Case Study: Amtrak Utilizes Von Schrader LMX Systems in ‘Transformation 2000’ Program

Von Schrader units help Amtrak stay on top of cleaning track.

Even before Amtrak embarked on its “Transformation 2000” program many months ago, Gary Esposito was clearly focused on raising his company’s service standards to “a very high quality” and presenting to the public, in his words, “the best quality trains in the world.”

For the past four years in his 24-year career with Amtrak, Gary has served as general foreman in charge of the coach-cleaning department at Sunnyside Yards in Queens. In that capacity, he manages all interior cleaning operations of approximately 200 train cars each day. The work includes vacuuming of all the cars at the maintenance center and, every 120 days, extraction cleaning of all carpeted areas when cars are taken out of service for a week or two for extensive servicing and maintenance.

The cleaning of carpet with a water-based system is now supplemented with a more frequent soil-extraction operation using three recently acquired LMX low-moisture systems from Von Schrader Co., Racine, Wis. The key benefit: soil removal is accomplished in 45-60 minutes per car, and the carpet is dry in less than two hours. With the wet system, Gary points out, the job can take up to three hours, and drying time is two to three times that number.

“We use Von Schrader’s LMX units to keep out carpet looking good all the time,” he says. “Right now we’re working strictly on all Amtrak trains in the northeast corridor. These include inner-city trains that travel long distances from other points in the United States, whose carpet tends to get dirtier faster. Our new equipment is used on up to 70 cars per week, which means the extraction-cleaning interval is shortened from 120 days to about 30 on all our cars.”

The speed of operation and drying time, Gary notes, is the result of Von Schrader’s soil-extraction technology. The LMX system dispenses cleaning solution in a foam state and recovers it simultaneously through a built-in vacuum system. The entire operation is accomplished in a single pass. And without water, he says, carpeting is cleaned without the hazards of over-wetting.

“Our wet-extraction system,” says the Amtrak foreman, “is something we need because it incorporates wands and other tools that get into tight, cramped areas for cleaning. It takes 15-20 gallons of water to clean each car, and we can extract only about 10 gallons, which accounts for the extensive drying time. That isn’t a major concern, however, at 120-day intervals because the car is removed from service for several days of maintenance and repairs when the cleaning takes place.

“But the Von Schrader machines are great to have because they deliver such an improved appearance of Amtrak cars whenever they’re before the public. They fit in very well with our ‘Transformation 2000’ program and our commitment to giving customers only the best in equipment and service.”

The first two new machines were delivered in April, 2000, then another in June, “and we’re having no problems at all,” says Gary. They were recommended by Von Schrader’s local distributor, Kew Forest Maintenance Supply Company, a third-generation, family owned business that has served Amtrak for several years. President Howard Blumberg, who saw the LMX’s drying speed and other benefits meeting Amtrak’s needs, provided the limited training required for Gary’s six employees who use the equipment.

The Amtrak foreman’s previous job was in quality control, which gave him a constant focus on improving company operations, performance, and the image it has with present and prospective customers. He enjoys his present job, he says, which permits a major role in building and sustaining that image, in part through the use of equipment such as the new acquisitions from Von Schrader.

His goal, he says, “is to dispatch every one of my trains with clean carpets on an even more consistent basis. What we’re achieving now is certainly better than ever before, but there’s still much to be done if we’re to meet all our departmental and corporate goals as well.”

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