Clean Windows are Important!

Before each trip, most long-distance trains are taken through an automatic car wash (a supersized version of the one around the corner where you take the family car). At least that’s what is supposed to happen.

A few months ago, I was on the Southwest Chief traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago.

When we left LAX on time at 6:00 p.m., it was light enough for me to note that the windows in my roomette were dirty. I had been assigned a lower level roomette and it occurred to me that I might be able to dash outside at one of the next stops and clean the windows myself.

I pulled a half-dozen paper towels from a dispenser in one of the lavatories and readied myself with one of the complimentary bottles of water that Amtrak had provided in my roomette.

At the next stop, I dashed out onto the platform and managed to get most of the accumulated dirt off the outside of one of my window panes. Not perfect, but a very big improvement.

The next day, just before noon, the Chief arrived at Albuquerque. It’s a refueling stop for the locomotives so we’re there for about a half-an-hour . . . enough time, Amtrak thought, for a couple of young men, each equipped with a small tub of water on wheels and a long-handled squeegee, to clean the windows on Train #4.

A good idea in theory, but by the time the kid on my side of the train reached my window, the water in his bucket was filthy and when, about ten seconds later, he was finished and moved on, this is what it looked like.

I hasten to add here that most of the time, Amtrak does a fairly decent job of keeping the windows on their long-distance trains reasonably clean. But clean windows are important! That’s especially true for the long-distance trains . . . important enough, in my view,  to pad the schedule with another ten minutes or so to allow adequate time for the windows to be properly cleaned somewhere en route.

I know it’s not easy. I know it costs money. But if you’re selling the beauty and splendor of great plains and mountain passes, dirty windows just don’t cut it.