Train Makes Fans Walk Last Mile

September 24, 1992|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Staff Writer

Sam Silverstein was late to the Orioles baseball gam Tuesday night. His ride ran out of gas.

This came as something of a shock to the 22-year-old District of Columbia resident: He was riding in a train at the time.

In what could best be described as a bad day for the Maryland Rail Commuter service, a train bound for Camden Yards ran out of diesel fuel a mile from its destination. More than 200 passengers, many of them headed to the game, chose to walk along Ridgely Street in the pouring rain to Camden Yards after their train stopped in South Baltimore shortly after 7 p.m.

About 50 others stayed on board and were picked up by another MARC train 20 minutes later.

"You call that convenience?" asked Mr. Silverstein, one of those who got soaked. "There were older people and little kids climbing all over slippery tracks. It seemed like a terrible situation."

To make matters worse, the game was delayed two hours and 40 minutes by the rain. In order to catch their trains home, MARC passengers had to leave early -- in the middle of the first inning for the 10:30 p.m. express train to Union Station, in the fourth for all others at midnight.

On the same day, MARC was plagued by late trains on its Brunswick line, which runs from Washington to its western suburbs. Only about half of those trains were on time because of mechanical problems. Some suffered through delays of up to an hour and a half, and state officials were besieged by passenger complaints.

Both the Brunswick and Camden lines are operated by CSXTransportation Inc. for MARC.

"We're demanding a full investigation from CSX to find out what was going on," said Ronald J. Hartman, head of the state Mass Transit Administration, which oversees MARC.

The engine ran out of fuel because someone had installed the wrong gauge, an MTA spokeswoman said. The gauge was designed for a 3,000-gallon tank, not the 1,800-gallon tank in the engine, which was leased from Amtrak.

At first, workers didn't know what had gone wrong. "We tinkered and tinkered with the engine but nobody checked the gas tank," said Dianna Rosborough of the MTA.

Officials said they are offering refunds to customers who contact the MTA and are prepared to show proof that they were on board.

Mr. Hartman said the early MARC departures, which affected approximately 633 baseball fans, continue to be a problem. CSX and Amtrak cannot guarantee that trains will be available.

That became an issue when a July 7 train returning from a 14-inning game was held up for nearly two hours in a remote

Washington siding in the middle of the night.

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