United States. Inland Waterways Commission.

Preliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report online

. (page 42 of 83)
Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 42 of 83)
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Incident to this granger movement in Europe was the recrudescence
of waterwaA^'s. In difi'erent countries about the same time effort was
made to improve and extend the waterway system so that it should
supplement the railroads and induce reduction of their rates.


At this time there was no comprehension of the fact that commerce
tends to increase in something like the proportion that faciUties for
transport are expanded. Railroad managers beheved that if water-
ways were developed they would take away a share of the freight and
to just that extent the railroads would suffer. Nobody was yet pre-
pared to believe that business taken from the railroads would be
promptly replaced by new business, and that tliis growth, keeping
pace with extension of transportation facilities and lowering of rates,
would go on indefinitely.

Railroad managers had no s}Tnpathy with the idea that larger
transportation facilities were demanded, or that another method
would supply cheaper transport than their iron highways. Their
political influence as well as their vastly more important commercial
influence was enlisted in antagonism. They believed it would be
better to spend money in building new railroads or impro\ang old
ones rather than in waterways. They were determined to prove the
correctness of this opinion, and they set about doing so by inaugurat-
ing a cutthroat competition against the waterways under circum-
stances in which the latter were at a hopeless disadvantage. The
nature and extent of tliis disadvantage must now be explained.

The railroad system was already constructed and in ousiness. It
enjoyed a practical monopoly. Everybody was compelled to patron-
ize it. Its business was vast and varied. No statistician could
calculate accurateh^ the cost of handling a particular class of business
or a particular consignment. As to a great part of the territory, where
waterways could not enter, the railroad's monopoly was unassailable.
Likewise, as to a large proportion of business the railroads were
assured a monopoly because of quicker and surer service. The highest
classes of freight, which produced the greatest revenue in proportion
to expense of moving, were conceded to the railways. The water-
ways were limited to a competition for the lower classes of freight,
hauled at the lowest rates, and throughout only a limited region.

Therefore, when the minister of railways of a government-owner-
ship country, or the traffic manager in a private-ownership country,.
set out to prove that water transportation was not economical in
comparison with rail, the}" had every advantage. They made such
rates as they saw fit to prevent traffic goin^ to the waterways. If
they lost mone}' on hauling one class of freight they could make it
up on another class for which the waterways could not compete. If
the railways of the north of France found that their coal tonnage
was being lost to the canals, they could reduce their rates to such a
point that the canals could not compete; and if in so doing they lost
money on coal traffic they could make it back by charging higher
rates on other business which the canals could not touch; or they
could stand a net loss for a considerable time udthout being driven
out of business.

On the other side of this uneven competitive game was the oper-
ator of the canal boat. He did not own his highwaj^. His invest-
ment was limited to liis barges and mules. He was assured of ab-
solutely no business against the railroad's competition. He had no
great financial backing, as the railroad had, to enable liim to carry on
a long and arduous fight. He must earn a living profit on his busi-
ness to-day in order to do more business to-morrow. If he were


forced to lose money to-day and to-morrow he would be out of busi-
ness the day after to-morrow. Before the railroad would feel a strain
which it was able to distribute throughout a complex business struc-
ture every part of which helped support every other part, the barge-
man would be bankrupted and driven from the field.

So much for the one aspect of competition between the railwaj^ and
the waterway. Another aspect is suggested by the case of a manu-
facturer whose plant is located adjacent to both water and rail routes,
and who wishes to divide Ms business between the two. He can
reach part of his markets by water. He can reach all of them by
rail. He may be able to make a contract for bringing his coal and
raw materials to his establishment by water at low rates. But if
the railroad, jealous of his division of business, is permitted to re-
taliate it can punish the manufacturer so effectively that he will
not dare make the division. In actual experience this very tiling
happened repeatedly in different countries at times when the rail-
roads were permitted to fight the canals.

The railroad would offer as good a rate as the canal had made,
whether or not it was remunerative. If the manufacturer still de-
clined to give all his business to the railroad, the traffic manager
could then say: ''Very well, your distributing rates will be so high,
and your supply of cars so inadequate, that you will hereafter find
difficulty in distributing your products to markets w^hich the water-
ways do not reach. Your competitor, who is ^dser and realizes the
propriety of giving his entire business to us, will be able promptly to
fill orders at times when you will be unable to get service. As he
gives us his entire business we shall feel under obligations to give
him consideration which you can not expect."

Preferential rates constituted at times the most effective method
of bringing recalcitrants to time. In France railroad managers em-
ployed these various expedients with great effect, fi'equently granting
much lower rates to one customer than to another in the same town,
favoring the one whose business was given entirely to the railways. The
government railway administration found it necessary to make a
regulation that if the rate were reduced at a given point on any part
of the business it must be reduced on all. This was one of the
effective means of protecting the canals in their fair share of the

In many cases railwaj^s are now forbidden by the state to make
as low rates as the canals. The fact that in Germany, France, and
Belgium this intervention is necessary in order to protect the canals
in their proportion of traffic, is always emphasized in railroad argu-
ments. But the state's policy, where states own and operate the
railways, is primarily to facilitate business, rather than to monopolize
it. Experience has taught that it is not good business for the rail-
ways to be allowed to monopolize traffic by hauling it at unremunera-
tive rates. The state insists upon maintaining both transportatiim
systems in effective operation, on the theory that in the long run
business will go to that system which can most profitably handle it.
The public is accommodated and the waste of competition avoided.
Such competition at best would be useless, because after maldng a
low rate to get the business the railroad would either have to con-
tinue doing it at a loss — which would be a waste of the state's prop-
erty — or else it would have to raise the rate again and leave the pub-
lic worse off than ever.


In short, European experience is that competition between rail-
ways and waterways is useful, desirable, and worthy of being pro-
tected by the state.


The history of the later era of waterway development on the Con-
tinent seems to justify tliis conclusion. The enforcement of a rate
scheme, which practically amounts to assigning a considerable pro-
portion of traffic to the waterways, has not injured the railways.
Instead the railways report year by year increases in tonnage, and
the business community is better served. There is effective and eco-
nomical cooperation between the two systems instead of useless and
wasteful competition. The fact that it is necessary for Govern-
ment to protect the waterways does not prove them useless. No
minister of works and no fuiance minister in Europe would to-day
dream of presenting seriously the proposition tliat because water-
ways can not take care of themselves in unrestrained competition
they are unworthy of development and protection. The statistics
of all the countries where rail and water systems have developed
side by side tell the uniform story of increasing traffic, decreasing
rates, and greater prosperity for the railroads.

American railway history is full of demonstration that a short rail-
road, reaching a limited number of markers, and deprived of advan-
tageous connections, can not survive unrestrained competition with
a great system which reaches a vastly larger number of markets.
The outcome is the absorption of the smaller and weaker by the
greater and more powerful. This is one process by which great sys-
tems have been developed. And unrestrained competition between
railways and waterways presents a close parallel. Because the water-
ways in a life and death fight can not hold their own with the railwa3"s
is by no means proof that the waterways do not deserve to survive.

As the waterway system, fostered and protected by governmental
policy, improves and expands, it invariably becomes more and more
capable of taking care of itself. The German waterway system of
thirty years ago would have been driven out of business if the govern-
ment would have permitted it. It would not even have made a great
fight. But the German waterway system of to-day, improved, ex-
panded, affording facilities for handling barges of from 300 to 2,000
tons between a great share of the Empire's markets and throughout
an immense area, would give a magnificent account of itself even if
compelled to meet the absolutely unrestrained competition of the rail-
roads. So would the French waterway system. The railway might
win, but the traffic manager who conducted the struggle would bank-
rupt his system, paralyze industry, and w^in for himself the reputa-
tion of a commercial brigand.

In making any application of European experience to present con-
ditions in the United States, it may fairly be said that if waterways
are to become an important factor in the United States transporta-
tion scheme, it would be vastly better to guarantee them protection
against the railroads than to invest millions in a perfect system of
water highways and leave this system unprotected against the assaults
of unrestricted railroad competition.



Opponents of the economic policy of waterM'ay development,
believing water can not ultimately compete with railroads, frequently
point to the decadence of traffic along the Ohio River in the face of
the fact that much money has been spent improving that stream.
The facts support the contention that the great Ohio seems to have
been unable to compete satisfactorily against the- railroads. But in
no great European country, where state control of such matters is
more firm than here, would competition have been allowed to ruin
the traffic on a great artery like the Ohio. The State would main-
tain that instead of building railroads to handle traffic which could
as well be moved by river, it would better leave this traffic to the river
and spend its money building railroads in regions where it was impos-
sible to furnish any but rail transportation. German or French policy
would never have permitted the Ohio, the Mississippi, the Missouri,
to fall into commercial decadence. If these had been German posses-
sions, for instance, they would long ago have developed almost un-
limited carrying possibilities, and to-day would be doing for this
country what the Elbe, the Oder, the Weser, the Rhine, and others
are doing for Gerinam^. They would be preventing car famines and
insuring against the paralysis of trade which follows when transporta-
tion facilities become inadequate.

European students of ^transportation wonder that the United
States should have permitted so one-sided a development of its trans-
portation system. They point out that with perhaps the exception
of China, no other country has such a magnificent river sj^stem as the
United States, or so great possibilities of its effective utilization.
Nowhere else is there so large a proportion of freight which can be
moved most advantageously by water. In another place it has been
suggested that if the German Empire controlled the world's supply
of a great staple, as the United States controls cotton, German econo-
mic policy would busy itself to bring about the manufacture of a
vastly larger proportion of that raw material in Germany. And,
similarly, if Germany, France, or Austria possessed such a river sys-
tem as that of the United States, with possibilities of being joined to
a lake system such as ours, these would long ago have been made the
basis of a vast and busy transportation system.

One consideration which has been kept in mind in European develop-
ment of water transportation is that when a great water route is once
opened its capacity for freight movement is almost unlimited. The
possibility of traffic movement on a single-line railroad is definitely
limited. When that capacity is reached the road must be double-
tracked. On the other hand a great waterwaj^ can move increasing
amounts of freight to an almost indefhiitc degree with mereh^ the pro-
vision of additional boats and barges. So the policy of Germany and
France m recent years has been to make important internal waterways
as large as practicable. Originally small canals were supposed to be
ample for all the traffic likely to be offered them; but with the develop-
ment of commerce and industry they proved too small. They have
been rebuilt, shortened, channels deepened and widened, the number
of locks reduced, and their capacity increased. The scheme of con-
struction looked to the future. If these great investments in water-


ways had not been made it would now be necessary either to make
much greater investments in railroads or else to suffer industrial stagna-
tion. As it is the great water routes can carry an indefinite increase of
traffic with no further investment than the provision of more boats.

In continental countries the internal waterwa5^s system is based
almost entirely on the rivers. There are no lakes of consequence.
Canals are used to connect the rivers, but not generally to provide in-
dependent routes. The rivers of the north of Germany are being
linked up in this fashion by canals, and this northern system is con-
nected with both the Russian and the south German systems.

The Rhine, of course, is of the first importance among German
waterways, and great sums have been expended upon it. In the im-
provement of the rivers, various methods have been adopted, accord-
ing to the requirements. Conservation of the water supply, the nar-
rowing and aeepening of channels, reclamation of large areas of bot-
tom lands by the construction of works to prevent floods, provision of
locks to overcome strong currents, and various other improvements
have been carried out.


Probably the perfection of inland waterway communication has been
as nearly attamed in Belgium as m any other continental country. Al-
though it has an area of less than 12,000 square miles, Belgium is
very wealthy, and in proportion to size one of the most important in-
dustrial countries in the world. Its railroad system is state owned
and its canal system has been developed under the supervision and
direction of the state, though the state's contribution of capital has
been supplemented by local government divisions. In this little coun-
try there are about 3,000 miles of ordinary railway and nearly 2,000
miles of what are called light railways. It will be seen that railway
facilities have been in nowise neglected, for there is about a mile of
railroad to everj 2^ square miles of area. The railroad system is sup-
plemented and complemented by a scheme of waterways, which now
aggregates about 1,500 miles, and which will be extended considerably
by projects under construction or consideration. The state and local
authorities cooperate in financing the waterways. The waterways
themselves are mainly provided by the state, while the terminal facil-
ities, harbors, docks, wharves, etc., are largely provided by local au-
thorities. Thus there is effective cooperation and division of the ex-
pense on a basis which experience seems to have shown, not only in
Belgium but in other countries, to be the best. Of railroads, light rail-
roads and waterways, there is rather more than 1 mile of transpor-
tation to each 2 square miles of area. What are called in Europe light
railroads are generally of narrower gauo;e and lighter construction than
the standard roads, accommodating lighter rolling stock; and while
they handle both freight and passengers, they do not undertake to
move the heavier classes of freight to the extent that standard rail-
roads do. In continental countries they are used extensively as feed-
ers to both the canals and the standard railroads, gathering up freight
and bringing it to stations on either railroad or canal. In a general
way they correspond to the interurban trolley systems of the United

390 eepoet of the inland waterways commission

Belgium's important rivers

Although a small country, Belgium is remarkably fortunate in its
number of great navigable rivers, the Scheldt, the Lys, the Meuse,
and the Sambre being the most important. These not only serve as
highways for a tremendous tonnage of Belgian freight, but they con-
nect Belgium with Holland, France, and Germany. These great
streams have been improved by the expenditure of large sums, and
connected by a great network of canals.

The center of the whole transportation and commercial system of
Belgium is the city of Antwerp. Yet while Antwerp has been espe-
cially favored in connection with transportation, it is somewhat
remarkable that so much attention has been paid to the needs and
requirements of smaller cities and the rural districts. Much effort has
been given to securing uniformity of industrial development through-
out the little country. In regions where transportation by canal and
by river has been practicable it has been provided. In other sections
the aim has been to give corresponding facilities by expansion of the
railroad system. Belgium being a small country it has been deemed
especially desirable that its industrial system should be kept in close
touch with surrounding countries, and in many ways this has been
productive of benefit.

The Canal du Centre. — As long ago as 1877 it was recognized that
one great canal was needed to perfect the scheme of connecting the
various coal fields of the country, and also to unite the eastern and
western divisions of the already highly-developed national canal sys-
tem. These two grand divisions were cut off from close communica-
tion with each other, resulting in much expense and inconvenience in
moving traffic. Accordingly, the central canal, or "Canal du Centre,"
was begun in 1882, and when completed will have cost probably more
than $5,000,000. There have been disappointments as to the tinip
of its completion, because great physical difficulties had to be over-
come owing to the topography of the country, which necessitated
building large and expensive locks. The entire length of the canal is
likely not to be ready for business before 1909.

Between the highest and lowest level of this waterway, whose total
length is only 13 miles, there is a difference of 290 feet. " The problem
of securing water for the upper level for a long time discouraged efforts
to construct the canal, but modern engineering skill has satisfactorily
solved this. Hardl}^ a less difficulty was encountered as a result of the
working out of great deposits of coal along the route, which had under-
mined large areas and made it difficult to secure a safe foundation.

The surface width of the canal is 34 feet, which is considerably
increased at curves in order to assure safety. Boats of 7 feet 9 inches
draft will be accommodated. There will be 6 great locks, each 132^
feet long, and in addition 4 hydraulic lifts. The canal is assured of
an immense and profitable tonnage from the time it is opened, because
it will provide direct communication between different coal fields.
There is much variation among the grades of coal produced in different
parts of Belgium. One grade is adapted to certain industries which
another would not serve, while another quality serves another set of
purposes. Tlie transportation of coal, therefore, to meet the needs
of var^nng industries has been expensive, and the new canal is
expected to solve this problem. Wliile being assured a ^reat traffic,
it will largely decrease the fuel cost at important industnal points.



It has been said that this Canal du Centre is to connect the east-
ern and western divisions of the Belgian national waterways system.
The eastern division is considerabl}^ the smaller and in a general
way is bounded on the west by the canals which pass through
Brussels nmning north and south. One is known as the Charleroi-
Brussels Canal and the other as the Brussels-Rupel. These two canals,
together with the Rupel and lower reaches of the Scheldt River, the
Canal de Junction de la Meuse a I'Escaut, the Maastricht-Bois-le-Duc,
and the Maastricht-Liege canals, with the Meuse and Sambre rivers,
make up a circuit which comiects the industrial centers of Brussels,
Charleroi, Namur, Liege Maastricht (Holland) and Antwerp. Com-
munication is secured between the Charleroi coal fields, the zinc and
lead deposits of Liege and Namur, and the stone deposits about Lieoje
and in the regions between the Meuse and Sambre rivers. This circuit
outlines the eastern industrial district. There are minor canals sub-
sidiary to these main ones.

Connected with the canals of this circuit, and running outward
from it, are the Turnhout- Antwerp Canal; the River Ourthe, which
accommodates navigation into a region of extensive quarries; and
the River Meuse, joining Belgium to the northeastern part of France,
and employed for transportation of coal to France, of timber from
France to Belgium, of marble from the French quarries to Belgium,
antl of all sorts of miscellaneous trafhc. Finally, the Sambre River
intersects this canal circuit and connects it, by way of an important
coal region, with Paris.


The western and larger division of the Belgian system is a net-
work of canals and improved rivers, bringing the coal fields of Mons,
northern France, into easy communication with the industrial and
agricultural regions of Hainault and Flanders. A glance at any map
of this region, on which the Canal du Centre is indicated by dotted
lines, will show how necessary was the construction of this last-named
work as a means of connecting the two Belgian divisions.

Antwerp being the great port and commercial center of Belgium,
as well as the third port of the world in tonnage handled, receives
the greater part of the country's supply of raw materials and goods
fi'om abroad. From Antwerp these are distributed by rail and water-
ways to the industrial districts, whence they are returned in the form
of manufactured products. There is practically no district in Bel-
gium which, by reason of remoteness from markets, or expensive
transportation is unavailable for industrial development. Belgium
has most intelligently, persistently and effectively striven to get
cheap transportation, and to promote industry and commerce.
Writino; of the workings of the Belgium waterways' system Consul-
Generai Hertslet, representing Great Britain at Antwerp, in a report
that has been accepted as one of the best discussions of the subject,
says, in part:

This gi-adual but steady growth of a uniform canal system, intended for and serving
as an auxiliary to the railways — which are also for the most part under State control —
has rendered transport as cheap as possible, and by this means the Belgian manu-
facturer has been enabled to compete on most advantageous terms with his fore^n


The single control of the railway and canal systems, as above mentioned, might at

Online LibraryUnited States. Inland Waterways CommissionPreliminary report of the Inland Waterways Commission. Message from the President transmitting a preliminary report → online text (page 42 of 83)