With a sense of vocation

Keeping things clean

Keeping things clean - With a sense of vocation

Ruedi Pargetzi trained as a baker and pastry chef, before being tempted away by the Rhaetian Railway. As a track inspector, he had to carry out year-round checks of the rails between Chur and St. Peter. Today he is – literally – our proud upholder of cleanliness, as he and his team leave our trains spotless every morning.


Two observation cars of the Glacier Express and a blue-liveried period carriage of the Pullman Express are slowly rolled into the „tunnel“. This is the term used by RhB maintenance staff to refer to the train-wash in Landquart. Items of rolling stock enter at one end, go through four washing procedures, and then come out spotlessly clean at the other. In the machine, which resembles an oversized car-wash, giant rotating brushes scrub and spray the roof and sides of each carriage. The members of the team manually scrub the buffers and steps between the individual carriages. „The machine would damage the carriages’ couplings and cables, so this job has to be done by hand“, says Ruedi Pargetzi. He is a section leader in the RhB's operational maintenance department in Landquart. Noise reigns inside the carriages. An employee with a vacuum cleaner on his back is hard at work, cleaning the upholstered seats. The team of six men has just one hour to clean five carriages.

«I wanted to get out of the bakery and work with my hands.»
Ruedi Pargetzi, section leader

The Rhaetian Railway aims to run clean trains at all times. The cleaning procedures used are carefully thought-out, and a mobile team accompanies each train on its journey, checking toilets and emptying litter bins as it goes along. Trains are also cleaned daily, whenever they make a longer stop at a station. Once a week, each locomotive and carriage runs through the „tunnel“ in Landquart, where it is cleaned inside and out and then subjected to a technical inspection. A major cleaning operation is carried out once a year.

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Watching the rails in all weathers
„In ten months, we’ve completed 14,700 weekly and 360 annual cleaning operations here in Landquart“, says a proud Ruedi Pargetzi. He has been working in operational maintenance for ten years. But that was not his first job with us. Aged 50, he has been working on the Rhaetian Railway for 30 years. He originally trained as a baker and pastry chef. „But I wanted to get out of the bakery and do something skilled with my hands,“ he recounts. This is why he applied for a job as a construction worker at the RhB, later becoming a track inspector. This meant 4 am inspection shifts, and the use of a pedal-powered handcar to cover the 12 kilometres between St. Peter and Chur. His task was to keep the way free for the smooth running of our red trains, by removing any stones and tree branches that might have got onto the tracks. He then had to return on foot, checking the rails for signs of breakage or damage. „I used to be out in all weathers – but it naturally left me super-fit“, he says.

The unsung heroes of the RhB
Somewhere along the way, and after becoming a father for the third time, he began to long for a job that involved being in one place. „I loved my job as a track inspector, but I had enough of being constantly on the move“, he says. So as soon as an internal vacancy came up in the wagon-cleaning department in Chur, he put in an application. This was quickly followed by a promotion to section leader in operational maintenance at Landquart. „I love keeping things clean, and seeing everything spick and span“, he says. But passengers rarely appreciate his work or that of his team. „You could say that we’re the unsung heroes of the RhB, as we spend the night leaving everything spotless for the following day, just like in „The Elves and the Shoemaker.“ His worst moment is when people denigrate the cleaners’ work. „This is a very physically-demanding job“, says Mr Pargetzi. It requires expert knowledge about materials and the chemicals and cleaning products that can be used on them. „We don’t just run around with a dustpan and broom.“

«I love keeping things clean, and it’s good to see everything spick and span.»
Ruedi Pargetzi, section leader

A „complaint“ to remember
The team carries out its checks every morning, during the main cleaning operation of the ALLEGRA railcar „Carlo Janka“. One team-member gets down to deal with the normally-carpeted floor, while another runs a shampooing machine over the seat upholstery. „The members of our team have all sorts of professional backgrounds“, explains their section leader. They include housepainters, cooks and former catering employees. There is in fact, as yet, no industrial-cleaner training available in Switzerland. The Rhaetian Railway therefore offers its employees various in-house training courses in this field. „We train our own specialists to perform such t asks a s the removal o f g raffiti.“ Some fifty employees, working in three shifts, ensure that our red-liveried trains are clean for their first morning runs. „Passengers are only aware of our work when they board the train, and even then not consciously“, says Mr Pargetzi. „It’s either clean or it’s not, but people only notice the latter.“ However, passengers do occasionally realise what has gone in to keeping our carriages so pristine. It is on these occasions that the cleaning team receives a very special kind of „complaint“: „Some people use the system provided by the RhB to submit complaints to express their praise regarding the clean state of our trains“, explains Mr Pargetzi, laughing. „We print these messages out, and pin them to the notice board as a welcome morale-raiser.“