National Geographic : 1938 Mar
THE brilliant part played by the American railroads in building the nation is a story known to every schoolboy. But how many people realize the part which the railroads continue to play in the nation's welfare? The vast empire of the west, opened by rail trans portation, still lives and thrives by the flow of its crops and manufactured products to a nation-wide market. No other form of transportation could do this job. Over the country as a whole, the railroads handled 131/4 tons of freight for every man, woman and child in the United States in 1936 - and did it so smoothly that few people realized what it would be to have this vital service impaired. Within the past four years, the cost of railroad operation has skyrocketed, due to increases in wages and taxes and in the prices of fuel and materials. Revenue has steadily declined, to a point where the railroads receive an average of less than 10 for hauling a ton of freight a mile. Rail service, of course, will continue. But to main r- "I consider this among the most important acts of my life; second only to my signing the Declaration of Independence, if even it be second to that." Charles Carroll of Carrollton, at the laying of the "first stone" of the first commercial railroad in the United States, July 4, 1828. tain its present high level of excellence, the rail roads must have additional revenue. The Interstate Commerce Commission, in its rate decision of October 22, 1937, recognized this situ ation by such statements as this: "From the facts of record no other conclusion is possible than that the net earnings of the rail roads are now inconsistent...with the conditions necessary for the proper conduct of the public service of railroad transportation by private enterprise." This is something for America to think about. The record of railroad enterprise in recent years, in face of lean times, amply demonstrates the ability of the railroads to go ahead, if given a fair opportunity to earn a living. WASHINGTON, D. C.