The Tap Line Cases
234 U.S. 1 (1914)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The Tap Line Cases, 234 U.S. 1 (1914)

The Tap Line Cases*

Nos. 829-836

Argued April 8, 9, 13, 1914

Decided May 25, 1914

234 U.S. 1

APPEALS FROM THE UNITED STATES COMMERCE COURT

Syllabus

An order of the Interstate Commerce Commission, based on its finding that the service rendered by a connecting line is not a service of transportation by a common carrier railroad, but a plant service by a plant facility, to the effect that allowances and divisions of rates

Page 234 U. S. 2

are unlawful and must be discontinued, is affirmative in its nature and subject to judicial review by the Commerce Court.

Where the validity of an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission directing discontinuance of divisions of rates with another railroad depends upon whether the latter is a common carrier or a plant facility, the determination of that question upon undisputed facts is a conclusion of law which is subject to judicial review.

Although a railroad may have originally been a mere plant facility, after it has been acquired by a common carrier duly organized under the law of the state and performing service as such and regulated and operated under competent authority, it is no longer a plant facility, but a public institution, even though the owner of the industry of which it formerly was an appendage is the principal shipper of freight thereover.

The extent to which a railroad is in fact used does not determine whether it is or is not a common carrier, but the right of the public to demand service of it.

Railroads owned by corporations properly organized under the laws of the state in which they are and treated as common carriers by the state, authorized to exercise eminent domain, dealt with as common carriers by other railroad corporations, and engaged in carrying for hire goods of those who see fit to employ them, are common carriers for all purposes, and cannot be treated as such as to the general public and not as to those who have a proprietary interest in the corporations owning them.

Congress has expressly excepted the transportation of lumber from the operation of the commodities clause, and had power so to do. United States v. Del. & Hudson Co.,213 U. S. 366.

Debates in Congress may be resorted to for the purpose of showing that which prompted the legislation.

This Court will not, in interpreting the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission in regard to a particular traffic, ignore a declaration of public policy in regard to that traffic as shown by an enactment of Congress.

Congress, by the exemption of lumber from the operation of the commodities clause, shows that it regarded railroad tap lines for lumber, owned and operated by the owners of the timber, as essential for the development of the timber interests of the country.

It is beyond the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission to order a tap line to cease a division of rates as to lumber owned by it or by those having proprietary interest therein if it is allowed such division as to lumber shipments by others.

Page 234 U. S. 3

If the division of joint rates between the principal carrier and the tap line really amounts to a rebate or discrimination in favor of the tap line owners, it is within the power and duty of the Interstate Commerce Commission to reduce such division to a proper point.

209 F. 244 affirmed.

These are all appeals from decrees of the United States Commerce Court (209 F. 244) annulling orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission refusing in whole or in part to compel certain common carriers which had filed schedules cancelling former schedules covering through routes and joint rates with the Louisiana & Pacific Railway Company, the Woodworth & Louisiana Central Railway Company, the Mansfield Railway & Transportation Company and the Victoria, Fisher & Western Railroad Company, appellees, hereinafter referred to as tap lines, to establish or reestablish through routes and joint rates and to grant allowances and divisions to the tap lines.

The Commission, after an extensive investigation of the tap lines in the lumber regions, particularly in the states of Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas, on April 23, and May 14, 1912, filed its report and supplemental report (23 I.C.C. 277, 549). The report deals at some length with the manner in which logs and lumber are moved in that territory and the practices attending such traffic. The Commission found the identification of the road with the industry, the necessity of incorporation to secure divisions and allowances, the great amount in the aggregate paid by the trunk lines to the tap lines, and the resulting discrimination, the fact that allowances were dependent upon the bargain the tap lines might exact from the trunk lines for a proportion of their traffic and not upon the amount of service rendered, and the fact that most of the lumber mills were near public carriers and that the tap lines would not be kept in operation if the mills were removed. General principles for determining the character

Page 234 U. S. 4

of carriers were set forth, and the conclusion stated that the real relation of a tap line was a question to be decided upon the facts in each case.

The Commission entered upon a particular examination of the various lines under investigation, among others, the appellees in these appeals. It found:

The Louisiana & Pacific Railway Company, controlled by the R. A. Long interests, owning a controlling interest in the Hudson River Lumber Company, the King-Ryder Lumber Company, Longville Lumber Company, and the Calcasieu Long Leaf Lumber Company, consists of the following tracks, all of which were originally constructed as private logging roads: (1) A track from De Ridder Junction, Louisiana (all of the lines involved in these cases are within that state), to Bundicks, a distance of 8 miles. The mill of the Hudson River Lumber Company, in whose interest this track is operated, is located at De Ridder, within a few hundred feet of the trunk lines; Bundicks is apparently a logging camp with a company store. (2) A track from Lilly Junction to Walla, about 7 1/2 miles, the latter being a point in the woods where the King-Ryder Lumber Company has a commissary, and where is located a small independent yellow-pine mill, owned by the Bundick Creek Lumber Company. The mill of the King-Ryder Company is at Bon Ami, a town of 2,000, located on the Lake Charles & Northern Railroad Company, a short distance from and connected by it with Lilly Junction. (3) A track of two miles at Longville, a town of 2,000 people, where the Longville Lumber Company has its mill and a store, and where also are several independent stores. (4) A track of nine miles from Fayette to Camp Curtis, a place of 200 population, where the Calcasieu Long Leaf Lumber Company has a store, its mill being at Lake Charles. (5) A track of one mile from Bridge Junction to Lake Charles station. The towns De Ridder, Bon Ami, Lilly Junction, Longville, Fayette, and

Page 234 U. S. 5

Lake Charles are connected by the Lake Charles & Northern Railroad, a Southern Pacific Railway Company line, originally built by the Long interests as a part of the Louisiana & Pacific, and sold to the Lake Charles & Northern with the reservation of trackage rights advantageous to the Louisiana & Pacific. By means of this arrangement the Louisiana & Pacific connects with the Kansas City Southern and the Santa Fe at De Ridder, with the Frisco at Fulton (a station south of Fayette), and with the Southern Pacific, Iron Mountain, & Kansas City Southern at Lake Charles. Its equipment consists of 22 locomotives, 6 cabooses, 41 freight cars, and 270 logging cars, and a private car used by its officers, who are connected with the lumber companies, in traveling around the country. The lumber companies have many miles of unincorporated logging tracks connecting with the Louisiana & Pacific at various points. There are a number of other stations on the line, among them Bannister, where the Brown Lumber Company owns a small independent mill.

The operation is this: the lumber companies load the logs and switch them over the logging spurs to connection with the tap line which hauls them to the mill, an average distance of 30 miles, for which no charge is made. The tap line switches the carloads of lumber from the mill at Lake Charles, a distance of three quarters of a mile, to the Southern Pacific; at De Ridder, only a few hundred feet to the trunk lines; from the Lake Charles mill to the Frisco, a distance of 18 miles; from the Bon Ami mill to the Southern Pacific at Lake Charles, a distance of 40 miles, and from the Longville mill to the Southern Pacific at Lake Charles, a distance of 24 miles -- the average haul for the controlling companies being nearly 20 miles. By written agreement, 50% of the lumber must be routed over the Frisco and 40% over the Southern Pacific, but this is not always done. 243,122 tons of lumber, as against 8,819 tons of merchandise, were shipped in 1910, 98% of the whole tonnage

Page 234 U. S. 6

being supplied by the controlling interests. The passenger receipts for 1910 were $473.77. A logging train runs daily on each branch, and there is one "mixed" train, loaded chiefly with logs and lumber, between Lake Charles and De Ridder. The allowances paid by the trunk lines range from 1 1/2 to 5 1/2

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