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Forty-First Annual Report
of South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S. C.
LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
Office of the Railroad Commission
Columbia, S. C., January 1st, 1920. To His Excellency, Robert A. Cooper, Governor of South Caro
Sir: We have the honor to transmit the Forty-first Annual Report of the Railroad Commission of South Carolina for the year ending December 31, 1919.
FRANK W. SHEALY, Chairman,
Commissioners. J. P. DARBY, Secretary.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE RAILROAD COMMIS
SION OF SOUTH CAROLINA
To the General Assembly of South Carolina:
The Railroad Commission of South Carolina has the honor to respectfully submit for your consideration this its forty-first annual report.
Since our last report to your honorable body and during the year 1919, as is well known to you, the National Government has had control of the trunk line railroads. How this was done and for what purpose is also a matter that is known to your body. However this Commission has under its control the sixteen short line independent railroads which have not been taken over by the National Government. While the main trunk line railroads have been under Federal control many changes as to rates, service, schedules, etc., have been put into effect, none of which this Commission could have authority over, and could only act in conjunction with the Federal authorities. This the Commission has done and in every instance has secured for South Carolina the very best results it was possible to obtain under existing conditions.
Since the main line railroads were taken over by the Government, the short lines have had a struggle for existence. One or more have been sold under orders of the Federal Courts; others have cases now pending in the Federal Courts. These short line railroads render a service to the people of our State that it is almost impossible to obtain through any other source, and their destruction would be a calamity to many interests located along their lines, and especially detrimental to the agricultural interests of a great portion of South Carolina. In addition to this they are important feeders to the trunk line railroads. That they should have more than a mere mileage proportion of rates on traffic created on their lines is a fact that can hardly be denied. Realizing this and the vast importance it is to the people of South Carolina to keep these short lines in operation, this Commission, after investigating in every case financial conditions relating to these, railioads, has done all in its power to keep these utilities in, condition to render service. Since the advent and almost universal use of motor vehicles, the Commission has found that passenger traffic on short line railroads in this State is practically nothing, and it is with the greatest difficulty that we have been able to keep any passenger service on these lines. Heavy motor trucks have also had a decided effect upon the freight revenue, as having no equipment of their own they are subject to car rental and other incidental expenses in connection with equipment that in many instances absorbs the entire amount received for handling traffic. This is unfortunate, and if these important utilities are to continue in operation some relief is absolutely necessary in the way of higher rates or a reduction in expenses over which these companies have no control. The law does not authorize this Commission to grant a higher passenger rate than three cents per mile on railroads more than five miles in length, and in many instances it is impossible to maintain passenger service under existing conditions at such a rate. On account of this, as well as the facts above set out in regard to freight, several of the roads have had to be almost sacrificed by their owners, and reorganization has been effected under the most difficult circumstances, and in some instances only temporarily.
The Commission has in no way surrendered its police powers, nor has the Federal Government undertaken to disturb these regulations. However, on account of conflicting conditions, the Commission at times finds itself very much embarrassed. The Commission has co-operated in every way possible with the Federal Administration to maintain the service of the corporations under its jurisdiction as near standard as has been possible under existing conditions. Since the signing of the Armistice the Commission, by co-operating with the Federal Administration, has been able to have quite a number of trains restored to service, but recently, on account of lack of fuel due to the strike of the coal miners, of which fact your body is fully cognizant, the Commission has had to co-operate with the Federal Administration in the discontinuance of a great number of passenger trains in this State, but in each and every instance it has tried to suggest to the Administration the discontinuance of trains that in its opinion would entail the least inconvenience to the public. This
is a most unfortunate condition but one over which this Commission, and possible the Federal Government, could have but little control. The Commission hopes and believes that this state of affairs will be of but short duration and is of the opinion that as soon as the fuel situation becomes normal these trains will be restored. It is but fair to state that in all of these crises the public has responded cheerfully and in no uncertain way.
One of the most trying situations the Commission has had to handle for the past three months in 1919 has been the congested condition of freight traffic. The Commission has labored with all its energy, almost day and night, to relieve this condition as rapidly as possible, and but for the shortage of fuel, as above outlined, we feel sure that this congestion would have been cleared before your body assembles. The Commission trusts that when conditions again become normal and the reconstruction period has passed satisfactory service can and will be rendered.
Anticipating the early return of the railroads to their owners, the Commission realizes that much important work faces our body. Readjustment of train service, betterments, rate adjustments, etc., etc., will be before this Commission continuously for consideration.
PHYSICAL CONDITION OF RAILROADS.
This is a part of the Commission's work that has given much
The Commission has found the railroads faced with inability to obtain material or labor, and in many instances roadbeds are not up to the high physical standard they were during pre-war times. However, it is only fair to say that all railroads in South Carolina at this time are in safe condition for the transportation of such traffic as is handled over same. We are pleased to note that since the ending of the war the railroad officials are devoting their time and attention to the improvement of the physical condition of the roads, and in some instances trestles of the highest class, such as ballast-deck, etc., have been constructed and are now in use. While no new railroads have been built in South Carolina during the past two years, the doubletracking of the main line of Southern Railroad through this State has progressed remarkably well and quite a number of miles of this new track is now in use. This work has been completed except for a few miles in the western part of the State, about 129 miles of the new track being now in operation.