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VALUE OF BLOCK SYSTEM CONCEDED BY RAILWAY MANAGERS.

In view of the startling frequency of railroad disasters that have been laid before the public in the newspapers within the last few months, to say nothing of the records herein referred to, there can scarcely be need of argument in favor of the proposition to take legislative action looking to the prevention of these dreadful casualties; but if any argument is needed it can be found in the fact before mentioned that action has already been taken by the majority of the principal railroads of the country. They have used the block system on their chief lines for years. One prominent company, which has used the block system for more than twenty-five years, is now spending many thousands of dollars annually in improving and extending its blocksignal appliances; and the importance of this feature of railroad operation is indicated by the large appropriations which the most enterprising companies make for scientific and vigilant oversight of their signaling plants.

There is no question that the larger railroads fully recognize the correctness of the block-signal principle and the practical adequacy of the system in operation, and yet these very companies on parts of their lines, and many other companies throughout their lines, continue the use of the old methods. This course is inexplicable except on the theory that the expense of the block system is too great for lines of moderate density of traffic; but that theory would seem to be discredited by the fact that other companies operating many hundreds of miles of road do use the system on lines of moderate and even light traffic. Again, the experience of the English lines, on which the block system has been practically universal for ten years and nearly so for twenty years, tends to refute the claim that the expense is excessive. Moreover, the question of expense should not be allowed too great weight, for the lives of passengers and trainmen are as valuable on one line as on another and demand a like degree of protection. At the same time it is everywhere understood that the block system itself depends for perfect success on adequate care and discipline, and that defects in administration or inspection, or in apparatus, or negligence of enginemen or signalmen, sometimes lead to collisions where the block system is used.

PARTICULAR DEVICES NOT REQUIRED.

It should be carefully noted that the use of the block system does not impose upon any railroad the necessity of buying or using any particular mechanical device or appliance. The essential instruments are a telegraph or telephone line, or other electric communication, with the necessary batteries, keys, relays, sounders, telephones and bells, and a signal to give day and night indications. Of such signals there are several approved designs. All of these things are made by many different establishments, and in the matter of designs which have been patented there is an ample number on which the patents have long since expired. A number of railroads make these articles in their own shops. It is true that patented articles are in use, and especially in automatic signaling patented articles are common; but it is not proposed that automatic signals be required by law. A law requiring the use of the block system does, however, freely permit the use of automatic signals, as they are so operated as to constitute a block system.

DEFECTS OF ORDINARY METHODS INCURABLE.

Some of the defects in the ordinary methods of managing trains must be looked upon as incurable. This conclusion is supported by the exhibit—which would be astounding if the facts were not so well known to persons acquainted with railroad affairs—which has been made by the accident record of the past two years. Either from ineradicable mental infirmities in men of the most competent class, or from the employment of men more or less incompetent, collisions, due to blunders and forgetfulness, usually of two or more men simultaneously, follow one another in endless and rapid succession. These horrible mishaps occur on what are known as the best railroads as well as on roads of all other classes; and, as we have just observed, the railroads themselves many of them-have taken action indicating that the block system is, unquestionably, the only safe and satisfactory method of managing trains. But the unpleasant fact remains that only about one-seventh of the railroad mileage of the country is worked by the block system. The strong arm of public authority is needed to stimulate those companies which have not taken action or which have made progress so slowly that they are chargeable with neglect of duty in this regard, and the proposed act or some measure of similar aim should certainly receive the attention of the Congress.

STATISTICS OF RAILWAYS.

PRELIMINARY REPORT ON THE INCOME AND EXPENDITURES OF RAILWAYS FOR THE

YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 1903.

As a concise presentation of the results of railway operations, the Commission issues each year a preliminary report on the income account of operating roads, which is published in advance of the full report on railway statistics prepared by its statistician. This report for the past fiscal year embraces returns received by November 30 for 677 operating lines, representing a railway mileage of 201,457.14 miles, or about 98 per cent of that which will be covered by the complete and final report for the year.

The chief items in the preliminary report for the past fiscal year are given in the following abstract:

The gross earnings of the railways for the year ending June 30, 1903, on the mileage stated were $1,890,150,679. The gross earnings for the preceding year on 200,154.56 miles, as shown in the final report, were $1,726,380,267. Of total gross earnings stated for the year under consideration, earnings from the passenger service amounted to $508,683,009, or 26.91 per cent, and earnings from the freight service amounted to $1,335,768,581, or 70.67 per cent. Earnings from various sources other than those incidental to operation amounted to $45,699,089, or 2.42 per cent. Gross earnings from operation averaged $9,382 per mile of line. This average is $757 larger than the average as shown in the complete report for 1902, when the average was larger than it had been for any preceding year for which a statistical report has been published by the Commission. Of the gross earnings per mile of line, $2,525 were assignable to the passenger service and $6,630 to the freight service. It should, perhaps, be mentioned that the inclusion in the final report for the year of returns for some roads that earn relatively small amounts per mile of line may slightly diminish the averages stated.

This preliminary report shows that the operating expenses of the railways covered therein amounted to $1,248,520,483. This aggregate is equivalent to an average expenditure of $6,197 per mile, or of $620 more per mile than was shown by the complete returns for 1902. The ratio of operating expenses to earnings was 66.05 per cent, being somewhat greater than for the year previous. The income from operation, or net earnings, of practically the same lines embraced in this report for the year ending June 30, 1903, were $641,630,196, and for the year 1902, $607,547,926. On the same mileage basis the average of net earnings per mile of line for 1903 exceeded those for 1902 by $169.

This advance report shows that the railway companies to which it relates received $93,079,239 as income from such sources as investments in the stocks and bonds of railway and other corporations and other sources of miscellaneous character. It is necessary to add this sum to the net earnings to get the total income of the operating roads that was at their disposal for corporate expenditures and surplus fund. The total income thus found was $734,709,435. The aggregate of the deductions from income to be charged against this amount was $643,546,723. The principal items comprised in these deductions were interest on funded debt, rents of leased lines, permanent improvements charged to income, taxes (which were $52,960,004), and dividends. From the figures given it appears that the surplus derived from the operations of those roads which are covered by the present report was $91,162,712. The full report for 1902 showed a surplus of $94,855,088.

During the year ending June 30, 1903, the operating roads for which report is made are shown to have declared dividends amounting to $159,310,010. This amount exceeds that representing the dividends of corresponding roads for 1902 by $9,589,700. It should of course be understood that the preliminary reports, being compiled from the returns of operating companies only, do not include any statement of the dividends that are declared by those subsidiary companies which have leased their property to others for operation. The income of these companies is almost wholly derived from the fixed or contingent rentals which they receive from their lessees, and from which they make their own corporate expenditures, including dividends. As a rough estimate, it may be suggested that the dividends distributed by the lessor companies among their stockholders for 1903 were probably about $35,000,000.

FINAL REPORT FOR THE YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 1902.

The following is an abstract of the Fifteenth Statistical Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, prepared by its statistician, being a report for the year ending June 30, 1902.

MILEAGE AND CLASSIFICATION OF RAILWAYS.

On June 30, 1902, the total single-track railway mileage in the United States was 202,471.85 miles, this mileage having increased during the year 5,234.41 miles, the increase being greater than that for any other year since 1890. The 21 States and Territories for which an increase in mileage in excess of 100 miles is shown are Arkansas, California, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Indian Territory, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

The reports made by carriers to the Interstate Commerce Commission cover substantially all the railway mileage in the country other than that of street lines. For the year under review the operated mileage relating to which detailed returns were made was 200,154.56 miles, including 5,387.11 miles of line on which trackage privileges were exercised. Including tracks of all kinds, the aggregate length of railway mileage was 274,195.36 miles. This was classified as: Single track, 200,154.56 miles; second track, 13,720.72 miles; third track, 1,204.04 miles; fourth track, 895.11 miles, and yard track and sidings, 58,220.93 miles. From these figures it is noted that there was an increase of 8,843.07 miles in the aggregate length of tracks of all kinds, 3,306.07 miles, or 37.39 per cent, being due to the increase in yard track and sidings.

The number of the railway corporations included in the report was 2,037. Of this number 1,016 maintained operating accounts, 784 being classed as independent operating roads and 232 as subsidiary roads. Of the roads operated under lease or some other form of contract, 321 received a fixed money rental, 165 a contingent money rental, and 257 were operated under some other form of agreement or control. During the year railway companies owning 7,385.99 miles of line were reorganized, merged, consolidated, etc. The corresponding item for 1901 was 8,969.55 miles.

EQUIPMENT.

On June 30, 1902, there were 41,225 locomotives in the service of the railways, which was 1,641 more than were in use in 1901. Of the total number of locomotives, 10,318 are classed as passenger locomotives, 23,594 as freight locomotives, 6,683 as switching locomotives, the remainder, 630, not being classified.

The total number of cars of all classes in the service of the railways on the same date was 1,640,185, there having been an increase of 89,352 in rolling stock of this class. Of the total number of cars, 36,987 are assigned to the passenger service, 1,546,101 to the freight service, and 57,097 to the direct service of the railways. The foregoing figures do not include cars owned by private companies and firms that are used by railways, as no returns for them are made to the Commission.

The report contains the usual summaries to indicate the density of equipment and the extent of its use. They show that the railways of the United States used on an average 206 locomotives and 8,195 cars per 1,000 miles of line; that 62,985 passengers were carried and 1,908,310 passenger miles accomplished per passenger locomotive, and that 50,874 tons of freight were carried and 6,666,499 ton-miles accomplished per freight locomotive. Embracing in the term “equipment,” both locomotives and cars, it is noted that the total equipment of railways at the end of the year was 1,681,410. Of this number 1,306,845 were fitted with train brakes, the increase in this item being 142,797, and 1,648,530 were fitted with automatic couplers, the increase being 98,690. Nearly all locomotives and cars in the passenger service were fitted with train brakes, and of 10,318 locomotives assigned to that service 9,462 were fitted with automatic couplers. Practically all passenger cars were fitted with automatic couplers. Regarding freight equipment, it is observed that nearly all freight locomotives were equipped with train brakes and 94 per cent of them with automatic couplers. Of 1,546,101 cars in the freight service, 1,204,929 were fitted with train brakes and 1,520,997 with automatic couplers.

This report for the first time presents a classification of freight cars and locomotives designed to show the carrying capacity of the former and the general structure and tractive power of the latter. Locomotives are classified first as single-expansion locomotives, 4-cylinder compound locomotives, and 2-cylinder compound or cross-compound locomotives. The locomotives in each of these classes are further classified according to the number and arrangement of their wheels, irrespective of the service for which the locomotives are intended.

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