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History of CTD Transport

History of CTD Transport

CTD Transit Authority Map

(1920x1080 — click to embiggen)

The Great Lakes Region

CTD is native to, and operates exclusively in, the Great Lakes region of northern England. Characterized by its abundant freshwater bodies, until the 1800s it was populated mostly by small fishing villages. The Industrial Revolution brought iron mining and steelworking to the Great Lakes, and with it the founding of the towns and cities that today are served by CTD.

1910 ⬩ A New Company

Conglomerated Tundstow Deliveries Inc. is formed from a merger of three local shipping companies delivering iron ore to Tundstow Steelworks. Pooling their capital and expertise, they plan to construct a freight railway to scale up their operations.

Pictured at left is "Q", co-founder and CEO of the merged company, about whom surprisingly little has survived in the historical record. All three of the founders apparently had engineering backgrounds, which could explain their preference for staying out of the public eye.

Although news reports suggest the company was branding itself "CTD" from the start, this would later become its official name as it expanded beyond Tundstow.


1918–1925 ⬩ Closing the Loop

With the railway turning a healthy profit, and the Steelworks running out of space for its newfound surplus of product, CTD begins two ambitious construction projects that will "close the loop" on the region's manufacturing: an eastward branch to deliver the steel to Dreeninghill Stamp and Plate, and a line from there to Stanhaven Port in the northwest, to export the finished goods.

The new rail routes also allow improved mining equipment to be imported at Stanhaven and delivered to the mines supplying the Steelworks, improving their output significantly and quadrupling CTD's profits in just a few years.

1927 ⬩ Flying Fruit

One of the now-wealthy founders of CTD sinks a small fortune into a fleet of cargo zeppelins, delivering fruit from Stanhaven's orchards to a brewery in the hamlet of Freeby, northwest of Nantthwaite. Although the venture is wildly unprofitable and will be shut down within a decade, the airships passing overhead catch the eyes of the Nantthwaite town council, who are working with neighboring Dunby to establish a passenger rail line.

1928 ⬩ Passenger Rail

CTD is tapped to build and operate the region's first passenger rail service, from Nantthwaite to Dunby via Standingbridge. The company's experience with freight lines pays off and the project is completed in record time, the first train arriving less than two years after breaking ground. Not content to stick with steam power, CTD equips the line with AC overhead wires, enabling the use of "electric carriages" with lower operating costs and an unheard-of top speed of 90mph — easily achieved along the flat coastal route.

1934–1940 ⬩ Transit Expansion

The success of the Nantthwaite line creates a groundswell of popular support for passenger railways. Seizing the moment, CTD goes on a hiring binge and spins out two entire transit-focused subsidiaries.

West Lakes Transit takes over the Nantthwaite line and extends a new branch through the five lakeside towns southeast of Dunby, starting with Grimpool. Meanwhile, Dreeninghill Transit starts work on a new line from its namesake town to Slonshaw, via Tredore and Lodingbury. Each business unit also pursues local transit contracts in the towns it serves, and passengers are soon whisked to CTD's stations by CTD-owned buses and trolleys.

The main business unit shifts focus back to maintaining and upgrading the freight lines. To this end, it begins operating a ferry service out of Stanhaven Port, connecting its workforce to the burgeoning West Lakes Transit network at Deestock. To improve profitability, the route also runs south to the more populous Renway.

1945 ⬩ Dreeninghill Air

Commercial aviation is hitting its stride, and CTD sees an opportunity to link Dreeninghill and Nantthwaite, the two largest and most distant towns in the region. Now on good terms with the local governments thanks to its transit services, the company is permitted to build a small airfield in each town, on vacant land adjacent to its rail stations.

Dreeninghill Air takes flight, and is immediately overwhelmed with passengers, straining the capacity of the single dirt runway at each airfield. Improvements are put on hold, however, as Dreeninghill refuses further construction due to concerns about the environmental impact and displacement of residents.

1948–1952 ⬩ The Continental Line

With demand firmly established for a high-capacity cross-region route, Dreeninghill Transit pitches a massive extension of its namesake line: north from Slonshaw to the growing town of Malley, then curving west to run through Dunby, and from there on to Nantthwaite using the existing West Lakes Transit rails. Single-seat trips from one end of the region to the other would become possible, and not just for those who could afford a plane ticket.

Management and the government of Malley are on board, but the planned route runs through land owned by neighboring Malhall and Stanburgh, and their residents are up in arms about being passed by. CTD, reluctant to slow the line by stopping at these sleepy towns, successfully counter-offers with the Malley MAX: an inter-city trolley linking both towns to Malley and the proposed rail station.

Despite the unprecedented scale of the project, construction goes smoothly, and with enough left in the budget to extend the West Lakes network to Malley from its old terminus in Preburgh. The Dreeninghill Line is given a fresh coat of paint and rebranded the Continental Line, and its grand re-opening makes headlines across the region.

1953 ⬩ The Grimpool Canal

Looking to diversify its freight operations, CTD turns to the fishing industry in the Great Lakes. Its new fleet of trawlers bring their catch to a packing plant in Nantthwaite's harbor, and it finds a buyer for the fish in Grimpool. Although Grimpool has no direct access to the Great Lakes, it does sit on the edge of a small lake, separated from the Great Lakes only by a narrow strip of land... which is currently occupied by the West Lakes railway.

Undeterred, engineers draw up plans to dig a canal connecting the two bodies of water, then bridge the rails over it. However, the work is rushed due to pressure to get the railway back online, and a critical measurement error is only discovered after the canal is dug and the bridges are half built: the bridge-head foundations extend too far into the canal, making it too narrow for ships to pass through. The bridges must be demolished, and the canal widened.

CTD's reputation takes its first real hit, but fortunately all its stations remain reachable thanks to the new Continental Line connection at Malley. Within a year the disruption is forgotten, and the fish is flowing.

1956–1960 ⬩ The New Nantthwaite

The obvious next step for the Continental Line is an extension southeast from Nantthwaite to Renway, currently only served by the Deestock ferry. The problem: Nantthwaite has grown into a sprawling city, and its terminus — one of the first CTD ever built — is now surrounded on three sides by high-rise developments, preventing a straightforward conversion into a "through" station.

Taking lessons from the canal project, CTD moves forward with a "zero downtime" plan. An entire second station is built, squeezed in between the harbor and the original station, connected to the same rails but oriented at a right angle to it — allowing the rails on the other side to tunnel under the harbor district and proceed to Renway. Once everything is in place, a track switch is thrown overnight, and trains roll uninterrupted into the new station.

To cap off the project, a dock is constructed on the harbor with direct access to the new station, and ferry service is extended there from Deestock; the route is now branded the Great Lakes Ferry. As for the old station, the company opts to demolish it and let the city redevelop the valuable downtown real estate, driving additional passengers to the Continental Line.

1961 ⬩ The West Lakes Metro

West Lakes Transit, observing recent delays and overcrowding on the Continental Line, decides on its next big project: converting its own system to rapid transit EMUs running on third-rail DC power. Although relatively slow, with a top speed of 55mph, the new trains promise dramatic improvements in capacity and dwell time versus CTD's standard passenger coaches — and the closely-spaced West Lakes stops don't benefit much from higher speeds.

As West Lakes service was already cut back from Nantthwaite to Standingbridge when the former was converted to a "through" station, the system no longer shares any rails with the Continental Line, and so the conversion is achieved with minimal disruption. The revamped line is dubbed the West Lakes Metro.

The new trains work well... too well, in fact, as they end up running at less than 20% capacity and fail to make up for their operating costs. West Lakes Transit cuts service several times over the following years in its attempts to remain in the black, but ultimately the system is only sustained by the revenue from CTD's other operations.

1964 ⬩ The End of Steam

The original CTD freight railway, still powered by steam locomotives last upgraded in 1935, is starting to show its age. The long-neglected department responsible for it finally gets a modernization budget, and its 76 coal-fired engines are promptly replaced with diesel power. Steam is now a thing of the past for CTD: all its other railways have been electrified from the start.

1968 ⬩ A Faster Ferry

Impressed by a demonstration at an overseas expo, CTD's execs contract a Canadian company to replace the old ferries on the Great Lakes route with their latest passenger hovercraft. The new vessels have a slightly lower capacity, but with a top speed of 70mph compared to the old ships' 20mph, they (somewhat literally) fly across the water. The ferry quickly becomes a viable option for commuters looking to dodge the crowds on the Continental Line.

1968–1981 ⬩ The Big Dig

Following the Renway extension, only one major city in the western region remains unconnected to CTD's transit network: Windness. The company considers various plans to remedy this, given the complication that its existing infrastructure lies along the eastern edge of Nantthwaite, urban sprawl blocking all straight paths to the west. One option stands out: create a straight path to the west, by tunneling directly under the city.

During the lengthy permitting process for the tunnel, CTD makes progress on related projects. In 1970 a light rail network similar to the Malley MAX is established between Windness and its neighbors. In 1972 the old Nantthwaite airfield is demolished to make room for the tunnel, with service re-routed to a new airport at Standingbridge — the longer runway finally allowing an upgrade to modern high-capacity jet aircraft. To offset the loss of direct flights to the city, in 1974 the West Lakes Metro is extended to Nantthwaite.

In 1978, excavation finally begins. At the same time, rails are run east from a new station in Windness, carving a valley through the hill between the two cities in an earth-moving project almost as large as the tunnel itself. This line runs through the new Back of the Hill station before descending underground and emerging at a new section of Nantthwaite station. With no room for a junction, the new "Nantthwaite Connector" is instead linked directly to the Renway extension, shortening the over-stretched Continental Line back to Nantthwaite.

By 1981 the "Big Dig" is complete, and the Connector is open for business. One loose thread remains: an empty parcel of land next to Windness station, in which CTD had planned to build its third airport. Unfortunately the government of Bindingport, a small suburb of Windness, blocks construction due to noise concerns, and the land sits vacant until the project is finally revisited in 2004.

1978–1984 ⬩ The Suhead Saga, Pt. 1

With Windness connected, CTD's rail lines now serve all but two major cities in the entire Great Lakes region. The company resolves to connect these two, Nantwood and Suhead, in a single massive project. Gradually, a plan takes shape involving a branch from Slonshaw running southwest through Suhead, and on to Nantwood.

Access to Suhead is unfortunately blocked in all directions by the company's own freight lines, untouched since the 1920s — and so a multi-year project begins to carefully relocate them without interrupting the lucrative flow of steel. By 1981 this effort is complete, and an alignment is soon worked out for the "through" station at Suhead that places it close to downtown. Meanwhile, the terminus at Nantwood is constructed, and receives its first service early in the form of a short metro line to the nearby lakeside town of Finhaven.

Although the project is proceeding smoothly, as engineers ponder the difficult terrain at the Slonshaw end of the line, trouble is brewing on the horizon...

1987-1992 ⬩ The Financial Crisis

Due to a series of accounting errors and a lack of close attention to finances, CTD has unknowingly failed to turn a profit for several years running. The situation comes to a head in 1986, when the company's cash reserves abruptly run out and its paychecks start bouncing. Conditional on an in-depth expense audit and a freeze on capital projects, CTD's bank agrees to a short-term loan, saving the region's transit system from a total shutdown.

Two key facts are uncovered by the audit. The first, and most unexpected, is that maintenance of railway signals is one of the company's biggest cost centers. A review shows that signals across all rail lines are at least twice as dense as needed to support their peak traffic, and so the order is given to deactivate and tear down hundreds of individual signals to get the budget under control. Within a few years, the estimated maintenance cost has been cut in half.

The second fact is that the Continental Line is hemhorraging money. Simply put, it is a victim of its own success: chronic throughput issues at stations have led to operators racking up overtime hours waiting at red signals, and ticket refunds due to late trains are commonplace. CTD estimates that the line could be made less unprofitable (if not actually profitable) by widening its stations to allow for two platforms in each direction, and swapping out its locomotives for less powerful units that are cheaper to operate.

As these cost-cutting measures proceed, the company gradually climbs back into the black, and the crisis appears to be over. The loan is paid off by 1992, although the double-tracking efforts continue through the year 2000.

1996-2004 ⬩ The Suhead Saga, Pt. 2

No longer staring down bankruptcy, CTD resumes work on what is now called the Suhead Line. Engineers conclude there is unfortunately no feasible path from the new line to Slonshaw station, as it is surrounded on all sides by 60 years of urban growth, and the existing platforms and rails are at capacity just serving the Continental Line. The workaround: a second station, Slonshaw Heights, with a short street-running "shuttle tram" connecting the two.

By the year 2000 the rails connecting all three new stations are finished. Rather than opening the line for full service immediately, the company decides to use it for trial runs of a new 140mph high-speed train, with an eye towards upgrading other rail lines if it proves cost-effective. Exactly two of the trains are purchased; their test runs are open to the general public, with ticket purchase, but the line is nowhere near its target service level for the moment.

1998-2004 ⬩ By Air and Sea

In parallel to the Suhead Line work, CTD's airline arm (now branded Continental Air) is reconsidering the decision 25 years ago to move its western hub to Standingbridge. The small town is rarely an origin or destination itself, putting undue strain on its rail connections via transfers — especially since the overloaded Continental Line is the only direct transfer from Standingbridge to the city of Dunby, a quirk of the branched layout of the West Lakes Metro.

While the airport cannot be crammed back into downtown Nantthwaite, one idea floated is to build an infill station and attached airport on the Continental Line just east of the city. The station itself actually makes it to the initial stages of construction, but the nearby tiny hamlet of Freeby invokes an obscure noise-related ordinance to block the airport. The unfinished "Nantthwaite Airport" station is eventually torn down.

Fortunately, surveyors come back with a better option: a flat, undeveloped peninsula next to Grimpool station happens to be exactly the right size for an airport. The growing city is also the branch point of the West Lakes Metro, and its government welcomes the visitors an airport will bring to its tourism industry. Permits are fast-tracked, and construction is complete by the year 2000, with the Standingbridge airport demolished soon after to make way for the final Continental Line double-tracking project.

The Great Lakes Ferry division, on board with establishing Grimpool as a new transit hub, agrees to construct a dock alongside the new airport and move hovercraft service there from the smaller town of Deestock, which remains one stop away on the Metro.

2004 ⬩ Aftershock

Fresh off the successful Grimpool project, Continental Air plans to restore and extend the westward reach of its services by finally picking up the long-abandoned plans for an airport at Windness. The suburb of Bindingport, which has grown considerably since the 1970s thanks to CTD's trams, has dropped its objections. Though a smaller airport design will be required due to the limited area of land purchased so many years ago, it looks as though the project will be an easy win.

Unfortunately, shortly after breaking ground, accounting sounds the alarm: a recent dip in profits combined with unexpectedly high inflation means the company is once again at risk of insolvency, and it cannot bear the expense of operating a new airport at the moment. Continental Air is forced to abandon the project, as all of CTD's departments scramble to tweak service and stay financially afloat.

Though this second crisis only lasts a year or two, it has a long-term belt-tightening effect throughout the company, and a new airport remains an unappealing prospect through the next decade.

2006-2008 ⬩ The Suhead Line

Now under pressure to start profiting from its expensive infrastructure, the Suhead Line wraps up its HST trials and prepares to open the route for full service. The conclusion is that the new trains would not be cost-effective, and so the line is given the same standard consist as the Continental Line. Based on observations from the trials, however, Suhead station is reconfigured as a bidirectional "terminus" instead of a through station — allowing the Nantwood and Slonshaw segments to have their schedules and service levels managed independently.

The line opens to considerable fanfare in 2008, a full 30 years since construction began, finally connecting every major city in the Great Lakes region to CTD's transit services. Although the service is thankfully profitable, the short metro line connecting Nantwood to Finhaven is very much not, and the company plans to replace it with a more cost-effective tram line. The metro is demolished in 2012, but the tram project languishes on the drawing board.

2007-2027 ⬩ Maldean Industries

Due to the recent financial troubles, CTD leadership renews its interest in the freight division, which has been operating in "maintenance mode" since the 1950s but turns a profit much more predictably than the rest of the company. A promising area for expansion is identified near Maldean, a small town northeast of Slonshaw.

Over the next two decades, the company strikes deals with a constellation of fishing, food processing, and glass-making industries around Maldean and Lodingbury, linking them into a new rail network. Though smaller than the original steel network, it is more complex, with its largest junction taking several years to design and build. As of the present day, this network has only just been brought online, and its profitability is unknown.

2017 ⬩ Wings over Windness

Nearly 50 years after the land was originally reserved for it, and 13 years after its "false start" during the second financial crisis, Continental Air finally gets budget approval for the airport in Windness — and quickly constructs it before anyone can change their minds. With direct flights to both of CTD's other airports, and easy transfers to the Nantthwaite Connector and local trams, the new airport proves popular and profitable.

The Future

Today it is hard to imagine what the Great Lakes region would be like without CTD, but anonymous sources inside the company speak of a looming third financial crisis, one too big to be resolved by clever service changes. Will CTD be bought out by a national transit operator? Could the cities and towns of the region band together and bring it under public ownership? Will the rumored rail line from Nantthwaite to Nantwood, a.k.a. the "Nant-Nant Connector", ever materialize? The company's future is yet to be written.

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