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Commission finally decided that the only practical solution of this problem was to construct a new highway on the east side of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad's tracks for a distance of about 4,000 feet, then build an overhead bridge, which would, so far as the public is concerned, eliminate four very dangerous grade crossings, and especially dangerous in view of the fact that this is practically the only outlet from the city of Charleston and is the main road to North Charleston and the port terminals, which contributes to increase the hazard almost beyond description, as is evidenced by the number of fatal accidents that have occurred at this point. It gives the Commission pleasure to report to your honorable body that this menace is now in course of elimination, and the county authorities of Charleston, and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, assisted by the Railroad Commission and the State Highway Commission, have reached an amicable agreement relative to the work. This work is to be completed within ninety days from January 1st, 1920, and when completed will most assuredly relieve one of the greatest hazards so far as railroad grade crossings are concerned that has been maintained in South Carolina.
The Commission is pleased to report that the number of accidents to passenger trains in South Carolina for 1919 has been few compared to those occurring in years prior to that time. During the year 1919 five passengers were killed; 169 were more or less injured, and 16 railroad employees were killed. The Commission has personally investigated these accidents either on the ground or by special hearings, and while in some instances there might have been a lack of diligence or proper care somewhere in the management of the roads on which these unfortunate accidents happened, but in the great majority of these cases the accidents were unavoidable and due to conditions over which human beings have little or no control. However, the Commission has used every effort to see that every precaution known be taken in order to prevent such unfortunate occurrences.
TRESPASSING UPON RAILWAY RIGHT-OF-WAY. Since our last report to your honorable body there have been some deaths and some injuries to a number of persons known as trespassers, or those using railroad right-of-way without any
apparent cause. This is a serious problem and if possible some means should be devised to prevent the use in South Carolina of railway tracks for purposes of this kind. The Commission is of the opinion that there is little necessity for people of the State to walk upon railway tracks, or to cross same at points other than those designated for such usage. If it were possible to pass some remedial legislation to prevent this practice it most assuredly would be rendering a service that the people themselves apparently neglect to take advantage of. The Railroad Commission will heartily co-operate in any action taken on the part of your honorable body in regard to matters of this kind.
With the exception of the Piedmont & Northern Railway, which has the greatest mileage of any electric railway in South Carolina, and was taken over by the Federal Government, the remaining electric lines in South Carolina continued under the jurisdiction of the Railroad Commission. These properties are in good physical condition and up to the usual standard, but this specific class of utility has had an unusual struggle to continue active service even with all the consideration the Commission could grant in the way of curtailment of service, increased rates, etc. At present the Charleston-Isle of Palms Traction Company is in the Federal courts due to the contention of that company that insufficient revenue was earned to properly maintain and operate the road. The Commission has granted as great increase in rates to this road as the law of the State will allow, and what the final decision of the courts will be in regard to this matter the Commission, of course, cannot at this time say.
The Charleston Consolidated Railway and Lighting Company, especially that portion that serves the Navy Yard at Charleston,
are pleased to report has greatly improved its service and at this time no complaints are being received in regard to
This has been brought about by additional equipment, which, as your body realizes, up to the last few months it was almost impossible to obtain. The Commission feels warranted in stating that this company is now in a position to render efficient service, and we do not anticipate any further trouble with this line in regard to question of service.
One of the things that gave trouble was the lack of a double track on this line from Charleston to the Navy Yard for a dis
tance of about 1,500 feet approaching what is kr.own as Magnolia crossing. At this point and for the distance above named all traffic had to pass over a single track. This necessarily caused some congestion, so much so that on September 19th, 1917, the Commission ordered this company to complete this double track between Charleston and the Navy Yard. In 1919 the General Assembly passed a law which carried, among other things, this provision. The Commission is pleased to report that this double track has been completed, with the exception of the crossing of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad's tracks at Magnolia crossing, which is due to some misunderstanding between the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the Charleston Consolidated Railway and Lighting Company, but the Commission hopes to be able to bring about an understanding between these two companies in regard to this specific matter before this report reaches your honorable body.
The Augusta-Aiken Railway and Electric Corporation claims to be in a serious financial condition. The Commission is trying at this time to devise some way by which this company can render such service as is necessary to the patrons of this line. The question of rates for this company is also pending in the Federal courts.
The other electric interurban lines under the jurisdiction of the Commission are rendering efficient service so far as it is possible for the Commission to require same, but with this specific class of transportation the Commission finds itself in many instances with only a few hundred yards of line under its jurisdiction between one municipality and another and it is impossible for the Commission to put in rules and regulations applying to that small portion of the road without getting into conflict with the municipalities on each side of same. However, we have adopted such rules as in the opinion of the Commission will require necessary service on lines of this kind.
Since our last report to your honorable body the telegraph companies have been returned to private ownership. Due to the war, which made it impossible to procure additional construction and the proper equipment to care for the increased traffic, the Commission found that the lines were inadequate to handle the service properly and immediately set about to require the construction of additional circuits and equipment that was necessary to render such service as the public was entitled to. We are pleased to report that much of this new construction work has been completed and is now in operation, and the service is as rapidly as possible being brought up to the pre-war standard. It is also gratifying to the Commission to report to your honorable body that the many telegraph offices that it was necessary to close when the United States entered the war have been reopened, and in the near future the Commission hopes to be able to have all the offices that were discontinued put back into operation and up to the usual standard of efficiency. Few complaints are being received at this time by the Commission against telegraph service in South Carolina, and we are assured that with the present improved and up-to-date instruments that have been installed in some places in this State there will be no room for complaint against service in the very near future. The Commission is pleased to report that in Columbia and Charleston the Marcom automatic system has been installed by the Western Union Telegraph Company. This system enables the telegraph company to transmit eight messages over one line at the same time. With this instrument an operator in Columbia manipulates a machine that operates a machine, say in New York or at any other point similarly connected. This alone improves the service more rapidly than could otherwise be hoped for, and in the opinion of the Commission is one of the greatest inventions of modern times. It does away with additional cir. cuits and reduces the number of operators. The Commission is striving continuously to have all utilities under its jurisdiction equip themselves with the most modern and improved apparatus known at the present time. We desire to say that in this we have had the hearty co-operation of the officials of the companies interested.
TELEPHONE COMPANIES. For the past six months telephone service in South Carolina has given the Commission more concern possibly than all other public utilities under its jurisdiction. The telephone companies were returned to private ownership on August 1st, 1919. Prior to that time, as your honorable body realizes, these companies were under Federal control. Increase in wages granted to employees and increase in cost of material entering into the construction and maintenance of telephone lines naturally caused
the Federal Administration to increase the rate for service. Thus the Commission found itself face to face with many obstacles that prevented the telephone companies from performing efficient service upon the return of these utilities to private ownership. During the war no additional construction work was done and no additional equipment could be obtained for telephone service, either local or long distance, notwithstanding the fact that the demand for telephone service, as in every other line of business, increased during the war period, and has continued to increase. Before the return of the telephone lines and since that time the Commission has received numerous complaints against telephone service. The companies admit that the service is not what it should be, nor what they desire it to be. Realizing this to be true, the Commission immediately set about to remove the cause of the trouble as rapidly as was possible under the circumstances. During 1919 the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company constructed about 340 miles of copper metallic toll line circuit, and expects to construct over 700 miles of additional toll line circuit within the next twelve months in South Carolina. This has tended to relieve congestion and enable the telephone company to render more efficient service than was possible during the period of the war and immediately thereafter.
The local service has been improved in almost every part of South Carolina where the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company is interested, and at many independent exchanges. In addition to the above, many improvements have been added to the various exchanges in this State, and at all exchanges the service will be brought back to normal just as soon as it is possible to obtain necessary material. At some exchanges this has already been done, but at the larger exchanges more time, of course, is required. At these larger exchanges greater facilities are demanded, and many cables and a considerable amount of ground work is necessary; which, of course, requires more time to construct than aerial or ordinary telephone lines.
In the city of Columbia the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company is preparing to expend more than $800,000 in order to furnish efficient service to its patrons. At other places proportionate amounts are being expended, and the work will be continued.
Much has been said and done in connection with the rate increase for telephone service in South Carolina. The Commission