For several centuries, woodsmen from Sodor ventured on to Misty Island to cut down its rare Jobi Trees for its exceptional quality wood. No one, however, had the resources or capital to establish a permanent logging operation on the Island until 1916, when a young entrepreneur from Brendam named Richard Ferdinand established the Misty Island Logging Company. The world was in the middle of a World War and building supplies were desperately needed, and the natural strength and resilience of Jobi wood was perfect. Receiving a Government Loan, Mr Ferdinand established a sawmill and small transhipment wharf on the Island's North Coast, roughly opposite Brendam, where logs and timber would be sent for export. Within just over a year, the loan was repayed and Mr Ferdinand had recouped his investment. While many belived the Company would die off soon after the end of the war, it in fact continued growing, and in 1922 Mr Ferdinand decided to expand.
The logical method for expansion was through the construction of a railway to allow the company access to the dense forests in the Island's interior. A Light Railway Order was quickly acquired, but as the process of Railway Grouping was underway at the time, construction of the railway did not begin until April 1923 to avoid the risk of amalgamation. A young engineer, Scott Corry, was poached from Crovan's Gate to lead the construction team. Construction, however, did not go smoothly. A proper survey of the desired route was not undertaken before hand, and the terrain of Misty Island was found to be difficult to build over, with numerous obstacles. At one point, the construction team came across an ancient fallen tree, hollowed out years before, which was deemed too heavy to move. Instead of deviating from the planned route, a railway line was simply laid through to create a tunnel. It was also found that more bridges than initially planned would be required. In order to cut costs, the bridges were constructed out of low-quality wood that had been deemed unfit for sale.
Mr Ferdinand's ambitious plans for the railway was also problematic. He wanted a 'main line' that run around the coast of the island, with several branches leading to sawmills and logging camps further inland. The line along the coast alone drained much of the funding for the project, and it was a struggle to acquire additional funding. In the end, far fewer branches than originally planned were constructed. The new central Logging Camp and worker's village was built near the centre of the Island, on relatively hilly terrain. By this point, in early 1924, funding had run out. No new investors were forthcoming and Mr Ferdinand was unwilling to delve further into his personal finances for fear of bankruptcy.There was need of a bridge to carry the line to the Logging Station from low ground to the high ground it was situated on, however it was only some two-thirds complete when funds dried up. It was here Scott Corry came up with what's been variously described as pure genius or a spectacular engineering failure: He designed a zip-line bridge to cross the gap. While many feared safety issues with the bridge, it proved successful and surprisingly resilient.
While funds had successfully been stretched to finance the construction of the line, they would not stretch to purchase locomotives to run the railway. Horses had been acquired to assist with the construction work, and it was decided to retain them to run the railway until locomotives could be acquired. Board of Trade inspectors visited in June 1924 and passed the railway for operation, a matter now considered highly dubious. None of the railway's bridges and the tunnel met Board of Trade standards, and it is suspected bribery was used to ensure the railway was passed. In any event, the Misty Island Railroad officially began operating on July 1st 1924, and quickly ran into troubles. Several of the steam donkeys and cranes had been acquired second-hand from the USA, and quickly developed faults. Two machines in particular gained noterioty for their faults, which would cause them to launch logs into the air, breakdown regularly, general inefficiency, among other problems, and gained the nicknames "Hee-Haw" and "Ol' Wheezy". Operating the railway with horses also created problems, for they were unable to haul the produce in a timely manner, resulting in shipping delays. The railway struggled on, barely breaking even, until 1930.
By 1930, the world was in the midst of a financial crisis. While many companies struggled through the Great Depression, Richard Ferdinand was able to turn it into a opportunity for MIRR. He hired two former NWR employees to his managerial team, twins William and Benjamin Timothy (who would gain fame as the men behind Sodor China Clay), and the three worked to turn the company around. William was appointed General Manager, while Benjamin was appointed CFO. The twins were from a wealthy family, and were able to pump a lot of needed capital into the venture. Using their connections with the NWR, Benjamin was able to sign a contract making the MIRR the exclusive supplier of wood to the NWR, a deal which benefited both companies. He also negotiated a deal with an American railway to import Jobi, opening up new markets over the Atlantic. William, meanwhile, overhauled the way the railway was operated by simplifying management, re-arranging train times to allow more time for transport and upgrading facilities, particularly the wharf. Within a year, the railway was a profit, within two the railway had enough funds to finally commence locomotive operations.
Logging railroads were tough and demanding, and required locomotives capable of handling rough track over grades, with high power to haul heavy loads. Therefore, several types of locomotives had been designed specifically for logging railroads, however none of these had reached Britain. Fortunately for the MIRR, its American partner had some of these locomotives in its possession. Their own logging operation was being downsized, and three of its locomotives had garnered a reputation for bad behaviour and causing chaos, which made a local sale unlikely. Richard Ferdinand wasted no time in taking advantage of this opportunity and purchased the locomotives for cheap. The first locomotive was a Climax Class C, and was perfect for main traffic duties. As this would be the MIRR's main locomotive, Mr Ferdinand opted to name it after himself. The other two locomotives were very different from Ferdinand, for they were of a type known as a "gypsy". These locomotives, while not as strong, had an additional use as "yarding" engines, allowing them to drag logs from the forest to loading points near the tracks. This allowed many of the old steam donkeys and cranes to be scrapped, greatly reducing expenses. These two locomotive were initially unnamed, but it was soon noticed they commonly "bashed" into things and that they enjoyed "dashing" around, and thus were named Bash and Dash.
The three locomotives were overhauled at a local works (where they had Jobi wood cabs fitted as "branding") before being shipped to England, where they were then sent to Misty Island by ferry. After trails in July 1932, full locomotive operations began on August 8th, to instant success. Logs were now transported faster, in heavier loads and with greater efficiency. The locomotives also proved cheaper to operate than the horses who, bar a few young ones, were sold off. This combined with the scraping of unneeded steam donkeys greatly reduced operating costs, however it also created a problem: the railway now had a large amount of employees with work to perform. Instead of laying them off, Richard Ferdinand decided to increase timber production and put them to work in the logging camps and sawmills. Existing mills were expanded, and two new mills were constructed. The recovering global economy also resulted in a recovery in the timber industry, and the MILC enjoyed its greatest period of prosperity. The rambunctious behaviour of the locomotives, and a lack of discipline, would cause occasional problems, but overall the railway ran well until 1939.
In July 1934, at an event marking ten years since the railway's opening, Richard Ferdinand announced his most ambitious expansion plan: the construction of a direct rail link between Misty Island and Sodor. The facilities at the wharf had become inadequate, and expansion was prohibited by the surrounding terrain. Port facilities at Brendam were also considered insufficient for the growing amount of exports, and there was a desire to exploit the (then) more developed ports on Sodor's West Coast. Mr Ferdinand belived a direct rail connection was the best way to to achieve this aim, though most investors were skeptical, believing that it would turn out to be a colossal waste of money. They were reassured by the Timothy twins, though they were also skeptical.
What type of structure the link would use, and where it would connect to, was heavily debated. At the shortest distance, Misty Island and Sodor are 5.2 miles apart, which swiftly ruled out construction of a bridge, so a underwater tunnel was decided upon. However, the two closest sites were deemed inadequate: A tunnel west to Brendam, the most convenient of the two sites, would disrupt shipping lanes, while a tunnel east would end up in the middle of nowhere. Negotiations with the NWR to extend to the eastern site quickly fell apart, as the NWR did not consider the costs worth it. The MIRR was thus forced to construct the tunnel northwards, to a site east of Suddery, tripling the length of the tunnel to 15 miles. Negotiations with the NWR here, led by the Timothy twins, were more successful, and they agreed to to construct a spur of the Brendam Branch Line to the site, and assist with boreing the Sodor end. A survey of the planned route was undertaken in 1936 and found it feasible, for the tunnel could be bored through a chalk marl stratum. With the route decided upon, it was decided to begin construction in 1937, but engineering troubles delayed this by another year.
The length of the tunnel was a problem from the start. The survey showed that the underway section alone would be 15 miles, and at least one mile of the tunnel needed to be above ground. At the time, the longest underwater tunnel was the Severn Tunnel at just two and a half miles. The best tunnel experts in the world were consulted and special machinery was built to ensure success. Another problem was the width; while it was decided early on that the tunnel would be a single bore, the size of the bore was not determined until late. Richard Ferdinand wanted a two line tunnel, but investors wanted to keep costs low and backed a single line tunnel. The Timothy twins meditated between the two sides, and it was agreed that the tunnel would be constructed to what was considered to be the bare minimum for two tracks (45 ft), but would open with a single track. With these two issues resolved, ground was broken on April 4th 1938 on the Misty Island side. From there, construction proceeded rapidly through the use of TBMs, with work on the Sodor side beginning on October 21st that year.
Disaster would strike, however, when in March 1939 an accident caused a breach on the Misty Island side, which resulted in the workings being partially flooded. At this point, half the tunnel had been constructed, and was estimated to be completed in 1940. The flood forced all work to stop, and expensive pumping systems had to be brought in to clear the flooded areas. Divers had to be brought in to seal the breach, and did so, after several failed attempts, in June. Work resumed in August, but was stopped again shortly after the outbreak of war on September 3rd. Many men were drafted to the Sodor Regiment, and the reminder were reassigned to the sawmills to provide materials for the war effort. The Tunnel project had drained the finances of the Company, and wartime mesuares quickly took its toll. Maintenance standards, already rather lax, soon plumeted and the condition of the track and bridges deteriorated. Large wartime demand for timber quickly overburdened the railway, and congested the wharf. On April 6th 1943, two ships carrying loads of logs crashed and sunk, wich motivated Richard Ferdinand to initiate an ill fated attempt to complete the tunnel. A rush job resulted in a second flood, damaging the progress that had been made and destroying most of the boring machines.
As the wharf continued to be overwhelmed, resulting in disruptions in the supply chain of crucial war material, the Government stepped to finish the tunnel in 1944. A Royal Engineers company attached to the Sodor Regiment took command of the project, and were able to successfully complete it, through the use of more traditional methods of blasting and hand drilling, which resulted in a section of the tunnel being of poor quality. After 11 years of planning and construction, the Misty Island Tunnel finally opened in May 1945, though by this point the war was over, effictively wasting the Government's efforts, though perhaps saving the Railroad. Fears were raised over the safety of the tunnel, particularly the risks smoke from the locomotives would pose to the health of the crews. Fortunately, a solution to this had been devised during construction by Scott Corry. While Bash, Dash and Ferdinand would usually use the waste wood left over from logging, a supply of oil was kept for the steam donkeys and cranes. Oil was cleaner than either coal or wood, so Corry made it mandatory that the loggers used it while traversing, a rule they took to heart. For NWR engines who'd use the tunnel, a hopper of smokeless Welsh coal was provided in the shunting yard on the Sodor side, based on Metropolitan Railway practices (though this turned out to be pointless, as records indicate no NWR engine used the tunnel until the 1970's). In addition, speed and load limits were put in place to ensure engines wouldn't overwork themselves and produce too much smoke and, more ingeniously, a unique ventilation system was placed in the tunnel. This system would draw smoke into a shaft in the roof, while machines pumped in fresh air.
The tunnel, unfortunately, proved to be a white elephant due to its extensive cost. As 1946 dawned, the railway found itself to be in a mess. The war had taken its toll on the railway, and all income was spent on maintenance and keeping the three locomotives in good condition. The railway, however, was unable to recover fully. The decision to use the low-quality wood during the construction of the railway came back to bite, as the intensive working and low maintenance had made them degrade to dangerous levels. In order to properly repair them, large sections of the railway would need to be closed, a situation that was unacceptable to Richard Ferdinand, who ordered the workmen to simply patch up the bridges with more wood. The tracks faired little better, and minor derailments became common. The three locomotives, however, remained in good condition, under the personal care of Scott Corry, despite the basic maintenance facilities on the island. In the immediate aftermath of the war, business boomed as people needed materials to rebuild the country following the destruction, though demand would slowly, but surely, trickle away as the months went by.
The tunnel remained little used, for the NWR was unable to spare an engine to run a permanent connection. The rare log trains that came through were pulled by Ferdinand, who'd leave the logs in the shunting yards for another engine to pick up later. These runs would eventually stop in 1949. Maintenance proved problematic too, particularly in the sections that had been damaged by the flood. As the situation became increasingly dire, investors finally lost faith in the operation and attempted to abandon ship. Nobody proved foolish enough to buy their shares. Many became hopeful at the prospect of railway nationalisation, beliving they could exchange their shares for the Government gibbets that were being giving out in compensation. It was ultimately decided to exclude the Misty Island Railroad from nationalisation, due to its dire state and belive that it would soon collapse. Fiery disputes between Richard Ferdinand and the investors dominated the months following the decision, before coming to a head in March 1948. The Timothy twins attempted, to no avail, to meditate between Mr Ferdinand and the investors. In March, Mr Ferdinand accused them of working with the investors to deliberately sabotage the operation and ruin him. Disgusted by the accusation, the twins promptly resigned, soon followed by all investors ending any involvement they had in the company, opting to just let it collapse.
Despite impossible odds, Richard Ferdinand opted to continue, and appointed Scott Corry as General Manager. By now, it was too late to save Misty Island, and the deathblow came in 1949. Until that point, the Logging Company enjoyed a monopoly on supply of the rare Jobi wood. Competition finally came when a logging operation began in the only other known Jobi Tree forest in Japan. International customers quickly flocked to the new venture, leaving Sodor as the only market for Misty Island. With demand plummeting, the Misty Island Tunnel was closed and Mr Ferdinand was forced to make mass layoffs in both sawmill and railway operations. Scott Corry was left the only experienced engineer on the Island. The railway slogged on for three more years when disaster struck in 1952. One of the bridges finally collapsed, causing a train of logs destined for the NWR to be lost. The NWR cancelled the contract for the MILC to supply wood for its sleepers and, in a final blow, the Board of Trade announced it would conduct an investigation into the troubling safety standards on the Island.