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Fax: 901-756-8242 PCC Cars Roll Again in San Diego

A NEW HISTORIC STREETCAR opera- tion in San Diego began on August 27, 2011. The Silver Line, sharing light rail trackage, traverses a loop of downtown San Diego in a restored PCC car. Eventually it is hoped that a half-dozen restored cars will operate, perhaps between downtown and Balboa Park. Trolley service in San Diego halted on April 24, 1949, and the light rail revolution had to wait 30 years. When the last PCC ran in 1949, there was little hope among electric railway supporters that they would stage a comeback. Readers know that San Diego was the site

                   

            

       

          

             

of one of the very first of the new electric light rail lines in the great renaissance of U.S. rail transit, which began during the Kennedy administration, when the federal government began to support mass transit. The idea of a return of mass transit to U.S. cities caught on rather quickly, and cities and states began programs of support of ur- ban bus and rail transportation. In the ab- sence of these programs of support, the rev- olution in urban rail transit could not have taken place. Thanks to Martin Gombert and Douglas I. Duncan for the good news.

MARC has Reliability Problems The Maryland Rail Commuter Service (MARC) is enjoying growing ridership along with an increasing lack of reliable service, due in large part of overcrowding of the fixed facilities. Sharing tracks with Amtrak and freight trains limits the capacity and flexi- bility of the commuter service. The MARC Penn line links Washington,

D.C., with Baltimore by way of the former Pennsylvania Railroad electrified line, now owned by Amtrak. The Camden and Brunswick lines run on former Baltimore & Ohio trackage now owned by CSX. The Cam- den line is the former B&O line between Washington and Baltimore, and its trains end up adjacent to the Camden Yards base- ball stadium near Camden station. The Brunswick line is also on the former B&O and offers commuter service along the main line through Harper’s Ferry. By the fall of 2010, the Camden line was moving an aver- age of 4395 daily passengers, and the Penn line was handing an average of 20,804. The Brunswick service carried an average of 7443 riders daily. Aging equipment does not help matters.

In the recent past Maryland spent $100 mil- lion on 26 new diesel locomotives to replace the 1970s-vintage diesels employed on the Brunswick and Camden lines, and new elec- tric locomotives will eventually be placed in Penn line service. The longer, heavier trains demanded by increased ridership have taxed the ability of the current fleet of elec- tric locomotives. Many years ago, I taught at the Universi-

 58 JANUARY 2012 • RAILFAN.COM

ty of Maryland at College Park. I would time my drive home to find a place along the B&O tracks to watch a commuter train of RDC cars make its way to Baltimore. At the same time I recall the Penn line was receiving ser- vice from ancient Pennsylvania Railroad

MP54 multiple-unit cars. Whatever the causes of the delays and un-

reliable service, the complaints are register- ing with MARC and action will be taken to alleviate the problems, which may include some additional trackage on the Penn line. Thanks to David Harris and Harry Ross for the information.

Testbed PCC Car Now Operating at Seashore DC Transit PCC car No. 1304 was acquired by General Electric in the 1960s, and used as a testbed for various propulsion and control systems now in use in many places. The Seashore Trolley Museum (otherwise known as the New England Electric Railway Historical Society, P.O. Box A, Kenneb- unkport, ME 04046) obtained the car from GE and Seashore’s Gerry O’Regan worked hard to reverse the experimental wiring and installation of foreign devices so that the car is once more an honest-to-goodness PCC. Important cooperation from the National

Capital Trolley Museum and other muse- ums aided in returning No. 1304 to its origi- nal form. The car operated almost flawless- ly when back in its original state for the first time in about 50 years. In other good news, the Seashore museum

has obtained New Jersey Transit PCC car No. 5 from the Newark property. The car was originally ordered by Twin Cities Rapid Transit in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and served in Newark for over 50 years.

SEPTA’s Antiques Roadshow The railroad industry is in a constant battle to keep its capital goods in good repair and up to date. This is often difficult because most rail facilities are very old, dating from the 19th century. The Southeastern Penn- sylvania Transportation Authority has lots of elderly capital goods, and that is becom- ing a real issue as the agency seeks to offer the safest operations possible. When the Federal Transit Administrator

was able to manually pull off large chunks of the Norristown High Speed Line Bridge over the Schuylkill River, a structure more than 100 years old, alarm bells sounded. SEPTA has 27 rail bridges in iffy condition, four of them structures that were put in place prior to 1900 on the Media-Elwyn commuter line. A number of stations are in disrepair and some of the downtown commuter rail and rapid transit station facilities are in dire need of repair and upgrading. Many of the weaknesses have an impact on safety, espe-

PLEASE SEND light rail, tran- sit and commuter rail news items and correspondence di- rectly to Prof. George M. Smerk, Emeritus Suite, Kelley School of Business, 1309 East Tenth Street, Bloomington, IN 47405-1701.

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