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companies prepared by the Railroad Commissioners is more complete than the one prescribed in the law of 1872, and is so prepared and issued as to secure the returns of companies for the year ending the 30th of June next preceding the date of the Commissioners' annual report to the legislature, the State could properly enough dispense with the returns now required to be made to the Secretary of State, should the legislature so determine.
It also deserves to be noticed by the honorable legislature that the law relating to the report to be annually submitted by this Commission makes certain requirements which it has been practically impossible for the Commissioners to meet. Thus, their report is to be submitted "in the month of January," and yet is to embrace the doings of railroad companies for the year ending on the last day of the next preceding month. When it is borne in mind that the railroad companies require one to two months after the close of a business year to mike up their returns, and that the Commissioners must of necessity have considerable time to analyze the returns and conduct their report through the press, it will be apparent that compliance with this provision of the law (section 12, of chapter 273, laws of 1874) is utterly impossible. Under the circumstances, the Commissioners have deemed it proper this year to report the operations of railroads for the years ending December 31, 1874, and June 30, 1875, and in addition thereto to make such a report as was possible for the full year ending December 31, 1875.
It may also be mentioned that, by some clerical or other like error in drafting or engrossing, the Commissioners are required by a provision of section 12, of said chapter 273, to "mike return to the State Treasurer," instead of to the legislature, as was doubtless intended.
It would be well if these several defects in the law relating to the reports to be submitted to the State were corrected.
THE MILEAGE OF ROADS REPORTED.
The total length of railways reported to the Commissioners for the year ending December 31, 1875, was 4,875.26 of main line and branches. The mileage of total lines operated in Wisconsin was 2,565.73; total length of sidings exclusive of sidings of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and the Chicago & Northwestern Railroads, whose sidings are not reported, 86.39 miles. The total mileage of double-track reported is one-half mile.
But 20 miles have been added by construction during the year. This addition was made by the Wisconsin Central Company, as the first section of their new line from Stevens Point to Portage City. This is a very small increase, but it is not out of proportion with the increase in other States and countries.
The increase of mileage in this State for 1874 was but 87 miles; that of some neighboring States, as Michigan, for example, considerably less; the average for each State 85 miles; total increase in the United States, 1,940 miles. According to the best information that can be had at this date, the total increase in the United States during 1875 has been less than 1,500 miles. Fourteen of the States and Territories have added nothing at all to their mileage.
The increase of mileage in foreign countries in 1874 will appear from the following statement, taken from the Railroad Gazette, to have been only some 40 per cent. greater than in this country:
The actual and comparative ratio of Wisconsin railroad mileage to area and population, is as follows:
These statistics show that, in the building of railroads, Wisconconsin has acted with a moderation only exceeded by that of one other State, a fact worthy of notice by capitalists, and furnishing ground of encouragment for those who hold our railroad securities.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ROADS.
The lines reported have a gauge of 4 feet 8 inches, except the Galena & Southern Wisconsin Railroad, of which the gauge is 3 feet.
Up to January 1, 1876, the total of miles laid with steel rail was 599.10; miles laid with steel in Wisconsin, 212.60.
The weight of the steel rail is 60 pounds per yard; of the iron rail, 35 pounds on the Galena & Southern Wisconsin, 45 to 56 on the other less important lines, and 50, 56 and 60 on the greater roads.
The number, kind and length of bridges, trestles, culverts, etc., are so imperfectly reported that the returns are of little value.
EQUIPMENT OF ROADS.
The reports of equipment are incomplete, except for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and the Chicago & Northwestern roads, the leading particulars of which are as follows:
CAPITAL STOCK REPORTED.
The corporations doing business in this State-the Wisconsin Central, the Madison & Portage, and the Wisconsin Valley not included-reported a total capital stock on December 31, 1874, of $83,873,997.82, or $16,998.88 for each mile of road owned and operated. The amount on the 30th day of June, 1875, as reported to the Commissioners-the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western, the West Wisconsin, the Chippewa Falls & Western, and the Superior & St. Croix not reporting-was $88,802,597.82.
Allowing the amounts chargeable to the companies reporting in 1874, but not in 1875, to remain the same as at the former date, the total amount that should have been reported June 30, 1875, is $92,299,597.82, or $18,932.24 per mile of road; the Wisconsin Central not being included in either count.
The proportion of capital stock for Wisconsin, issued by companies also operating lines in other States, is shown below:
A reference to the lists of stockholders in the companies furnishing such lists will show how very small a proportion of the stock is held by citizens of this State. That this fact may the more readily appear, we present the relative number of reported shares held in and out of Wisconsin.
The funded debt of companies reporting June 30, 1875-the Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western, the Superior and St. Croix, the Chippewa Falls and Western, and the Wisconsin Central not being included was $75,629,360. The proportion of this debt belonging to Wisconsin, estimating that of the Chicago and Northwestern and Western Union, was, at the date above mentioned, $39,266,288.52.
The total unfunded debt reported June 30, 1875-debt of Chicago and Northwestern, Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western, Superior and St. Croix, Chippewa Falls and Western, and Wisconsin Central not included-was $4,549.164.11. The total reported funded and unfunded debt was $80,178,464.11. The total of stock and debt on June 30, 1875, was $168,878,127.58.
A detailed statement of the stock and debt will be found in the tables on pages 178, 186, and 187 of accompanying Official Papers.
The rate of interest payable on the bonded debt of our railroad companies is for the most part 7 per cent., the stronger companies of course, as a rule, paying the lower rate. The total amount drawing each of the several rates payable is shown in the following tabular statement:
The total amount of interest reported as paid during the year ending June 30, 1875, is $4,565,249.34, of which $1,981,273.49 was paid by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul company, and $2,230,439.68 by the Chicago & Northwestern company.
During the year 1874, there were in the United States at one time, 122 roads in default for non-payment of interest, the amount of bonds on which such default had been made amounting to $557,624,639. In that list of 122 there were 2 Wisconsin roadsthe Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western, and the Sheboygan and Fond du Lac.