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pany for itself, because of the general objection to governmental interference with what is termed private enterprise; and the argument has been offered that only automatic signaling should be encouraged.
To these mild objections the answer has already been made, or, rather, is to be found in every-day experience. The cost of introducing the manual block system can scarcely be called a burden when we see it introduced every year on single-track lines of not very heavy traffic and find no prominent mention of the expense in the annual reports of the companies. Moreover, as will be shown presently, the actual expense is known to be in many cases but a small percentage of the total former expense of that part of the station service which is devoted to the movement and safety of trains.
The argument that the railroads should be left to introduce improvements of this character on their own initiative seems to be sufficiently answered by the history of the safety-appliance law of 1893. The introduction of automatic couplers and air brakes was generally acknowledged by a great majority of railroad companies and of railroad officials as necessary for safety to life and limb, as well as economy in operation. Yet important companies were reluctant to make the changes necessary in their cars and engines, and many officers who desired to make the improvements were unable to get the necessary appropriations from their directors until after long delay, involving disobedience of the law, although a period of more than seven years was allowed for compliance with it. A Federal law requiring the block system is now urgently needed if for no other purpose than to bring the laggards into line with the more enterprising companies, and to secure a reasonable degree of uniforinity.
As to automatic versus nonautomatic signaling the question is mainly one of immediate capital expenditure. The automatic method necessitates the construction and installation of costly apparatus, but is less costly in operation than the nonautomatic or manual. The manual system is worked successfully without expensive apparatus, but on most roads of light traffic requires the employment of additional station attendants at some of the stations, and the establishment of new stations where the existing ones are too far apart. This increases the immediate expense for wages; but the assertion that this increase is necessarily large or burdensome, in proportion to the number of trains run, has never been substantiated by evidence. One railroad manager is reported as saying that on one of his principal lines of several hundred miles the increase in the pay rolls was only 3 per cent–certainly a moderate sum to pay for the satisfaction of knowing that on those lines the uncertainties of the discredited “train-dispatcher system” had been forever done away with.
One railroad company which uses automatic signals on its lines of heavy traffic, and evidently purposes extending their use as fast as it is deemed wise to make the necessary capital expenditure, has lately
put the manual system in use on several divisions, including both single-track and double-track lines.
Considered strictly on its technical merits, the block system is the acme of simplicity. As was shown in connection with the proposed statute submitted with our last annual report, it is simply the embodiment of the theory that no train shall ever be started from any point on any main-line track until it is known that such track is clear of all other trains up to a certain point beyond-in other words, the theory that a space interval must always be maintained, and no dependence placed on the maintenance of time intervals at stations. In the absence of this knowledge of a clear line for a definite distance we have many uncertainties, mistakes in reading time, failures of timepieces, miscalculations of speed, neglect, sleepiness, or laziness of flagmen, and the numberless other faults so familiar to those who read the collision records. The block system cures these faults and prevents rear collisions.
On single-track lines, where the liability to butting collisions is a danger even greater than that of rear collisions, the block system does away with another class of errors which, unless we have space-interval regulations, is harder to deal with even than those just mentioned, such as forgetting telegraphic orders and careless reading of poor handwriting on the part of trainmen; forgetting to deliver orders, or confusing different orders on the part of telegraph operators, and mistakes of dispatchers in keeping their record of trains. All these advantages of the block system are illustrated in daily practice on fifty different railroads in this country and on every railroad in Great Britain and Ireland.
We have spoken of the moderate cost of introducing the manual block system on lines where the traffic is not heavy. In nearly every case the cost is a relative question. At a recent meeting of the lowa Railway Club one speaker said that on 100 miles of road the additional cost (over the time-interval system) would be $1,000 a month; but another speaker declared that this estimate was far too high; that the added cost was nothing at all. These differing views are due to difference in the premises. Any person may make the matter clear to himself by considering a railroad line 100 miles long with which he is familiar. Such a railroad will have from 6 to 30 stations upon it. We may take for example one with 25 stations, of which some, in the middle of the line, are so far apart as to make intervals 6 or 8 miles long. Without the block system trains are time spaced by the agents at the stations, five or ten minutes on most roads. When out of sight of stations the enginemen's eyesight is their only means of knowing the whereabouts of the train ahead, and in a fog or on a crooked railroad this, of course, is wholly inadequate for high speeds or even for moderate speeds. The train ahead, if delayed, must be protected by sending back a man with a red flag or red light, or by throwing from the moving train fusees (sticks of burning red fire), which, if they do not fall into snow or water or otherwise become extinguished, will serve as a caution signal to following trains for five or ten minutes. The weaknesses of the flagging system need not be dwelt upon.
With the block system (manual) the agent at each station will hold each train until he knows by telegraphic advice that the last preceding train, whatever its class or its speed, has reached the next station. This does away with all the uncertainties of the time interval, flagging, torpedoes, fusees, defective judgment on the part of flagmen, and incorrect timepieces. Where is the extra cost? It can not be called excessive. First, the station agent has other duties to perform. It may be claimed that he can not stick closely to his telegraph instrument all day. The answer to this is that if trains are frequent enough to make this an exacting duty the agent is already kept pretty closely at his instrument, being required there to enable the train dispatcher to send telegraphic orders to conductors and enginemen of extra trains or delayed regular trains at any moment. If an agent has such varied duties that he can not give the trains the necessary attention, it is a fair inference that the volume of business at that station is sufficient for the employment of an assistant.
The second difficulty is that the smaller stations have no attendants at night. Manning these additional night offices is the principal cost of the new system. If trains are less frequent at night than in daytime the block sections may be made 8 or 10 miles long during the night, thus avoiding the expense of a night attendant at a part of the stations. If trains are as frequent in the night as in the day, the attendant at each station is as necessary as in the daytime. If additional signals have to be erected at stations, it may be fairly answered that such signals are as much needed under the time-interval system. They should not be charged to the block system. The block system can be worked with inadequate appliances as well as can the other system. If an additional telegraph wire has to be put up for block signaling, the cost is only about $25 per mile.
The final objection is that unless a large number of new stations are established the trains will be delayed at stations waiting for preceding trains to clear the block section next ahead. It is true that if the station to station intervals are, on the larger portion of the road, quite short, say, 2 or 3 miles, the occurrence of an unusually long interval, say one of 8 or 10 miles, between 3-mile sections, will cause delays. The only adequate remedy, if traffic is active, is to divide the 8-mile section in the middle. But if the long section were not near either terminus it might be possible for the important trains to recover their lost time before completing the trip. In some cases this is the way it works out. In some cases it will be found that only a few trains, and those not of the first importance, suffer from the delay occasioned by the long section. Under that condition permissive signaling” is often resorted to for such trains. In other words, the block system is maintained for the more important trains, the long time interval between such trains permitting this, while the other trains are admitted to the block section two at a time, the second being required to slacken speed at all curves or when for any reason the view ahead is obscure.
But the answer to this, as indeed to all other objections, is the experience of those roads, of all classes, doing all kinds of business, on which the block system has been intelligently applied and has been in daily use for years past. The only ground on which objection to the block system can plausibly be advanced, aside from a very moderate increase in cost, is that some roads have worked for years without it and have had no very serious collisions of passenger trains. But it may safely be said that every such road has had numerous freight train collisions, if the volume of its traffic rises above the very thinnest; and that circumstance sustains the argument for the principle of the block system.
As all roads are run by substantially the same rules, long continued immunity of passenger trains from accidents must be due either to unusual excellence in the discipline and character of the employees, or to fortunate chance. In either case such a road is fairly to be considered as exceptional; it is an exception that should not be allowed to interfere with a beneficent law. There are roads on which no serious derailment of a passenger train have occurred for many years, but that does not deter the management from constant efforts to secure the most improved rails, or the most perfect wheels, and to improve these whenever improvement is found practicable, even at large cost. The same arguments that are used to justify this course may be applied to the question of the block system. That system is universally admitted to be the best method of managing trains, and it is therefore justified on its merits alone, unless the cost is shown to be oppressive.
REPORTS OF ACCIDENTS.
In its last annual report the Commission called attention to the duplication of the reports of accidents caused by the operation of the law of 1901, requiring monthly reports of accidents in addition to the reports that are made by the railroads annually. Under the present state of the law it is necessary to have these two reports, notwithstanding that they are a burden upon the clerical force of the railroads as well as the Commission, because the monthly reports include only a part of the accidents comprised in the annual reports. If the two reports could be consolidated, covering all classes of accidents by the monthly reports and abolishing the annual reports of accidents, this duplication of reports and extra clerical work would be avoided, and it would also enable the Commission to publish the annual returns of all accidents much earlier than is now possible. For instance, the returns for the year ending June 30, 1904, based on the monthly reports, have been in the hands of the public since the latter part of October, 1904, while the complete returns published in the annual statistical report will not appear until the summer of 1905. It is therefore urged that the Congress so amend the law as to require only the monthly report, extending its scope so as to cover all accidents now treated in the annual report.
There is still considerable difficulty in obtaining reports from all companies within the time prescribed by law, and many inaccurate and incomplete reports are received, deaths and injuries being entirely omitted from the sworn statements. The extent of this omission may be inferred from the fact that 64 railroads admitted having omitted to report accidents after their attention had been called to them by the Commission. These omissions amounted to a total of 109 deaths and 226 injuries during the year ending June 30, 1904. It is hardly to be assumed that knowledge of all the accidents that occur throughout the entire country can reach the Commission through the press and from other outside sources. It is therefore to be fairly inferred that many accidents are not reported and do not come to the knowledge of the Commission, notwithstanding that the law requires all accidents to be reported to the Commission under oath. Suits have been brought against a number of railroad companies for failure to comply with the law in this respect. In this connection it is desired to correct an error which appeared in our last annual report in naming the Chicago Great Western Railway Company as having been proceeded against for failure to file accident reports as required by law. No suits have been filed against this road. The Grand Trunk Western was the offending company.
INVESTIGATION OF ACCIDENTS.
The great increase in train accidents during the past year has led to widespread discussion, and the causes assigned for various accidents are numerous and conflicting. Among these causes have been mentioned the influence of labor unions, laxity of discipline, long hours of labor, employment of inexperienced men, overtaxing the facilities for handling business, and many others. The fact that there exists so wide a diversity of opinion on this important subject, and a careful examination of the reports sent in by the railroad companies, covering the more serious accidents, suggests that if the public is to be supplied with full and accurate information concerning the causes of such accidents the facts ought to be made the subject of an impartial investigation on behalf of the Government. If, as has been asserted, the block system is no remedy for collisions, because railroad managers are