Tidewater Southern Railway

1941 Overhead Electric Line Decision

Decision No. 34884
Before the Railroad Commission of the
State of California

In the matter of the investigation on the Commission's own motion into the reasonableness of the rules for overhead electric line construction prescribed by General Order No. 64-A and Supplements 1 and 2 thereto.

Case Number 4324
Decided December 23, 1941

  • J.J. Deuel, for California Farm Bueau Federation
  • James G. Marshall, for The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company and Southern California Telephone Company
  • P.W. DuVal, for Pacific Gas and Electric Company, San Joaquin Light and Power Corporation and Midland Counties Public Service Corporation
  • Randolph Karr, Julian Adams, Frank Karr and E.L.H. Bissinger, for Pacific Electric Railway Company.
  • E.E. Bennett and L.T. Jackson, for Union Pacific Railroad.
  • Ernest Irwin, for California Independent Telephone Association.
  • I.R. Dains, S.L. Foster and Charles Wagner, for Market Street Railway.
  • Paul Lebenbaum, for Southern Pacific Company, San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad, Northwestern Pacific Railroad, Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad, Stockton Electric Railway and Visalia Electric Railway Company.
  • A.C. Putnam, for Nevada-California Electric Corporation.
  • L.M. Perrin, for Public Utilities Commission of San Francisco, Municipal Railway of San Francisco and Hetch Hetchy Water Supply.
  • C.E. Fletcher, for Sierra Pacific Power Company, Reno, Nevada.
  • F.A. Gift, for Western Union Telegraph Company.
  • G.E. Jenner, for San Diego Gas and Electric Company.
  • G.C. Larkin and W.E. Row, for Southern California Edison Company, Ltd.
  • M.O. Bolser and A.L. Williams, for Bureau of Power and Light, Los Angeles.
  • A.A. Smith, for Postal Telegraph-Cable Company.
  • M.A. deLew, for Tidewater Associated Oil Company and their Subsidiaries and also for Industrial and Manufacturers of California.
  • H.F. Neill, for Sacramento Northern Railway.
  • W.H. Evans, for Sacramento Northern Railway Company and TIDEWATER SOUTHERN Railroad Company and Central California Traction Company.
  • C.W. Carpenter, for Western Pacific Railroad Company.
  • George E. Kimball, for Industrial Accident Commission of the State of California.
  • L.B. Yeager, for Los Angeles Railway Corporation.
  • Donohue, Richards and Hamlin, for Key System and East Bay Transit Company.
  • C.H. Rohrer, F.W. Bartholomew and J.C. Macdonald, for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Electrical Workers State Association.
  • L.H. Anderson, for City of Palo Alto and California Municipal Utilities Association.
  • A.W. Cartmell, for the City of Pasadena.
  • G.E. Bishop, for Coast Counties Gas and Electric Company.
  • James A. Graham, for Department of Electricity, San Francisco.
  • C.E. Plummer, for Modesto Irrigation District.
  • Elbert E. Disck, for City of Redding.
  • C.R. Austin, for California Water and Telephone Company.
  • Arthur G. James, for City of Palo Alto.
  • Riley, Commissioner


The present investigation, instituted by the Commission upon its own motion, is an inquiry into the reasonableness of the rules governing the construction of overhead electric supply and communication lines, as contained in General Order No. 64-A, effective March 1, 1929, and in two supplements to that General Order which were issued in 1932 and 1934. Revision of the rules appears desirable as many changes have occurred since their adoptions, improvements have been made in the art of constructing lines and in the equipment used; supplemental modifications of the rules have been made and much experience has been gained in their application.

At the initial hearing in this matter of June 7, 1938, a General Committee representing the various interested parties was formed to discuss and study the changes to be made in the rules and to assist the members of the Commission's staff in the redrafting. During the succeeding period of three years, members of this General Committee participated in 32 meetings, in which representatives of all interested parties took part, with the result that all operators of electric supply and communication lines of the various classes were afforded the opportunity of proposing, discussing and aiding in the drafting of new and changed provisions for a revised order. Thereafter, members of the Commission's staff prepared revised rules, in the form of a suggested general order, which were the subject of an extended (four days) meeting of the General Committee. After making some changes, this suggested general order was presented in evidence by members of the Commission's staff, at public hearings held on June 23, 24 and 25, 1941. Some objections and new recommendations were made by interested parties, following which further changes were made and offered in evidence at a public hearing held on September 17, 1941, at which time the matter was submitted for decision.

Rules of the character here before the Commission, for modification and revision, find a wide application in public utility operation and service. In these respects, the rules not only provide a standard of safety, both to the workman and to the public, but likewise materially contribute to the standard of service rendered and also afford a means of coordination between different types of lines, such as power and communication.

Under the terms of the new general order, existing facilities, lawfully erected in accordance with earlier general orders, are permitted to be maintained according to the rules effective when such facilities were constructed or reconstructed, except as to certain safety factor requirements specified in Rule 12.2; but any lines constructed or reconstructed after the new general order becomes effective, must comply with the rules therein contained. In other words, the new general order does not require a complete and immediate reconstruction of existing lines installed prior to its effective date. Such an order would be unreasonable to operators and to the public alike. The new order, like its predecessors, is a part of a long-range progressive program designed to eventually bring all lines up to the standards required in new construction. Completion of that program is not economically feasible within a short period and, in fact, the revision of the order at this time clearly indicates that no program may be considered complete and static. There is another phase to the adoption of rules such as these, in that the rules must not only be practical, from a physical point of view, but likewise they must be within reasonable economic limits; otherwise costs to serve and consumer rates may be adversely and unreasonably affected. Having in mind these considerations, Rule 12.3 in the new general order permits prior construction to remain in service and provides as follows:

"12.3 Lines Constructed Prior to This Order

The requirements of this Order, other than the safety factor requirements specified in Rule 12.2, do not apply to lines or portions of lines constructed or reconstructed prior to the effective date of this Order. In all other particulars, such lines or portions of lines shall conform to the requirements of the rules in effect at the time of their construction or reconstruction."

For reasons hereinabove indicated, the Commission is of the opinion that Rule 12.3 of the new general order (there is a similar provision in General Order No. 64-A) is a reasonable and necessary provision and that it would be unreasonable to order wholesale and immediate reconstruction of all existing overhead lines, as is sometimes urged. However, Rule 12.4 provides that if "in its opinion, safety or public interest requires, the Commission may order reconstruction or alteration of existing lines."

The form of the new general order is similar to that of its predecessor, General Order No. 64-A. Sections I to IV, inclusive, are generally applicable to all classes of electric lines, as specified in the detailed provisions thereof. Section V embodies rules for supply lines (including trolley system lines); Section VI for tower lines; Section VII for trolley lines; Section VIII for communication lines; and Section IX provides special rules for all classes of lines on joint poles, while the rules of other sections provide the ordinary rules which apply to the several classes of lines when placed on joint poles. Furthermore, in addition to modifications of rules of General Order No. 64-A, the new rules contain some provisions which have not appeared in any previous orders. Broadly speaking, the changes to be incorporated in the new order will be both more and less restrictive, according to the conditions and situations obtaining.

The order instituting investigation states that one of the purposes of the investigation was to consider the procedure to be followed in obtaining authority to deviate from the rules and the conditions under which such authority may be granted. In this respect Rule 15 of the new order provides, in substance, that the Commission will consider applications which contain a full statement of existing conditions, together with the reasons why authority to deviate is requested and is believed to be justifiable. That rule also provides that, unless otherwise ordered, authority to deviate will be limited to the particular case or the specific type of construction covered by the application.

Three of the larger operators have requested that the new general order not be made effective until six months after promulgation, primarily because of the national defense situation. In view of the war development and the heavy demand being placed upon the utilities, it is my opinion that the request is reasonable and the order will provide an effective date of July 1, 1942. I recommend the following order.



The Commission, on its own motion, having instituted an investigation into the reasonableness of rules governing overhead line construction, said investigation having been submitted following the taking of evidence at public hearings and, based upon the record and upon the findings contained in the foregoing opinion, it is hereby further found that the rules governing overhead line construction contained in the attached General Order No. 95 are reasonable and should be adopted, and...

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that said General Order No. 95, attached hereto, be and it is hereby adopted. Said General Order No. 95 shall supersede General Order No. 64-A, shall apply to all overhead electric supply and communication lines coming within the jurisdiction of this Commission, and shall become effective on July 1, 1942.

The foregoing opinion and order are hereby approved and filed as the opinion and order of the Railroad Commission of the State of California.

Dated, San Francisco, California, December 23, 1941.

C.C. Baker
Ray L. Riley
Justus F. Craemer
Franck R. Havenner
Richard Sachse



A California Railroad Commission Decision from 1941 concerning rule changes governing overhead electric lines.  Represented in the case were California corporations having overhead power lines including all the exisiting electrified railroads.

References to the Tidewater Southern are flagged in bold for easy reference.