“This dream is finally a reality for me”
Through my time of working in both a hobby shop and at the Strasburg Rail Road, I’ve met thousands of people who all share a love for trains. However, without the slightest bit of doubt, I can say that none of these people share the pure love, excitement, and pure passion for trains that is possessed by today’s spotlight feature, Andre Barry. Today on Behind the Throttle, we go inside the mind of someone living their dream, and loving every minute of it.
Andre was born in Baltimore in 1997. Growing up, he seldom paid mind to the bustling world of trains around him, as he lived along Amtrak’s high-speed network of the Northeast Corridor. However, when Andre turned eight years old, his childhood dream of being an accountant changed after a short train ride to his grandmother’s office in Washington, DC. Travelling to shadow her duties at an accounting firm, Andre would be introduced to a conductor on board the short train ride. This conductor would go on to show Andre the wonders of railroading and just how much impact trains had on the daily lives of thousands of people. His next ride onboard a train, however, would be Andre’s watershed moment: As he stepped into the steel carriage, he noticed the train was running in push-pull service, with the engineer operating the train via a passenger car outfitted with controls that would send signals back to the engine at the other side of the train. Before long, Andre was at the front of the train, watching with awe as the engineer moved level after level, accelerating and slowing to a stop for each station. The engineer soon noticed his onlooker, and invited him into the vestibule. The two chatted for a short while about Andre’s newfound interest, and soon Andre had realized just how eager he was to follow in this engineer’s footsteps. As Andre explained to me, with careful attention to detail, this engineer was truly his shaman in becoming the train enthusiast he is today. I could hear his smile through the phone when Andre recalled the final action the engineer took: “Then he tells me to sit in the seat!”. Without a second thought, Andre was at the helm of a passenger train, zooming down America’s only high speed rail corridor. As he disembarked the train, after giving the engineer all the thanks he could, Andre summoned a feeling of pride, and moreso a feeling of comfortability with his new passion: “I felt like I could be myself on the railroad”. With that, his track was aligned: Andre wanted to be a railroader.
Andre with the engineer that started his passion in the first place.
Through the rest of his education, Andre knew he wanted to work for Amtrak. Following his high school graduation in 2016, he began applying for positions ranging from engineer to mechanic, hoping for an opportunity to get his foot in the door of this company that he adored so much. Finally, in September of 2017, he received an email, requesting an interview in Washington DC. This was his first interview with Amtrak, so while he was excited at the opportunity, Andre also explained to me that “I walked into Union Station the most afraid person on earth!”. During the interview, Andre attempted to make every person on the other side of the table smile, and recalled that the road foreman just would not budge. However, he achieved his goal when he began talking about the significance of safety on the railroad. Following the interview, Andre heard nothing from Amtrak until December. Andre’s recollection of the exact dates of each landmark in his journey of working for Amtrak was more proof of his passion. On December 13th 2017, Andre received his start date at Amtrak, and on January 8th, 2018, Andre took to the Ivy City Maintenance Facility for the first time, saying “This dream is finally a reality for me”.
Having just turned 19, Andre was the youngest person in the mechanical department at the time. With a hunger for knowledge and an eagerness for learning, however, Andre was quick to rise to the top of his training class. Throughout his time working at Ivy City, Andre worked in several positions, including Amfleet servicing, train service and inspection, and even Acela maintenance. Working all these jobs gave Andre an insight as to the amount of work that goes into keeping the Northeast Corridor running, and Andre took pride in being one of the parts of this well-oiled machine that delivered thousands of people to their destinations. After about a year of working at Ivy City, Andre decided to change things up a bit, and transferred to Union Station for a new challenge. As Andre described it, this new position was a whole new ballgame. His job at the station was to work with other employees to have trains ready to turn around for their next trip on the corridor in a matter of a few hours. This time-crunch added pressure to the position, but Andre liked the challenge. Andre continues to work in this capacity at Union Station , working on mechanical inspections and especially recently, sanitization, before the next set of passengers boards the train for it’s next trip up the corridor. In the future, Andre hopes to continue on his path with Amtrak and eventually end up in the engineer’s seat. He sees this job as his true calling, and wants nothing more than to be behind the throttle once again.
Working on the frontlines of passenger service at one of the busiest stations in the country, Andre has seen first hand the impact railroads have on the daily lives of so many people. Working closely with the public, Andre takes pride in knowing that the work he does helps ensure that these passengers will reach their destinations in a timely manner, and in a clean and comfortable train. Working at a terminal like DC, Andre sees just about all the equipment that Amtrak uses, which has given him an understanding as to how Amtrak ties the whole nation together, and shows the true importance of this company. Rail travel is certainly not what it once was, however Andre believes that even today railroads offer a priceless service to our country, and Amtrak hauls the most important commodity: People. Before working in Union Station, Andre looked back to his time meeting the then-CEO of the railroad, Joe Boardman, and how the railroad executive instructed him to not give up on his dream. He also looks back on a time when an Acela set broke down shortly before arriving at Union Station, where he managed to recover the trainset, unload the passengers, and got another Acela ready to move depart in its place for the next trip up the corridor, all without running behind schedule. Andre takes great pride in having most, if not all of his trains leaving on time, as he sees giving a passenger a timely experience the utmost important factor of dependable transportation. With his clear passion for railroading and dedication to keeping Amtrak alive, Andre has a bright future ahead of him, and a role to play with the future of passenger railroading in America.
Thank you for reading this edition of Behind the Throttle. Tune in next time for an interview with Fran Phillps, a dedicated member of passenger rail preservation. As always, I am Max Harris, and thank you for your continued support of Behind the Throttle.