New diesel locomotives make debut on MARC
Could deliverance for MARC riders be at hand?
In response to overwhelming interest among MARC riders. Getting There asked Maryland Department of Transportation Department spokesman Jack Cahalan for the latest on the new diesel locomotive that are expected to allow the commuter rail service to finally retire some of the venerable engines that have been hauling trains for more than three decades.
The news appears to be good.
Sun photo/Karl Ferron
As most MARC riders know, and others may recall, the new engines were introduced amid great ballyhoo last spring when Gov. Martin O'Malley rode one into Camden Yards for the cameras. But instead of helping to relieve MARC's traditional summer crunch, the first two of 26 locomotives to be delivered sat and sat while the state wrangled with the manufacturer over safety certifications.
The dispute was settled in the fall as the company agreed to perform the safety tests and certifications Maryland demanded -- at state expense. According to Cahalan, those certifications were completed Dec. 29. Two days later, the first of the MP 36 locomotives began what is known as revenue testing -- in which an engine hauls a train in actual serviice but with a backup engine on the train in case its fails.
Cahalan said that engine performed well in testing and now is operating well on its own -- having been used on the Camden, Penn and Brunswick lines. He said a second MP 36 began revenue testing Tuesday on the Camden Line.
The performance of both engines will be evaluated over a 30-day periiod, Cahalan said. After that, if they perform well, the state wil begin accepting the remaining 24 engines in its new diesel fleet at a rate of two a month. Should that occur without the hitch, the last of MARC's old, trouble-prone diesels would be retired by early next year.
Meanwhile, Cahalan reported, electrical upgrades have been completed on the last of four AEM-7 electric locomotives that had been sidelined on long-term disability for more than two years. Cahalan said Amtrak is expected to release that engine to MARC within two weeks.
The idling of the AEM-7 locomotives left MARC with a severe lack of reserve strength on its busy Penn Line, forcing it to substitute less powerful engines that could pull fewer cars. The result was severe crowding the MARC officials hope will soon be relieved.