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LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL
Office of the Railroad Commission.
Columbia, S. C., January 1st, 1921. To His Excellency, Robert A. Cooper, Governor of South Caro
Sir: We have the honor to transmit the Forty-second Annual Report of the Railroad Commission of South Carolina for the year ending December 31, 1920.
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-second annual report.
Since our last report to your honorable body the National Government, on March 1st, 1920, returned the railroads of the country to their owners for operating purposes, but retained jurisdiction over the finances of the different companies owning the railroads until September 1st, 1920. The retention of control of the finances of these companies practically meant that the roads were still under Federal control until that time, and during the period from March 1st to September 1st the Federal Government allowed no funds for permanent improvements to the railroads operating in South Carolina. This alone was a great handicap to the Railroad Commission, preventing them from obtaining many necessary facilities. Aside from this, the roads were returned to their owners with the roadways in a very dilapidated condition; also scarcely any new equipment had been supplied during Federal control, especially motive power, and this was found to be in a very depleted condition. The Commission's understanding is that no finances were provided for the companies when the properties reverted to their rightful owners. This has been a serious handicap to the public, to the carriers and to the Commission, so much so that the Commission was forced in many instances to curtail service in order that some of the carriers would be able to function as common carriers at all. Upon close investigation, the Commission found that many trains were being operated at an enormous loss, especially does this apply to passenger service. In some instances, trains were operated at a cost of not less than $1.25 per mile, while the revenue per mile would be as low as 10 cents, and in ather, instances from 25 cents to 50 cents per mile. Numbers of other trains continued to show a deficit for each week operated. In cases of this kind the Commission discontinued only such trains as in its opinion could be suspended without any great inconvenience to the public. The Commission has endeavored to maintain a sufficient number of passenger trains on all roads to furnish the public with proper transportation facilities. Many of these are being operated at this time at a loss. Traffic, both passenger and freight, has fallen off in South Carolina very much since September 15th. This state of affairs the Commission realizes is due to some extent to the low price of cotton and other agricultural products now prevailing in this State. When traffic begins to move again a sufficient number of trains will be put into service to properly care for same.
Since September 1st considerable improvement has been made by the trunk line railroads in their roadbeds, bridges and trestles, and the motive power has been placed in much better shape, and no complaint of shortage of this class of equipment is existing at present. The carriers have also repaired and put into service, since date above mentioned, many hundred bad-order box and open-top cars. At this time no shortage of equipment exists in this territory. However, due to the Interstate Commerce Commission's orders, during the vegetable season of this year and until October 1st, there was a serious shortage of all kinds of equipment in the Southeastern district, of which South Carolina is a part. This Commission labored diligently, in and out of season, until such conditions in South Carolina were relieved. Expense of operation, outside of wages (over which neither the carriers nor this Commission has any controlling power) has been reduced as rapidly as in the opinion of the Commission is possible. The reduction in price of fuel and material necessary in construction and maintenance of railroad properties has also aided in the way of saving expense for the carriers. At this time the carriers find themselves with their service and force reduced apparently near the minimum, though ample to handle such traffic as is moving at present.
The short line railroads in South Carolina are still experiencing a struggle to exist. In some instances they are unable to render such service as the Commission desires for the patrons whom they are expected to serve. However, in every instance the Commission is demanding all the service, and in some respects possibly more that the traffic will justify. What the outcome eventually will be with these short line railroads can hardly be foreseen at this time. The Orangeburg Railway has entirely ceased to function since our last report to your honorable body. The Interstate Commerce Commission has been requested to grant permission for this road to be discontinued and the track torn up and removed. This is a serious state of affairs for the State of South Carolina, and especially for the people who have heretofore been served by roads of this kind, without which such communities will be denied railroad service. The Commission has used every effort, by granting increase in rates, reducing service, etc., that it possibly could, to maintain the properties, and we hope that a sufficient amount of traffic will be tendered these short line railroads to warrant their continuance as common carriers. Passenger traffic on short line railroads, as is well known, in this day of motor vehicles, is almost nothing at all, some roads averaging not more than three or four passengers a trip, which in itself makes it impossible to maintain even a reasonable passenger service. Experience from actual trial of motor service on the roads of this State has so far proven a failure, and as these roads have nothing else to sell except service, when it develops that such service is not used by the public it presents a very perplexing problem for the Commission and the carriers to handle to the satisfaction of all parties at interest. Since the return of the trunk lines to their owners, the Commission has been trying its best to have, where possible, routing of freight made with the short lines, with the hope of bringing a sufficient amount of revenue to at least render service that would handle the heavy freight traffic, regardless of what the passenger traffic might be. Some success has been obtained along this line, and our hope is that , future developments will better the condition of the short line railways. If progress and prosperity is to continue the public utilities must be kept in such shape as to be able to perform their part, and the Commission knows of no more favorable asset to a community in South Carolina than the short line railroads. Without these, the rural and agricultural districts must without question suffer. The Commission has experienced great difficulty, in some instances, in getting the public generally to understand the exact condition of the short line railroads. Often ser