Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/775

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jestic American railway systems[1] for the benefit of its alien parallel, and which has precipitated three other vast plants into the miseries of receiverships! Will she who has come so swiftly into potent plutocracy, who pays dividends and fills pockets of all concerned, fall at last, as most men and women fall, by her own ambition and insatiate pride of power? Perhaps she can climb over the Interstate Commerce Commission and State boards of railway Solons above enumerated as deftly as she surmounts grades and laughs at incorporation and locating expenses! Let us hope, for her sake, that she does so. But possibly she can not expect, after dissolving the street railway, the narrow-gauge railway, the elevated railway, and all the other tramway devices except her own, to go scot-free of congresses and of State legislatures that sit nine months in every year to make new laws for this law-prolific United States.

It seems hard indeed to believe that the trolley, with all its easy dodging of expenses, can do much more for shippers than the railway has accomplished. In spite of tributes demanded, the American railway has reduced freights again to where they stood before the Interstate Commerce Commission sent them up, so that our railways now carry for an average of one dollar and twenty-two cents a ton, as against an average of two dollars and two cents for the rest of the world.[2]

The above are a few considerations which lie on the surface of the present enormous development of an invention which had hardly been born at all, but it had leaped like Minerva, adult and armored, from the alleged front of Jove. It may almost be said that it came in obedience to a reluctant summons which was only uttered after almost every other conceivable form of rapid transit had been tried, retried, rejected, and tried over again! In the city of New York, for example (to take the most crowded spot on two continents, where business urgencies of every conceivable character are cramped between waterways upon a narrow island), almost all the varieties of tramway transportation played at leapfrog with each other for years before the trolley came! The history is a curious one, and will bear repeating. But the most curious thing about it is, after all, the long and slow mental processes by which New York capitalists—after sinking hundreds of millions of dollars in building railways across trackless forests and frozen mountains and over unpopulated prairies—arrived at

  1. This railway, as it happens, was chartered not by any State, but by the United States, and surely the nation has a right to wreck its own railway by its own laws if it sees fit.
  2. The actual figures are to-day in Europe: Germany, $1.22; Austria, $2.10; Belgium, $1.54; Denmark, $2.76; France, $2.14; Italy, $2.40; Luxemburg, $1.92; Norway, $3; Holland, $1.52; Roumania, $2.64; Russia, $2.32; Finland, $1.98; Switzerland, $3.36.