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STATE OF KANSAS,
YEAR ENDING DECEMBER 1, 1894.
M. D. HENDERSON, Secretary.
TWELFTH ANNUAL REPORT
STATE BOARD OF RAILROAD COMMISSIONERS.
OFFICE OF THE BOARD,
TOPEKA, KAs., December 1, 1894. Hon. L. D. Lewelling, Governor:
SIR-- As provided by law, we have the honor to hereby submit to you, this, the twelfth annual report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners. It has been delayed somewhat by the failure of some of the railroad companies in making their annual returns as provided in section 7 of the act of March 6, 1883. One road (the Leavenworth, Topeka & Southwestern) has refused or neglected to file any statement at all, though blank forms for that purpose were supplied the officials in due time.
We have embodied in this volume the proceedings and decisions of the Board during the year, upon all matters that were deemed to be of interest and importance to the public and to the railroad corporations operating lines in this state, together with the reports filed with the Board by said corporations.
A new feature of this report will be found in the statements of the following companies: Wagner Palace Car Company, the Pullman Palace Car Company, the Pacific Express Company, the Wells Fargo Express Company, the United States Express Company, the American Express Company, the Adams Express Company, and the Leavenworth Terminal & Railway Bridge Company. These corporations have been doing business in the state for years, but, by some oversight, have not hitherto been required to file annual returns with the Board.
Numerous complaints have been filed during the past year, many of which have been adjusted to the satisfaction of all concerned without the necessity of a formal hearing. This has necessarily called for a vast amount of correspondence, too voluminous for this report.
In the formal decisions, which will be found hereinafter recorded, we have endeavored to be guided by a spirit of fairness, as well as by the information and testimony presented. The conditions effecting both the railroads and the people were given due consideration, and we feel that our conclusions were based upon justice and in keeping with the public good. In this connection, we would call attention to the fact that the orders and recommendations of the Board have not always been complied with. The following decisions have been utterly ignored:
Case No. 1317. J. W. Hurt and others, of Burgess, vs. The St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company.
Case No. 1281. Citizens of Wichita vs. Missouri Pacific, Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé and St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Companies.
Case No. 1366. 0. L. Wingate and others vs. Hutchinson & Southern Railroad Company.
Case No. 1282. Citizens of Wichita vs. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé, Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific and the Missouri Pacific Railroad Companies.
Cases No. 1304, 1306, 1310. H. Gray, J. M. Egan, H. McDonald and 195 others vs. Missouri Pacific Railroad Company.
Case No. 1352. City of Hutchinson vs. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé Railroad Company et al.
Case No. 1338. City of Abilene vs. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company et al.
Case No. 1364. Citizens of the State of Kansas vs. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé Railroad Company et al.
We desire to call the attention of your Excellency to the defective and inadequate provisions of the law relating to the duties and powers of this Board. The authority of the Board to enforce its orders is so limited that in many cases its rulings practically amount to recommendations, which may or may not be complied with, as best suits the convenience of the companies to whom they are made. It would seem that the law should make it obligatory upon some person, perhaps the attorney general, to enforce such orders as the Board may make. The act of March 6, 1883, was supposed to cover this point, but its provisions are somewhat indefinite and uncertain. In the matter of regulating freight rates, this defect is very important, and stands out most prominent. The impression seems to be general that the courts stand between the legislature and any effective freight-rate law that might be enacted, and some of the decisions of the courts perhaps justify this impression; but the attempt should be made, and if the effort proves to be ineffective let the responsibility rest where it belongs. As the matter now stands, there is no law regulating freight charges in this state, except that which pretends to delegate the power to this Board; and the rulings of the Board at best can only be taken as “prima facie evidence of what is a reasonable charge.” This law has been standing for almost 12 years without any material change, and needs no further test to establish its inadequacy to meet the wants of the people. If a just and reasonable law can be framed that will stand the test of the courts, the legislature should waste no time in placing such an act upon the statutes. If no relief can be obtained through state legislation from what is conceived to be extortionate charges and other abuses, the people are entitled to the information.
We have examined a large number of the roads in the state with a view of ascertaining their physical condition and the manner in which they are operated with reference to the public safety and convenience. All the leading lines are in most excellent condition, and the service upon them first class, but we regret that this cannot be said of all the roads in the state. Most of the branch lines are being neglected, and some of them are being permitted to fall into a state of dilapidation. It is true the traffic over these roads is very light, and they do not need the same care and attention required on the main lines where heavy trains are constantly passing, but they should at least be kept from falling into such a condition as to endanger the lives of employes as well as the traveling public. The financial and commercial depression justifies the roads in the adoption of a policy of rigid economy, but it is not impossible to carry this policy to such an extreme as to endanger their own property and the lives of their patrons. In this connection, we deem it our duty to call attention to the radical reduction in the number of section hands on many of these branch lines. In many localities only two or three men are employed in this capacity to keep in repair 20 miles of road. It requires no expert in railroad work to see that it is impossible for three men to look after 20 miles of track and do justice to themselves and to the road.
The following exhibits, taken from the returns as filed in this office, show the capital stock, liabilities, etc., of the various roads, with the passenger and freight traffic, earnings and expenses, and a comparison of the same with the like returns for the preceding year:
Capital Stock. Capital stock issued and outstanding for the year ending June 30, 1893 ....
$589,318,130 00 Same for year 1894.
580,682,963 99 Decrease for 1894.