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While there has been some new heavy rail laid, we will state for the information of your body that the amount so laid has not been very extensive. This has been due, of course, to the inability of the railroads to obtain steel rail for this work.
Realizing the condition of roadbed, the Commission has felt it necessary to regulate the speed of trains, thereby slowing up quite a number of passenger trains in South Carolina. The correctness of this action on the part of the Commission has been vindicated by the small number of wrecks occurring in South Carolina during the year 1919. We are pleased to state that no wreck of any consequence has been caused during this year from defective roadbed or track.
During the distressing period we have been going through renewal of cross-ties has not been up to the standard, but quite an amount of ballast has been put in the track, and it appears to the Commission that it is the policy of the railroads to bring their roadbeds up to the standard and even improve same as rapidly as it is possible to obtain material and labor. During the year 148 miles of 85 and 90 pound new rail, and 64 miles of relay rail were put down on main lines replacing lighter rail.
On account of the immense volume of traffic, as well as labor troubles affecting repair shops, rolling stock, especially motive power, has suffered considerably. However, this is being corrected rapidly at this time. Heretofore and at the present time the Commission has used its best efforts to have the wooden type passenger coach supplanted by the steel coach. Just at this time, on account of the scarcity of steel, this is a difficult proposition. The Commission hopes that as soon as possible all wooden passenger coaches can be replaced by sa fe, up-to-date steel coaches.
SCHEDULES AND TRAIN SERVICE.
At the present time this class of service is not what the Commission desires and not what the public is entitled to, but under existing conditions is the very best this Commission has been able to get for the patrons of the railroads in South Carolina. The promulgation of satisfactory schedules is one of the most difficult propositions in railroad regulation. Trains invariably leave starting point too early and pass intermediate points and reach terminal too late to suit the people. This is a condition of affairs that no one has been able to arrange to the satisfaction of the entire public without the operation of more trains than are necessary to handle the traffic, but in these matters the Commission has conferred with the public and tried its best in every instance to make schedules that would suit the greatest number of patrons using any specific train. It is possible that when passenger train service becomes nearer normal some of these complaints can be relieved.
BRIDGES AND TRESTLES.
Since our last report a number of trestles in South Carolina have been rebuilt, and in almost all instances where this kind of construction has been done creosoted timbers have been used and up-to-date ballast-deck trestles now replace the old-style bent and open-deck trestles. This is a great improvement and the railroads doing such work should be commended, especially considering the trying conditions under which this work has been done. There is no comparison between the ballast-deck and the opendeck trestles. On a ballast-deck trestle, when the roadbed needs surfacing or alinement this can be done the same as when the roadway is on the ground. Few steel trestles have been built within the past twelve months due to the inability of the railroads to obtain structural steel. However, those in use are absolutely safe for such locomotives and other equipment and traffic as is being handled over same. On account of the scarcity of labor and equipment due to the war very little filling of trestles has been done, but the Commission is assured that as soon as the roads are returned to private ownership and labor and material can be obtained this work will again be resumed and completed possibly by the end of the year 1920.
DEPOTS AND OTHER BUILDINGS.
Construction of depots and other buildings has not been very extensive during the past year owing to the curtailment of this class of construction on account of the policy of the United States Railroad Administration. However, depots and other buildings at the following places were constructed or repaired:
SOUTHERN RAILWAY. Langley—Combination depot erected; replacing depot destroyed by fire.
Union-Butterfly sheds erected.
ATLANTIC COAST LINE RAILROAD.
Ritters—Combination depot erected.
Ehrhardt-Depot in course of construction; replacing depot destroyed by fire.
Sumter--Passenger depot repaired.
SEABOARD AIR LINE RAILWAY. Nesmith-Combination depot erected; replacing depot destroyed by fire. · Wiggins—Combination depot erected.
STATION AND STATION FACILITIES. Numerous requests have been made to the Commission for additional facilities, especially as to freight and passenger depot accommodations in South Carolina. A large amount of work of this kind was scheduled to be done just before the United States entered the world war, but as was to be expected at that time all this kind of work was necessarily suspended, due in many instances to the inability of the authorities in charge to obtain labor and material. When the government took over the control of the railroads there was a general suspension of construction of facilities of this kind, and only such facilities as were destroyed by fire or otherwise (and not all of those) were rebuilt. Many petitions are pending before the Commission for such facilities and in almost every instance are absolutely necessary, but as the authorities now handling the railroads refuse to construct such betterments the Commissions finds itself without jurisdiction to compel the Federal authorities, and can only docket such petitions with the hope that when the roads are returned to private ownership these improvements can be obtained, and if the Commission is allowed to retain its jurisdiction in regard to such matters there will be an improvement along this line during the year 1920. The Commission realizes what is necessary for the convenience of the public and as soon as we have authority most assuredly will use our energy in obtaining same.
As is realized by every one using public highways or railways in South Carolina, grade crossings are the greatest source of menace now confronting the people of this State. The Commission has been diligent in its efforts to have removed, and has had removed, a great number of dangerous grade crossings in this State during the past twelve months, but we have found ourselves handicapped in many instances by the lack of co-operation on the part of county authorities to make the proper changes in certain highways to care for the traveling public in case the Commission condemned and had grade crossings removed. Another thing that has given the Commission considerable trouble is the refusal of the Federal Government to construct overhead bridges or underpass for highways. If this kind of construction can be obtained, with one overhead bridge, with proper co-operation of county authorities or those having highways under their control, four or five crossings can be eliminated at the same time. Under the law passed by the General Assembly in 1915, the Commission is without authority to pro-rate the cost of the change in highways which would necessarily eliminate many dangerous grade crossings which are today being maintained with great hazard to the traveling public and not only to those using the highways but to those using the railroads as well. This Commission is fully convinced that some one should have authority to properly apportion the cost that would be sustained in instances of this kind between the railroads and municipalities or counties. We earnestly urge the members of the General Assembly to take some action in regard to this matter.
There are, of course, many grade crossings in South Carolina that carry much more hazard to life and property than others. The Commission proposes, as soon as the roads are returned to private ownership, or as soon as the Commission's jurisdiction is restored, to have special danger warnings erected by the railroads at such crossings. There should be some method devised that would require motor vehicle drivers to stop their machines at grade crossings and look and listen for trains. The Commission feels that it cannot too strongly impress this matter upon the General Assembly of South Carolina and in doing so we are only asking for such authority as will enable us to protect the lives of the public as well as property against the greatest hazard that is known to modern railroading. This Commission does not hesitate and will not hesitate to go the limit of the law in the protection of human life, and we are only asking for such remedial legislation as will afford the protection that the public is entitled to. It is without question that the individuals using public crossings have some duty to perform in assisting to protect themselves, and the Commission feels that some action on the part of your body will bring at least partial results. Even under present circumstances the Commission has eliminated numbers of dangerous crossings, but there are hundreds more that could be removed without inconvenience to any one if all parties interested would give the proper co-operation, and it is to this end that the Commission is now working.
In order to impress upon your body the alarming number of fatalities occurring at grade crossings in this State during the past twelve months, we submit the following figures which speak for themselves and which do not include employees of railways or passengers. Sixty-one persons killed outright, and the greater number of these lost their lives at grade crossings. One hundred and eighty-four persons injured, and the greater number of these casualties occurred at grade crossings.
For more than a year and a half the Commission has diligently worked to bring about some provisions to eliminate Ashley Junction crossing on Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, near Charleston. After many hearings, conferences and visits to the premises, the