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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 5 (September 1, 1927)

The Public Utility Aspect Of Railways

The Public Utility Aspect Of Railways.

The railways of New Zealand have none of the advantages (common to the railways of most countries) which follow large public endowments. Although it is understood that at one time a million acres somewhere in the King Country was actually selected for the purpose of a railway endowment-prior to the putting through of the North Island Main Trunk Line-the idea was not carried out. It is therefore interesting to note what has been done in relation to private railways in other countries.

Malcolm Keir, in his recent book “Industrial Organisation” points out that, in the United States, the loans and gifts to railroads from public authorities have aggregated 700 million dollars. In some cases the various governments -local, county, state, or national-have bought the securities of railroads; in others the interest on the securities has been guaranteed; in many others there have been loans or outright gifts of money or land. The first large land grant to a railroad was made in 1850 to the Illinois Central. Between this date and 1871 the total of land given to railroads was 242,000 square miles, an area equal to that of Texas or four times that of New England. Once, the State of Texas-in her ardour for railroads-gave away eight million more acres of public land than she actually possessed. Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, gave a fifth of their public lands to railroads;Nebraska gave a seventh, and California an eighth.