Todd's Railfan Guide to
the MTA Light Rail System
Baltimore MD



CLICK HERE   Maps of the North Avenue and Cromwell facilities.
CLICK HERE   Description and pictures of the signals on the Baltimore Light Rail system. 
CLICK HERE   Operating Rules
CLICK HERE   Station by Station Guide
CLICK HERE   Misc Light Rail pix from around the system
CLICK HERE   Pictures of trackwork, substations and catenary, wayside structures, etc
CLICK HERE   How the Baltimore LRV's work
CLICK HERE   The complaint department.  Don't go here unless you really want to, as I am not my usual reserved and clean speaking self.

This section covers the light rail system that runs in Baltimore, Maryland.  It operates in Baltimore City, Baltimore County to the north, and Ann Arundel County to the south.

The Baltimore Light Rail System has two shops, the main shop is located of North Ave, next to I83 (the JFK), and is called the North Ave Shops.  The southern shop is located in Ann Arundel County at the end of the line at Cromwell, and is called the Cromwell Shops.

The system opened in 1991 just in time for the baseball season, and had an original order of 35 cars, numbered 5001 thru 5035.  A second batch of 18 was delivered starting in 1998, for a total of 53.  All cars are manufactured by ABB, now AdTranz.

The cars are 98 feet long over couplers, 12.5 feet high with a lowered pan, 8.5 feet wide (one of the wider cars running around), and weigh 54 tons empty.  They were the first LRVs in America to use AC traction power.  Surprisingly enough, despite the weight, the bearings are good enough so that one person can push an LRV on straight and level track! How do I know? I've done it myself in the shops!

A southbound "2 pack" running alongside Howard St, stopped at the Convention Center.  The Bromo-Seltzer tower is in the background, and Camden station is behind me to my left.  The tracks just left the middle of Howard St in the background.

Map of the Light Rail System, integrated with the heavy rail metro subway.

Since the Baltimore Light Rail system is the only system I've worked for, I only have the rulebooks and technical info for them. 

However, while I worked for them, I also used it as an excuse to visit several other systems, it was a great opportunity..... I had the chance to visit the Portland OR L/R shops (when there was only one, and I was in town for a job interview to leave the MTA), the heavy rail system in Los Angeles (my wife even went on that tour), the Minneapolis / Hiawatha system, one of the MARTA shops in suburban Atlanta, and the Charlotte NC light rail shops.

The general feeling (towards the company they work for) amongst almost all of the maintenance personnel was the same as I experienced here in Baltimore: generally lousy.  I guess it's part of the union work environment.  Everybody complains, yet few really do anything about it (like changing jobs so they quit complaining about how awful their jobs are).  Soon after I left the MTA for better pastures, about two dozen ET's quit to go work in the (then) rapidly expanding communications and internet explosion (1998 timeframe).  A number of them wanted to get back in after the field went bust, but never made it back in.


I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page.  This is something I have fun with while trying to help others.  My webpages are an attempt at putting everything I can find of the subject in one convenient place.  There are plenty of other good websites to help me in this effort, and they are listed in the links section on my indexa page, or as needed on individual pages.  Please do not write to me about something that may be incorrect, and then hound the heck out of me if I do not respond to you in the manner you would like.  I operate on the "Golden Rule Principle", and if you are not familiar with it, please acquaint yourself with how to treat people by reading Mathew 7:12 (among others, the principle exists in almost every religion).  If you contact me (like some do, hi Paul) and try to make it a "non-fun" thing and start with the name calling, your name will go into my spambox list! :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, especially if restaurants or gas stations open, close, or change names.  Most of my maps are a result of personal observation after visiting these locations.  I have always felt that a picture is worth a thousand words", and I feel annotated maps such as the ones I work up do the same justice for the railfan over a simple text description of the area.  Since the main focus of my website is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  Since most of us railheads don't have just trains as a hobby, I have also tried to point out where other interesting sites of the area are.... things like fire stations, neat bridges, or other significant historical or geographical feature.  While some may feel they shouldn't be included, these other things tend to make MY trips a lot more interesting.... stuff like where the C&O Canal has a bridge going over a river (the Monocacy Aqueduct) between Point of Rocks and Gaithersburg MD, it's way cool to realize this bridge to support a water "road" over a river was built in the 1830's!!!  

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.


web statistics

New 9/5/2005
Last Updated: 03/24/2017