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#61 RSG

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 09:19 PM

I'm on 97 tonight. Both my sleeper and the one I passed through on the way to the diner have ice put out for passengers. Ice is in a plastic bag lined box in the sink with a sanitary scoop nearby.

#97 of course being a Viewliner, with an onboard galley setup.

Huh? Could you expand a bit on that?

So you'll notice that what can be called, for uniform purposes, the "Coffee Station", is different between the Superliners and the Viewliners as it relates to the sleepers. The Superliner setup is designed more for the end-user, with a non-functioning water dispensing spout and then the alcove for the percolator, with the condiments and supplies placed around the alcove and coffeemaker as will fit, with the juice boxes (if any) and other items on top. There are compartments below the alcove but they are for all practical purposes, non-functional and non-usable (even though I seem to recall since a label or embossed door with "ice" on some). 
 
On the Viewliners, the same space occupied by the Coffee Station is much more functional, with a wet bar [generally defined as a sink with a drain with the ability for running water, which is less than a 'full sink' in a normal kitchen] in addition to a space for the percolator. There are usable compartments, with drop-down doors which are used for the condiments and supplies (cups, stir sticks, aseptic Half & Half pods, etc). Though on Amtrak it's used for self-service usage, it's clear to me that it was designed for service professional usage, much like the galley on an aircraft. Hence, I refer to it as a galley setup. I don't know for sure if that is what its original intent was to be, but I would be surprised if the company which manufactured it (assuming a modular construction design) isn't also a manufacturer of aircraft galleys. IIRC, the compartments below the sink/coffeemaker area are or can be used for overstock cup storage, etc. (This is much more tidy than storing sleeves of cups on top of the Coffee Station in the Superliners.)
 
In my decidedly non-professional evaluation, this is why there is still self-serve ice in the sleepers on Viewliners, as the ice can be stored where accumulated liquid can drain away (at least in theory) into a sink with a drain, and is in a recessed area where, as long as the dispensing bag mostly covers it, is considered to be a non-open service point (as defined by food safety standards). Since that setup is non-existent on the Superliners, and since there have been issues in the past with the Styrofoam chest setup, this is why ice on the Superliners is currently an OBS-provided item instead of a self-service one.
 
I just find it interesting that in all the discussion threads concerning ice that many commenters who say something like "What are you talking about? There was self-service ice in my sleeper last week/month/etc!" do so without seeming to differentiate between the type of car they were on. As someone who travels mostly on routes with Superliners, I have always been impressed when I travel on a route with Viewliners and see the coffee/ice setup. It almost seems like something that was actually designed with customers in mind, as opposed to an afterthought, like a number of things with Amtrak.

Edited by RSG, 20 April 2017 - 09:20 PM.


#62 jis

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:13 PM

Thanks RSG!

#63 RSG

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Posted 20 April 2017 - 10:17 PM

When one has to worry so much about sanitary conditions of providing ice on the train, I would say that position is hypocritical.  We have all used ice at a hotel, fast food place or restaurant and AFAIK we haven't lost any forum members that I can recall.

In the overall scheme of things, I will agree that this might seem like a true "First World Problem". However, the same reason you see the commercials/PSAs for charities operating overseas which say "For only nineteen cents a day, you can provide a family with clean water!" also happens to be a concern in the First World because some of the same issues which are a detriment to clean drinking water there also pop up here.

The issue, as previously mentioned, with someone disposing of a soiled diaper in a foam ice chest is a serious enough issue to warrant the prohibition of that type of self-service setup. (I won't defend the current alternative manner of dispensing ice to passengers on Superliners, however.) Escherichia coli , present in fecal material, can cause serious health issues particularly in the type of person often traveling via Amtrak. Another pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, also causes some of the same health issues and thrives in cold environments (which is why it can be commonly found in improperly handled chilled luncheon meats).

Another microbial issue I'm surprised isn't a greater issue with rail travel is norovirus, which lives on surfaces as well as in food and water. Commonly referred to as the "cruise ship virus" or the "nursing home virus", it is the single largest cause of what most would refer to as 'stomach flu'. A teacher friend of mine contracted it through her school earlier this year and spent the better part of three weeks shuttling between her couch and the bathroom. Imagine contracting that while on a cross-country train trip. (Before, during, or after the actual time on the rails.)

A number of people die from these three illnesses alone every year, though a greater number survive. Just because there aren't a number of public deaths doesn't mean that any of them can't be a serious situation. Public health personnel often use the phrase "risk reduction". It highlights the simple fact that not every health hazard can be eliminated, but the goal is to reduce as many hazards as possible. Thus the reason for what may seem to some as 'picky' rules about food, water, and ice handling procedures (as well as handwashing and container use/storage). In everyday life, the goal is to avoid as many hazards as possible. It's impossible to avoid all of them, but at the very least you want to avoid the one that could most likely make you sick.

#64 PVD

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 07:52 AM

Numbers of cases of all forms of food borne illnesses are actually pretty high. What has changed markedly is that if something happens in what used to be an out of the way place, everyone knows about it now through various electronic means. Awareness also breeds increased reporting. I live in a city where crime is at historic lows, but there is still a scary/emotional one available for the headlines and lead story on the news. The difference is the 5 that aren't on the news didn't happen, rather than they didn't make the cut for big time coverage.  Perception and reality are not even close.In the US, how many people die in car accidents vs terrorist attacks, but ask people to articulate their fears, bet a hell of a lot more say "terrorism" over "getting in a car" 



#65 Green Maned Lion

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 09:58 AM

Cool fact, all this BS aside, ICE is not considered a good, and ice is not even required to use potable water. But god forbid some hands touch it.
Travelled: Broadway Limited (1), Lake Shore Limited (6), Capitol Limited (7), Empire Builder (1), Southwest Chief (2), Sunset Limited (1), California Zephyr (3), Coast Starlight (2), Silver Meteor (5), Silver Star (5), Silver Palm (2), Crescent (1), Cardinal (4), Auto Train (4), Pennsylvanian (2), Palmetto (1), Acela Express (1), Empire Service (1), Northeast Regional (11), Keystone Service (1) --- Total Miles: 50,144 --- Total Trains: 61
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#66 PVD

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:19 AM

Actually, the FDA ruled that bagged ice is regulated as a food. They also comment as to locally produced ice:

 

FDA does not inspect small packaged ice producers, like retail stores, that make and package ice directly for the consumer and only for intrastate sales. FDA also does not inspect food service establishments that make ice for direct use (e.g., for drinks or cooling food). However, retail food stores and food service establishments are subject to regulation by State and local authorities. Also, the FDA Food Code, on which most state and local food regulations are modeled, contains provisions related to the safe and sanitary production and handling of ice.

 

Amtrak on the other hand is directly covered by FDA standards and subject to FDA as opposed to local inspection 






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