Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/391

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and much of the present demoralization is due to the rash, impetuous folly of those who hoped to enjoy the pleasures of stimulated activity and still escape the reacting evils.

When legislative inducements were made to investors for the construction of new railroads, capitalists were pleased to be relieved of ordinary prudence in making their investments, and upon the strength of such legislation continued to build railroads in excess of commercial wants, expecting to so adjust the traffic rates as to insure to them good profits; but this was never the purpose of the shippers or of the legislators who represented them, for, by the construction of numerous lines, they expected to arouse a spirit of competition among the railroads which would lead to cut rates and reduced cost of service. Thus the original laws which stimulated the organization and construction of railroads polarized the interests of the investors and the shippers, and made mutually repellent forces which should have mutually attracted. Each was deluded by false hopes, for neither considered the rights or interests of the other, and all subsequent legislation which has aimed to preserve the benefits of unwise and premature railroad construction to the public has shifted all the evils and consequent losses upon the railroad companies, while the efforts of railway companies to avoid all competition, by a division of revenues would throw the entire burden of supporting useless roads upon the public; and it is this unbalanced condition of affairs which has led to aggressions upon the part of railroads, adverse verdicts by juries, and hostile legislation by the States, all of which are in the nature of reactions due to the disturbance caused by the original laws.

For example, between the cities of Toledo and Detroit there are two lines of railway passing through the same towns, and for the greater part of the distance running side by side, their rights of way abutting. These two roads, being branches of the Lake Shore and Canada Southern respectively, were originally independent and competing lines, but, as one could have carried the business brought to the two, it is evident that the conflict was only a question of the survival of the fittest. In this as in most other cases the new road ultimately fell into the hands of those who owned the original line, and, though under different managers, are operated under one controlling policy; rates were equalized, train schedules harmonized, and the business which with the small additional cost of a second track could be more cheaply performed by one line must now earn the fixed charges and pay dividends on the stock certificates of two, all of which extra expense must be paid by the people. So long as the roads were in competition, they were a source of loss to the owners; when they harmonized their differences, they became a burden to the public; and the class of