More than 18,000 people from Baltimore commute to...

Salmagundi

March 27, 1992

More than 18,000 people from Baltimore commute to Washington on weekdays on MARC commuter trains. But since most of them take the main line from Pennsylvania Station, they have little idea about the cozy little MARC service that runs from Baltimore's Camden Station. And unless they rush, they'll never know.

With the opening of the new Oriole Park, almost everything around the new baseball stadium is changing. Camden Station already has been renovated. It even has three spires. But despite its name and exterior glory, it will stay empty until a developer is found for the general area around the ballpark.

For the past seven years, MARC commuters have had an old Pullman car at Camden Station as their waiting room. As of April 3, that wonderful relic of old-time passenger railroading will be gone. A temporary $500,000 MTA transportation center is being constructed nearby. But while it will have a canopied information screen for MARC trains and the new light rail line, it will not have a waiting room for the 2,800 daily Camden riders.

How serious a loss this will be cannot be understood without having waited in the Pullman, which is a throwback to the Sixties.

On a recent morning, half a dozen passengers were seated there. Some were reading newspapers, others watching a black-and-white television set which was perched precariously on a pile of cardboard boxes.

At the far end of the Pullman was a ticket office, which also dispensed Washington Metro cards. Next to it was an old refrigerator, from which containers of soda could be had for 50 cents each. Next to the refrigerator stood a coffee machine. Help yourself to a 35-cent cup, it seemed to say.

The walls of the Pullman were filled with bulletin boards and clippings of train-related stories. A few business cards also were there. One was for the Railway Inn ("breakfasts and lunches"), at 7100 Railway Avenue.

Many of the passengers waiting for the train were smoking with abandon. They clearly had not heard of the no-smoking policy in force everywhere else. And the non-smokers didn't mind.

Minutes before 8 a.m., everyone jumped on board the three-car train. An hour later they were at Union Station after visiting such ,, scenic Maryland spots as Berwyn and College Park.

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