Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

MARC Train

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Number of lines

Daily ridership
40,100 (Q2 2016)

Number of stations

MARC Train

Maryland Transit Administration

Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area

Transit type
Regional/ commuter rail

MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter) Train Service (reporting mark MARC), known prior to 1984 as Maryland Rail Commuter, is a commuter rail system comprising three lines in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. MARC is administered by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), a Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) agency, and is operated under contract by Bombardier Transportation Services USA Corporation (BTS) and Amtrak over tracks owned by CSX Transportation (CSXT) and Amtrak.


With some equipment capable of reaching speeds of 125 miles per hour (201 km/h), MARC is purported to be the fastest commuter railroad in the United States.

Train lines

MARC operates 93 trains on a typical weekday over three separate lines of service: the Brunswick Line (18 trains/19 trains on Fridays), the Camden Line (21 trains), and the Penn Line (57 trains). MARC added limited weekend service on the Penn Line on December 7, 2013. Service is suspended or reduced on selected Federal holidays.

Brunswick Line

The Brunswick Line runs about 74 miles (119 km) from Washington, D.C., to Martinsburg, West Virginia, over the CSXT Metropolitan and Cumberland Subdivisions (both former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) lines), and the Amtrak Washington Terminal District. The Brunswick Line service also includes a 14 miles (23 km) branch serving Frederick, which diverges from the Metropolitan Subdivision at East Rocks (just east of Point of Rocks) before traveling over the CSXT Old Main Line and the MDOT Frederick Branch.

Camden Line

The Camden Line runs about 39 miles (63 km) between Washington, D.C., and Camden Station in Baltimore over the CSXT Capital Subdivision and Amtrak Washington Terminal District. The B&O first began service over portions of this route in 1830, making it one of the oldest passenger rail lines in the U.S. still in operation.

Penn Line

The Penn Line runs about 77 miles (124 km) between Washington, D.C., and Perryville, Maryland, via Baltimore Penn Station over Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and Washington Terminal District. It is purported to be the fastest commuter rail line in North America, with trains of bi-level cars and electric locomotives capable of operating at speeds up to 125 miles per hour (201 km/h). The service was initially operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad (hence the name) and is the busiest line, carrying more passengers than the other two lines combined. The Penn Line is the only line that operates on weekends.

Special Western Maryland service

Trains have made special weekend trips to and from Cumberland, Maryland. Past events have included trains for Western Maryland residents to attend sporting events in the Baltimore/Washington area, such as Baltimore Orioles or Washington Redskins games, or for Baltimore/Washington residents to attend Railfest in Cumberland and enjoy the scenic mountains and fall foliage of Western Maryland.


All three MARC lines date from the 19th century. Service on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) from Baltimore to Ellicott City began on May 24, 1830; this route included part of what is now the Camden Line. B&O service from Baltimore to Washington, the modern Camden Line route, began on August 25, 1835.

The B&O's main line was extended to Frederick Junction (with a branch to Frederick) in 1831, to Point of Rocks in 1832, to Brunswick and Harpers Ferry in 1834, and Martinsburg in 1842. The B&O completed its Metropolitan Branch in 1873; most service from Martinsburg and Frederick was diverted onto the Metropolitan Branch to Washington and the old main line became a secondary route. This established the basic route for what would become the Brunswick Line.

The Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad (PW&B) completed its line between Baltimore and Philadelphia in December 1838, save for the ferry across the Susquehanna River, which was not bridged until the 1860s. Although the B&O was chartered with the unspoken assumption that no competing line would be built between Baltimore and Washington, the Pennsylvania Railroad-owned Baltimore and Potomac Railroad (B&P) was completed between the two cities in 1872. The PW&B was initially hostile to the Pennsylvania (PRR); however, the PRR acquired it in a stock battle with the B&O in 1881. The PW&B soon began operating PRR through service - the ancestor of Penn Line service - between Washington and Philadelphia in conjunction with the B&P. Meanwhile, the PRR ended B&O trackage rights over the PW&B in 1884, forcing it to open its own parallel route in 1886. The PW&B and the B&P were combined into the PRR's Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad in 1902.

The B&O ended local service on the Frederick Branch in November 1949. All B&O passenger service between Baltimore and Philadelphia ended in 1958; local service from Washington was curtailed to Camden Station. The B&O continued to offer local service to Brunswick plus long-distance service, while the PRR operated a mix of local, intercity, and long-distance service on the Northeast Corridor. Local service north of Baltimore on the PRR ended around 1964.

Public takeover

Passenger rail service declined from a variety of factors (particularly the advent of the automobile) in the mid 20th century, even as commuting from suburban locations to urban business districts remained common. In 1968, the PRR folded into Penn Central, which took over its passenger operations. On May 1, 1971, Amtrak took over most intercity passenger service in the United States, including some trains on the B&O and PRR. The remaining Washington-Baltimore and Washington-Brunswick commuter service was operated by the B&O and Penn Central without subsidies.

Amtrak initially operated (with federal subsidy) the Washington-Parkersburg West Virginian (later renamed Potomac Turbo then Potomac Special) and the Washington-Cincinnati Shenandoah over the B&O. The Potomac Special was cut back to a 73-mile (117 km) commuter-based Washington-Martinsburg trip, the Blue Ridge, on May 7, 1973. In early 1974, the B&O threatened to discontinue its remaining unsubsidized commuter services, citing heavy losses. On March 1, 1974, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) began a 50% subsidy of the B&O's Washington-Brunswick and Washington-Baltimore service - the first state-sponsored commuter rail service to Washington. In 1975, the state signed an operating agreement with the B&O, under which the state provided rolling stock and reimbursed the railroad for all operating losses. Later in the decade, West Virginia began to fund the B&O shuttles between Brunswick and Martinsburg; the shuttles were soon incorporated as extensions of Brunswick service in order to secure Urban Mass Transportation Administration subsidies. In 1986, the Maryland State Railroad Administration (SRA) was established to administer contracts, procure rolling stock, and oversee short line railroads in the state. In December 1981, MDOT purchased 22 ex-PRR coaches for use on B&O lines.

Conrail took over the unsubsidized ex-PRR Baltimore-Washington service from Penn Central at its creation on April 1, 1976. MDOT began subsidizing that service after Conrail threatened to discontinue service on April 1, 1977. Prior to 1978, most ex-PRR Baltimore-Washington service was operated by aging MP54 electric multiple units, most dating back to the line's 1933 electrification. In 1978, Amtrak and the City of Baltimore negotiated with the New Jersey Department of Transportation to lease a number of new Arrow railcars to replace the MP54s. With funding from Pennsylvania and Maryland, Amtrak used some of the cars to initiate a Philadelphia-Washington commuter trip, the Chesapeake, on April 30, 1978. The Chesapeake stopped at some local stations but fewer than the Conrail service; it provided commuter service from north of Baltimore for the first time since the 1960s.

BWI Rail Station opened for Amtrak and Conrail trains on October 26, 1980. In August 1982, Conrail trains began stopping at Capital Beltway station, used by intercity trains since 1970. Lanham and Landover stations were closed. Two additional round trips - one in the peak direction, and one reverse for commuters working in Baltimore - were added on July 5, 1983. On October 30, 1983, Amtrak and MARC moved from Capital Beltway into a new platform and waiting room at nearby New Carrollton station, served by Metro since 1978.

In 1981, MDOT began installing highway signs to point drivers to commuter rail stations. In 1982, law changes allowed Conrail to shed its commuter rail operations in order to focus on its more profitable freight operations. On January 1, 1983, public operators (including Metro-North Railroad, New Jersey Transit, and SEPTA Regional Rail) took over Conrail commuter rail systems in the Northeast. MDOT began paying Amtrak to run the ex-PRR Washington-Baltimore service. On October 1983, with low patronage and largely duplicated by the MDOT-subsidized service, the Chesapeake was discontinued. In 1984, the SRA renamed its three subsidized lines as MARC (Maryland Rail Commuter) as a branding strategy. Operations remained the same, but public-facing elements like schedules and crew uniforms were consolidated under the new name. MARC soon began calling its three lines the Penn Line, Camden Line, and Brunswick Line.

Improved service

In October 1986, MARC began testing an Amtrak AEM-7 locomotive, looking to use push-pull trains to replace the Arrows. On February 27, 1989, MARC increased Washington-Baltimore service from 7 to 13 weekday round trips. A new park-and-ride station opened at Bowie State (site of Jericho Park station, closed in 1981) and Bowie station was closed. Two more round trips were added in May 1989.

On May 1, 1991, MARC service was extended north from Baltimore to Perryville with intermediate stops at Martin State Airport, Edgewood, and Aberdeen. Between 1988 and 1993, MARC expanded service from 34 to 70 total daily trips across the system. In 1995, 800 parking spaces were added to Odenton station.

From 1989 to 1996, the Camden Line had high ridership growth and substantial changes to its stations. A new station at Savage just off Route 32 was opened on July 31, 1989. MARC began service to Greenbelt station in May 1993, seven months before Metro began serving the station. On January 31, 1994, MARC expanded midday service on the Camden and Brunswick lines, opened Laurel Race Track station to relieve a parking shortage at Laurel station, and closed the underused Berwyn station on the Camden Line. On December 12, 1994, Muirkirk station (originally planned as South Laurel) was opened to reduce congestion on nearby Route 1. In 1996, a $1.2 million project added 600 parking spaces at Savage station to relieve crowding. In July 1996, the Elkridge station was closed and replaced with Dorsey station, which has a larger parking area and a dedicated interchange with Route 100.

On April 30, 1987, the B&O was merged into CSX. CSX continued to operate Camden and Brunswick Line service. On July 6, 1987, MARC opened Metropolitan Grove station - the first new station on the Brunswick line in over a century.

Contract controversy

Beginning as early as June 2010, MARC began looking for a new operator to replace CSX Transportation for the Camden and Brunswick Lines.

Controversy first arose when the French-owned and Montgomery County, Maryland-based Keolis (already operating Virginia Railway Express trains) was the only bidder for the contract. The bidding process was suspended in the fall of 2010 due to lack of competition. Before bidding reopened in 2011, Maryland passed a law (at the request of Leo Bretholz and other Holocaust survivors) requiring Keolis's majority owner, SNCF (currently solely owned by the French government) to fully disclose its role in transporting Jews to concentration camps during World War II (while SNCF was under control of the Nazi government), to the satisfaction of the Maryland state archivist, before Keolis would be allowed to place a bid for MARC service. Keolis faced similar issues while bidding for VRE operations in 2009, but in the end, they were allowed to run VRE.

Keolis and SNCF lawyers claim that the all documentation required by the law had been produced long before. This was also asserted by Don Phillips in the July 2011 issue of Trains Magazine. Phillips states that a full 914 page independent report and complete history of SNCF's role in the Holocaust, released in 1996, is currently being translated into English. Phillips cites from the publicly available English introduction to the report, noting that while some SNCF workers worked with the Nazis, acts of sabotage were frequent, and the Nazis shot 819 SNCF workers for refusing to carry out the rail orders of the government. An additional 1200 railway workers were themselves sent to concentration camps over SNCF rails. Phillips also notes that SNCF does business with the Israel rail system and works without government prompting to educate the current generation about the war and Holocaust.

As of June 2011, the future of Keolis's ability to bid on the MARC contract remained up in the air with the new disclosure law in place. No other bidder had emerged to replace CSXT. On June 5, 2011, The Washington Post ran an editorial critical of the disclosure law. The Post claimed that SNCF has been working for years on digitizing its records, and the Maryland law may require items or formats counter to SNCF's current system and/or French law. The Post also reported that some in the Maryland Attorney General's Office worried the law was not Constitutional, may risk retaliation towards Maryland firms overseas, and may risk federal funding for Maryland "by imposing arbitrary procurement demands on a single company."

MTA issued a new Request for Proposals for the operations and maintenance of MARC services on the Brunswick and Camden Lines on July 14, 2011 with a deadline for proposals on November 21, 2011. On October 17, 2012, a $204 million contract to run the CSXT lines was awarded to the Canadian company Bombardier Transportation, effectively ending the Keolis controversy. The pre-service transition period began on the Thursday of that week, during which time CSXT continued to operate MARC trains.


As the Penn Line is the only electrified line, the AEM-7 and HHP-8 are restricted to that line.

In spring 2008 MARC placed an order for 26 new MPI MP36PH-3C diesel locomotives, which replaced all 19 of the 70s-era GP40WH-2 units. They began arriving in November 2008. All are in service as of March 2011; however, MARC still uses a single GP40WH-2 unit occasionally as a need arises. (Such as when an Amtrak or MARC train malfunctions)

MARC announced plans in August 2015 to seek funding to procure eight Siemens Charger diesel locomotives to replace its fleet of electric locomotives. They would be attached to an existing order from the Illinois Department of Transportation, in order to take advantage of savings from a larger order than a MARC-only contract, and are planned to be delivered in fall of 2017. In September, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $58.1 million contract for the locomotives and associated costs.

Passenger cars

While many consists on all three lines are mixed with single- and bi-level cars, the majority of rush-hour trains on the Penn Line are composed mainly of Kawasaki bi-levels, while trains on the Brunswick Line and the Camden Line use more single levels (particularly for shorter 3–4 car trains). As of the entry of the Bombardier MARC IV coaches into service, rush-hour Penn Line trains are composed almost exclusively of MARC III bilevels. The Bombardier MARC IV "multilevel" cars and Sumitomo/Nippon Sharyo MARC IIB single level cars are used mostly on Brunswick and Camden Line trains, in addition to midday Penn Line trains. The Pullman gallery cars were operated only on Brunswick Line trains to Brunswick or Martinsburg due to their restriction to use at low-level platforms only.

Like most other commuter rail systems in North America, all trains are operated with a cab car from which the engineer can control the train. The cab car is typically at the head of trains traveling toward Washington to keep diesel fumes away from the terminal. To accommodate elevation gains, the locomotive is at the head of trains heading away from Washington. In the early 2000s a single unpowered EMD F cab unit, #7100 (ex-Baltimore & Ohio Railroad F7 #4553), occasionally substituted for a cab car. In addition to serving as a Non-Powered Control Unit, the unit is also outfitted with a head-end power generator to supply electricity to the train.

To cope with increasing ridership, the MTA announced in August 2008 the acquisition of 13 Kawasaki bi-level passenger cars from VRE, originally scheduled to be placed in service by November 2008. The first units were placed in service in mid-January 2009 on the Brunswick line. The MTA has announced that all 13 cars will be placed in service on the Brunswick Line to replace the aging ex-Metra gallery cars. These units have seats with a slightly different design facing towards the center of the cars (as opposed to facing the ends as on the original MARC cars). The ex-VRE cab cars (7855–7858) also use conventional ditch lights as opposed to the gyra lights used on the original MARC III cab cars. The $22 million purchase is a 10% increase in fleet size from 122 passenger cars. However, due to an increase in ridership, the ex-Metra cars have remained in service along the Brunswick Line and the ex-VRE cars operate across all 3 lines.

In 2011 MARC ordered 54 new bi-levels from Bombardier to increase capacity. The cars were purchased using an un-exercised option from NJ Transit. The MARC order consists of 39 trailers and 15 cab cars. The cars will replace the MARC IIA single level cars and gallery cars, resulting in a net increase of 16 cars. Delivery followed in mid 2014, with the coaches entering service in the following months. The first cab cars were accepted for passenger service as of September 2016.

In 2016, SEPTA pulled their Silverliner V cars from service due to cracks found in their truck assemblies. To alleviate the reduction of service, SEPTA leased train cars from MARC (as well as Amtrak and NJ Transit). As of September 17, 2016, two cab cars and twenty one regular passenger cars from the MARC II series are leased.


On February 16, 1996, during the Friday evening rush hour, an eastbound train headed to Washington Union Station via the Brunswick Line collided with the westbound Amtrak Capitol Limited headed to Chicago via Pittsburgh. The collision occurred at Georgetown Junction on a snow-swept stretch of track just west of Silver Spring, Maryland. The crash left 11 people dead aboard the MARC train. Three died of injuries suffered in the impact alone, with the rest succumbing to the ensuing smoke and flames or a combination of the two. Engineer Ricky Orr and conductors Jimmy Major Jr. and Jim Quillen were among the victims. Eight Jobs Corps students also were killed during the accident.

The NTSB report concluded that the MARC crew apparently forgot the approach signal aspect of the Kensington color-position signal after making a flag stop at Kensington Station. The MARC train was operating in push mode with the cab control car out front. The Amtrak locomotives were in the crossover at the time of the collision; the MARC cab control car collided with the lead Amtrak unit, F40PH #255, rupturing its fuel tank and igniting the fire that caused most of the casualties. The second unit was a GE Genesis P40DC #811, a newer unit that has a fuel tank that is shielded in the center of the frame. The official investigation also suggests that the accident might have been prevented if a human-factors analysis had been conducted when modifications to the track signaling system were made in 1992 with the closing of nearby QN tower.


On February 7, 2008 a train derailed at Union Station after it was hit by an Amtrak switcher locomotive. The train was still unloading passengers at the time of impact, and seven people received minor head and neck injuries. The Amtrak locomotive was attempting to couple to the train and was reportedly moving too fast.


Two significant events in 2010 received official response.

On June 21, 2010, northbound Amtrak-operated Penn Line train 538 broke down at 6:23 p.m. Temperatures inside the train reached 100 degrees due to malfunctioning air conditioning. After passengers called 911, 10 people were treated at the scene for heat-related problems. All passengers were cleared from the scene by 9:40 pm. This incident prompted MDOT Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley to apologize to customers aboard Penn Line train 538 on June 27, 2010.

On June 28, an Amtrak engineer operating a MARC train overran a scheduled stop in Odenton, without notice to passengers. Secretary Swaim-Staley was aboard the train at the time, and issued public statements about the situation. Amtrak CEO Joseph H. Boardman apologized to riders the following morning.

This pair of events prompted Amtrak to draft an emergency response plan for broken down MARC trains.

Proposed service expansion

In the first decade of the 21st century ridership increased significantly, and the system neared capacity for its current configuration. With the area population growing and the BRAC process poised to bring new jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground and Ft. Meade, both of which are served by nearby stations, the state saw the need to expand service to accommodate growth. In September 2007, MTA Maryland unveiled an ambitious 30-year plan of system improvements. Though funding sources had not been established at that time, the plan represented the state's goals of increasing capacity and flexibility. Proposed improvements included:

  • Acquisition of new equipment. 54 Bombardier MultiLevels were ordered to replace aging single-level cars.
  • Weekend service on the Penn Line. Service began on December 7, 2013, between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., including several round trips going to Martin State Airport. There are 9 round trips on Saturday (3 to Martin State Airport) and 6 on Sunday (2 to Martin State Airport).
  • Increased mid-day service and reverse commute service on the Camden and Brunswick Lines. As of 2015, there is a somewhat limited reverse commute service in effect on the Camden Line.
  • Extension of service past Union Station to L'Enfant and Northern Virginia along tracks used by VRE trains, thus relieving pressure on the Washington Metro.
  • More daily trips east of Penn Station, including improved service to Aberdeen Proving Ground.
  • Service beyond Perryville to Newark, Delaware, or Wilmington, Delaware, providing a connection to SEPTA Regional Rail's Wilmington/Newark Line.
  • New or expanded tunnels along the Northeast Corridor in Baltimore.
  • New stations in Baltimore, providing direct connections with the Metro Subway, and service to Johns Hopkins Hospital and Bayview Medical Center.
  • Rapid transit-like service through Baltimore.
  • While many of these proposals would require expensive capital improvement and years or decades to implement, the agency would like to put others into action as quickly as possible, suggesting that, for instance, Penn Line weekend service could have begun as early as 2008. However, budgetary issues have delayed any such expansions. In Spring 2009, to offset such budget shortfalls, ticket sales employees at most non-Amtrak stations were replaced with Amtrak "Quik-Trak" touchscreen ticket machines, and some train services have been eliminated or scaled back. For example, Train 871, the 1:30 pm train on the Brunswick line, now operates only on Fridays. Ticket machines were also added to stations that were not previously staffed, such as Halethorpe. The only remaining staffed stations, Odenton and Frederick, are staffed by Commuter Direct.


    MARC Train Wikipedia

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