Friday, February 7, 1873 The Woodstock Sentinel (Woodstock) Page 2

Important railway meeting at Norwich.

Pursuant to announcement by the Board of Directors, a meeting of shareholders and ratepayers generally was held at Norwich, on Monday [February 3], to discuss the question of asking for a bonus from the township of North Norwich to aid in the construction of the Port Dover and Lake Huron Railway. The attendance was large and very influential. The Reeve of the township, E. W. Burgess Esq., was called to the chair and D. S. Butterfield Esq., requested to act as Secretary.

The President of the Road, Gilbert Moore Esq., was the first speaker. He said the question he and his co-directors wished to submit to the meeting was: Is the township of Norwich prepared to grant a bonus to the Port Dover and Lake Huron Railway? They did not ask the ratepayers of the township to take "a leap in the dark," but wanted them to consider carefully and thoroughly whether or not the Road when constructed, would be likely to afford such advantages as would warrant them in giving a few thousand dollars to aid in its construction. If he could show that by expending $1 in this way the township would reap $5 in return, he thought the ratepayers would have no hesitation in granting the bonus asked for. The two chief objections urged against this road were, that there were too many Railways in Canada, and that Railways ought to be built without bonuses. In reply to the first objection, Mr. Moore pointed out the immense number of Railways in England and the United States as compared with Canada; and to the second, that no Railway of utility in Canada had been built unless aided by bonuses. In proof of this he instanced the Grand Trunk, Great Western, Wellington Grey and Bruce and other roads all of which had received large money grants from the municipalities through which they passed or from the Government. Without bonuses, we should not have had a single line of Railway in Canada. The speaker exhibited a map showing the proposed route of the Port Dover road, the other Railway lines which it would intersect and its probable final extension to Colpoy's Bay. Woodstock he said had already voted a bonus of $50,000 and subscribed stock to the amount of $27,000 more, making a total of $77,000 for that town alone. Did the meeting suppose that the shrewd business men of Woodstock would favor the giving of such assistance to the road that was likely to be of no value to them? He thought not. And if it would benefit Woodstock, which already possessed Railways facilities, it would benefit Norwich, which at the present time was entirely without them, to a far great[er] extent. The sooner we had the road the better but it could not be built without aid from the municipalities. Mr. Moore's remarks were very effective and evidently accorded with the sympathies of the meeting.

H. Parker, Esq., Vice-President, was next called on. He entered into a lengthened explanation of the Company's prospective financial position. According to his estimate the road would cost $1,230,000 in construction, allowing $20,000 per mile, which engineers considered a high estimate. The way in which the Directors proposed to raise this amount was a follows: The right of way of the old road and work already done is worth $360,000; Government grant from the Railway Fund $123,000; Bonus from Woodstock $50,000; Stratford $30,000; Simcoe $10,000; East Oxford $10,000; Norwich $25,000; and the Northern Municipalities $40,000 between them; private stock $105,000, making a total of $688,000. They were allowed to issue bonds to an equal amount if necessary, but, as they would see, $550,000 would be sufficient to make up $1,238,000, $8,000 more than the sum which he had estimated the road would cost. He pointed out that some of the municipalities had already voted the sums named and there was every probability that the others would fully meet their expectations. The Government had promised them aid soon as they could show their position to be such as complied with the provisions of the Railway Act. Mr. Parker then referred to the serious advantages which Woodstock was compelled to suffer through want of better and cheaper facilities for removing its freight, giving many instances which had come under his own immediate observation. When Woodstock suffered in this respect the County which was tributary to it as a market also suffered, because buyers were unable to give as large a price for produce as they otherwise would. They all knew that since the Harrisburg branch was built to Brantford, that town could give from 3 to 5 cents more for grain than Woodstock could. With the Port Dover road running through Woodstock this state of things would be remedied and the whole County would reap the benefit. The way in which the proposed road was to be built would enable the Directors to carry freight cheaper than many of the main railways now in existence. These had been built chiefly with foreign capital, and it was necessary to make the earnings sufficient to pay interest on the entire cost; whereas about half the cost of the Dover road would be provided for by gifts from the municipalities and the Government and, consequently, the earnings would only require to be half as large to pay the Company an equal interest. By giving the various roads intersected by the Port Dover running powers over it, we would get the benefit, not only of one, but of several roads. This was another advantage which the Directors were anxious to secure for the Company, and which influenced them strongly in favor or retaining the road as an Independent Line. He thought this plan would be much better than to hand over the road to the control of any other Company which was not so directly responsible to the stockholders, the municipalities which might grant bonuses or the public generally.

Thos. Oliver M. P., who was the next speaker, said he has in no way officially connected with the road and, therefore, did not wish it to be understood that the Directors were responsible for anything he might say to the meeting. He thought the scheme proposed by Brantford to run a road from that town through the Norwiches was a rival to the Port Dover line and only intended to injure, or kill the latter off. The Brantford people had attempted a similar dodge in Norfolk, but after securing their object by getting a bonus from Simcoe, where was their proposed road? It was abandoned, and if that bonus of $15,000 had not been voted by Simcoe it would now be lying to the credit of the Port Dover and Lake Huron scheme. Norwich should profit by this example and not divide its energies until it was certain at least that one road would be secured. He then referred to the financial position of Brantford and proved that it was not in a position to give bonuses to aid in constructing more railways. If the people of Norwich were wise, he through, they should first choose what road they would support and then unite in giving it all the assistance possible. The advantages of having Railway facilities, no one at the present day, would for a moment question. They had only to refer to the price of land in this county, previous to the building of the Great Western, and the price realized now, to prove how much farmers gained by Railway accommodation. He believed that every farm in Norwich would be worth at least $5 an acre more than at present, when the Port Dover Road was completed. This of itself ought to be sufficient inducement for them to give the company a liberal bonus. He thought, considering the township's wealth, it being perhaps unsurpassed in this request by any township in Canada, that $30,000 would not be too large. He showed by statistics what a large proportion of our products were shipped to the United States, and pointed out the certainty of the Port Dover road sharing largely in this traffic. Mr. Oliver closed by a powerful appeal to sink all differences for the sake of carrying out a successful completion an undertaking that must prove of incalculable benefit to the entire township.

Messrs. Scofield and Sawtell begged to be excused from speaking as both thought it quite unnecessary.

E. M. Schooley, Esq., South Norwich, declined on similar grounds. He was a friend of the road and would do all he could to aid its construction.

Mr. John Tidey thought the Brantford and Port Dover schemes were not rivals. Those who favored the former were also friends of the latter.

Mr. James Barr was a friend of both roads. They wanted two roads, not one, in Norwich. He was sure they would reap ten or twenty-fold returns from the construction of either road. Mr. Barr, however, showed his preference for the Brantford scheme, by stating that he thought Norwich should give it $30,000 and the Dover Road $20,000.

Mr. Moore explained his former connection with the Woodstock and Lake Erie Road, and showed that by his action as a Director, Norwich was $36,000 better off in respect to the Municipal Loan Fund debt than it otherwise would have been. He gave some additional facts to prove that all the municipalities through which it will pass will be greatly benefited by the Port Dover Road, and showed that all these municipalities could easily afford to extend it aid.

It was then moved by D. S. Butterfield and seconded by H. S. Losee,—That having heard the explanations given by the officers and others in regard to the present position of the Port Dover and Lake Huron Railway, we do pledge ourselves to support a By-Law to be voted upon, giving a bonus of $20,000 to the said Company, provided this township be relieved of its present indebtedness on account of the old Woodstock & Lake Erie Railway.

Messrs. Barr and Tidey thought it would be unwise to carry the resolution at the present time, as it might prejudice the township's interests with the Government in their settlement of the Municipal Loan Fund debt.

Mr. Pattullo thought this quite impossible, as the Premier had promised to bring down the Government measure on that question next day (Tuesday), and it was scarcely likely that any action of this meeting, even if communicated to the Government, would at all influence or modify the general scheme already decided upon. He was surprised at the modesty of the Directors in not asking for a larger bonus from Norwich. It should be, he thought, at least $10,000 more.

Messrs. Schooley, Parker, Titus, Bullock and others made some explanations, after which a vote was taken upon the resolution, only one man, Mr. Wm. Gair, having voted nay.

A vote of thanks to the chairman brought the meeting to a close.

Railways: Pt.D. & L.H.Ry.