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road, which is next to impossible on the old style structures. All bridges being constructed in this State at this time are of steel, and of course are as safe as any structure can be at present. Few trestles remain on the railroads where filling with earth is practicable, and what few still remain will be filled possibly during 1921.
DEPOTS AND OTHER BUILDINGS.
These facilities coming under the jurisdiction of the Commission have only been under their control since September 1st, when the Federal Government relinquished its authority over the finances of the different roads. Many petitions were filed with the Commission during Federal control of the utilities for additional station facilities at many places in South Carolina. These have all been handled and the following buildings constructed or improved :
ATLANTIC COAST LINE RAILROAD.
Newtonville, S. C.-Combination depot erected.
SEABOARD AIR LINE RAILWAY.
Vincent, S. C.-Freight shed erected.
Numbers of others have been agreed upon, in most cases blue prints have been filed with the Commission and material is being assembled for these structures. The Commission expects during the year 1921, if financial conditions will permit, that practically all the demands filed during Federal control for facilities of this kind will be complied with. We desire to state to the public, through your honorable body, that the Commission is fully aware of facilities needed and will use every effort within its power to see that they are constructed as rapidly as is possible.
GRADE CROSSINGS. As is known to almost every individual in this State this class of facilities carries a greater hazard than possibly all others connected with railroads. The Commission has been diligent in its efforts to have removed, and has had removed, a great number of grade crossings in South Carolina since September 1st. A number of overhead bridges have recently been constructed, as well as several underpasses, which has permitted the Commission to condemn and eliminate a great number of dangerous grade crossings without inconvenience to the traveling public. Much more of this class of construction is necessary and is being built while this report is being prepared for your honorable body, and before it reaches you several overhead bridges will be completed and in use. This is a part of the Commission's work upon which it lays special stress, and through the aid granted by the passage of certain laws at the last session of the General Assembly the Commission has been and will be able to obtain more results for the people of the State than was possible prior to the passage of such laws. That there is always danger at grade crossings, regardless of how located, cannot be questioned. However, it is the policy of the Commission to remove first the most dangerous of these and as rapidly as possible eliminate every grade crossing where this can be done. More than one hundred of such crossings have been eliminated, or are in course of elimination, since our last report to the General Assembly. An overhead bridge has just been completed over the track of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad near Charleston, which has eliminated four dangerous grade crossings. Just as soon as material can be obtained an overhead bridge will be built in Greenwood County which will eliminate five grade crossings. Several bridges have been built in Union County and many relocations of crossings have been made that have resulted in the elimination of two or more other crossings for each change made. The Commission finds that where it is impracticable for the crossing to be made overhead or underneath the railroad, often the relocation of such crossing improves conditions and is satisfactory to all parties interested and less hazardous.
The Commission is pleased to report that the number of accidents in South Carolina for 1920 has been very much below the average. During this year four passengers were killed, one hundred and twenty-nine passengers were more or less injured, and seventeen railroad employees were killed, while accidents to trespassers or those using grade crossings were fifty-eight killed and four hundred and sixty injured. The greater number of these were grade crossing accidents and were due to motor vehicles colliding with railway trains.
The Commission has placed every restriction around railroad crossings that is possible, and without question a great many of the accidents are due more to a lack of care on the part of drivers of motor vehicles than to those operating the trains. Some method should be devised whereby drivers of motor vehicles would be compelled for their own protection to stop, look and listen before they approach and use grade crossings over any railroad track in South Carolina, regardless of their knowledge of the schedule of trans due to pass over such crossing. Extra trains are as dangerous as regular trains, and the public should realize that it is absolutely necessary to operate other than regularly scheduled trains, and to depend upon schedules being maintained at all times is without question dangerous. Many conditions occur that prevent trains from operating on schedule time and there can be no guaranty as to what time trains will pass grade crossings. Therefore it is for the protection of all parties using vehicles of all kinds that they should lose just a few seconds' time by stopping their vehicles at least twenty-five feet from any grade crossing before passing over same. Regardless of how much the engine bell is sounded or whistle blown, it is next to impossible to hear same while the average motor car is laboring under a load. The drivers of such vehicles should most assuredly keep this in mind at all times, as in doing this they will help protect themselves as well as others. The Commission is anxious to co-operate with your honorable body in any proposition that will tend to reduce the death and injury rate at grade crossings in South Carolina.
TRESPASSING UPON RAILROAD RIGHT-OF-WAY.
Quite a number of those previously referred to as injured come under this class, and among them some who were using right-ofway of the railroad without any apparent purpose. This is a serious problem and one which the Commission has not so far been able to devise a plan to prevent in South Carolina. That some method should be promulgated to prevent the public from using the railroad track as a walkway, and from crossing same at points other than that designated, seems to be necessary in order to protect those who apparently will not protect themselves. At this time the Commission is not in position to suggest what method would be best. However, the Railroad Commission will heartily co-operate in any effort on the part of your honorable body to bring about results or regulations that would at least have a tendency to prevent the use of railway tracks for the purpose above referred to, and in many instances resulting in the death or injury of the person so trespassing.
In some instances complaint has been made to the Commission that school children use the railroad tracks as a walkway from their homes to the schools and vice versa. This is an exceedingly dangerous proposition and should not be allowed anywhere or at any time.
No additional electric railways have been constructed in South Carolina since our last report to your honorable body. The Isle of Palms Traction Company case is still in the Federal Court. The Commission, at the request of the patrons of that line, reviewed and revised rates and promulgated rules for its operation to such an extent that we trust will enable this road to continue to perform the functions of a public carrier.
The Charleston Consolidated Railway & Lighting Co. has completed its double track at Magnolia crossing at Charleston, S. C. This was a short distance to complete the entire double track from Charleston to the Navy Yard.
Few complaints are being received at present in regard to the service rendered by electrically operated railroads in South Carolina.
TELEGRAPH COMPANIES. Only two companies furnish telegraph service in South Carolina--the Western Union Telegraph Company and the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company. Since their return by the Federal Government these companies have continued to improve their lines, in many instances adding additional circuits and equipment, until at present their service is practically what it was prior to the war.
TELEPHONE COMPANIES. For the past two years this specific branch of the service that comes under the jurisdiction of the Commission has given all parties at interest much concern. It has not been many years since telephone service was practically in its infancy. It has no doubt developed more rapidly and such service has been more in demand than the service of any of the other utilities over which this Commission has control. The Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company owns and operates 52 exchanges in South Carolina, while 130 are independently owned and operated. Like all other utilities rendering service during the past three years these companies have been subjected to the increase in wages, material and apparatus necessary to their business in furnishing efficient telephone service. Much time has been consumed in hearing complaints, and in reviewing and revising rates which was absolutely necessary for the existence of these companies. While in some instances the service is not yet up to the standard, in most cases service has been improved and at this time is practically equal to the pre-war service, notwithstanding the fact that this class of service is the most delicate to render and the system, as well as the instruments, are subject to many conditions that put same out of commission. Electrical storms especially have a very detrimental effect upon these utilities and are a continuous source of annoyance to the subscribers as well as to the owners and the Railroad Commission. Each complaint has been handled where necessary, separately and individually, and decisions rendered according to the law and testimony produced at such hearings.
Only two telephone exchanges have been permitted to suspend operation in South Carolina during the year 1920. This was due to unfortunate conditions over which apparently no one had control. Storms played some part in connection with the suspension of these exchanges, but the financial condition of the country the most important part. Rates could not be increased above the usual rate and the companies maintain their patronage, and with what rates and patronage they had they were financially unable to maintain their plants in such way that service could be rendered. The Commission hopes that there will be some reorganization of these two exchanges and that the people of the communities which they heretofore served will be in position to receive adequate telephone service.