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CHAPTER 222, ACTS OF 1884, REQUIRING RAILROAD COMPANIES TO USE
SECTION 1. Every railroad company operating a railroad or any portion of a railroad wholly or partly within this State, shall place upon every freight car hereafter constructed or purchased by said corporation and upon every freight car owned by such corporation, of which the coupler or drawbar is repaired by it with intent to use such car, such forms or form of automatic or other safety coupler at each end thereof, as the Board of Railroad Commissioners may prescribe after examination and test of the same, and the Railroad Commissioners may annul any recommendation made by them.
SEC. 2. The provisions of this act may be enforced by the supreme judicial court on application of the attorney general.
SEC. 3. So much of this act as relates to the examination and test shall take effect upon its passage, and the same shall take full effect on the first day of March next.
Approved May 8, 1884.
On the 25th of September, the Railroad Commissioners of the State, after giving general notice, invited inventors to be present at a meeting of the Board and submit for inspection and test such plans, models or couplers as in their judgment would remedy existing evils. There were present on invitation a number of experts, master carbuilders and Railroad Commissioners from several States, among the latter one member of the Iowa Commission. On the list of applications to be heard there were one hundred and seventy-eight names; probably not more than one hundred and forty appeared in person or by attorney to advocate the merits of their inventions. The Commissioners examined carefully every plan and every model offered, heard fully all the arguments made for each invention with the particulars of its merits, and as far as the parties were able to arrange for practical tests, saw their working upon the cars. The conviction forced itself upon the minds of those who witnessed the tests that there were a number of couplers whose claims were presented that, if applied, would prevent the accidents that had become so frequent.
On December 5, they issued the following circular:
The Board of Railroad Commissioners, acting under chapter 222, of the acts of 1884, “regs ring railroad companies to use safety couplers on freight cars,''
prescribe the forms of couplers herein named to be placed upon freight cars on and after March 1, 1885, according to the provisions of said chapter, viz.:
The Janney car coupler for freight cars;
The writer agrees with the Commissioners as to the five couplers selected, and suggests that possibly the list might with propriety have been somewhat enlarged.
It is in the State of Massachusetts that so far as this country is concerned the railway commissioner system originated, and it is but simple justice to say that here the system has reached its highest efficiency. The views of that Commission on the questions that have arisen between the public and the corporations have been studied by railroad officers and attorneys, by the members of legislative bodies and by commissions all over the country, and it seems fitting that here should originate a reform in one branch of railway service that will save annually the lives of hundreds and the crippling of thousands of active, vigorous young men at the period of life, when their personal services are the most valuable. We look for the action of Massachusetts to be followed everywhere, either by the voluntary act of the railway companies or hy legislative enactment, until the appalling list of killed and injured from this cause shall belong to the past.
In this connection it may not be out of place to say that another important reform must we think, before long follow the automatic coupler, that is the application of the power-brake to freight trains. To one who has paid attention to the handling of freight trains, the methods seem crude compared with the efficient brake used on passenger trains, and it is difficult to resist the conviction that the item of repairs of freight cars would be reduced more than the increased cost of the application and use of the power-brake. The item of falling from cars, that tigures so largely in the list of accidents might we think be materially lessened. It is not our purpose here to fill our report with suggestions that would be too expensive and impracticable to carry out, but we believe that we are giving voice to the deliberate conclusions of many of the best minds in the railway service, in advocating reform in these particulars.
CARE OF STATION HOUSES.
The Commissioners feel it their duty to call the attention of railway officials to the necessity of constant vigilance with reference to the station houses. Drunken, disorderly and obscene persons should be summarily discharged therefrom, and the station houses and all the outhouses should be kept clean and pure, so that ladies and all persons properly there may use them without offense or contamination. A personal inspection has led us to feel the necessity of the above remarks.
UNION PASSENGER DEPOTS.
In the opinion of the Board, the convenience of the traveling public demands whenever practicable, the use of union passenger depots where two or more roads center and cross, and it is hoped that in all cases in the future, especially in the cities and larger towns, all station arrangements should be planned upon this idea, and as far as practicable, present systems re-arranged with reference thereto.
The law of the land, as well as religious sentiment, regards the Sunday train as an invasion upon cherished habits, and it is the belief of the Commissioners that a day of rest is essential to the physical and moral comfort of the employes. So far as practicable we believe the companies should observe the law and avoid any unnecessary work on Sunday. In this we are satisfied that we voice the sentiment of the laboring men employed in the railway service.
REMARKS ON THE LAW GRANTING ADDITIONAL POWERS TO THE BOARD.
Much attention has been given by the Commissioners to the effect of the legislation of the last General Assembly in marking and defining more precisely the limit of the powers of the Board. The phraseology of the original law creating the Board is so dearly identical with that of the Massachusetts law that the early Commissioners looked to the reports of that Board for an interpretation and illumination of the text. Six years of acquiescence had brought the minds of the Commissioners fully up to the thought that the Board was intended to be, and was by the terms of the law, an amicable arbitrator or umpire between the carrier and the shipper, the people and the railroads; whose findings, recommendations, and decisions, were by virtue of their just and equitable character to commend themselves to the contestants without ordinary legal methods of enforcement, by writ, and officer serving the same. In the original law, all failures to obey the orders of the Board were to be reported to the Governor and through the Chief Executive knowledge of the disobedience came to the General Assembly, the direct representatives of the people. This feature of the law was proclaimed by its enemies as its fatal weakness. An inspection however of the reports of the Commission from the first organization of the Board down to the present year will reveal the fact that there has been an almost universal acquiescence in and obedience of the orders and recommendations of the Board. Nor has this acquiescence and obedience resulted from the fact so persistently stated by the enemies of the system that all orders made by the Board were pleasant and palatable to the railroad companies. No intelligent and candid man will fail upon inspection of the decisions, to see and admit that many of the decisions have been adverse and extremely unpalatable to the companies. Some of them have been deemed unreasonable in their conclusions, some have been deemed illegal and extra-jurisdictional, (see in proof of this latter assertion the case of Lillburn v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company) yet the orders have generally been obeyed. That which the railroad companies feared was the publicity of the report and discussion arising therefrom, making them the central mark upon which would be trained the guns of all the agrarian and communistic feeling so easily aroused at all times, as well as the opposition of an intelligent class, who are not unduly prejudiced.
An aggravated case having arisen prior to the meeting of the last General Assembly, it brought the occasion for a rally of that sentiment which wished to clothe the Board with more power, and resulted in the passage of chapter 133, Laws of the Twentieth General Assembly, approved April 3d, 1884, entitled "an act authorizing actions against railroad companies to be brought in the name of the State upon recommendation of the Board of Railroad Commission
By this act the Circuit and District Courts of the State are to have jurisdiction of actions brought to enforce orders made by the Railroad Commissioners affecting public right, if authorized to be made.
The question to be determined is whether the order was reasonable
and just, and its disobedience and a failure to comply with such order, a failure to perform a public duty or obligation on the part of the company. It is now plain that the only orders enforceable in court are those which the Board has authority to make, which are reasonable and just, and which enjoin upon the railroad companies the fulfillment of a public duty or obligation. It will readily be seen that no provision has been made for the enforcement of orders made by the Board as to a large class of cases heretofore deemed cognizable by it.
It has heretofore examined and adjusted many cases which have been clearly cases of purely private right. The proper construction of the law in the light of the additional legislation referred to above, has been the subject of much thought and consideration by the Commissioners.
Not without some hesitation on the part of one of the members of the Board, have they arrived at the following conclusion, namely: that there are two classes of cases which the Board has power to consider. First, that class which affects public right, which seeks to compel the railroad companies to perform a public duty, to fulfill a public obligation, and in such cases when the Board has authority to deal therewith, the courts will enforce their orders. Second, it deals with a class of cases affecting private right. In this class the Board occupies purely the position of an umpire or arbitrator. It may investigate, conclude and recommend; but it cannot order. A failure to comply with its recommendations can only be reported by the Board to the Governor, and it must be left for the citizen himself to determine whether he shall seek his efficient remedy in court, or trust to the successful issue of an umpirage by the Board, which if unsuccessful will result in great delay of the prosecution of his action in the courts.
There being two cases of orders heretofore made by the Board which the companies concerned have failed or refused to obey, and being both deemed by the Board to affect public right, they have under the law, certified the same to the Attorney-General for his action. They are the cases of The Citizens of Northwood ». Central Iowa Railway Company, and Ed. Barber, Glidden, Iowa, v. Chicago & Northwestern Railway Company. As it is supposed the public will be specially interested in these cases, they are presented in the body of our report, rather than in the appendix, where complaints are usually set forth.