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   Chapter 42 TRANSPORTATION BY RAIL

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Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


THE GROWTH OF OUR RAILROAD SYSTEM

A railway map of the United States shows that most parts of our country have a thickly woven net of railroads. The mileage of our railroad lines is now 184,000 miles, the actual length of track on these roads being about 245,000 miles. The significance of these large figures becomes more manifest when a comparison is made between the length of our railroads and the length of those of Europe and those of the world. The railroads in the United States comprise over four ninths of the total railway mileage of the world, and are considerably longer than the railroads of all the countries of Europe combined. The facts are shown graphically by the following diagram:

The history of the construction of American railroads covers a period of seventy years. The greater part of our mileage has been built since 1870. The following table and diagram illustrate the growth of our railway net during each decade:

It will be noted that the decades of most rapid railway development were the one from 1850 to 1860, following the discovery of gold in California, and the two between 1870 and 1890. We added 70,000 miles to our railway net between 1880 and 1890-a record that no other country has equalled. By 1892 we seem to have met the more urgent demands for new lines, and we are now annually building less than 2000 miles of new roads. The face value of the capital now invested in American railroads is $11,000,000,000. The number of persons employed in the railway service is 850,000.

THE RAILWAY CORPORATION

The agents that do the work of transportation by rail are the railway corporations. These "artificial persons" are created by the several States and intrusted with the performance of services of a public nature. In all the German states and to a large degree in many other European states, the governments themselves provide the means of transportation by rail; but in the United States the ownership and management of the railroads is rightly regarded to be a task of greater magnitude than the administrative department of our government is as yet able to cope with.

The growth of the railway corporations of the United States has been typical of the evolution of industrial organisation in this country. The early railway corporations were small. The Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, for instance, comprised the lines of four companies. In 1850 the road connecting Albany and Buffalo included the lines of seven companies. During the last fifty years most of the small companies have united to form the corporations which now operate our large railway systems. Though the last statistical report of the Interstate Commerce Commission-the one for the year ended June 30, 1896-contains financial reports from 1985 companies, there were only 782 "independent operating roads," the remainder of the companies being subsidiary organisations. This report shows that forty-four of these operating companies have an aggregate mileage that equals nearly six tenths of the total railway mileage of the United States. Indeed, the statistician to the Interstate Commerce Commission declared in 1894 that "over 83 per cent. of the business of the railways and 82 per cent. of their earnings fall under the control of less than forty associations of business men."

The Pennsylvania system affords a good concrete illustration of railway consolidation. That corporation, with its 9000 miles of road, was built up by the union of over 200 railroad companies, and it now comprises within its organisation 177 corporations-most, though not all, of which are subsidiary railroad companies. This one railway system does one seventh of the entire freight business performed by all the railroads of the United States and handles one eighth of all the passenger traffic.

THE FREIGHT SERVICE OF RAILROADS

The freight business of the railroads of the United States is much larger than their passenger service, the earnings from freight being nearly three times that from the passenger traffic. It is only in some of the New England States, the most densely populated parts of the United States, that the passenger receipts equal the freight earnings. The industrial conditions of the United States necessitate the movement of great quantities of bulky freight long distances. Our principal grain-fields are from 1000 to 1500 miles from the manufacturing districts and seaboard cities. Our richest iron deposits are in the States adjacent to Lake Superior hundreds of miles from the coal-beds of Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Most of the cott

on crop is moved long distances to reach the mills of New England and Great Britain. In fact, most of the products of our fields, forests, mines, and factories are marketed over wide areas. The average distance travelled by each ton of freight moved during the year ended June 30, 1896, was 124.47 miles; and, as the railroads carried 765,891,385 tons that year, the number of tons carried one mile was 95,328,360,278.

A comparison of the revenues received from the freight and passenger services by the American, German, French, and British railways is instructive. For each dollar received from the passenger traffic the American railroads earn $2.95 from their freight business, the German roads $2.40, the French $1.31 and the British railways $1.17. The United Kingdom has the greatest volume of passenger traffic per population of any country in the world.

AMERICAN PASSENGER TRAFFIC ON RAILROADS RELATIVELY UNDEVELOPED

The long distances of the United States necessitate a large freight traffic but act as a hindrance to travel. It is a generally accepted but erroneous supposition that Americans travel more than any other people. A comparison of the passenger traffic in the United States with that in the United Kingdom, Germany, and France reveals some surprising facts. The figures are for 1896. The number of passengers carried one mile per mile of road upon the railroads of the United States was 71,705, in France the number was 273,315, in Germany 315,399, and in the United Kingdom 440,000. The average distance which the Briton travels per year by rail is 244 miles; for the American the distance is 209 miles, for the Frenchman 176 miles, and for the German 165 miles. The Englishman takes 24.4 trips per year on an average, the German 11.3, the Frenchman 9.6, and the American 8.2. Americans travel extensively, but it is evident from the foregoing comparisons that the possibility of developing the passenger service in this country has by no means reached its limit.

RELATION OF TRANSPORTATION ON RAILROADS TO ECONOMIC ORGANISATION

The economic changes which have accompanied the great development of transportation that has taken place during the last fifty years have revolutionised our industrial and social life. Among the effects of developed transportation upon the economic organisation may be noted: First, that relations of producers and consumers have been fundamentally changed by placing a larger market at the service of both. Many classes of commodities are now bought and sold in a world market that were formerly restricted to local trade. Second, improved transportation has made the prices of commodities more uniform for different producers and consumers. The variations due to situation have been lessened. In a like manner there has been a decrease in those time variations in prices that result from changes in the supply of commodities. Improved transportation also makes prices lower-not only because it reduces the costs of moving the raw materials of manufacture and the finished products of industry, but also because it enables the merchant to turn his stock oftener and thus do business with less expenses for capital.

As a third effect of improved transportation may be mentioned the acceleration which it has given to the growth of cities. Cheap and efficient transportation has led manufacturers to locate their plants where they can command a large supply of labour and where they have the greatest advantages for the distribution of their products. The great manufacturing establishments are now located in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, and the other large cities. Conditions of transportation have become a stronger factor than even the location of the sources of raw materials in determining where an industry shall be established. The effect of the railroad upon the location of agriculture has been no less potent. The railroad has brought new agricultural regions into cultivation and destroyed the profits of cereal agriculture in many parts of the Eastern States.

Another important consequence of improved transportation and communication has been that of bringing the nations of the world into closer economic and social relations. With the growing solidarity of the economic interests of the countries of the world, with the multiplication of the intellectual and other social ties that unite the nations, their political relations inevitably change, and for the better. Nothing is doing more to advance the attainments of the cherished ideal of international amity than is the development of transportation.

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