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Full text of "General view of the level railway crossings question [microform]"

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(716) 288 - 5909 - Fox 



GENERAL VIEW 



OF THE 



Level Railway Crossings Question 




Av OvEHilRAii Kaii.wav CiinsKivfj wnn Gm.m.k 1 i\ o. 



By ROBERT LARMOUR 



STRATFORD, ONT. 



r- ' ■■• r 



■i^^- X 




EXPLANATORY NOTE 



[he matter rontaincj in this l.ri t 

iSiffi:7-"-^SHs'S"- «" 

•■•'ay. ami to f™.„ • "' "'"'■h """st be to rii,r.n,,^ ^^ ' persecution; 

«' riilway, „,^uvi ""' t^; ".■,'""■ ""-^ J""' policy t«wan?r/'°V- 1"<'»t°n« 
Maroh 25th ImS *"""" ""' •"'<= to be pursued '""* '"""'°" 



Editorial Introduction 



B. L. 



, The following very fair a^n """^'*"»'' 

Larmour's excellont ..i- f "" '" oebetter noslerf j,fL. , '*® reader 

bills intr^uc^' "^"'p " '"'^- /"■=»•. by the -^y wat writ.""*''"* **«J«' 
Senator MoM^Ien m]- ""r"' ""^''^ ^7 O^e m^Ll^^^fl^y,'"' »« the 
effect of our ^m,'. ^'''""" ,La™our make, a slroni ."/ '^"""ys and 
parently ?he onrt.T",'""' *he subway *nfZ«„ri;' X """8 the 
be the ^JfAn^'i', ffe *alll''» ""'"f^'^'y «°l«tio„ ^1^7^ ''''I?"- '^P" 

• -ves at a -nrS'S^^LS^I^C^ii^ ^^^^ 

O"'"''" ^^D^^TT^nkin, M.P 

"'^"^.^^r^ntario. ""^-^^U ... 

Yonr« sincerely, 



900633 



J p. EANKIN. 



GENERAL VIEW 



OP THE 



Level Railway Crossings Question 



The statement made by General 
Manager Chas. M. Hays, at the 
Stratford banquet, that it would cost 
fifty million dollars to abolish the 
three thousand level crossings of the 
Grand Trunk Railway System, seems 
to have taken the general public as 
well as the press by surprise, judg- 
ing from the number and tone of the 
many articles that have appeared in 
the newspapers on the subject in a 
sliort time, As^ is usual in such 
cases, nearly every writer has, at 
least, some suggestion to offer; gome 
go so far as to point out more defin- 
itely what should, or must, be done 
ot once. 

The suggestions cover a. wide field 
in the way of mentioning partial 
remedies, alternatives, or compro- 
mises, while the more positive and 
decided range from the fining of a 
man for not stopping, looking, and 
listening before attempting to cross 
a railway track, „p to the elevation 
of the tracks generally. 

The old remedy of reducing the 
speed of all trains at all crossings, 
seems to have dropped out of the dis- 
cussion. 

Such a display of theory is all very 
well as far as it goes, and will no 
doubt serve some purpose in the 
end, but it will not solve the pro- 
blem, because when closely examin- 
ed, the propositions would be found 



to be mainly unpractical, mostly, un- 
reasoning, and generally, without any 
real merit. 

We might reasonably suppose that 
Mr. Lancaster's act which has been 
so persistently urged on the atten- 
tion of Parliament for years, would 
at least come within the range of the 
practical or beneficial, yet it fails to 
meet with the support necessary to 
carry it through. Why? Simply be- 
cause it is found to be impractical, 
when it comes to the point of exam- 
ination under expert authority. 

If a bill were to be founded on 
any one, or on all the suggestions, 
remedies, alternatives, etc., that have 
been referred to. and introduced in- 
to Parliament with a view of being 
made law, it would no doubt meet 
with similar objections to that of the 
Lancaster Act. when brought under 
the focus of expert discussion. 

With a view of throwing more 
light on the matter that is just now 
occupying so much public attention, 
tlie writer purposes to discuss it, in 
the following pages, on broader lines 
and from various standpoints. 

What does the charter of a railway 
such as the G. T. E. mean to those 
who have invested money in its se- 
curities, and what would be the re- 
sult of an attempt to legislate away 
even partially, rights guarantied to 
the investor by such charters? Woul'' 



it not be tiintnn.outil to eonflscsllon 
or rt^pudintion on tin- pari uf the 
•late; w)„rl, woulil in turn nionn. 
rum to the cr,.(lit of tlio rountry ami 
«n iMKl to roilivny i>iit,.rpri<i(. For the 
Govpriiriirat to nrhitrnrily order the 
O. T. K. to proviil,. overhwiil hridgc. 
or .uhwiiy, at the thr. r thousand 
crossing,, and give them live, ten or 
twenty years to do it in would be 
connseation. lonc the le»i. 

It has been stated on the author- 
ity o( the Uttilw.iy Commission that 
ninety-five per eent. ot the level ero»s. 
mg aceidentu that have been inves- 
tigated odieially have proved to be 
tl) ■ result of negligence, or want of 
ordinary care and caution on the 
pan of those who met with the acci- 
dent. This siatenient i.o doubt in- 
cludes only the more serious acci- 
dents that have been investigated, so 
that if the minor accidents were add- 
ed, the perceniige might easily reach 
ninety-«even or ninety-eight. From a 
long experience. 1 believe the latter 
figure to be more nearly correct. Dur- 
ing Tiy life-long close contact with 
level crossing troubles, I cannot re- 
call a single instance, whtre the en- 
gineer has been proved to be directly 
responsible for causing a fatal acci- 
dent through contravention of the 
aw respecting level crossings; but re 
lying wholly on the figures of the 
Commission, doea it not seem some- 
what unreasonable that, through a 
n.nre coincidence . by which two or 
three serious and sadly fatal acci- 
dents should have occurred close af- 
ter each other, the whole country 
should at once cry out for an imme- 
diate remedy in the way of abolishing 
the level crossing. -Jhe level cross- 
ing must go" in order that the peo- 
ple should be rendered safe from the 
results of their own lack of ordinary 
care and caution, and that the rail- 
way alone should b«.r the enormous 



expense involved, an expenditure 
till was neither contemplated nor 
provided (or when the charter was 
greritiKl .\n expenditure that the 
earnings of the road ore. admittedly 
not yet able t« bear. 

It is vehemently announced by 
some nho are loudest in their de- 
man,., for the abolishing of level 
crossings in .-wneriea. that luch a 
tiling would not be tolerated in Eng- 
nnd. To this I uonid simply reply 
thn; there are many things connected 
with the oiierai'on of railways in Kng- 
luiul th.1t would not be tolerated in 
Am-rioa. The conditions are alto- 
gether different, se much so, that such 
a statement has little or no force as 
an argun.,.nt. It may be many year, 
-eforo a country such as Canada now 
i» can afford such protect;on a. that 
which prevails in England, ir. many 
other ways besides that of railway,. 
There are others who demand thiKl 
gates should be provided to protect 
people I presume ui«ier the impre.- 
sion that gates would be less expen- 
s'e than subways and overhead 
oridgea. 

For the sake of argument, let us 
"ee how this will work out as re- 
gards expense. 

The initial cost of gate fixtures 
complete will be, at least $500 each 
crossing-tVK) by 3.000 equal, Jl,600 - 
000. Annual cost of gate tenders, 
night and day, two men. 12 hours 
each. 11,000 by 3,000 equals J3.000 000 
Tc this add yearly interest on initial 
expense, at four per cent., 160 000 
Also add oil, lamps, repairs, inspec- 
tion, etc., $20 per gate, $60,000. We 
have thus a yearly charge of $3 180 - 
000, which would represent, at four 
per cent, a capital of $78 000.000. 

These figures show that the gate 
proposition would be in the end still 
more expense than the overhead 
bridge and subway, unless they could 



be efficiently operated by iome «ato< 
TiiQtic conirivanco that would be 
r •«« exjtpnsivc than manual la- 

b U not, at pre'ii'nt, nvuij- 

able. 

Theu ii anothrr feature to this 
question that it may be well to refer 
to. that is iho proneness of the pub* 
lie iind I may add the press (with 
some v'orthy exception*!) when an ac- 
cident occurti at a level crossing, to 
load the railway with the whole re- 
di>onMibllity. without waiting for the 
(acts in the case, or the result of a 
judicial enquiry. Just why this 
should be particularly so, "here a 
railway company 1« concerned, ii 
one of the curious manifestations of 
sentiment, or sympathy, on the pat. 
of the public. Even after i* has 
been proved and admitted by a jury, 
in the casu of death, that ii resulted 
solely from carelessneas, recklessness, 
or want of ordinary caution on the 
part of the deceased, the company is 
still tacitly blamed because it had 
not put up gates or done soiiiethmg 
else to protect the party against his 
own *. ''Ies9:ies8. In such cii«."«. no 
notice it. taken of the narrow escapes 
of perhaps hundreds of passengers 
and thti trail, crew, that had been 
exposed to deaih or inj'.ry by such 
carelessness. Any experienced en- 
ginee- will tell ym that there is no 
casual obstruction on the track that 
he dreads more thin striking a horse 
or cow on a level crofisir.g, as the 
animal is liable to get jammed under 
the trucks at the cattle guards, which 
might result in slewing a truck. 
spreading the rails or pitchinir the 
engine bodily off the track and a 
train of passengers wif' it. Wrecks 
of this kind are happ. of rare oc- 
currence, but they have occurred . 
with lo«s of life, just in this way, and 
the risk is always there. This is one 
raeaon why railway officials wculd 



glaily Bee level croasingi a^oliihed, 
a« stutivl by Mr. Hiiys, if a reaxon- 
ublo Hchenie could be arrived at, one 
that ^suuld not over-bui-!en the al- 
ready tu uvy liuleii thiiin iiil iiieunit uf 
tlic company. 

There is Htill another pha«e of the 
level cii .sii ,{ to be nott>d, which ia 
this: If it i» replaced by an over- 
hea<l brldtt<', ui.h an elevation of 
twt'nty-two feet, it would produce a 
grade that would practically limit 
the load a farmer's team would be 
able to haul; mure cnpeeially «o in 
the winter aouitun. us the snuw would 
not lie on the embankment or the 
bridge itself, and I quet^tion very 
much, whether the people w)io would 
use Hucli a cruising would not pre- 
fer the old one. A farmer who ha"> 
hi« own level crossing, over which 
he has been drivin^f for a lifetiniA 
without accidtMit or worry, is not 
afraid 1. cause he knows there is no 
danger if he couiinues to use ordin- 
ary caution. He is nut clamor'^us for 
an overliead structure that would cut 
down the loud li'> could haul, one- 
half. If L plebitjcite were taken in 
a district where the public road is 
used lor heavy teaming and where 
the abolition of the level crossings 
would mean an overhead bridge 
witli a grade of one in five, or one 
in bix. and in winter bare of snow 
in addition, there might be more voles 
in /avor of the *. J crossing and a 
lieciih'd and well founded objection to 
the new. Within my own experience 
I c 1 recall instances, when there 
happened to be nn overhead bridpe 
croseing, where ^.eople were compell- 
ed to drive miles out of the direct 
route to get to a level crossing, and 
avoid the overhead "ne that made 
it an utter impossibP ty to pass 
wit!) a 1oaile<> sleigh, because it was 
R literal ber, cadft, 

I can also recall instances where 



rt 



th» praplt eoneerned i "lltlon«d the 
riilw.y oompnny to rrpUce th* over. 
he»J croMiiif with a level one. tor 
th« reaionf ilateil. Subwiyi would In 
nwiiy caee., be equally objectionable. 
U till' inoii jwrfect dralnafe were not 
practicable, the depreaeion ol tin 
roadway would be liable to All up 
with aluih and drifting unow in the 
wintir to the extent of rendering 
Ihem utterly lir.paiiible. Kvidence 
ol thii kind will go to thow that any 
hasty action in aboliihing the level 
•roatingi In lavor ol the overhead 
bridge might prove a gricvoua nii»- 
tak in many caaea. 

Such evidence will also show that 
the whole matter will require to be 
carclully and extensively studied out, 
bclore any general or final scheme 
IS fixed upon as leasible. as one that 
will cover all the objectionable leat- 
urea. 

The Hamilton Herald in an editor- 
ial on the subject haa this to say: 

"Mr, Hays made this statement 
(that it would cost tH,O0O.O0O, etc) 
as a sufficient reason why it would 
be unjust to require hia company to 
eliminate level crnssinga. And so it 
would be unjust, i| the company were 
to be required to bear all the cost 
and do the work at once. But no- 
body has suggested any such injus- 
tice. II the level croaaing nuisance 
is to be abolished, the coat will Have 
to be divided among the ralways. the 
National Government, the Provincial 
Government, and the municipalities. 
And the thing could not be done in 
a year, nor in ♦en years, perhops not 
in twenty years." 

The editor then goes on to suggest, 
as a good plan to begin with, that aii 
anti-level crossing clause should be 
inserted in every new charter or the 
extensioi; ol old ones. Let us loUow 
out this scheme to iu "logical con- 
clusion," aa the phraae goes. 



The writer haa been told that Mr 
Hnya hat already expressed a will, 
ingne.s. on Ihe part ol the company 
to «et H,Uh. 1800,000 per annum lor 
the pur|H)«e: ol course under certain 
eonditiona. For the aake ol the ar- 
guinent. let us suppose that both the 
Federal and Provincial Governments 
would vote a aimilar sum: ol cour.e 
alao un-ler certain conditions. It will 
not be straining poaaibillties in aup- 
po.ing they would do this. «. they 
nro generally liberal-wiih the peo- 
ple . money. The condition would be 
that the municipalities. the city 
town, county and township voted a 
proportionate sum, «. being the bene- 
flciaries. But when we com. to the 
municipalities, where the people who 
do the voting alao have to do the 
paying, the matter assumes an alto- 
gether different complexion They 
might consider the asaumed benefits 
a very questionable matter; so that 
It will be seen at a glance that the 
whole scheme would thus be mode 
dependent upon the action ol the 
municipalities, or the very agency 
that can be least depneded upon lor 
carrying out such a pl-i. „« 
scheme would practically becoi.e a 
•local option" scheme, to be car-led 
m an odd case here and there, to be 
rejected in some cases, and never 
brought to a vote at all in many 
others. A very scientiflo way ol 
getting rid of difficult questions 

1 am Iree to say that there may 
be some level croaainga today un- 
protected. wKere the view is ob- 
atructed by buildinga, embankments, 
high close lencea, etc, to such an 
extent that they may well be call- 
ed dangerous crossings; in that case 
they should not be allowed to remain 
ao, one day longer th»n the time 
actually r-cessary for the removal 
ol sush obstructiona. or gates being 
placed for their protection, but to 



■■y that all level cromitnfii ihould b« 
(*liminatf*d bornuHA a tfyr may hi> 
c«»n»i<lorc«l aji dniintrou!!. would be 
in my rimiion. n lumty nn.I unreaior.- 
iitR oonchiMion to arrive at without 
ult rondition* ami ctrcumstancei b«< 
inn duly considered. 

I am also free to aay, that many 
yean ago. I myielf. aa an official of 
the operating dopartmont, made thp 
propoial that Ruch obntructiona to 
th« view at a crossing, should be re* 
moved, but the proposition was dis- 
couragod by the legal drpartment, 
on the ground thnt »uch proceedings 
would be inki'n n» n preccdrnt, which 
being unfairly used, might force the 
compnny into nn i>xrK<Qditure entire- 
ly unwarranted undrr the circum- 
stances. 

But a great den! has born done ni 
that direction since that tmie, as 
well as in the way o( protecting such 
croasingi! by gatua; a fact which wai 
noted by Sonatjr McMullen, in the 
Upper House at Ottawa, as reported 
ill today's (March *th) papers, in 
these words : 

"Hon. Mr. McMullen informed his 
colleagues, that the railwny compan- 
ies had the grrnteft regard for human 
life, and had gone to gieat expense 
to promote the safety of the public.'* 

In the flame rei«irt. Sir Richard 
Cartwright is quoted as saying: 

"He thought the bill (the Lancafl< 
ter measure) had been rather rush- 
ed through the Commons owing to 
the unfortunate accidents which had 
occurred ' within a short space of 
time. The bill as worded might be 
the means of subjecting, not merely 
the railways, but the whole public 
to very great inconvenience and dif- 
ficulty in carrying on the business 
of the country." 

It was not intended by the writer, 
as previously intimated, to offer eith- 
er BUggeitions or opinions of his owr 



In these papers, but merely to dia- 
cusR the question in a negative man- 
ner with a view of bringing out mora 
clear and extensive views in regard 
ir' the level crossings as a whole. It 
cat>not b< ixMislble that the cross- 
ings have suddenly become more 
dangerous, or that the -people have 
suddenly become more reckleii or 
negljfTont. flo that it is not a new ele- 
ment of danger in any re«pect. I 
venture to lay f the contrary, that 
there is even les negligence, that is, 
that people are gradually becoming 
mure cautious in a general way. and 
it has already been tihown that rnil 
wuv ' ave been doing a great d"al 
to pM.-note the safety of the public. 
Rut on the other hand, the difHcul- 
ttes in that way of alMllshing level 
crossings, remain just the same as 
they hnvt! been for many years, and 
quite as serious; t nt is, the enor- 
mous expenditure money involved 
and the question \ .ether any method 
or scheme yet p'opo«ed would meet 
with general approval of those most 
directly interratt'd or concerned. C i- 
adian wintertt rnnnot be aboHsI 
nor the use of the sleigh dispen 
with, and so long ns these are with 
us, it will be a debatable question, 
which of the evils will be least the 
obstructive overhead bridge* and 
subways, or the level crossing. 

Since the above wns witten out. I 
have been told of a ease where a 
farmer has recently brought en ac- 
tion for drmages against a railway 
company because they gave him an 
overhead crossing instead of a level 

one. 

R. LARMOUR 

Stratford. March 5th. 1900.