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CHICAGO & NORTHWESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY v. OCHS

April 14, 1919

CHICAGO & NORTHWESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY
v.
OCHS, DOING BUSINESS UNDER THE NAME OF A.C. OCHS BRICK & TILE COMPANY



ERROR TO THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA

White, McKenna, Holmes, Day, Van Devanter, Pitney, McReynolds, Brandeis, Clarke

Author: Van Devanter

[ 249 U.S. Page 417]

 MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER delivered the opinion of the court.

An order of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission of Minnesota requiring a railroad company to alter and

[ 249 U.S. Page 418]

     extend a side track leading from its main line to an adjacent brick and tile manufacturing plant is here in question. The order was made under a local statute (Gen. Stats., 1913, ยงยง 4231, 4284) on complaint of the owner of the plant, after due notice and full hearing, and on successive appeals was sustained by the district court of the county and the Supreme Court of the State. 135 Minnesota, 323.

The principal controversy before the commission was as to who should bear the cost of the work. The railroad company objected to bearing any part and the owner of the plant was not willing to bear all. If the cost was put on the latter, the railroad company was ready to make the alteration and extension. The statute, as construed by the Supreme Court of the State, authorized the commission, if it ordered the work done, to make a reasonable apportionment of the cost. State v. Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Ry. Co., 115 Minnesota, 51. By the order the commission practically assigned two-thirds to the railroad company and one-third to the owner of the plant, and required the latter to secure the right of way at its own expense and to invest the railroad company with a perpetual right to use the same for railroad purposes.

In the state courts the railroad company, without questioning the terms of the apportionment, if the cost was to be divided, contended that the statute as construed and the order as made were repugnant to the due process of law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, in that to require the company to bear any part of the cost was to take its property for a private use without its consent, or, if the use were public, to take the property for such use without compensation. Both phases of the contention were overruled and this is the matter on which error is assigned.

The facts are not in dispute and are these:

The plant is about a quarter of a mile from the railroad

[ 249 U.S. Page 419]

     company's station at Springfield, Minnesota, a place of over 1,500 inhabitants, and has been in operation as much as twenty years. During that time the railroad company has maintained and operated a side track leading from its main line to the plant and the products of the latter have been shipped out and fuel and other supplies shipped in over this track. The railroad company has been free to use the track for other purposes and has done so occasionally. The yearly shipments from the plant have been about 250 car loads and those to the plant about 50 car loads, the freight charges thereon exceeding $10,000.

Without the side track the plant would be a failure and the public would be without its products; with it the plant is a success and the products reach and are used by the public. The demand for the products has come to exceed greatly the capacity of the plant and the owner is now enlarging it at a cost of $150,000. The output, as also the aggregate freight charges, will be more than doubled thereby. The entire output moves over this railroad, no other being accessible. To serve the enlarged plant and handle the increased shipments, out and in, the present side track -- about 460 ...


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