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score of a refusal to make continuous through-rates were against the West Wiscousin Railroad Company. The difficulty here arose out of the claim made by the officers of that company, (1) that it was impossible for them to make the road pay its operating expenses with any lower rates than they were receiving in 1873, and (2) that the last legislature evidently intended to grant them the relief they asked when it enacted the law (chapter 113) making a new classification, and giving to their own and other B companies the privileges of C companies under the provisions of the original "Potter Law."
With them, therefore, there was a serious obstacle in the way of pro-rating with the companies operating connecting lines. On the other side, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul and the Chicago and Northwestern companies excused themselves for non-compliance with the law as to division of earnings with the West Wisconsin company on the ground that they were unable to get an agreement to pro-rate on a just and equal Lasis. And so for a time each of the companies above-named charged the local rates. At length, however, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company gave orders to its agents to receive the legal through-rates and retain only the pro-ratae share of the earnings due to them under the law. [See p. 272 of Official Papers, accompanying this report.]
2. As to rates on the B roads.
But few complaints were made during the season on account of charges in excess of the legal rates by "B" companies. Indeed, of the Wisconsin Central no complaint has been made at all. And the complaints made by parties shipping on the West Wisconsin Railroad were confined to a very few persons. The effort made by the Commissioners to effect a satisfactory settlement of the difference in these cases, and the final result of these efforts will appear from the correspondence. [See especially pp. 272-3 and 305-6
Official Papers, etc.]
3. As to interchange of traffic.
Early in the past season there were a few complaints of violations of the provisions of section 4 of chapter 334, laws of 1875, relating to receiving and forwarding freight at connecting points, without requiring cars to be unloaded. But on this point the sev
eral companies appear to have complied with the law on learning what its requirements were.
4. As to pre-payment of freight charges.
Various complaints were filed against the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul, the Chicago and Northwestern, the West Wisconsin, and the Green Bay and Minnesota companies, (only one or two against the company last named) for demanding payment of charges in advance of final delivery, in violation of that portion of section 4 of chapter 334, laws of 1875, which provides that "advanced payment of freights shall not be required as a condition precedent to carriage, except in case of perishable freight or articles of little value." The correspondence growing out of complaints filed by Christian Obrecht of Sauk City, by Mason, Blood & Co., of Appleton, Van Brunt & Davis, of Horicon, and some other parties, (for which correspondence see especially pages 234 to 255 of accompanying Official Papers), will serve as illustrations of the embarrassments that were encountered in disposing of this class of complaints. They were easily settled when arrangements had been made for pro-rating; and for some time past no complaints of this sort have been filed in this office.
5. As to connection of passenger trains.
The great inconvenience, vexations, delays, and unnecessary expense entailed by the failure of passenger trains on different lines to make proper connection at common points, in times past, led to the adoption by the last legislature of section 5, chapter 334, laws of 1875, which places it in the power of the Commissioners to enforce close connections wherever they are found to be practicable, Several cases have arisen in which the services of the Commissioners were invoked in this behalf. And we report with pleasure that in every instance where it seemed possible to remedy the evil of bad connections, or no connections, it has been cheerfully and promptly done.
6. As to railway company returns.
Under the present law, the commissioners have no authority in express words to demand such reports as they may deem essential to a proper knowledge of the financial condition of companies and
the business done by them. Section 9, of chapter 273, laws of 1874, reads as follows:
"Section 9. Said railroad commissioners shall have power to administer oaths, or affirmation, to send for persons or papers, under such regulations as they may prescribe, and shall at any and all times have access to any and all books and papers in any railroad office kept for and used by any railroad company in this State."
And section 12 of the same law contains this provision:
66 * ** The board of commissioners shall prescribe the form and manner in which all reports from railroad companies under the provisions of this act shall be made, and suitable blanks for that purpose shall be provided (for) by the Secretary of State."
Acting under this general authority, and under the requirement of the law to make annual returns of certain facts relating to the cost, earnings, and indebtedness of railroads, your Commissioners, in conference with the Commissioners of the States of Illinois and Minnesota, prepared a certain "form" of reports to be requested of railroad companies, and sent printed copies thereof to the president of each company operating a road or roads in this State.
This communication and the form accompanying are printed on pages 5 to 23, inclusive, of Official Papers submitted herewith.
Except in the case of the Green Bay and Minnesota R. R. Co., (see pp. 293 to 300 of Official Papers and Correspondence) no protest was formally made against this demand. This company at length acquiesced, however, and made as full returns to the Commissioners as seemed practicable under the circumstances.
Returns were reasonably expected from some other companies which had not at all reported. And as the certainty of failure did not appear until it was too late to adopt the means authorized in section 9, above quoted, they are none of them represented in this report.
The following are the companies reporting:
Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul.
Chicago and Northwestern.
Galena and Southern Wisconsin.
Green Bay and Minnesota.
Madison and Portage (now Chicago and Superior).
Prairie du Chien and McGregor.
Sheboygan and Fond du Lae.
The companies not reporting are:
Chicago and Tomah
Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western.
Superior and St. Croix.
DEFICIENCIES OF THE RETURNS MADE.
It will be observed that the form of report adopted by the Commissioners (pp. 5 to 23) is far more systematic and complete than the form prescribed in chapter 119, laws of 1872, and heretofore used by the railroad companies in making their annual returns to the Secretary of State. Owing to this fact it is reasonable to suppose that the accounts kept were not adapted to such showings in every particular as were required by the new form. This will account for many of the deficiencies observeable in the fullest of the first reports made. There are particulars, however, in which there is but little ground for such allowance; such, for example as those found on page 81, 82 and 83, under the important headings, "Cost of Railroad and Equipment," and "Doings of the Year in Transpor tation." It would seem incredible that any railroad company should be without the data for answering such questions as are therein proposed concerning cost of right of way, cost of real estate exclusive of right of way, cost of equipment, the number of employees of every class, the mileage of freight and passenger trains, passenger mileage and ton mileage, the total freight of different classes in tons, and other matters of general importance.
The returns made by the Chicago and Northwestern Company are in some respects valueless because of the neglect to separate the Wisconsin from its other lines in making answer to questions relating to receipts, earnings, etc. It may be allowed that there are some difficulties in the way of such a separation, but they are not insuperable; and until such separate accounts are kept and estimates made the legislature and the people must remain very much in the dark as to the business done by that company on its Wisconsin lines. Some advantage in this and other particulars would doubtless be gained by the State were all companies owning or operating roads in Wisconsin required to have a branch office located within our own boundaries. This would be attended with
some inconvenience and additional expense, however, which should not be imposed unnecessarily.
Perhaps a method better than this, and better than the provision of the Michigan law imposing a heavy fine for neglect to make the reports provided for, would be to require the Secretary of State and the State Treasurer, on notice from the Railroad Commissioners that proper reports have not been filed, to add some definite percentage to be determined by the legislature-to the license-fee payable by the delinquent company. Either this, or a more general provision, requiring the Secretary of State to refuse the certificate of license to all companies until the necessary reports had been filed with the Commissioners, may be necessary in order to insure returns of real value.
The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Company has shown a commendable readiness to make as full and complete a report as the data in their possession would allow. Their report was promptly forwarded, and bears evidence of much pains-taking in its preparation.
As a whole, the reports are not so full and complete as it was hoped they would be made; certainly not so complete as is essential to any just comparison of the working economy of the different roads, nor sufficiently so to warrant the footings essential to a fair showing of the entire railroad operations of the State. Nevertheless, they will be found to contain some valuable information, not heretofore obtained by the State, and may be regarded, in the aggregate, as a good beginning of a system of reports that will yield satisfaction in the future.
CONFLICT OF LAWS RELATING TO REPORTS.
Allusion has already been made to chapter 119, laws of 1872, which requires each railroad company doing business in Wisconsin to make on or before the 1st day of Feb. (see law) in each year, a report of its transactions for the year ending on the 31st of the next preceding December. As the report made each year by the Secretary of State is for the fiscal year ending September 30, it results that the information contained in the railway returns therein embodied, can only reach the public and the legislature for a year or more after the date to which that information belongs. On these accounts, and also because the form of report for the use of railway