206 U.S. 1 (1907), 15, Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company v. North Carolina Corporation Commission

Docket Nº:No. 15
Citation:206 U.S. 1, 27 S.Ct. 585, 51 L.Ed. 933
Party Name:Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company v. North Carolina Corporation Commission
Case Date:April 29, 1907
Court:United States Supreme Court

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206 U.S. 1 (1907)

27 S.Ct. 585, 51 L.Ed. 933

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company


North Carolina Corporation Commission

No. 15

United States Supreme Court

April 29, 1907

Argued February 28 and March 1, 1907




Railroad companies, from the public nature of the business by them carried on and the interest which the public have in their operation, are subject as to their state business to state regulation, which may be exerted either directly by the legislative authority or by administrative bodies endowed with power to that end.

The public power to regulate railroads and the private right of ownership of such property coexist, and do not the one destroy the other, and where the power to regulate is so arbitrarily exercised as to infringe the rights of ownership, the exertion is void because repugnant to the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.

An order of a state railroad commission requiring a railroad company to so arrange its schedule as to furnish transportation between two points so as to make connections with through trains held, under the circumstances of this case, not to be so arbitrary or unreasonable as to transcend the limits of regulation and to be in effect either a denial of due process of law or a deprivation of the equal protection of the laws, or a taking of property without compensation.

Whether a regulation of a state railroad commission, otherwise legal, is arbitrary and unreasonable because beyond the scope of the powers delegated to the commission is not a federal question.

It is within the power of a state railroad commission to compel a railroad company to make reasonable connections with other roads so as to promote

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the convenience of the traveling public, and an order requiring the running of an additional train for that purpose, if otherwise just and reasonable, is not inherently unjust and unreasonable because the running of such train will impose some pecuniary loss on the company.

While the enforcement by a a general scheme of maximum rates so unreasonably low as to be unjust and unreasonable may be confiscation, and amount to taking property without due process of law, the states have power to compel a railroad company to perform a particular and specified duty necessary for the convenience of the public even though it may entail some pecuniary loss. Smyth v. Ames, 169 U.S. 526, distinguished.

The facts are stated in the opinion.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

Did the order of the North Carolina Corporation Commission, the enforcement of which was directed by the court below, invade constitutional rights of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company, hereafter spoken of as the Coast Line, is the question which arises on this record for decision. A sketch showing the situation of the railway tracks at and relating to the place with which the controversy is concerned was annexed by the court below to its opinion, and that sketch is reproduced to aid in clearness of statement.

For years prior to October, 1903, the Coast Line operated daily an interstate train from Richmond, Virginia, through North Carolina to Florida. This train, known as No. 39, moved over the main track from Richmond to Wilson, North Carolina, thence by the track designated as the cut-off via Selma and Fayetteville to Florida. The train (No. 39) was scheduled to reach Selma at 2:50 in the afternoon and to leave at 2:55. The Southern Railway owned or controlled a road in North Carolina which crossed the Coast Line main track at Goldsboro and the cut-off track at Selma. On this road, there was operated daily a train from Goldsboro via Raleigh to Greensboro, North Carolina at which point connection was made with the main track of the Southern road. This Southern

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train, known as No. 135, left Goldsboro at 2:05 in the afternoon and Selma at 3 o'clock. Thus, at Selma, it connected with No. 39 of the Coast Line. The Coast Line also operated in North Carolina the branch lines shown on the sketch, which radiated easterly, and served a considerable area of territory. These branches connected with the main track at Rocky Mount, a [27 S.Ct. 587] station 42 miles nearer Richmond than Selma. At Rocky Mount, there also was a connection with a Coast Line road running from Pinner's Point, near Norfolk, Virginia. Over this road also the Coast Line operated a train, which left Pinner's point in the morning and connected with the Coast Line train No. 39 at Rocky Mount. The departure of the train in question from Pinner's Point was so arranged as to enable boats timed to arrive at Norfolk during the night or early morning to make, by ferry to Pinner's Point, a morning connection with the train. On the third of October, 1903, the Southern Railway notified the North Carolina Corporation Commission of a contemplated change of schedule on its line from Goldsboro via Raleigh to Greensboro. By the change, which was to go into effect on the eleventh of October, Southern train No. 135, instead of leaving Goldsboro at 2:05, would leave at 1:35 in the afternoon, and would leave Selma at 2:25 instead of 3. As a result, the connection at Selma between the Coast Line train No. 39 and the Southern train would be broken. The North Carolina Corporation Commission, by letter, on the sixth of October, called the attention of the general manager of the Coast Line to the contemplated change of time by the Southern, and requested that line to advance the time of No. 39 to enable that train to reach Selma at 2:25, thus continuing the connection with the Southern. On the twelfth of October, the superintendent of transportation of the Coast Line answered. He stated that the schedule of train No. 39 from Richmond to Selma was already so fast that it was very difficult to make the connection at Selma, and that it would be impossible to advance the time of arrival at Selma as requested. It was besides represented that to do so would require a breaking

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of the connection made with the Norfolk train at Rocky Mount, and would disarrange the running time of the train south of Selma, and disturb connections which that train made with other roads south of that point. However, it was pointed out that, as train No. 39 did not originate at Richmond, but was a through train, made up at New York, carried from thence to Washington by the Pennsylvania and from Washington to Richmond by the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac, that negotiations would be put on foot with those roads with an endeavor to secure an acceleration of the time of the departure of the train from New York and Washington, so as thereby to enable an earlier departure from Richmond. On the eleventh of October, the change of time became operative, and the connection at Selma was broken.

A complaint having been lodged with the corporation commission because of the inconvenience to the public thereby occasioned, both the Southern and Coast Line were notified that a hearing would be had concerning the subject on the twenty-ninth. On that day, the railways, through their officials, appeared. The Southern represented that its change in time was because it was absolutely dangerous to operate its train at the speed required by the previous schedule, and indeed that the lengthened schedule was yet faster than desired. The Coast Line reiterated the impossibility of changing the schedule of train No. 39 from Richmond to Selma unless there was a change between New York and Richmond. It stated that there was to be a meeting in Washington on November 6 of the representatives of various roads in the South, and that it hoped, as the result of that meeting, to so arrange that No. 39 would be scheduled for delivery at Richmond at an earlier hour, thus enabling its time to Selma to be advanced. The commission continued the subject for further consideration. On November 9, the superintendent of the Coast Line advised the corporation commission that at the meeting in Washington it had been impossible to obtain an earlier departure of the train from New York and Washington, but that the Pennsylvania

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still had the matter under consideration. Finally, in answer to urgent requests from the commission, by a letter of November 13 and telegram of November 14, the Coast Line informed the corporation commission that it regretted it could make no change in its schedule of train No. 39 because the Pennsylvania railroad had definitely expressed its inability to make any change in the hour of departure of the train from New York, as to do so would be incompatible with the duties which the Pennsylvania railroad owed to the public, to other roads, and to its contracts concerning the transportation of the mail and express matter. Thereupon the corporation commission entered the following order:

Whereas, the convenience of the traveling public requires that close connection be made between the passenger trains on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the Southern Railway at Selma daily in the afternoon of each day;

And whereas, it appears that such close connection is practicable:

It is ordered that the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad arrange its schedule so that the train will arrive at Selma at 2:25 P.M. each day instead of 2:50 P.M., as the schedule now stands.

[27 S.Ct. 588]

It is further ordered that, if the Atlantic Coast Line trains have passengers en route for the Southern Railway and are delayed, notice shall be given to the Southern Railway, and that the Southern Railway shall wait fifteen minutes for such delayed trains upon receipt of such notice.

This order shall take effect December 20, 1903.

The Southern, on receipt of the order, expressed its...

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