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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/392

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

legislation which encouraged the construction of the second line, under the false pretext to the public that it would serve as a competing route, has really imposed upon the people the expense of supporting two railroads when their interests could be as well or better served by the support of one. The West Shore, Nickel Plate, and other lines were practically built for the purpose of sale to the old roads which they paralleled and threatened with ruinous competition, and, as in the first instance named, the people living along those lines are now compelled to pay for the maintenance of two railroads, while for all practical purposes they derive benefits from only one. Is it not evident that the construction of railroads in excess of commercial needs must entail a loss upon the investors or an additional cost to shippers; and so long as this unbalanced state exists the railroad companies can only be saved from losses by pooling with, purchasing, or gaining control of competing lines, and thereby throw the cost upon the people? Or if the latter, through legislation, the verdicts of their juries, and interpretations of their courts, can thwart such combinations, purchase, or control, then the full force of vicious legislation will be shifted to the railroads, and as investments those properties will be ruined.

The rights and obligations of railway companies and the public meet and harmonize at the point where, the facilities provided being ample for the business, the amount of traffic is sufficient to make a low cost of service remunerative to the investors; but this desideratum can not be attained by legislating to preserve railroad properties by restricting competition and legalizing pools, nor by anti-pooling clauses to foster competition; it will only come through the repeal of the disturbing laws which by stimulating the construction of railroads polarized interests which natural adjustments made identical; but normal adjustments are impossible so long as laws exist which offer advantages to the investor other than the natural and legitimate profits of the investment.

Let general railroad laws be repealed, and, before the legislative authority to exercise the right of eminent domain is extended to a railway company, let the public necessity for the construction of a railroad be fairly shown and affirmatively proved as required by the common law.

Is the present demoralization to be wondered at when, in most of the States, charters granted under general laws are deemed as prima facie evidence of the public necessity, although railroads so chartered may be projected side by side with those having facilities not half employed?

Not uncommonly it is claimed that the railroads have made the country what it is, but is it not equally true that the country has made its railroads what they are? The two statements com-