MARC train meltdown proves hellish for stranded passengers bound for Md.

A commuter train leaving Washington broke down on Monday night and stranded commuters for up to two hours. Passengers say temperatures inside the train reached near 100 degrees. Two people had to be taken to the hospital.
By Martin Weil and Luke Rosiak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When MARC commuters got on their train at Union Station Monday evening, few could have expected that it would break down, that it would prove impossible to tow it back to Washington or that the train sent to rescue them would not be able to take them all.

But that, in the heat of a summer day, is what happened to commuters on MARC train 538, which left Washington about 6:20 p.m. The train, which is one of MARC's busiest and carries hundreds of passengers, goes to Baltimore and then to Perryville, Md.

Terry Owens, a spokesman for the Maryland Transit Administration, said the train "developed a problem and stopped" in Cheverly, shortly into its run.

The problem knocked out the train's air conditioning, and "it was sweltering, absolutely sweltering," said passenger Janet Scire of Churchville, Md.

Scire said passengers pulled windows from frames for ventilation. She said babies cried, and one woman screamed.

Passengers said they were not kept informed. Several complained of heat-related problems and two were taken to hospitals.

Owens said a locomotive was sent to tow the disabled train back to Washington. But the stalled train's brakes would not release.

Then, MARC train 442 was sent to pick up the passengers, Owens said. But it "could not accommodate" them all. Owens said some passengers were to return to Washington on another train and then be taken to Baltimore.

MTA apologized and pledged a review and improvements.

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