The curious battle for control of Consolidated Rail Corp. entered its final stages yesterday when five would-be owners explained what they are willing to pay to buy the Northeastern freight railroad from the federal government.

The session, requested by the 11 non-management members of Conrail's board, came on a day when Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole promised, "Decision time is close at hand."

Dole talked to the board for more than an hour and explained the offers she has received from the three finalists she chose: Norfolk Southern Corp., Alleghany Corp. and an investor group headed by J. W. (Bill) Marriott Jr. The other presentations came from the Railway Labor Executives Association on behalf of Conrail's 35,000 employes and from Conrail Chairman L. Stanley Crane on behalf of management.

Although Conrail's board was asking the questions, Dole is the one charged with deciding who the winner shall be. She has made it plain that she prefers the three investor proposals. Whatever she decides must be ratified by Congress.

Dole was preceded into the board room by Craig L. Fuller, assistant to the president for Cabinet affairs, who emerged to tell reporters that the White House "obviously is interested in a sale along the lines the Transportation Department is pursuing."