The earlier charters of roads usually began with a preamble reciting that there was a public necessity for the project. The general railroad laws follow this idea to the extent of requiring the promoters of an enterprise to present evidence before a railroad commission that the proposed road is a public necessity and that it has "sufficient utility to justify the taking of private property." Whenever there is any limitation regarding railway rates, the limitations have usually been placed so high that they have never been invoked. Sometimes the Legislature has been empowered to reduce rates without the consent of the company, but this provision is usually accompanied by the proviso that such action shall not be taken if it can be shown that it would thereby reduce the net profits of the road below some limit, say 10% per annum. Such a limitation usually renders the provision of no effect. Many charters have contained the provision that if the net profits of the road shall exceed a certain per cent all excess profits of the road shall be turned over to the State. It is probably true that no State has ever profited in this fashion, since the astute railroad manager would see to it that if the profits should ever show a tendency to go beyond the limitation, the money would be spent in improvements to the road. One of the finest railroads in the country is subject to such a limitation. Its excess profits have therefore been spent in this fashion, with the result that the added conveniences and facilities have still further increased its business, until the road is now one of the most gilt-edged railroad properties in the country.

The number of incorporators required varies in the different States, only two or three being required in several States, while twenty-five are required in some others. The minimum amount of capital stock is frequently specified as $10,000 per mile of road. An affidavit that some percentage, say 10% of the total capital stock, has actually been paid in cash is required in many States. Some charters limit the corporate existence to some definite period, such as 50 or 99 years. A map which shows the line of the road with more or less definiteness must be filed with the secretary of state, and it is sometimes required that a map showing the route through each county must be filed with the county clerk of that county. Many other specifications regarding the method of constructing the road, details regarding construction of rolling stock, such as safety appliances, the protection of highway crossings, etc., are required by the general railroad laws of various States. For a brief but comprehensive compilation of these, the reader is referred to "Railway Legislation in the United States," by Dr. B. H. Meyer.