California Zephyr Servicing & Cleaning

Cleaning and Servicing

Floodlights provide ample lighting for the workers who operate the automatic train washer at night.
Mileposts

Shortly after arriving in Oakland from her westbound transcontinental trip from Chicago and the last passenger had departed the train was pulled into the yard. No time was wasted after she was divided into two sections, due to track length in the coach yard, and then pushed through the mechanical washer by a diesel switcher. Under the glare of lights the road dirt and grime would pour from her stainless steel sides as they received the full brunt of a foamy detergent forced from nozzles under high pressure and scrubbed by revolving brushes. She would then get a clean water rinse while being pulled back through the washer, the domes being touched up by hand, and once again rinsed as she moved ahead out of the washer onto service tracks at the opposite end of the yard.

By the time she would leave the yard the following morning to begin her eastbound trip she was scrubbed and rubbed, checked and serviced inside and out. Her glistening appearance demanded the attention of all who chanced to see her flashing by, and those who would be aboard would be assured of comfort and enjoyment.

Jack Lynch, carman, removes oil from the roller bearings.
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Midnight to six a.m. found a flurry of activity taking place. Armed with an assortment of tools, brushes, and electrical and mechanical devices especially designed for the purpose, the crews are at their stations as the cars were spotted over the pits, and the work began as soon as the wheels stopped rolling. Worn wheels were removed and replaced with new ones. Carmen, electricians, carpenters, and other skilled workmen made thorough checks and serviced running gear, electrical and public address systems, and all other mechanical facilities so the train would maintain top efficiency and performance. In addition, the company maintained upholstery repair, pipe, and electric shops, capable of handling major repairs.

Coach Cleaner Lee Tolefree, removing ashes from a seat tray, quite a collection is made each night.
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Inside a thorough scrubbing from one end to the other followed. Carpets, floors, windows, ashtrays, vestibules and steps were vacuumed, washed, scrubbed, shined, and cleaned. New headrest cloths were fastened to the seats and any imperfections noted in the upholstery repaired. Tables in the buffet cars and diner were cleaned, and the ranges, cooking utensils and storage facilities returned to their original appearance.

Soiled linen, refuse along with any other garbage that may have been missed at points along the line was removed from the train for replacement or disposal. Pullman cleanup crews were busy, too, from midnight on, replacing bedding, towels, drinking cups and other articles required by sleeping car passengers. By the time the outgoing steward and his crew reported the next morning the train was ready for the stocking of food and the setting of tables.

Provided with a requisition list by the incoming steward the previous afternoon the Commissary Department assembled and made ready for loading the next morning all supplies necessary for the diner and buffet-lounges. Silver that may have been tarnished or in need of re-plating was sent to a silver smith for repair and any worn linen, chipped china and glassware was replaced. In addition to the linen, china, silverware and glassware the requisition list for the diner and buffet cars consisted of approximately 375 items, all of which had to be checked prior to departure and replenished as necessary to a pre-determined level. Extra linen, perishable foods, meat, etc. could be picked up if necessary en route at Salt Lake City or Denver and at other points in an emergency. Bottled gas was replenished and the mechanical refrigeration was also checked for proper operation. In addition to all this activity unannounced inspections by the U. S. Public Health agency also occurred on an irregular basis at least four times a year. During times of high demand extra linen, perishable foods, meat, and other items would be picked up at Salt Lake City or Denver.

James Goodwin, third cook, lends a hand in stocking the diner with a selection of the finest foods.
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Arriving at six a.m. the next morning the outgoing steward a full crew for the diner and two buffet cars consists of a chef (supervisor of the kitchen), three cooks, a pantryman, six dining car waiters, three coach porters, buffet cook and two waiters, one in charge. By the time the train was ready to leave the yard the crew had put away all the supplies, dining car tables had been set, fresh flowers put in place, and the car ready for those who may have wanted a late breakfast on departure from Oakland Pier. Because of limited space aboard the diner, there was a place for everything and everything must be in its place.

The steward, in whose charge the diner was operated, kept a perpetual inventory of supplies and equipment so that when ordering he knew not only what he wanted, but how much. That inventory also served as a trip report or journal, recording the number of meals served and revenue involved. Properly filled out in all detail, the report was a 20 page book and gave a complete financial and supply record of that particular trip.

Sixteen pages were needed to record the dining car's supplies, each page showing aggregate quantity of each commodity on hand, consumed or needed. Under the heading of meat, poultry and fish, there were 74 various items. Vegetables, from the lowly onion to the lordly truffle, accounted for 52 entries; fruits covered 32 items. Then there were 11 standard jams and jellies, 25 different dairy products, 12 bread entries, 275 individual "dry" groceries, 20 beers, 22 wines, 25 mineral waters, 35 whiskeys, brandies and cocktails, 10 brands of cigars and 10 kinds of cigarettes. By keeping this perpetual inventory up to date, the dining car steward made up a "grocery order" at the end of his run for enough supplies to bring his kitchen up to standard. A dining car's storeroom thus resembled a grocery store without a cash register. In addition to the above, a dining car carried sufficient linen to serve one thousand guests. Crockery, glassware, silver service and kitchen equipment that would do justice to any first class hotel dining room, were all stored within a short space of some 25 feet.

Clean linen, sparkling silver, water pitchers, and fresh flowers are in place on the dining car tables before train leaves the yard.
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The chef of a WP diner planed his day's meals, and before the first breakfast order was given, he had luncheon and dinner menus well along in the process of preparation. In the dining car proper, five to seven waiters laid the tables with fresh linen, silver and glasses, filled the water bottles and gave the car that spick and span look. As the passengers entrained at a station, the dining car crew watched them and not from mere idle curiosity, either. For from long years on the same run the good dining car crew studied the taste of the traveler, so that before the dinner call was sounded, your own pet dish was often already on the fire, ordered by a waiter who had served you before. Early on the run a checkup was made of through passengers so that the chef would know the probable number of meals he had to prepare.

It always surprised the visitor to a dining car how so much food could be stowed and prepared in so small a space. The answer was training. Each cook knew his job thoroughly, and all his materials were close at hand. Much of the success of a dining car's service was due to its crew. They must be congenial people who could work together. After the last meal was served, and the train was nearing its terminus, all hands turned to cleaning silver and counting linen to prepare it for the laundry, while the chef and steward checked the stock and prepared the requisition for supplies.

Painting the underside of the diesel locomotive is Painter Orval Mayo.
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At the terminus, inspectors from the dining car department boarded the car to take over the stock and supplies still left and prepared to restock it for its next run. As every member of the crew well knew, there was far more to a dining car meal than the mere eating.

At eight a.m. the train had been reassembled. All maintenance work was under the supervision of the district car foreman and the superintendent of the dining car department. As a last minute check, an electrician and a pipefitter would ride the train to Oakland Pier for any last minute adjustments. The last finishing touch, which gave the train much of its striking, brand-new appearance, took place as the sleek streamliner would leave the yard for Oakland Pier. With a painter on each side of the track, the running gear of the entire train from the nose of the diesel engine to the observation-lounge car was sprayed with shining silver paint. Similar activities also occurred at Chicago with the arrival and departure of each train.

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Copyright © 1996 - 2017 by Frank Brehm. All Rights Reserved.