Who will buy Conrail? This is one of the reigning questions in railroading as we enter the year 1985. Only a short nine years ago the question might have been, "Who on Earth would want to buy Conrail?" Thanks to a gradual but overall sterling improvement in operations and income, the financial world today takes Conrail very seriously. The question in our realm of interest might be, "When will we modelers take Conrail seriously?"
Although Conrail probably has suffered in the eyes of modelers and railfans from the stigma of its Penn Central ancestry, it is nevertheless a descendant of two of the most popular all-time railroads (one recent poll showed more fans still claim Pennsy as their favorite railroad above all others). Throw into the Conrail mix such regional favorites as Erie Lackawanna, Lehigh Valley and Reading, to name a few, and you've added those very railroads whose characteristics were treasured by hold-out observers disenchanted with the bigness of PRR and NYC. No, we aren't saying that modeling Conrail is the same as modeling Pennsy, but to the modernists and the younger generation of modelers, Conrail does offer a bit of the best of all worlds.
To be sure, Conrail has systematically disassembled many of the remaining trappings of the old Pennsy - and the other roads as well - such as third and fourth tracks and branch lines, towers and freight houses, etc. And yes, the declining industrial base of Conrail's territory has prompted abandonment of the manufacturing structures that also form part of the modeling experience. But all this didn't happen overnight. As modelers, we can mix and match time, traffic and railroads as we please. Our article Modeling Early Conrail in the last PM (November-December 1984) outlined some of the ways in which this can be done. On the following pages we begin showing you some of the specific projects for modeling early - and contemporary - Conrail. These will be continued in the months ahead.
If we had to boil down the Conrail appeal to one word, it would simply be: diversity. The last PM illustrated this diversity in photos of mainline and branchline trains, in photos of passenger and freight trains and in color photos of the varied locomotive liveries of early Conrail. Before being carried away by this diversity, however, and before presenting our first modeling subject, the SDP45, we wanted to keep our priorities in order by photographically illustrating the "heart" of Conrail's appeal - the multi-track main line through the electrified territories and over the mountains of the East. The best way we could think of doing this was through several Victor Hand photographs taken between 1976 and 1982.