroad life. Railroad friends backed him in publishing a magazine called The Frog in Denver but it failed financially. In 1888 he became editor of the Western Railway Magazine, a semi-monthly; it also failed. The Rocky Mountain News hired him to cover railroads, crimes and politics, but he wanted to edit his own paper, and Creede beckoned.

He arrived there in March 1892, and began publishing the Creede Chronicle, said to have been one of the best mining camp newspapers in the state of Colorado. As well, he soon became a contributor to the New York Sun, through which he became known as "The Poet of the Rockies". But while having a surplus of talent, the Chronicle also had a drought-ridden purse. The Chronicle ceased publication in September 1892; Warman returned to Colorado Springs, becoming a reporter with the Rocky Mountain News.

After a time with the News however Warman became restless. He first went to Washington; then moved on to Canada. While living in London, Ont., in 1893 he wrote a love-poem to his girlfriend, Marie, which was in time put to music by a songwriter; a chocolate company then decided to capitalise on the popularity of the song, and the "Sweet Marie" bar came into being. Cy Warman and Marie were married1 a couple of years later, and together had four children in London. . He became well connected in Liberal party circles, and was regarded particularly highly by Frank Oliver who became the Minister of the Interior in 1905. In fact, Oliver increased the government's annual grant to the Western Canada Immigration Association on the understanding that the increase would be used to hire Warman as a staff writer. Warman spent some time in 1905 chronicling the construction of the Canadian Northern2 main line. In appreciation, the CNR named stations in Saskatchewan for both him and his daughter, Vonda.

Warman and his wife spent several years travelling in. Europe where he wrote about European and Asian railroads. His first book, "Mountain Melodies", was sold on trains, and at news-stands and tourist stops for 50¢ a copy. He wrote his first successful book, "Tales of An Engineer," in Paris in 1895, and found a ready market for his work.. He also wrote both verse and prose for Harper’s, The Century, and McClure’s Magazine, the leading periodicals of the day, and was a prolific contributor to innumerable tourist, railway and sportsmen’s pamphlets.

On April 11, 1914, in Chicago, Cy Warman died of paralysis[?]. Shortly before his death he wrote "Will The Lights Be White", which has appeared in recent editions of Bartlett’s Quotations.



Notes:
1    Not his first marriage. A first wife, and their two children, had died before his move to Colorado. One source refers to a second wife as being "a girl from Salida" to whom he was married for 20 years. As this would at least overlap his marriage to Marie, it has to be assumed as being erroneous, and in all likelihood the girl is Marie.
2    The only on-line site that referred to his railway associated activities in Canada has him going to write for the Grand Trunk as chief publicity writer. While possible that the GTR might have been his first stop, the information provided here, from "People Places"(University of Regina, 1997), suggests that any direct connection with a railway was solely, and briefly,  with the Canadian Northern.