Posts Tagged ‘MARC commuter trains’

MARC West Virginia Service Again Threatened

May 3, 2021

Commuter rail service between Washington and West Virginia is again in jeopardy due to funding cuts.

West Virginia lawmakers failed to appropriate funding for MARC commuter service in the state’s 2021-22 budget.

Senate President Craig Blair reportedly removed the funding due to low ridership.

Blair is said to have cited an anecdote in which he said ridership had increased to 12 passengers from five.

However, ridership numbers show the trains carried 60,000 riders in West Virginia in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is not the first time that funding issues have threatened to end the service.

In late 2019 the West Virginia legislature approved just $1.1 million of the $3.4 million sought by MARC.

The service continued only because a consortium of local governments and Gov. Jim Justice provided the remainder of the funding.

W.Va. Ups Funding for MARC Service

December 21, 2019

A MARC train approaches the station in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, on the bridge over the Potomac River.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has agreed to provide additional funding that will keep MARC commuter trains operating to the Mountain State at the current level of service.

The state will spend an additional $1.1 million from the civil contingency fund to keep three weekday roundtrips operating between Washington and Martinsburg.

MARC had threatened to reduce service to one weekday roundtrip unless West Virginia paid more money for the service.

The West Virginia legislature had appropriated $1.2 million for MARC service, which was far short of the $3.4 million demanded by the State of Maryland to keep the service at existing levels.

It was the first time that Maryland had asked West Virginia to contribute to the operating costs of MARC service.

Maryland had set a Nov. 30 deadline for the funding, but extended it because negotiations appeared to be moving to a resolution.

Local governments served by the trains will also provide some funding.

The two states are still discussing a long-term funding plan that will extend beyond the current fiscal year.

W.Va. Communities Get ‘Bill’ to Maintain MARC Service

October 28, 2019

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has outlined how much each of the counties and towns served by MARC rail commuter service will need to kick in to keep service at its existing level.

MARC has said it will reduce service between Washington and Martinsville, West Virginia, to one roundtrip a day from the current three if it doesn’t receive additional funding.

The state has agreed to spend $1.1 million for MARC service, which means another $2.4 million is needed to maintain the existing service levels.

The funding levels listed in the letter are: Berkeley County: $177,023; Jefferson County, $82,810; Martinsburg: $25,458; Charles Town: $8,839; Ranson: $7,553; Harpers Ferry: $410; Bolivar: $1,496; and Shepherdstown: $2,711

“If your local governments choose to support this service and contribute a minimum of $300,000 the Governor will commit to identifying and providing the remaining funding for this current fiscal year and will work to secure a multiyear agreement with Maryland based upon Maryland’s actual cost and other factors,” the letter said.

The $300,000 figure refers to the total funding from the counties and communities.

The letter also said the governor would work with state and local leaders to identify sustainable methods of funding for MARC service including through potential varying increases and from local governments on a timeline that will allow for local budgets to account for a local share on a graduated basis.

W.Va. Officials Suggests Local Funding Needed to Preserve Commuter Trains Slated to End in November

September 10, 2019

West Virginia officials have hinted that communities that want to preserve the existing level of MARC commuter rail service to the Mountain State from Washington need to contribute money to that cause.

MARC now operates three roundtrips on weekdays that serve the West Virginia cities of Harpers Ferry, Duffields, and Martinsburg.

On Nov. 4, MARC plans to reduce service to one roundtrip that would leave Martinsburg at 5 a.m. and return at 6:39 p.m.

The other trains now originating and terminating in West Virginia will instead only operate as far west as Brunswick, Maryland.

The Maryland Department of Transportation, which oversees MARC, said it is reducing service to West Virginia because the state appropriated only $1.1 million of the $3.4 million needed to maintain the existing level of service.

In the meantime, elected officials in the affected West Virginia cities have called for MARC to continue operating its current schedule in order to give the cities additional time to find additional funding.

Officials from the West Virginia Rail Authority have questioned the cost of the service relative to the 250 passenger a day from the West Virginia cities that use it.

Yet some among an overflow crowd that turned out last week for a public hearing in Charles Town, West Virginia, challenged those ridership numbers, saying the large turnout for the hearing is evidence that interest in and use of the service is higher than state officials are portraying it to be.

Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg also are stops for Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

MARC West Virginia Service Saved

March 20, 2018

Commuter trains operated by Maryland Rail Commuter will continue to serve West Virginia after that state’s governor signed the fiscal year 2019 budget.

The $4.38 billion budget contains authority to allow the transfer of $1.5 million from the securities division in the state auditor’s office to the West Virginia Commuter Rail Access Fund.

MARC had threatened to end the service between Washington and Harpers Ferry and Martinsville, West Virginia, as early as summer if a new funding arrangement was not worked out. The new funding agreement will last for a year.

MARC trains to West Virginia use the same CSX (former Baltimore & Ohio) route used by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.

W.Va. Mulls Support for MARC Service

February 28, 2018

West Virginia policymakers are eyeing a range of options to continue Maryland Rail Commuter service operating in their state.

This includes a fare hike of $4 and increasing state funding of the service.

MARC recently said that if a new contract is not reached that it would end service as early as this summer to Martinsburg, Duffields and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, from Washington.

Maryland has demanded that West Virginia pay $3.2 million to keep MARC trains running to the Mountain State.

The proposed fare increase is expected to generate $600,000 a year.

West Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Tom Smith said about $500,000 in funding could be taken from the state budget negotiations, which would still leave a funding gap of $2.1 million.

Smith said other funding sources could include federal funding and private sector support.

2 Hours of Nothing, Then 3 Trains Showed Up

August 5, 2017

I got lucky that the CSX train showed up in Harpers Ferry as Amtrak was leaving, not as it was arriving.

As any railfan knows, traffic lulls are a part of the hobby. You set up someplace to wait for a train and minutes and even hours go by with nothing moving.

Such was the case for me during a recent visit to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

I arrived at the former Baltimore & Ohio passenger station, which is now owned by the National Park Service, just before 4 p.m.

I sat down on a bench, got my scanner out and waited. And waited and waited.

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited is scheduled into Harpers Ferry at 5:16 p.m. A MARC commuter train from Washington to Martinsburg, West Virginia, is scheduled to arrive just after 6 p.m.

Presumably, CSX, which owns the tracks here, would put something through before or immediately after those trains. Instead, I heard nothing more than radio silence.

A call to Amtrak Julie confirmed that No. 29 had departed Washington at 4:48 p.m., which was 43 minutes late. Yet she insisted that the Capitol would arrive on time, but depart two minutes late.

Yeah, right. No way that was going to happen. Later, Julie amended her estimate to arriving at 6:01 p.m. which would put No. 29 just ahead of the MARC train.

A sign at the station said the MARC train was on time. Amtrak No. 29 would have to pass the MARC train somewhere or else it would be lagging behind it.

Around 5:30 p.m., the signal for eastbound track No. 2 turned from stop to clear. CSX had an eastbound coming.

The question was whether it would arrive at the wrong time. I wanted to use my telephoto lens to get Amtrak and MARC coming out of the iconic tunnel on the Maryland side of the Potomac River and then crossing the river on a bridge.

That shot would work best when made from the eastbound platform. There is a tunnel beneath the tracks so I could get to the westbound platform if need be.

Just before 6, a headlight appeared in the tunnel. A scratchy radio transmission indicated that the CSX train was in the vicinity.

The MARC train was running a bit early, which is allowed by the timetable. Amtrak was a few minutes behind it.

As it turned out, the CSX eastbound manifest freight didn’t arrive until Amtrak was leaving.

I had waited two hours and then gotten three trains in a 15-minute span. Or, you could say, it was just another day by the tracks.

After two hours of waiting, here comes the MARC train.

Approaching the platform and not getting blocked by a CSX eastbound freight.

The commuters have been dropped off and the MARC train leaves for Martinsburg.

A few minutes behind MARC here comes Amtrak’s Capitol Limited minus a baggage car today.

Approaching the platform.

Train Time at Harpers Ferry: Part 2

August 4, 2014

An empty westbound coal train crosses the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, W. Va. Once Amtrak got out of the way, CSX ran a slew of freight trains.

An empty westbound coal train crosses the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, W. Va. Once Amtrak got out of the way, CSX ran a slew of freight trains.

I arrived in Harpers Ferry about 4 p.m. Amtrak wasn’t due for another hour so I thought maybe I’d catch a CSX freight or two. Fat chance of that. Nothing ran at all through town before the westbound Capitol Limited arrived.

It was frustrating to hear the dispatcher talking with trains in nearby Brunswick only to realize those trains were eastbound and headed away from my position. I heard an auto rack train with an odd numbered symbol get an EC1 form, but that train was somewhere west of Harpers Ferry.

No. 29 had barely left town when the gates for a nearby crossing went down and an eastbound coal train came by. It was as though trains began to materialize out of nowhere. In a little over a half-hour, CSX sent six trains through, including two westbound empty hopper trains, two eastbound loaded coal trains, a westbound MARC commuter train and an eastbound tanker train.

The tanker train, alas, blocked most of my view of the MARC train. The tanker pulled in and stopped short of the passenger platform. Shortly after the MARC train arrived, the tanker train began moving.

Overall, though, it had been a nice visit. I’d like to get back to Harpers Ferry again and spend some more time there to wrap up some unfinished business.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

Only one locomotive was needed to pull these empty hoppers.

Only one locomotive was needed to pull these empty hoppers.

This was the best view I was able to get of the head end of the MARC train. If only the tanker train had been running a little later.

This was the best view I was able to get of the head end of the MARC train. If only the tanker train had been running a little later.

MARC had three rush hour trains from Washington, D.C., that operate to Martinsburg, W.Va. This was the first of the three and only one to have bi-level cars.

MARC had three rush hour trains from Washington, D.C., that operate to Martinsburg, W.Va. This was the first of the three and only one to have bi-level cars.

Given that this tank train had a buffer car on each end, I am guessing that it was carrying crude oil.

Given that this tank train had a buffer car on each end, I am guessing that it was carrying crude oil.

The lead unit of a westbound empty hopper train pops into view between two large trees. I did not seen any foreign power on CSX today.

The lead unit of a westbound empty hopper train pops into view between two large trees. I did not seen any foreign power on CSX today.

The former Baltimore & Ohio passenger station is owned by the National Park Service.

The former Baltimore & Ohio passenger station is owned by the National Park Service.

The rear of the first coal train is about to vanish into the tunnel.

The rear of the first coal train is about to vanish into the tunnel.

Clouds and sun create a contrast between shadows and light. The mountain in the foreground is in Maryland whereas the mountains visit in sunlight in the background are in Virginia.

Clouds and sun create a contrast between shadows and light. The mountain in the foreground is in Maryland whereas the mountains visit in sunlight in the background are in Virginia.

Sights Along the Road to Baltimore

April 14, 2013

I traveled to Baltimore on Friday to go to a big train show there and to get some pictures along the way. The top photo was taken at Shenandoah Junction in West Virginia.

The former Baltimore & Ohio mainline crosses under the former Norfolk &Western Hagerstown line. I got a CSX freight and then an NS train passing some old signals.

The next stop was Harpers Ferry, W.Va., where we caught Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited and a MARC commuter train from Washington, D.C. The weather was alternating between sun and rain, which made for challenging photography conditions.

The stop was Point of Rocks, Md., and another MARC train. After that it just rained and it was too dark to shoot anymore.

Photographs by Todd Dillon

Late June Afternoon in Harpers Ferry

June 10, 2012

Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited rolls into the station at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., on June 7, 2012. The train is named after a B&O train of the same name that used these tracks for decades before being discontinued in 1971.

Harpers Ferry, W.Va., is a scenic and historic small town that also happens to be a good place to photograh trains. Craig Sanders spent more than three hours in Harpers Ferry on June 7 and offers a report on the trains that he saw and photographed.

This is CSX territory and many of the trains that pass through Akron also pass through Harpers Ferry, although some are reclassified in Cumberland to the west.

Harpers Ferry features Amtrak, MARC commuter trains and a good mix of CSX freight. This is all former Baltimore & Ohio. The tunnel under Maryland Heights that the B&O drilled through the rock long ago is still in use as is the bridge over the Potomac River. But the B&O color position lights are long gone.

To reach Craig’s report and view more photographs, click on the link below.

https://akronrrclub.wordpress.com/trackside-tales/late-june-afternoon-in-harpers-ferry/

Photographs by Craig Sanders

MARC No. 12 is MP36PH-3. MARC Brunswick line trains serving Harpers Ferry terminate to the west at Martinsburg, W.Va.

A westbound CSX auto rack train exits the tunnel under Maryland Heights and crossed the bridge over the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry.