Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/845

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828
[AMERICAN LEGISLATION
RAILWAYS

schedule of the hours during which the man or men are employed as will bring those hours within limits which appear to the department reasonable. In the event of the company failing to comply with the demands of the department, the latter is empowered to refer the case to the Railway and Canal Commissioners, who form a special Court constituted by the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888, for deciding, among other things, questions relating to rates and charges, for protecting traders from undue charges and undue preference, for regulating questions of traffic, and for deciding certain disputes between railway companies and the public. The Commissioners are then empowered to deal with the matter, and if “a railway company fail to comply with any order made by the Railway and Canal Commissioners, or to enforce the provisions of any schedule” approved by them, it is liable to a fine of a hundred pounds for every day during which the default continues. This act has been the means of effecting a considerable reduction in the hours worked by railway men on certain railways, and no case has yet arisen in which a reference to the Commissioners has been necessary. Such modifications of the hours of work have not only been beneficial to the men, but have improved the discipline of the staff and the punctuality and regularity of the train service, particularly in respect of the goods trains.

The Notice of Accidents Act of 1884, which obliges employers of labour to report to the Board of Trade, when “there occurs in any employment” as defined by the schedule of the act, “any accident which causes to any person employed therein, either loss of life or such bodily injury as to prevent him on any one of the three working days next after the occurrence of the accident from being employed for five hours on his ordinary work,” affects railways in course of construction, but not, as a rule, otherwise.

Although the administration of the above-mentioned acts of parliament has had a beneficial effect upon the safety of the Safety of Servants.public, and has enabled an enormous volume of traffic to be handled with celerity, punctuality and absence of risk, it has during recent years come to notice that the number of casualties among railway servants is still unduly great, and in 1899 a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate the causes of the numerous accidents, fatal and non-fatal, to railway men. As a consequence of the report of this Commission the Railway Employment (Prevention of Accidents) Act of 1900 was passed, putting upon the Board of Trade the duty of making “such rules as they think fit with respect to any of the subjects mentioned in the schedule to this act, with the object of reducing or removing the dangers and risks incidental to railway service.” Rules may also be made in respect to other matters besides those mentioned in the schedule, and companies may be called upon to adopt or reject, as the case may be, any appliance, the use or disuse of which may be considered desirable in the interest of the men. Before, however, the rules so made become binding upon the companies, the latter have the right of appealing against them to the Railway Commissioners. Failure to comply with any of the rules renders a company “liable for each offence, on conviction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds, or in the case of a continuing offence to a fine not exceeding ten pounds for every day during which the offence continues after conviction.” Rules drafted by the Board of Trade under this act came into force on the 8th of August 1902, the subjects referred to being (1) labelling of wagons; (2) movements of wagons by propping and tow-roping; (3) power-brakes on engines; (4) lighting of stations and sidings; (5) protection of points, rods, &c.; (6) construction and protection of gauge-glasses; (7) arrangement of tool-boxes, &c., on engines; (8) provision of brake-vans for trains upon running lines beyond the limits of stations; (9) protection to permanent-way men when relaying or repairing permanent way. The final settlement of a rule requiring brake-levers to be fitted on both sides of goods-wagons was, however, deferred, owing to objections raised by certain of the railway companies.

Other acts which are of importance in connexion with accidents are the Accidents Compensation Act of 1846, the Employers’ Liability Act of 1880, and the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1897.

The public acts of parliament referring to British railways are collected in Bigg’s General Railway Acts.

 (H. A. Y.) 

American Railway Legislation

Before 1870.—The earliest legislation is contained in charters granted by special act, for the construction of railways. These special acts gradually gave way to general statutes under which railway corporations could be created without application to the legislature. In the east, where, as a rule, charters had been uniform and consistent, the change to general incorporation law was due to a desire to render incorporations speedier and less expensive. In the west, general laws came rather as a result of the abuses of special legislation. By 1850, general incorporation laws were found in nearly all the eastern states, and by 1870 in those of the west.

Early legislation was confined almost entirely to matters of construction. In cases where statutes did touch the question of regulation, they had to do with the operation of trains and with the provision of facilities for shippers and passengers, rather than with questions of rates. It was natural that this should be so, for the new transportation agency was so much more efficient than anything previously available that the people were eager to take advantage of its superior service. As a rule, the making of rates was left to the corporations. If the maximum rates were prescribed, as they sometimes were, the limit was placed so high as to be of no practical value for control. Such crude attempts as were made to prevent rates from being excessive concerned themselves with profits, and were designed to confiscate for the state treasury any earnings beyond a certain prescribed dividend. Publicity of rates was not generally required, and provisions against discrimination were rare. In the period before 1850 there was but little realization of the public nature of the railway industry and of the possibilities of injury to the public if railway corporations were left uncontrolled.

In regions where capital was lacking eagerness for railway facilities led the people to demand the direct co-operation of the state, and many projects, most of which ended in disaster, were undertaken either by the state itself or through the aid of the state’s credit. For example, Michigan, in 1837, in the first session of its state legislature, made plans for the construction of 557 miles of railway under the direct control of the state, and the governor was authorized to issue bonds for the purpose. The unfortunate results of this policy led many of the states, from about 1850, to put constitutional limitations upon the power of their legislatures to lend the state’s credit or to involve the state as stockholder in the affairs of any corporation.

As railway building increased in response to traffic needs, and as the consolidation of short lines into continuous systems proceeded, legislation applicable to railways became somewhat broader in scope and more intelligent. About 1850 there began to appear on the statute books laws requiring publicity of rates and the submission of annual reports to the legislature, prescribing limits to corporate indebtedness, and also making provision for safety in operation and for the character and quality of railway service. Consolidation and leasing were commonly permitted in the case of continuous lines, but were regularly prohibited in the case of parallel and competing lines. The practice of pooling seems not to have attracted the attention of the legislature. In general it may be asserted that legislation of this period was ill-considered, haphazard, and on a petty scale. Moreover, it was of little practical importance even within its narrow range, for it does not appear to have been generally enforced.

1870–1900.—Railway legislation first assumed importance in connection with the “Granger Movement” in the middle west. There the policy of subsidies for railway building had been, carried to a reckless extreme. Roads had been constructed in advance of settlement, and land-seekers had been