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January 13, 2010

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.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:39 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: MARC train


Thanks for the update, informative as usual. Is there any place that has a complete roster of MARC"s motive power?
COMMENT: Not that I'm aware of. IIt would indeed be informative -- and train geeks would love it -- if the Marylland Transit Administration posted its MARC equipment lineup on line.

Go to This site shows all MARC locomotives, past and present. For some reason there are no pictures of the Kawasaki double-decker cars.

Is MARC planning to sell/junk all of the old diesels, or will they keep a few of the "best" around as backups for emergencies?

There have been reports, unconfirmed, that a particular MARC diesel which was originally a B&O EMD GP40 built in 1969-70 has been promised/pledged to the B&O Museum upon retirement, although it had been heavily rebuilt from its original configuration for MARC service in the 1980s.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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