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this road in connection with the other roads of the State of Wisconsin at the "Potter-law" rates, with the Quimby amendment which do not leave to this road the cost of doing the business. And while I, believe that the people are now satisfied that railroads cannot pay operating expenses under this law, and also that the legislature last winter intended, if they did not actually do so, to relieve the West Wisconsin and other weaker railroads from the operation of this law; and while you and I both know that the West Wisconsin Railroad has failed, and is owing to people in your section of the country many thousands of dollars, which it has no means of paying, as well as having defaulted in all its interest, in consequence of this unjust action towards it, I am still going to try and keep this road running until the next session of the legislature, by charging such rates as will let the road earn current expenses, and pay necessary repairs, to keep the road safe, allowing nothing for investment.
If you and the other customers of this railway company are not willing to help me, by paying such reasonable prices, but propose to continue to demand what the "Potter-law rates, with the Quimby amendment allows you," it will cease operating, and those who push it to this extremity must be responsible for the consequences.
It has no credit, and to secure the services of its employees I have been obliged to promise them personally that while it continued to operate they should be paid monthly, and when it would not earn enough to pay them for their daily work, they should be notified, and the road should stop.
I tell this frankly to you, that in case it stops, you may not claim before the people that you did not understand the situation. I have done all in my power to prevent this condition of affairs and can go no further.
H. H. PORTER, President.
N. B.-I have requested Mr. Swan to present this letter to you, and to ask you what action under this condition of affairs, you are willing to take, to held save this great disaster to your section of country.
H. H. P.
M. Pedrick to Commissioner Hoyt.
RIPON, September 27, 1875.
DEAR SIR: Your favor of sometime since is received; also a long communication from President Porter, setting forth that the exactions of the law were ruinous, etc. But he fails to see that the exactions of the R. R. are such that it cuts off shipments in certain. localities, so that they get no business from it. I shall probably see 18 R R C-II (Doc. 15)
Mr. Porter before many days, and hope to arrange matters in some
KENOSHA, WIS., April 26, 1875. GENTLEMEN:-I ordered a car-load of cedar fence-posts by Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company, from Peshtigo, in this State, which the local agent, (as I suppose him to be) there billed at 2,000 pounds, $27.00, and so advised me. The railroad company stated in the bill that the car exceeded 2,000 pounds by the amount of 300 pounds, that being the alleged excess, and charged us as follows:
From Peshtigo, car No. 3195; W. B. No. 56; car initials N. W1; date of way-bill, April 23. Cedar posts; weight, 23,000; rates 13); $31.05, excess of $3.00-$34.05; which I paid under protest.
Now I should like to know why I am compelled to pay $3.00 because the consignor, not having the means of knowing the weight of a bulky article like cedar posts, simply filled the car, presuming it within the usual amount? and who authorized or authorizes this railroad company to inflict penalties on consignors in this way? To payment at the rate of 134 for the excess, I do not object to but I think the infliction of a penalty, nothing but extortion, as it is obvious that neither consignor or the consignee had the means of ascertaining the weight in the first instance. Since the passage of the law (the Potter-law, which, by the way, I did not favor,) I have had but little to do with railroads here in matter of freight. I used to think them reasonable in their charges here, but, since the passage of that law, I know there is no such thing as equity in their charges. I submit the above for your information, with the remark that if any evidence was wanting of necessity for restriction, it would be such practices as this.
Extracts form the instructions to agents: "Excess of 20,000 and not exceeding 22,000 pounds will be charged a proportionate rate
and in addition thereto an excess on penalty of 10 cents per 100 pounds, for the weight above 22,000 pounds.
S. T. BRANDE.
Commissioner Hoyt to H. H. Porter.
OFFICE CF RAILROAD COMMISSIONERS,
MADISON, Wis., May 4, 1875.
DEAR SIR:-Complaint is made by one of your patrons that he has been obliged to pay a penalty of $3 on a load of fence-posts, billed to him as weighing 23,000 pounds. He did not object to paying a pro-rata charge for excess over a car load of 22,000 pounds, (assuming that to be the standard,) but paid the $3 penalty under protest; claiming, that, inasmuch as he had no means of determining the weight of the car as loaded, and had no intention to over-load, or suspicion that he was doing so, anything in the way of smart money should be consideredextortion.
It is conceded that regulations governing the matter of loading are proper, but they should be of such character as not to subject the shipper to penalties, regardless of his desire and purpose to comply with those regulations.
If facilities for determing the actual weight are not furnished, should not shippers be furnished with a standard scale of measurements, observance of which would save them from penalties, which are always odious and irritating? Granting that the standard classification of the M. & St. P. R. R. Company, of June 15, 1872, provides for third-class rates on lumber loaded in any one car in excess of 22,000 pounds," (Mr. Wicker's letter of November 13th, 1874.) still nothing is plainer to my mind than that such provision is a mere regulation of said company, not only without legal authority, but actually contrary to the letter and intent of chapter 273, laws of 1874, which place lumber in a special class, and only applies the Milwaukee & St. Paul "standard classification" to the four general classes.
Assuming the correctness of this position, it is plain that no regulations of any railway company fixing a penalty of the sort herein referred to could have the sanction of the courts, unless it could
be made to appear that it was based on reason and justice; was in fact essential to the protection of the company.
But again, allowing for the sake of the argument all that has been claimed by Mr. Wicker, and is now claimed by your agents, in justification of the rule fixing a penalty of ten per cent. on weights in excess of 22,000 pounds, regardless of the kind of freight and lack of facilities for weighing, your agent is still wrong in this particular case in that he admits the excess to be only 1,000 pounds, (23,000-22,000) and yet compels the payment of a penalty of $3, which is not "ten" but thirty cents per 100 pounds of the weight in excess.
I have written at such length because of the principle involved in this question of penalties, and because of my faith in the declared purpose of your company to conduct its business in a manner that shall justly entitle it to the patronage and good will of the public. Hoping to hear from you at your earliest convenience, I remain my dear sir,
H. H. PORTER.
JOHN W. HOYT,
B. C. Cook to the Commissioners, in reply
OFFICE OF CHICAGO, & N. W. R. R. Co., CHICAGO, May 16, 1875. GENTLEMEN:--Your letter of the 4th inst., to Mr. H. H. Potter, general manager, has been referred to me.
Complaint has been made that a party has been charged $3 penalty for loading 23,000 pounds of lumber upon a car; and you say, "It is conceded that regulations governing the matter of loading are proper, but they should be of such character as not to sbject the shipper to penalties regardless of his desire and purpose to comply with these regulations."
We fully agree to this proposition, and the rule which has been adopted by this company, I submit, is reasonable, and will not subject the shipper to any penalty if he has the desire and purpose to comply with the regulations. Our cars are constructed to carry 20,000 pounds. Any load over this amount, isdangerous, and an un
necessary strain upon the cars, which very soon disables them. To guard against this the following rule has been adopted: "The rates are fixed for car-loads of 20,000 lbs., excess of 20,000 lbs., and not exceeding 22,000 lbs., will be charged a proportionate rate; excess of 22,000 lbs. and not exceeding 24,000 lbs. will be charged a proportionate rate [and, in addition thereto, an excess of penalty of 10 cents per 100 lbs. for the weight above 22,000 lbs."
You will observe that 2,000 lbs. is allowed for any error or mistake in judgment. This company has a right to require that its cars shall be loaded only to the extent of 20,000 lbs. I submit that it is reasonable to suppose that a person shipping lumber need not be mistaken more than 2,000 lbs. in the weight of a car-load; and you will also observe that no penalty is imposed until after there is an excess of 2,000 lbs., and then the penalty is only imposed upon that excess. The amount so charged, does not by any means compensate the company for the destruction of its cars caused by overloading.
You say, "If faculties for determining the actual weight are not furnished, should not shippers be furnished with a standard scale of measurements, observance of which would save them from penalties which are always odious and irritating?"
I answer that there can be no such thing as a standard scale of measurements, the difference in the weight of different kinds of lumber being so great that no uniform scale of measurement could be adopted, the weight of the lumber not depending upon the bulk together, but upon the kind and seasoning. Lumber is manufactured in Wisconsin, in so many places, and at some points in such small quantities that to furnish facilities for determining the actual weight of lumber at each point of shipment would cost the company more than any profit it would derive from the transportation of the lumber. I presume it is fair to assume that lumber dealers and shippers are familiar with the weights of the different kinds of lumber they ship.
It is easy for the shipper to determine for himself, the weight of a bundle of shingles, and so ascertain from the number of bundles, the weight of a car-load, or to determine the weight of a number of posts or boards, and so approximate very nearly to the weight of a car-load of the same material; certainly not making mistakes of over 2000 pounds in a car-load of 20,000 pounds.