to Mr. Bayard.
Stockholm , April 18, 1888. (Received May 7.)
Sir: By my No. 114, under date of February 12, I had the honor to give you some information about railroads in this Kingdom. It was very meager, and related principally to the line now being built north of the Arctic Circle.
Since that time I have received, in response to inquiry addressed to the interior department, fuller information on the subject.
Under date of February 14 I addressed a note to the department, in which I submitted eight questions, and to which I asked replies. My purpose was to elicit fuller information than I was enabled to gather from the voluminous volumes of statistics furnished by the department, the latest of which was for the year 1885.
During the year 1887 there were 17 English miles of state and 52 miles (English) of private railroads constructed and opened for traffic.
The state railroads are managed by a separate department called the “royal administration of railroad traffic.” The private roads are managed through boards of directors annually, chosen by the share-owners.
The royal administration exercises a supervisory control over the private roads, sees that the lines are kept in repair, regulates traffic, fixes rates, etc., which require the approval of the King. Tax assessments are likewise fixed by His Majesty. Regulations of service for both systems are made by the royal administration. The King appoints one director on the board of a private corporation that has received assistance from the state, and also appoints agents to audit the accounts of such railroads, and to report to him upon their management.
There were 1,551 miles of state and 3,040 of private railways under operation at the close of the year 1887.
The cost of building and equipment of state roads (1,551 miles) up to the 31st of December, 1887, amounted to $63,946,721. The cost of the private roads for the same period amounted to $68,437,564 for 3,040 miles.[Page 1481]
The surplus, after cost of maintenance and operating expenses were deducted, amounted on the state roads to 2.41 per cent. on the amount invested, while on the private roads the per cent. was 3.54.
The state has assisted some private roads with loans, and allows generally the private roads to use crown lands, rock from crown quarries, and gravel necessary for construction. The state has loaned to private roads, for which it holds the bonds of the companies, the sum of $12,893,555. It has for the same purpose appropriated, without obligation for repayment, the sum of $1,053,992.
The amount of the funded debt created in constructing railroads is $65,548,861, and the interest thereon is at an average of 4 per cent. per annum. The revenues of the state roads, as well as of roads that have been assisted by the state, are deposited in the state bank. If there is a deficit in the revenue the state appropriates, in case of state railway, sufficient to meet the requirement. The share holders of private corporations must take care of their obligations.
I may add that the railway service in this country, in construction, equipment, convenience, cleanliness, promptness, is far superior to what I have ever seen in Germany, France, or Belgium. There are usually four classes of wagons. The large majority of passengers ride in the third and fourth class. First-class carriages are more expensive than the best service on American railways. The rate of speed is only about 20 miles an hour, but this includes stops, which are very frequent, and are from three to thirty minutes in length. The stations are large, usually constructed of either stone or brick, well lighted and warmed in winter time, and have always connected with them a good café or restaurant. No person can enter a compartment without a ticket, and all tickets are shown and punched before the train leaves the station. All passenger-cars are heated by steam and lighted by gas. Each train is moved by signals, and from the moment of arrival to its departure from the station is under the authority of the station-master. Every employé is uniformed and bears a badge designating his position. Every six English or one Swedish mile there is a signal-house, with telegraph apparatus, and occupied by two persons, called track-walkers. Upon the passage of a train it is signaled ahead, while the men walk in opposite directions on the track one half the distance to the next signal station for the purpose of inspecting the road. Every possible precaution is taken to prevent accidents, and in my now nearly three years’ residence in this country there has not been a life lost in the railway service or any accident.
No one is permitted to walk or be on or within the right of way or to loiter about stations or grounds of the company. The masonry used in the building of piers, abutments, etc., is of the most substantial character, while all bridges, culverts, and trestle-work are of iron. The track is usually ballasted with gravel, with stone gullies to carry off the water, while the banks or sides of both cuts and fills are sodded. The railroads of no country can possibly be superior or even equal to those of Sweden in respect to construction, and they well might serve as models. There is perfect security and much more than ordinary comfort in traveling, the only drawback to the American traveler being the slowness of time. The roads are managed in the interests of the people. There is no speculation in their shares, there is no adverse criticism of their management, and the total results are that, so far as it goes, it is one of the best, if not the best, railway system in the world. Certainly in many respects it is superior to American.[Page 1482]
There is hut one road at present under construction by the state. That is a road leading from Sundväll, 225 English miles north of Stockholm, running interior from the Baltic coast to Umeä. The physical difficulties in constructing this line are very great; there is a large number of rivers, fjords, and streams to bridge, together with granite-rock excavation. The line can never be remunerative, but it is undertaken by the state as a matter of defense. The Russian Government has constructed a line of road from Helsingförs, on the Gulf of Finland to Ulläborg, on the Bothnia, and is building a line from the latter point to Haparanda, at the head of the Bay of Bothnia, afrthe extreme western limit of its territory. Sweden feels apprehensive, and hence is building the line I have mentioned. Russian troops could be sent from Äbo or Helsingförs in two days, and without equally as speedy communication with the north Russia might gain her long-desired object, viz, a port on the North Sea, as well as become the possessor of the road now being built from the Bothnia to the Gulf of Oföten, and to which I had the honor to call your attention in my No. 114.
I have, etc.,