The Middletown Industrial Railway
Singing the Shortline Railroad Blues
It's the late 1970s / early 1980s in the Northeastern United States, hurricane damage and Penn Central follies have dragged the railroad industry to the brink of unimaginable disaster, and now Conrail is attempting to pick up the pieces and restore public confidence in the railroad industry. Throughout this territory branch line pruning has given way to wholesale amputations, giving rise to scores of new shortline railroads, each chartered to preserve service on these cast-off lines. The Middletown Industrial Railway is envisioned as one such newly minted shortline.
Head-quartered in its namesake Middletown, NY, the MIRY operates cast-off Conrail lines that formerly belonged to Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna, Lehigh & Hudson River, and the Lake Ontario & Hudson River (another of my concept railroads). Its primary duty is to interchange with Conrail at a new interchange track in the old NYO&W Middletown yard and provide as-needed service to forty-seven industries on its assorted lines. Its secondary function is to turn investors' money into revenue from a fleet of IPD (Incentive Per Diem) boxcars. While there is black ink in the books, the MIRY's eclectic fleet of second-, third-, and fourth- hand locomotives show that they are staying in the black merely by the skin of their teeth.
Conceived as a proto-freelanced model railroad for an article / series of articles in a hobby publication, the model MIRY would have been a room to garage sized pike centred on a small yard and engine terminal with several branchlines weaving around the room to serve an assortment of industries. It would have been a centralized analogue DC set of cabs with local switching cabs set around the spaghetti bowl of track (Yes, it was conceived THAT long ago). Motive power would have been a fleet of Athearn Blue Box "SW1500" switchers. A selection of Conrail, Penn Central, Erie Lackawanna, etc. would have made an appearance on the interchange track or on a "mainline loop" of Conrail trackage used for display running.