LINTHICUM, MD. -- The Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad Co., which prospered from ferrying politicians and Naval Academy cadets between the state's major cities from 1887 to 1949, is being studied for possible conversion to a light rail commuter service.

Maryland is studying the feasibility of opening a light rail system between Annapolis and Baltimore and Baltimore and Hunt Valley, and the report is due soon.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer gave his support to the plan, saying the federal government and the state would need to find money to upgrade the railways.

"Adding more highways and buses is not enough {to improve state transportation}," Schaefer said last week. "We need to build an efficient light rail system to get people out of their cars."

Officials at B&A rolled out the old by retiring its Engine 50, one of the few active General Electric diesels, to the Baltimore Railroad Museum. The firm rolled in the new by previewing its rail service by running from its Linthicum Station to Camden Yards, site of the planned $201 million stadium project.

"We're running a freight operation, and that's okay," said Ken Pippin, president of the B&A Railroad. "It's not a multimillion-dollar business."

But Pippin is banking on the introduction of light rail to return the B&A to prominence in the state, and he has the support of many county and state lawmakers.

"If it's run right, there's chance for a profitable operation," Pippin said. Pippin bought the railroad portion of the bus and rail firm in 1984 when company owners planned to suspend operations.

Pippin said passenger rail service stopped in 1949 because major automobile companies pushed the use of buses for travel.

The rail line carried 2 million passengers in its last year of operation, Pippin said, adding, "The service should have never been stopped."

Pippin, 38, who grew up in Glen Burnie and is hoping the state will contract his company to run the rail line, making the railroad a vital part of the community once more.

"It's a strong American tradition," said Pippin, who is an Schaefer supporter. "The country was built up around railroads. To keep one railroad from fading away, it would be my mark."

Last year, Oregon opened a 15-mile light rail system between Portland and Gresham, the state's two largest cities. Phill Columbo, a spokesman for the agency running the system, said the light rail system has proved more efficient than bus service. He said the light rail system gets 55 percent of its budget from fare box revenue, compared to 27 percent for the entire syste