- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

A major power outage during the morning rush hour yesterday stalled numerous trains along the East Coast from the District to New York, stranding thousands of commuters — some of whom ended up walking to their stations.

The 21/2-hour outage began at 8 a.m. and hobbled Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, said spokesman Cliff Black, who said the rail line is investigating the cause of the problem.

Three MARC trains on the Penn Line between Baltimore and the District were among the stranded, and other trains were delayed, said Holly Henderson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transit Administration.

About 5,000 riders were affected by the outage, which originated at a substation in Pennsylvania, she said.

The outage stranded five Amtrak trains in tunnels — one in Baltimore and four under the Hudson River heading into New York.

The train in the B&P; tunnel in Baltimore was removed quickly by a diesel locomotive, Mr. Black said. Passengers were brought to Penn Station by a MARC commuter train.

Larry Willis, 63, of Upper Marlboro, said he and other passengers were stuck in the dark for about 45 minutes before the MARC train arrived to transport them. Mr. Willis had been traveling to Newark, N.J., to catch a flight to Israel and was worried he would miss the flight.

Passengers remained quiet during the outage, but there was “a lot of frustration,” Mr. Willis said.

Joe Piasecki of Washington Crossing, Pa., was among 100 passengers who climbed out of a stalled train near Elizabeth, N.J., to walk nearly a mile to the nearest station.

“It’s a kind of eerie, end-of-the-world feel,” said Mr. Piasecki, who boarded the train in Trenton. “You have these two trains sitting here dead, not moving. You can’t see any cars or anything else moving.”

The outage affected travel throughout the day, causing numerous delays. New Jersey transit trains were running on a limited basis yesterday afternoon and were expected to resume normal service in the evening.

The outage also stopped many regional rail lines run by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in the Philadelphia area. Some MARC trains continued running during the outage on diesel power.

Marilyn Womble, an Amtrak customer service representative at Baltimore’s Penn Station, said riders affected by the delays were frustrated but generally cooperative.

“They were inconvenienced, but they were great,” she said.

By midday, the traffic at Union and Penn stations had subsided, with most trains resuming their normal schedule. However, some southbound trains were still experiencing significant delays, which left riders with varying degrees of patience waiting late into the afternoon at both stations.

Jo Simons, who was waiting at Penn Station in Baltimore for a train to Miami, was fuming after learning that her train’s departure time was still more than two hours behind schedule at 2 p.m.

“This is disgusting,” said Miss Simons, 80. “I’ve been sitting here since 10 a.m. The least they can do is feed you.”

Miss Simons, who stopped traveling by plane after the September 11 attacks, said such lengthy delays may persuade her to start flying again.

“Whatever happens, happens,” she said. “This is for the birds.”

At Union Station, Craig Potter of Baltimore said both his patience and money were running low. His train to Newport News was delayed for most of the day, and by 2 p.m. he hadn’t heard whether or when the train would depart.

“I’ve been here all day,” said Mr. Potter, 61, who was headed to Virginia to visit friends.

Mr. Potter said he was short on options because his wallet was stolen recently and he couldn’t access his bank account. He finally bought a large order of french fries from McDonald’s.

“I don’t have any money left until I get to Virginia, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll be here,” he said. “I’ve got to eat something.”

Even as trains slowly resumed a normal schedule, confusion was rampant as a horde of passengers milled about the Amtrak information kiosk.

“The [information] is contradictory,” said Jamila Jones, 29,who was waiting to board a train to New York. “The monitors say ‘delayed,’ but they say it’s on time … and I can’t hear the announcements.”

Though she had a flight to catch out of John F. Kennedy International Airport later in the day, Miss Jones said she wasn’t panicking.

“Luckily, I gave myself plenty of time,” she said.

• S.A. Miller contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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