In 1846, while still a boy, Octave Chanute and his father moved to New York City. This month long steamship voyage, (along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers through the state owned Canal-Railroad System across Pennsylvania to New York), left a lasting impression on the youngster. He was fascinated with modern technology and engineering.
While Joseph Chanut was engaged in literary pursuits, the young Chanute received his education in a New York boarding school. Engineers earned their “C.E.” (Civil Engineer) in the field, so in 1848 the teenager applied for a job with the Hudson River Railroad. When his application was turned down, he offered to work for free. A few weeks later he was hired as a Chainman, the lowest paid position at the railroad.
Later, Chanute had a long and distinguished career as a civil engineer in the transportation field. He worked for many of the major railroad companies, always looking to improve systems, always generating fresh ideas.