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Public Service Co. v. Commerce Com.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Shelby County; the Hon. F.R. DOVE, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied March 28, 1960.

This case involves the jurisdiction of the Illinois Commerce Commission, herein called the Commission, to compel Central Illinois Public Service Company, herein called the Power Company, to contribute to the cost of changing the train-stop system of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, herein called the Railroad.

In 1953 the Railroad filed a complaint with the Commission alleging that the Power Company had allowed current to escape from its transmission lines which interfered with the train-stop system of the Railroad and caused false signals that endangered public safety. The complaint prayed that the Power Company take the necessary steps to correct the interference at its cost. The Power Company answered, denying responsibility for the interference and challenging the jurisdiction of the Commission.

After extensive hearings the Commission found that current escaping from the Power Company transmission lines interfered with the train-stop system of the Railroad, creating a serious hazard to the public; that, since the cost of correcting the Power Company's facilities would be excessively high, the best engineering solution would be to require a conversion of the Railroad's train-stop system from 60-cycle to 100-cycle current, thereby immunizing it from interference, and to require the Power Company to supply 100-cycle current to the Railroad; that the change would require the joint action of the utilities; and that its cost should be borne jointly by them.

The Railroad and Power companies were given 30 days to agree on an apportionment of such costs, but they were unable to do so. The Commission then held further hearings upon which it affirmed its prior order and found that, since the Power Company had not made 100-cycle current available, the Railroad should perform all the work and provide the necessary conversion equipment. The Commission ordered that the Railroad and Power companies each bear 50 per cent of the cost of the conversion.

Rehearing was denied, and the Power Company appealed to the circuit court of Shelby County, which held that the order was beyond the jurisdiction of the Commission and set it aside. The Railroad and the Commission perfected a direct appeal to this court pursuant to section 69 of the Public Utilities Act. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1957, chap. 111 2/3, par. 73.

The record contains voluminous testimony and numerous exhibits which are technical and complex, but fortunately a brief summary of the evidence is sufficient to illuminate the legal issues involved.

In 1922 the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered the Railroad and certain other railroads throughout the United States to install automatic train-stop or train-control devices. Pursuant to that directive, the Railroad conducted tests and determined that the proper facility would be the continuous automatic train-stop system, which was installed in January, 1926, and operated between Champaign and Branch Junction, Illinois, a distance of 121.8 miles. The track rails were utilized to carry the electrical current necessary to operate both the track circuits and the train-stop equipment on the engines.

The transmission lines of the Power Company paralleled and at points crossed over this line of double tracks of the Railroad. The train-stop system was installed to operate on 60 cycles alternating current, the frequency which was being supplied by the Power Company. In fact, it was questioned whether the Railroad could have then installed a 100-cycle system since the Power Company could not have furnished adequate three-phase service.

Prior to its installation, tests were conducted for over a year to see if there was any foreign current which would interfere with the 60-cycle system and none was detected. Twenty-two years after the installation, foreign current first began to affect the train-stop system and continued with increased intensity through 1953. Such foreign current in the system caused false signals — a green light would appear when a red light should show and vice versa. Joint tests conducted by the Railroad and the Power Company during 1952 and 1953 showed that when the lines of the Power Company were de-energized, all foreign current in the track disappeared.

At the time of the hearing before the Commission, the Railroad operated 12 regular passenger trains, 32 freight trains and numerous special unscheduled trains over the tracks in question, and in 1952, it carried over 800,000 passengers over such tracks. Its passenger trains travelled at a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour, while its freight trains operated at 50 to 60 miles per hour. The most dangerous aspect of false signals is that they are more frequent during wet and foggy weather which is the time when true signals are of paramount importance.

During the period from 1926 to 1953, the Power Company changed, extended and enlarged its transmission lines more than 20 times, both with and without Commission approval. The length of such lines, parallel to the Railroad, was increased from 61 to 113.5 miles, and the intensity of the load carried, from 125 million to 1 billion 540 million KWH, an increase of 1,132%. Part of this construction was multi-grounded and part uni-grounded, while in some instances "Y" circuits and delta circuits were used.

The elimination of the foreign current from the transmission lines of the Power Company could be accomplished by converting all the multi-grounded lines to a delta type of circuit. Also, the interference could be eliminated by (a) moving the power lines away from the Railroad, (b) employing adequate transposition, (c) reducing the loads on given power lines and building additional lines to handle increased need for power, (d) use of ungrounded multi-conductor cable instead of open wire, and (e) installing larger wires ...

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