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of the melons and soliciting agents of the roads caused much confusion im the shipments. We trust, however, that the correspondence of the roads. with the Interstate Commerce Commission has adjusted this matter, so that these difficulties will not affect the shipper during the next season.
The large number of interior compresses, the considerable sums of money invested in the same, the decided effect which the compressing of cotton has in facilitating shipments, and the competition between the different compresses and different railroads for the movement of cotton, had caused the railroads to reduce the price heretofore allowed the compresses for this service. The shippers and the parties interested in the compresses complained to the Commission, and asked that a separate classification be made for compressed cotton.
The railroads were notified of this proposed classification. After a full hearing, and before a decision was made, the complainants notified the Commission that they had agreed with the railroads upon a rate for compressing cotton, which was satisfactory to them, and asked leave to withdraw their complaint and have the same dismissed. Their request was allowed. We hope that this disposition of the matter will prevent that friction which threatened seriously to disturb the movement of this traffic, and will harmonize the differences between the compressors and the railroads, and thereby promote the public interest. While the Commission does not claim any authority over the compresses, it has jurisdiction to make rates, and will exercise this authority to secure justice whenever occasion demands.
The universal depression that has prevailed everywhere has been seriously felt by the railroads in Georgia. The reduced volume of business has necessitated the most rigid economy on the part of the railroads. Their gross and net earnings for 1894, set out below in this report, show a gratifying increase over the previous year; and we may confidently believe that with the just and reasonable rates allowed the different roads, a return of business prosperity will restore the roads to their former prosperous condition.
Since our last report, 723 miles of railroads in Georgia have been sold and relieved from the care of receivers, and re-organized ; and indications point to the rescue of these great properties from the expensive management of the courts. If the new organizations will avoid the extravagance and the over-capitalization in stocks and bonds that has heretofore
existed, there is every reason to hope that these properties will earn a fair dividend to their stockholders, upon a just and reasonable valuation.
The establishment of trunk lines and great systems, under one management, is the decided tendency of the present railway management in Georgia, as elsewhere. Such consolidations largely reduce expenses; and, with wise, just and economical management, ought to insure increased net earning. By the safeguards of our State Constitution competition cannot be destroyed in this manner. By strict regulation and control, insuring just and reasonable rates and adequate service, the evils so generally apprehended from these combinations will be prevented, and the public will be protected from extortionate rates and unjust discrimination. The strong should not be permitted to oppress the weak; nor should they, by unjust and arbitrary treatment, be permitted to crush out their weaker rivals, that they may the more readily absorb them.
The fact that fewer complaints than usual have reached the Commission within the past twelve months, is exceedingly gratifying as showing the harmonious relations existing between the railroads and the people. It gives evidence that the railroads are complying with the law, and that the passive influence of the Commission is as efficacious as its active power. The fact that there is a tribunal to which the people can appeal from the railroads, and to which the railroads can appeal as against each other, prevents that wrong and injustice which makes an appeal necessary.
While complaints have been fewer, the demand for annual reports has been larger than ever, and almost every copy handed us by the printer has been distributed to the people and the railroad authorities. To meet this demand a larger number of reports will be required for the next ensuing year.
It is a noteworthy fact that during the past year a large number of the complaints made to the Commision were by the railroads against each other. At competitive points, the interchange of traffic between rival roads has been obstructed, in order to force shippers to adopt a particular line and deny them the benefit of competition. The delivering roads have refused to receive cars of its competitors, destined to non-competitive points on its road, and required transfer of freight from one depot to another by the expensive mode of drayage. This seems to have been the
common practice with several roads; and yet it is in flagrant violation of Rule No. 32 of this Commission. The rule is as follows:
1. Railroads shall, without delay, switch off and deliver to any conn
nnecting road of the same gauge, all cars consigned to points on or beyond such connecting roads.
2. They shall, at the terminus or intermediate point, without obstruction or delay, receive from the connecting road of the same gauge, when offered, all cars consigned to any point on the road to which the same is offered, or on any connecting road with said road to which it is destined, and to transport said cars to their destination with reasonable diligence.
3. No railroad shall discriminate in its rates or tariffs of freight in favor of any line or route connected with it, as against any other line or route, nor when a part of its own line is sought to be run in connection with any other route, shall such railroad discriminate against such connecting line in favor of the balance of its own line, but said railroad shall have the same rates for all, and shall afford the usual and like customary facilities for the interchange of freight to patrons of each and all lines alike.
This rule was adopted after full consideration by the Board, and is in keeping with the general law upon the subject, which affords ample remedy to private persons for this illegal conduct on the part of the railroads. We have generally been enabled to exact compliance with this rule without litigation where complaints were made, but in some instances the railroads have denied jurisdiction to the Commission on traffic received from beyond the State, or destined to points outside of the State. Upon consideration, we are of the opinion that this rule and regulation is a police regulation, not inconsistent with the Inter-state Commerce law, or with the commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States,—one which we might lawfully pass and enforce for the conduct of the railroads with each other, without regard to the origin or destination of the traffic. While the question is not free from difficulty, still our best consideration leads us to the above conclusion; and we shall endeavor to enforce the rule wherever complaint is made and proof submitted of its infraction.
There have been comparatively few complaints as to depot accommodations. During the year new depots and improved facilities have been ordered at the following places: Flippen, Coley's, Mt. Vernon and Powell's. Owing to the financial condition of the roads in the hands of receivers, some of the depots heretofore ordered have not been constructed, further time having been given to enable the roads to build them.
Comparatively little railway construction has been carried on in Georgia since our last report. The actual number of miles constructed, so far as derived from official information received at this office, is 119 miles. Of this number there were 107 miles of railroad built by the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad Company, and eight miles by the Middle Georgia and Atlantic Railroad Company. There were also seventeen miles of railroad constructed by the Middle Georgia and Atlantic Railroad Company, not included in said report, built the previous year.
Notwithstanding the large increase of railway mileage in Georgia since 1880, and the present disinclination to invest in railroad property, we have official information that at least two other important railroads are now being projected, and their corps of engineers are now already in the field. With returning prosperity, we may expect an additional increase in railway mileage, in full proportion to the demands of the public for additional railroads.
The railroad mileage in Georgia is as follows:
OTHER ROADS- Continued.
Miles. Ga. R. R.-Camak to Macon..... 78 Augusta to Atlanta ......
171 Union Point to Athens...
40 Barnett to Washington..
18 Gaines. Jeff. & Southern....
52 Union Point & White Plains.. 1492 Georgia Midland & Gulf.....
98 Georgia, Carolina & Northern.. 123 Georgia Southern & Fla., main line. 169 Macon & Birmingham Div...... 105 Hartwell....
10 Louisville & Wadley.....
10 Lexington Terminai..
4 Macon & Northern...
106 Millen & Southern.
32 Macon, Dublin & Savannah.
54 Middle Georgia & Atlantic.....
66 Marietta & North Georgia.....
107 Midville, Swainsboro & Red Bluff .. 20
It will be seen that there are 5,102 miles of railroad in this State under the jurisdiction of this Commission. In 1879 the railroad mileage was 2,535. This was the year in which the Commission law was passed. These figures do not include side tracks, but refer to main lines. There have been built since that time, and whilst this law has been in operation, 2,567 miles, being more than 101 per cent. increase. Out of 137 counties in Georgia, only fourteen are now without railroads; and in most cases the railroad facilities in other counties are easily accessible to these counties.
The following table will show the relative condition of the railroads in Georgia in 1879 and at present. Owing to the fact that several of the most important railroads are non-taxable under their charters, it is impossible to obtain strictly accurate information as to the value of the railroad property.
The tax returns in the Comptroller-General's office show the railroad property returned for taxation in 1879 to have been $9,866,129. Add to this the value of the non-taxable roads, to wit: the Central Railroad, the Georgia, the Southwestern and the Western and Atlantic, and a liberal estimate would place the total at $35,000,000.00. The present taxable value, including roads not taxed is, in round numbers, $70,000,000.00.