Chesapeake Ohio Railway Company v. Public Service Commission of the State of West Virginia, 64

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation61 L.Ed. 520,242 U.S. 603,37 S.Ct. 234
Docket NumberNo. 64,64
Decision Date05 February 1917

Messrs. F. B. Enslow and H. Fitzpatrick for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. S. B. Avis and F. C. Pifer for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice Van Devanter delivered the opinion of the court:

This was a proceeding under the laws of West Virginia (Acts 1913, chap. 9, § 16) to suspend and vacate an order of the Public Service Commission of that state, requiring the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company to install and maintain upon a branch line in that state a passenger service consisting of two passenger trains daily each way. The order was assailed on several grounds, one of these being that it was violative of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The supreme court of appeals of the state held that none of the objections was tenable (75 W. Va. 100, L.R.A. ——, ——, 83 S. E. 286), and the railway company brought the case here.

In so far as the decision turned upon questions of state law it is controlling, our power of review being restricted to the Federal question. Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co. 220 U. S. 61, 75, 55 L. ed. 369, 376, Ann. Cas. 1912C, 160, 31 Sup. Ct. Rep. 337.

The order was made after a full hearing wherein the railway company was permitted to present all the evidence which it regarded as helpful. There was but little conflict in the evidence, and the facts, which must here be regarded as proved, are these: The railway company is a Virginia corporation and owns and operates several lines of railroad in West Virginia, including a main line along the Kanawha river. This line consists of two tracks, one on the north side of the river for west-bound trains and one on the south side for trains that are east-bound. Among the stations on the north side is one called Hawks Nest, and across the river is another called MacDougal, the two being connected by a railroad bridge. The main line and these stations are used for both freight and passenger traffic. The company also owns and operates a standard gauge branch line extending from MacDougal and Hawks Nest to the town of Ansted, a little more than 2 miles, and thence another mile to some extensively operated coal mines. This is the branch line to which the order in question relates. Ansted has a population of twelve hundred or more and is the trading center for a population of six thousand. The branch line was constructed in 1890, and has been used for freight traffic only; that is to say, for hauling empty cars to the coal mines and loaded cars from the mines to the main line, and for carrying other freight between the main line and Ansted. The railway company has a freight station at Ansted in charge of an agent and helper, and also maintains a telegraph service there. There is no other railroad at that place and the nearest passenger stations are Hawks Nest and MacDougal. In the year preceding the order the number of passengers taking the main-line passenger trains at these stations was 12,714, and of this number 90 per cent came from Ansted. In the same year the shipments of coal and other freight over the branch line aggregated 242,280 tons.

From an operating standpoint there is no serious obstacle to installing upon the branch line the service which the order requires, but the curves and grades are such that particular attention must be given to making the roadbed secure and to providing suitable devices for controlling the trains. Isolatedly considered, such a passenger service would not presently be remunerative, but would entail a pecuniary loss, and how long this would continue to be true can only be conjectured. But beyond this, the effect from a revenue standpoint of installing such a service is not shown. It does not appear either...

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