Some of the principal features of the general railroad law of the State of New York are quoted as a sample of one of the best and most equitable of such laws. The number of railroad incorporators may be fifteen or more. They shall file a certificate which shall state the name of the corporation; the number of years it is to continue; the kind of road; its length and termini; the name of each county in which any part is to be located; the amount of capital stock (not less than $10,000 per mile or, with narrow gauge, $3000), and the number of shares of stock. If the capital stock is to consist of common and preferred stock, the rights and privileges of the preferred stock over the common stock must be clearly stated. It must have at least nine directors, and the name and post-office address of each of the incorporators, with the number of shares of stock to which he subscribes, must be stated. One of the most important provisions against irresponsible projects is that an affidavit must be made by at least three of the directors that at least 10% of the minimum amount of capital stock required by law has been subscribed and paid in cash. A railroad corporation, after being duly organized, has the power to enter upon any lands in order to make any necessary surveys, but is subject to liability to the owner for all damage done; it is also authorized to acquire property which may be needed, and, if necessary, to acquire such property by condemnation proceedings. It may construct the road across, along, or upon any stream, watercourse, highway, plank road, turnpike, or across any of the canals of the State which the route of its road shall intersect or touch. This last provision, as well as the other provisions here given, is subject to modifications by special laws which apply particularly to the crossing of highways and canals. It may make a junction with any railroad which it may reach or cross, and may even compel, if necessary, the connecting road to allow suitable turnouts, sidings, and switches to be put in. The corporation may "take and convey passengers and property on its railroad by the power or force of steam or of animals or by any mechanical power, except where such power is specially prescribed in this chapter, and to receive compensation therefor." This virtually means that roads of any kind, whether the cars are propelled by steam, electricity, or even horse-power, are authorized to convey "persons and property" which includes freight. This disposes of the question of the authority of electric roads to carry freight, which is the subject of contention and legislation in other States. The corporation is also authorized to borrow money and to issue bonds for its security without any definite limitation of the amount, except that such a measure must have the consent of the State Board of Railroad Commissioners and of the stockholders owning at least two-thirds of the stock. Work must be begun within five years, and during that time at least 10% of the amount of capital must be expended. If the road is not finished and put in operation within ten years from the time of filing the certificate of incorporation its corporate existence and powers shall cease. The corporation is required to make a map and profile of the road adopted by it in each county through which it passes, and file a copy in the office of the county clerk. Written notice must be given to the actual occupants or owners of the lands over which it passes regarding the time and place of filing the map and profile. Such occupant or owner may within fifteen days give a ten days' written notice of an application to a Justice of the Supreme Court. The Justice may appoint three disinterested persons, one of whom must be a practical civil engineer, who shall pass upon the question of a proposed alteration in the line. The law is quite elaborate regarding the hearing of any plea for a proposed alteration of the line, with rules regarding appeals, etc. The maps filed with the railroad commission must show "length and direction of each straight line; the length and radius of each curve; the point of crossing of each town and county line, and the length of line of each town and county accurately determined by measurements to be taken after the completion of the road." Changes of route from the original route selected may be permitted under several elaborate regulations.
There are numerous physical requirements regarding construction, operation, and management of the road, of which a few of the most important are as follows: On narrow-gauge roads the weight of the rail must not be less than 25 pounds per yard; on standard-gauge roads it must be not less than 56 pounds per yard on grades of 110 feet to the mile or under, and must be at least 70 pounds per yard on steeper grades. Fences must be erected as soon as the land is appropriated for use. Cattle-guards must be provided. If the fences are not made or are not kept in good repair the corporation is liable for damages to domestic animals, but when they are kept in good repair the corporation is not considered liable for damages unless "negligently or willfully done." Barbed wire, however, is not permitted for fence construction. The railroad need not be fenced when it is not necessary to prevent horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs from going upon its track from the adjoining lands. Farm crossings must be maintained wherever necessary. Sign-boards of such shape and design as are approved by the Board of Railroad Commissioners must be placed at all grade crossings. The Supreme Court or the County Court may upon action require a railroad to station flagmen or even to erect, maintain, and operate crossing gates at any highway grade crossing. No station which has been established by the railroad shall be discontinued without the consent of the Board of Railroad Commissioners. All railroads crossing another railroad at grade must bring all trains to a full stop between 200 and 800 feet from the crossing, and then shall cross only when the way is clear and upon a signal from a watchman stationed at the crossing. If two railroads cannot agree as to expenses the matter will be decided by the Supreme Court. The full stop may be omitted with the approval of the Commissioners if interlocking switch and signal apparatus has been adopted. For ordinary steam railroads the permissible passenger fare is 3 c. per mile, with a right to a minimum single fare of not less than 5 c. The Legislature reserves the right to reduce fares, but cannot do so without the consent of the corporation, if it may be shown that the net profits would be less than 10% per annum on the capital actually expended.