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LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL.
OFFICE OF RAILROAD COMMISSIONERS,
Columbia, S. C., January 1, 1908. To His Excellency M. F. Ansel, Governor of South Carolina.
Sir: We have the honor to transmit the twenty-ninth Annual Report of the Railroad Commissioners of South Carolina for the year ending June 30, 1907. Yours respectfully,
B. L. CAUGHMAN, Chairman,
E. P. WARING, JR., Secretary.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE RAILROAD COM
MISSION OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
To the General Assembly of South Caroina:
We respectfully submit the twenty-ninth Annual Report of the Railroad Commission of South Carolina :
Returns for the year ending June 30th, 1907, have been received from all railroad companies operating in this State, twenty-five in number.
During the past year there has been a net increase of 21.63 miles in the length of railroad lines in South Carolina, not including spurs, sidings and yard track; 232.24 miles of new spur, yard and side tracks have been laid since our last report. The total length of railroad track within the State, including main tracks, branches, spurs, siding, and yard tracks, is 3,440.45 miles. For detailed statements as to these matters see tables accompanying this report.
Since June 30, 1906, 236 new depots have been erected, repaired or construction begun. The Commission expects to continue its efforts toward securing improved facilities and comfort at the various stations where needed. One of the main sources of complaint at railway stations is the want of proper attention on the part of the railroad companies, or their agents, to the matter of lights, heat, water and cleanliness. The Commission has recently adopted and promulgated certain rules and regulations, very reasonable in their requirements, published elsewhere in this report, which it is intended shall be rigidly enforced, with the view of obtaining that degree of comfort and convenience to which the public is entitled. In many instances traffic has outgrown the capacity of the old depots, and it has been found necessary to insist upon the enlargement of these warehouses.
We have, on the whole, met with no very serious opposition to these necessary improvements, though at times the railroad companies have failed to respond to our demands as promptly as desired.
The problem of arranging and maintaining such schedules for passenger trains as to satisfactorily serve the public, without neglect to any community, is one of difficult solution. Since our last report we are prepared to say that there has been a decided improvement in regard to schedules on about all the lines in this State. It is true improvement has been accomplished in a measure by “slowing up" some of the trains, but the fact remains that additional passenger trains put into service, and certain changes made in the time tables of various roads, have contributed very decidedly to the previously existing conditions in respect to this feature of our transportation service.
This Commission desires to bring to your attention a matter of great importance to the traveling public, and one subjecting the patrons of the railroads in this State to great inconvenience and loss of time In numerous cases of railroad wrecks or derailments, passengers have been kept at way stations at great inconvenience and discomfort, for from one to eighteen hours, on account of the negligence of the road in not furnishing proper equipment to meet such emergencies. In many instances it has come to the attention of this Commission that ladies and children, as well as male passengers, have been kept in day coaches all night, and that they were obliged to miss their connections and lay over at junction points for half a day or more. The roads have given, in some instances, as their excuse, that they could not transfer passengers for lack of equipment. We would respectfully urge proper legislation along this line. This is especially necessary, as the agents at small stations are negligent in posting trains and giving passengers, waiting for late trains, proper information. In case of wrecks it is often the case that trains have to be delayed, but there is little or no excuse for not transferring passengers with reasonable promptness. In some instances which have come under our notice, passengers could have been transferred by using the equipment of another division of the same road, yet we receive excuse from the Superintendent that he did not have the necessary equipment. We would recommend additional legislation as to posting trains and running local trains in case the regular train is over three hours off of its published schedule, and in case of wrecks some law be passed as to transferring and protecting passengers.
Since last May the Commission has received few complaints in regard to delays in the delivery of freight to consignees. Previous to that time, and during the winter months of 1906-'07, especially, complaints, to an alarming extent, came to our office from all parts of the State, developing a state of traffic congestion which the transportation companies seemed powerless to remove promptly. This congestion was not removed until the tonnage decreased. Less than twelve months ago shippers were complaining of "car shortage." The Commission has not during the past six months received any such complaints, and possibly the complaints as to “car shortage” and slow deliveries would not have been so common a year ago had the carriers been equipped with sufficient motive power, trackage and terminal facilities to handle cars and freight trains with reasonable despatch.
It is claimed that the unexampled growth of the commerce of the country at large during the past few years, resulted in an unprecedented increase in tonnage last winter, beyond what was expected, and beyond the ability of the transportation companies to provide for. Conditions within the last few months have materially changed, and now, on January 1, 1908, we witness a general decrease in the volume of traffic as compared with the previous year. We regard this situation as abnormal, attributable largely to the adverse financial conditions prevailing throughout the United States. It is reasonable to expect soon, a restoration of normal trade conditions, which will require facilities not heretofore provided for by our common carriers. It may
be well to consider the fact that the railroads of this country were originally, in a general way, cheaply constructed and cheaply equipped to meet the limited demands then made upon them. Improvements have been slow and imperfect; stability is still wanting. Roadbeds, tracks, depot accommodations and terminals, require constant reconstruction, and necessarily call for the expenditure of large sums of money if the commerce of the country is to be properly accommodated.
FREIGHT AND PASSENGER RATES.
The question of reducing passenger rates was considered at the last session of your body and the Commission has taken no action since affecting the matter.