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Happy Rails To You: Amtrak’s Chief Mechanical Officer Mario Bergeron Talks about Thanksgiving Travel and a Workhorse GE Locomotive

If you are reading this on a railroad platform while waiting to board a train home for Thanksgiving, pay good attention to your train’s locomotive. In the early 1990s, engineers at GE Transportation designed the P42 Genesis diesel-electric locomotive for Amtrak, and the streamlined, low-profile engine remains a workhorse of the system. It can travel as fast as 110mph and pull 16 Amtrak Superliner coaches. GE manufactured more than 300 of them for Amtrak, Metro North and Via Rail.

In 2013, Amtrak trains carried 31.6 million passengers, the most in its history. It was Amtrak’s 10th record ridership year in 11 years. Amtrak’s Chief Mechanical Officer Mario Bergeron talked to GE Reports managing editor Tomas Kellner about the locomotives and Thanksgiving travel.

Thanksgiving is Amtrak’s busiest time of the year. This Capitol Limited train pulled by three P42 locomotives is leaving Chicago for Washington, D.C.

Tomas Kellner: Congratulations on your record year. How does Thanksgiving travel fit in the numbers?
Mario Bergeron:
 Thanksgiving is the busiest travel period of the year for Amtrak. We’re preparing for the influx in riders by adding capacity throughout our busiest corridors, including the Northeast Corridor, the Chicago hub, the Pacific Northwest and in California.

TK: Where do you see the heaviest traffic?
The Northeast Corridor, which runs between Boston and Washington, D.C., is our busiest route. During the most recent fiscal year, Amtrak served 11.4 million passengers there.

TK: What role do GE locomotives play during Thanksgiving?
GE’s diesel-electric P42 Genesis locomotives are the workhorse of our system outside of the Northeast Corridor, which runs electric locomotives. For passengers traveling on short and long-distance trains this holiday, those are the locomotives that will get them to their loved ones.

Amtrak has enjoyed a long standing and healthy partnership with GE. These high-horsepower diesel-electric locomotives are essential to Amtrak in fulfilling its mission and meeting our passengers’ mobility needs in a timely manner.

TK: What trains do they pull?
The train routes span the entire country. They power the Capitol Limited between Chicago and Washington, D.C., the Cardinal between Chicago and New York, the California Zephyr, which runs from Chicago to San Francisco, and many others. The P42 Genesis locomotives pull single and bi-level passenger and baggage cars. This Thanksgiving, they’ll be transporting people in coach, sleeper, dining and lounge cars, including our observation cars with floor-to-ceiling windows.

TK: I saw that one of the locomotives is painted in red, white and blue.
We painted it those colors to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It also says on the side “America’s Railroad Salutes Our Veterans.” It travels around the country to support our veterans hiring initiative. We’ve made a corporate commitment to ensure 25 percent of our new hires are veterans by 2015.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for your time.

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