The moment Thomas Daugherty has been waiting for since moving to Silver Spring 16 years ago finally arrived yesterday, so Daugherty figured he'd get to Metro's new Forest Glen station before it opened.

Daugherty said he showed up around 7 a.m., a full hour before the station at Georgia Avenue and Forest Glen Road was to open. About 7:55 a.m., Daugherty and a few other passengers became the first riders to board the elevator at Metro's newest and deepest station. The train came shortly afterward.

"This is marvelous," Daugherty said after the 20-second elevator ride 200 feet below the surface. "I can walk one block from my apartment to the station and get off at the Virginia Square stop to visit my mother in Arlington."

The transit agency officially opened its 62nd and 63rd stations yesterday at Forest Glen and Wheaton on the Red Line outside the Capital Beltway.

"Aside from the Redskins, I can think of nothing that holds the region together other than Metro," said Rep. Constance A. Morella, a Republican who represents Montgomery, during opening ceremonies.

Thousands of people, lured by curiosity over the distinctive stations and the free rides offered yesterday and today, boarded trains at Wheaton and Forest Glen to check out the stops. They had heard about the high-speed elevators at Forest Glen, built because planners didn't think people would ride an escalator that deep. They also heard about the 230-foot escalator at Wheaton, the longest outside the Soviet Union.

Two-year-old David Salus, of Wheaton, captured the feeling for many people when he stepped onto the escalator at Wheaton with his father, Bill, and said simply, "Long way down, Daddy."

"It felt like it was taking forever," Athena Cokenias, of Silver Spring, said after she and her husband, Nicholas, stepped off the escalator. "We've also been down those elevators, thank you. When you realize how far down that is, it's 'How do I get out of here?' That's a nerve-racking situation."

"Those elevators are excellent," said Richard Cohn, of Germantown. "For us being 20 stories down, you're only there in seconds. If people weren't aware they were that far down, they wouldn't notice."

Sharon Britton, who lives in the Americana Finnmark condominium complex on Georgia Avenue near Forest Glen, said, "These elevators work better than the ones in my own building."

The station opening also attracted a fair number of Metro groupies, people who don't live in the station's neighborhoods but are transit fans who can't get enough infrastructure.

"I like electric traction, which is what we have here big time," said John Cambron, a College Park cabinetmaker who was videotaping the stations and who is making a time-lapse video of the Greenbelt station construction. "I was anticipating a claustrophobic effect, but it's considerably more comfortable than I expected."

Several people eyeballed the emergency exits at Forest Glen and searched for a steel fire door that will roll down over the main entrance and exit in case of a serious fire. The emergency exits were clearly marked, in contrast to a week ago, and a flashing yellow emergency light was installed above the steel door. There were, however, no signs inside the station telling people what to do in an emergency.

Metro officials said they still have some work to complete around the stations. The biggest task remaining at Wheaton is the completion of the last three levels of the five-level parking garage at Wheaton Plaza. At Forest Glen, crews still need to finish paving Forest Glen Road south of the station's main entrance.

Though officials expect that tomorrow will bring the first wave of commuters at the new stations, several people yesterday were heading for work.

Sue Murray, of Kensington, got on at Forest Glen to go to her job as a consultant in downtown Washington. She was accompanied on the ride by her husband, Kevin, and 8-month-old daughter, Cassie, Forest Glen's first baby boarder. Said Cassie's mother, tongue in cheek: "She got up about six times last night in anticipation."