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their roads are skillfuly and honestly managed, it is not difficult to predict. They will be able to operate with average rates even lower than the present, and pay handsome dividends from their net earnings. But until it can be shown that they are making larger earnings than are reasonable, caution should be used in imposing limitations upon their rates.
As shown by the returns made to the commissioners for the year ending June 30, 1875, the number and class of persons killed and injured on all the roads in 1874-5 were as follows:
Average proportion of persons killed and injured to miles of road, one to 50.66 miles.
Average proportion of persons killed and injured to passengermiles, 1 person to 1,038,813.18 miles traveled.
Average proportion of persons killed and injured to ton-miles, 1 person to 4,502,012.77 tons carried one mile.
The details will appear from Table XXXVII, page 216 of Official Papers, &c., and the particulars concerning the accidents from the several reports of companies.
Comparing the accidents for the last three years reported, the aggregates stand:
These figures indicate no improvement in the security of life and limb on the part of passengers, employee, or other persons, and suggest with urgency the importance of better provision than is commonly made to guard against accidents.
Records of accidents on all roads where coupling is done in the old way show that a large proportion of accidents and especially of deaths among employees result from this most hazardous way of connecting cars. Perhaps some provision of law increasing the pecuniary liability of companies not using every reasonable precautiot in the interest of their employees, would have the effect to abolish this and some other causes of injury and death.
INSPECTION OF RAILROADS.
With the view of ascertaining more reliably the condition of the roads themselves, as well as a personal knowledge of their practical management, one of the Commissioners, and the same who more particularly performed that duty last year, has again passed over the various lines; traveling on both freight and passenger trains, carefully noting the condition of roadways, and stopping at many stations for the purpose of gaining information by means of personal interviews with the station-agents and other employees, and with patrons of the roads. The other Commissioners have in like manner passed over a number of the lines and made similar observations.
The result of this general inspection has been, in the main, increased satisfaction with the character and management of our roads. There are cases in which roads have been allowed to deteriorate, and some in which the want of proper accommodations, and even a lack of safety, has forced itself upon ourattention. This is particularly true of one or two branches of the larger roads -as, for example, the Kenosha & Rockford-and of one or two independent lines, such as the West Wisconsin and the Sheboygan and Fond du Lac, which show considerable need of repairs not in progress.
But generally speaking, the Wisconsin roads compare reasonably well with the roads of any other Western State. As was remarked in our first report, they are ironed with rather light rail, as a rule, excepting the main lines of the two great roads, and are largely without a proper amount of ballast, or with none at all.
Some of the stations are yet wanting in accommodations for the traveling public, and here and there one finds a passenger-coach that should have been put upon the retired list years ago. But these same things are common in all the new States, and just now, in the case of some, there are financial reasons in the way of improvements the managers would be glad to make.
The Commissioners have noted some particulars as to condition of road and equipment that would demand correction did such matters fall within the scope of their duties.
The great lines are in fair condition and well equipped, so that they compare well with trunk lines in any portion of the West; indeed, with but very few exceptions, they will compare with the best roads at the East.
The general management of the lines is good and is manifestly improving. The officers in charge are men of marked ability, and manifest a desire to make their management satisfactory to the public. They have, without exception, treated the Commissioners with the utmost courtesy, and have at all times given respectful consideration to the matters officially brought to their notice. Of this statement the Commissioners' correspondence, a portion of which is here with submitted, will afford full corroboration.
THE PAPERS AND DOCUMENTS ACCOMPANYING THIS REPORT
are such as it was believed would be useful to the legislature and public as a means of affording a correct understanding not only of the condition and working of the railroads of the State, but also of the general questions relating to railway transportation and railway control.
The Official Papers, etc,
of the Commissioners consist of their official classification of roads and of rates of fare and freight, of the official returns made by railroad companies, and of tabulated statements of statistics and deductions from the returns made to the Commissioners.
Portions of the Commissioners' Correspondence
are again published, as a means of more correct information than could be otherwise furnished of the nature of the complaints made, of the opinions and sentiments entertained by complainants, of the
rulings of the Commissioners and the Attorney-General upon some important points of law, of the action of railroad officials in matters in which they were at issue with the public, and finally of the nature of the duties the Commissioners were called upon to discharge and the manner in which they have performed them.
It is not the purpose of the Commissioners to make publications of this kind in future reports.
consists of all railroad laws enacted in 1874, and 1875. There is frequent occasion to refer to these laws, on the part of the public, and they will be found convenient in connection with the report.
i. A synopsis of the proceedings held by the Supreme Court of the State in the important case of the Attorney General vs. the West Wisconsin Railway; and,
2. A quite full record of the proceedings held by the Supreme Court of the United States in the several appealed cases of Frederick Piek, et al, bondholders, and of C. D. Lawrence, et al, stockholders in the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company vs. the Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company, the Railroad Commisisoners, and the Attorney-General; also the cases of Ackley and Vilas vs. the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company., and of the State of Wisconsin vs. L. D.Stone; together with the briefs and points of arguments submitted by the eminent counsel who conducted these suits (which were all tried together and argued in common) on behalf of both the plaintiffs and defendents in error.
This case, as printed, makes a somewhat voluminous document, which immediately upon the receipt of the opinion and decision of the court, to be also included, will be ready for distribution as a document accompanying the Commissioners' Report. The magnitude of the interests involved in the decision to be made, and the eminence of the counsel engaged were deemed by a majority of the Commissioners sufficient warrant for the fullness of that publication.
In their first report your Commissioners devoted much space to a careful discussion of the general question of State control of railway corporations, demonstrating, as they believe:
(1) The necessity for some degree of control;
(2) The inexpediency, if not impractibility, of such measures as had been tried in many cases; and
(3) Pointing out such general measures as to them seemed both practicable and judicious.
On the first of these heads we have almost nothing to add by way of argument. The quasi public character of railway corporations, now almost universally' conceded, implies the right of the public to put upon them such restraints as experience has taught to be necessary to the public welfare. And accordingly the right to impose legislative restrictions has been affirmed and exercised, as was shown in our first report, by foreign governments in all parts of the world where the railroad has been introduced. It has also been asserted to a much greater extent in this country than the public are aware. The following eighteen States have a general law reserving the power to the legislature to alter, amend, or repeal charters, or have been in the habit of reserving such power in the charters themselves: Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Nebraska; while in the five following States the constitution reserves to the legislature the power to amend or repeal charters, namely, in New York, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, and Missouri. In still other States the right of supervision has been asserted and exercised by recent enactments, looking to the regulation of rates, and otherwise restraining railway corporations.
The right and even the expediency of a reasonable supervision is now conceded even by many of the ablest railroad managers of this and other countries.
In fact, it is coming to be everywhere recognized that the railway corporation, with its concentration of millions of capital, its extraordinary chartered privileges, and its natural, not to say inevitable, tendency to growth by absorption and consolidation, although immensely potent for the material and social progress of a 3 R R C