MTA explains MARC woes
The Maryland Transit Administration, still tied up with the aftermath of Sunday's fatal light rail accident in Lutherville, finally got back to me about its troubles on the MARC Penn Line the past two days.
The MTA's assistant deputy administrator, Simon Taylor, confirmed that passengers aboard Train 509, which was scheduled to get to Washington's Union Station at 7:25, limped into D.C. about 10 a.m. So it was actually 2 1/2 hours late, not three, but that's small consolation for the hundreds aboard.
Train 509 was one of three Penn Lines delayed when a compressor blew out aboard Train 407 on the southbound Penn Line between Halethorpe and BWI. Train 509 was brought up behind it to push it into Washington, Taylor said, but that required the use of a cable that was supposed to be on board. For some reason, Taylor said, neither train had that cable so the two trains were stuck there until a cable could be brought there.
Having the cable, Taylor said, is Amtrak's responsibilitty.
Before it was known that 407 and 509 were missing the cable, Taylor said, Train 411 whizzed by -- no doubt perturbing the stranded passengers, In any case, Taylor said, it was packed.
A little later, with the cable problem known, Train 513 came alongside the stalled trains. Taylor said all of the Train 407 passengers who wanted to were transferred to 513, along with some of those on 509.
Taylor said priority was given to those on 407 because they had been waiting longer and the air conditioning was not functioning on that train. He said that not all passengers who wanted to transfer from 509 could be accommodated.
Finally, a cable was brought to the scene and train 509 was able to push the 14 cars of it and 407 into Washington at a maximum speed of about 40 mph, Taylor said.
So by the time the drama ended, passengers on 509 had enjoyed a 3 1/2-hour trip to Washington. Passengers who transferred from 407 to 513 were delayed about an hour and a half, and those on 513 were about a half hour late.
And that's what can happen when once compressor blows. Taylor said the troubled locomotive was not one of the three much-ballyhooed new ones tha MTA recently acquired. Those, he said, are still undergoing additional safety testing. He said the one that broke doen was an electric locomotive, about seven years old.
There is some good news: Because there have been so few really hot days this summer, there have been few heat alerts on the Camden and Brunswick lines. When you ride MMARC, you have to take your good news where you can find it.