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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/297

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293
OUR INLAND WATERWAYS

years. So railway magnates and the masses began to see alike that the congestion of freight was a general condition affecting every industry and the entire country, and one not to be remedied by local and temporary means. Thenceforward discussions and conventions took a definite aim—and for the first time in our industrial history, railway corporations, commercial organizations, producers, and consumers, all united in a common movement for the common good.

Seen large, our primary industries are production and distribution, the latter effected by trade and transportation; and in 1906 it became clear that production had so far outgrown transportation and trade (including every phase of merchandising and banking and broking) as to prevent the normal development of either—i. e., entire sections of the country were confronted by the stern necessity of finding new and more economical transportation facilities, or else ceasing to develop. In fact while citizens and statesmen were seeking facilities and discussing the resumption of water traffic, settlement and production actually stopped over scores of thousands of square miles in the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and California: nor can it recommence, save perhaps feebly and sporadically, until transportation is provided. For conditions are changing: In the first place, human nature being as it is, the luxuries of yesterday are the necessities of to-day, so that the time of the independent and self-supporting squatter family has passed, and that of the interdependent settlement or community united on the joint basis of human sympathy and convenient currency has come in its stead. In the second place, water and fuel are no longer mere redundancies if not obstructions to settlement, but essentials to be gained only through collective action. In the third place, the multiplication of communities necessarily involves a much more rapid increase of lines of communication, in accordance with the mathematical law of combination: two communities may be connected by one line, while three communities require three lines; four demand six lines, five need 10 lines, six, 15 lines, eight, 28 lines, twelve, 66 lines; if the lines were not combined, the county seats of a state of a hundred counties would require 4,950 lines of communication to connect them, while the thousand towns of a section would require 49,950 lines—so that a reason for the breaking down of transportation systems in a growing country is the inexorable physical law under which the lines connecting communities increase in rapid ratio. Thus the congestion of traffic in the land of magnificent distances forming the interior and the west in 1906 was inevitable; production and trade had simply outgrown transportation facilities; the railways failed because the marts were too far apart for their carrying capacity—and the old-time packets were gone!