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MARC train stalled at New Carrolton

Probe launched into stalled train

8:25 p.m. Update: MARC officials report that train 442 is arriving to take on passengers from train 538.

[This post has been updated]

MARC train 538 on the Penn Line, headed to Baltimore, has been stopped south of New Carrollton for more than an hour, leaving passengers stranded in hot, packed cars with no power, wondering what's going on. MARC says a mechanical problem will delay the train by a total of 75 to 90 minutes; a rescue locomotive was dispatched to the scene.

"We left at 6:15 and broke down about 5 or 10 minutes after it left the station, just south of New Carrolton. For at least an hour we've been sitting here with no air conditioning, no windows," said passenger Charles Coon. "There are old ladies with sweat pouring down the face. Finally MARC police came through and opened the emergency windows," he said, just when "it was getting to the point when there was going to be a mutiny on the train."

"One lady had a panic attack and started screaming... People were shouting 'what the hell is going on?'"

"I'm in the last car and the [rescue] locomotive is right behind us. It plugged in about ten minutes ago. There's still no lights."

The train should be moving soon, but be advised if you planned on picking up a passenger.

Though MARC tweeted the delays, communication has been minimal with passengers, Coon said, and the intercom was faulty in his car. "In my view, it's a completely unsatisfactory response to a situation, and potentially dangerous. It's a packed train."

By Luke Rosiak  | June 21, 2010; 7:54 PM ET
Categories:  Commuter Rail, Maryland  | Tags:  marc delays  
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The train is still stalled outside of New Carrollton and no engine has yet to arrive to move the stranded train. Passengers have now started to disembark the train, complaining of stifling heat conditions inside the rail cars. This is outrageous that they have had to wait this long for a rescue train and no emergency plan is in place to rapidly provide a rescue train in case of a breakdown!

Posted by: gdjones | June 21, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

MARC is about as terribly run as metro

Posted by: skinsfan15 | June 21, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

God bless them! I would probably have a panic attack like the the old woman did...

Posted by: bobby20 | June 21, 2010 9:46 PM | Report abuse

MARC train 538 was stranded for nearly 2 hours before passengers were allowed to get off and during that time not one conductor even walked through the first coach (directly behind the disabled engine 4911, which breaks down regularly when outside temperatures reach 90 degrees). Temperatures were well over 90 degrees inside the train by 7:30 pm. Passengers were not offered water as a MARC spokesman has claimed in another news outlet. No MARC personnel at any time inquired after the welfare of passengers in the coach where I was stuck with dozens of other passengers. It was a horrific display of incompetence and indifference by the entire crew of train 538. Every member of the crew of that trian should be suspended without pay pending a formal investigation by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Posted by: pjpurcell | June 21, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

I was on this train and just got home. Some thoughts:

The train failed at about 6:25pm. At which time it was stopped. After a bit the doors were opened to provide ventalation. We were told by the conductor (like the children we are) that if anyone sat in the vestibules the train doors would be closed.

Things were ok although a bit warm till about 7:30pm. At that time with no explanation the doors were closed. The explanation that went through the train from people who managed to call marc security (with the Marc hotline being closed at 7pm of course) was that they needed to "hook up" the rescue engine.

Ok, this should take 5 minutes. And time went on.

By 8pm the temperature in the 4th car of the train (where I was) had hit 110 degrees on my Blackberry temp sensor and was still going up. We noticed that an Amtrak police officer (fully armed and armored of course) was walking outside the train. At this point things got weird. When the temp hit 110, we decided it was time to get off as the PG jails would at least be air conditioned.

It was at this point that someone overheated and fainted. We got the doors open, stairs down, and began evacuating. The police man came over at which point someone pointed out the woman in the vestbule collapsed and the police person went from "police" mode to "rescue" mode.

At this point MARC support was gone. We got most of the people off the train; people volunteered to help others off (as did I). Once everyone was off we waited in the ballast till another train came up and we all boarded.

Once again, the only leadership MARC displayed was orders to stay inside the car, to not open the emergency windows, and to remain quiet. Apparently MARC's response to this was to just leave people to overheat in 110+ degree cars and put armed police outside to keep them in.

That's baloney.

Posted by: cz_man | June 21, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

The MARC home page is calling this a MINOR DISRUPTION. And you have to click on the squiggly orange symbol at the top of the home page to even find any information. And the information is pathetic. I'll keep driving to work. No METRO, No MARC!

Posted by: dezlboy1 | June 21, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

cz_man and pjpurcell: Thank you for your information. Gee, people stuffed in 100 degree cattle cars? What's that remind you of?
Anyhow, if the passengers were dogs, the police would have busted windows to let them out and the owners of the dogs would be thrown in jail. So, what's going to happen to MARC? Nothing! I hope some real good lawyers are reading this. If I was that lady who fainted, someone would be held at fault.

What is wrong with this picture? Inhumanity?

Posted by: dezlboy1 | June 21, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse


I was on this train and the previous comments are correct! There was no communication from the staff on board and a total disregard for the passengers! We were treated like kids and basically screamed at whenever we tried to ask a question!

Instead of sending the Amtrak police, they should have sent another train or shuttle buses instead of leaving their passengers in 100 degree+ cars! The staff onboard should be suspended if not fired! MARC has no idea what the meaning of customer service is!

The sad thing is this is not the first nor will it be the last time that something like this will happen. MARC has no contingency plans when trains breakdown. It should not take 2-3 hours for a train to be rescued when it 5 minutes outside of Union Station!

I urge my fellow MARC riders, to call your Congressman or Senator to complain! Our tax dollars are paying for this service and we deserve better! Until significant improvements are made, I too will be heading back to my car!

Posted by: MD70 | June 21, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Same thing happened on a 95-degree day last summer on the Brunswick line. We ended up stuffing all the passengers from two other broken down trains onto a third train. At least the conductors were semi-professional. Sounds like there are some jerks on the Penn Line.

Posted by: eed017 | June 22, 2010 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Two more women fainted due to heat exhaustion at the Bowie State Stop(2 stops after New Carrolton). The Marc staff was unsympathetic to the two elderly passengers. Passengers were displaying concern for the collapsed patrons while the staff member blurted profanities towards the passengers. I suppose we were an inconvenience for them.

Posted by: thetailwind | June 22, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

sounds like Metro is running MARC now too

Posted by: seraphina21 | June 22, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Thank you to the fellow passengers like cz_man who helped unload riders like myself off of the broken-down train.

And, I agree that we need to voice our concerns with our elected officials. Policies need to be changed and equipment is truly at a pathetic state. This needs to be corrected as our roads do not need MARC riders bailing off the trains to their cars. Though, after last night, I can completely empathize with any fellow rider who makes that choice. And, it would not take much more for me to join them.

Posted by: cmatting | June 22, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I work with people who take the MARC train, and they are usually happy with the service, which they regard as vastly superior to Metro's. Some of them pay a lot more to ride MARC rather than take the subway. I have to wonder what they're thinking now. Leaving people in a closed train car in 90 plus weather? An older person could have died!

Posted by: WashingtonDame | June 22, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

This is why I catch the Camden Line. Albeit on CSX territory, I don't have to worry much other than heat restrictions and freight trains. Those 6 electrics MARC bought are junk anyway. They have had problems from the start and always break down this time of year.

Posted by: BGKn10 | June 22, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

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