As a first step in introducing the scientific "fair rate of return" method of setting railroad fares and rates, the U. S. Congress in 1913 passed the Valuation Act. Its purpose was to find out just how much the railroads had actually invested in their physical plants. It was believed at the time that railroad securities represented mostly "water" and not real property. The process took over 20 years and several hundred million dollars, most of it provided by the railroads, and in the end proved mainly that the railroad's figures were reasonably accurate after all.
The Interstate Commerce Commission began issuing final valuations around 1924, based generally on a "Date of Valuation" of December 31, 1918 (I think). As enough material was collected, the valuations were issued in volumes starting in 1924. Initially they were placed and numbered in the regular sequence of "Interstate Commerce Commission Reports". 21 volumes were issued under this numbering system, numbers 75, 84, 97, 103, 106, 108, 110, 114, 116, 119, 121, 125, 127, 130, 133, 134, 135, 137, 141, 143 and 149. Starting in 1929 they were issued in a separate series, as "Interstate Commerce Commission Valuation Reports", beginning with volume 22. The initial valuations were mostly complete by the time Volume 47 was issued around 1938, with further valuations covering improvements and additions since the original date of valuation. The final volume in the series, number 57, was issued in 1964, with further reports combined with the ICC Financial Reports.
The Interstate Commerce Commission Reports and the Valuation Reports can be found in most large university libraries, especially those associated with a law school. Some large city libraries may also have copies of some or all of the volumes. Most of my copying was done originally at the Northwestern University Library at Evanston, Illinois, where the ICC reports and Valuation Reports were located in the Government Publications Department. More recently I have used the Northwestern University's Pritzker Legal Research Center Library in downtown Chicago.
The Valuation Reports are an incredibly valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of railroads. They give complete histories of the corporate organization of each system, and details of the construction of the property and of its financing and operating results, up to the date of valuation, which is generally in 1918. Even more useful, but far harder to gain access to, are the data collected to produce the valuation reports. Supposedly this occupies an entire warehouse somewhere in Maryland. It includes complete maps of all trackage, inventories of all equipment and structures, and photographs of all major structures and equipment, along with details of all major financial transactions. Each railroad had a set of its own data, which was kept up to date as changes were made to the railroad.
The best available index to the Valuation Reports is provided by Mark Bej on his website at http://broadway.pennsyrr.com/. His list is based on one compiled by the Association of American Railroads, and includes Vluation Docket numbers as well as the Volume and page numbers for the actual valuation data. (I previously had a list of my own posted, based on hand-written notes I made at the Northwestern University Library in Chicago. I have taken the list off the net as it did not include many of the smaller companies - and a few of the larger ones - and also did not include the Valuation Docket numbers, and Mark Bej's version is therefore far more useful.)
Index of ICC Valuation Reports at Mark Bej's website
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Last modified: February 1, 2006
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