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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
YEARS 1904 AND 1905
COMPARED WITH LATE STATISTICS OF FOREIGN RAILWAYS
PREPARED FOR THE
GENERAL MANAGERS' ASSOCIATION OF CHICAGO
BY SLASON THOMPSON
From the organization of the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1887 to the last summary issued by that body, its statistics of American railways appear to have been compiled to bolster up the theories of the Commission's statistician, or to further the propaganda of its able and energetic secretary. To be of the highest value it will be admitted that the government statistics of such a comprehensive industrial system as the railways of the United States should be “as cold as ice” in the statement of facts, and “as pure as snow” from the imputation of being colored by any personal or ulterior purpose. They should seek to mirror as promptly and impartially as possible the condition existing during the period to which they relate.
In the First Annual Report on the Statistics of Railways in the United States for the year ending June 30, 1888, by Prof. Henry C. Adams, (then, as now, Statistician to the Commission,) it was well said that
“Railway statistics are essential for a proper appreciation of many problems of public economy, for sound conclusions on technical and scientific questions connected with railway management, as well as for the satisfactory performance by the Commission of the peculiar duties which Congress has assigned to it.” To this end "the framers of the 'Act to Regulate Commerce' intended to provide for comprehensive and authoritative railway statistics."
Since then under the fostering care of Mr. Adams, aided by liberal appropriations, these statistics have been compiled with ever increasing comprehensiveness, until now they are regarded as the most complete in the world. Unfortunately this development has been attended with increasing dilatoriness in their publication—so that, at this time when they are“ so essential for a proper appreciation of many problems of public economy, etc.,'' the completed statistics for the year ending June 30, 1904, were not distributed until December, 1905.
True, in its Nineteenth Annual Report, presented to Congress December 14, the Commission devoted a page and a half to the “Preliminary Report on the Income and Expenditures of Railways for the year ending June 30, 1905;" and in August, 1905, the Commission issued “For the Press” a skeleton of its final report for 1904.
None of these preliminary reports, abstracts or summaries has afforded a comprehensive, authoritative and above all, timely review of railway statistics. It was to remedy, as far as possible, the failure of the official statistician in the last mentioned respect, to make prompt publication of statistics within his possession, that the collection of the statistics behind the summaries herein for 1905 was undertaken.
In securing the data contained in the following pages returns were only sought from roads of 100 miles and over. Under this limitation, adopted for the sake of dispatch, reports were received from operating roads with a combined mileage of 193,404 miles of single track.
The inquiry was purposely confined to the more essential topics on which the Interstate Commerce Commission seeks information, and, so far as it goes, this information is identical with what the Commission obtains from the same sources and which will not be available for intelligent independent study in the official statistics until a year hence-unless the Commission is spurred into more rapid action. That there is no excuse for the delay of a year and a half in making public the statistics of American railways, these pages testify.
Although the total official mileage reported to the Commission in 1904, was 213,904 miles, the total for which“ satisfactory operating reports” were received was only 212,243 miles. It is with the assignments and computations, based on these latter figures, that all comparisons in the following pages will be made.
For the sake of brevity the Interstate Commerce Commission will be referred to herein as the “Commission;” the Commission's “Statistics of Railways in the United States” as “Official Statistics;” and “the year ending June 30,” will be implied before the figures of the year specified, unless otherwise stated.
The principal conclusions to be drawn from these incomplete t prompt returns for 1905, are:
That there is no excuse for the Commission's delay of fifteen months in giving the complete statistics of railways to the public.
That the statistics should be confined to operating companies only, thus avoiding duplications and confusion.
That the compilation of railway statistics should be entrusted to the Department of Commerce and Labor, whose Statistician, 0. R. Austin, gets out fuller statistics of American industries every month within a month of the affairs to which they relate than the Commission's statistician furnishes eighteen months after the close of each fiscal year.
That official compilation of statistics should not be entrusted to men with pet theories and prejudices, especially when these are adverse to the interest about which it is essential the truth should be known.
That Congress should establish national inquiry by expert officials into the causes of railway accidents patterned after that in Great Britain.