Mare Island’s Alstom well-trained

The normally rustic, industrial surroundings of Mare Island enjoyed a moment of elegance Friday with the unveiling of a rebuilt luxury rail coach for Rocky Mountaineer.

Alstom, a transport service center based in France with a facility in Vallejo since 2009, refurbishes and repairs all of the Canadian company’s train cars, and includes Caltrans and San Francisco’s Muni among its clients.

The SilverLeaf Coach was the third Rocky Mountaineer car “stripped and rebuilt” at Alstom, with one more coach renovation set for this season, says Graham Cove, director, global sales operations, for Rocky Mountaineer.

Two more trains will be rebuilt after this season, running from April to October, said Michelle Stein, Alstom’s communications manager, down from Montreal to work the SilverLeaf unveiling.

Though it was clear and 70 degrees Friday, a faux Canadian appearance was prepared in Altom’s parking lot on Nimitz Avenue, with temporary plants and scenery. Virtual reality binoculars were also available, allowing visitors a chance to experience the sights, if not the sounds, of the Rocky Mountaineer’s four available excursions.

While media and travel personnel nibbled on offerings from Alex’s Catering of Vallejo, bagpiper Fred Payne showcased his talents. Bagpipes, apparently, are one of the charms of a Mountaineer journey send-off.

Though nature is the Mountaineer attraction, Payne’s booking wasn’t a hand-delivered request by Sasquatch.

“The Internet,” said the Marin County bagpiper, acknowledging it was his first “train opening” in 50 years on the instrument.

Though hired for the duration of the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. event, Payne took a short break when around 40 Alstom employees emerged wearing the company’s blue shirts for a photo op in front of the coach.

It takes close to a year to finish rebuilding a SilverLeaf, said Cove, adding that Rocky Mountaineer is “very much” pleased with Alstom’s work.

“This (the event) is a unique opportunity to view our product right here,” Cove said.

Stein said Alstom specializes in “repairs, rebuilding and renovation,” and using Alstom is cost effective since both the Rocky Mountaineer and Alstom are on the West Coast.

The coach is expected to be pulled by locomotive up to the Mountaineer either Monday or Tuesday and be ready to go “right into service,” Stein said.

The communication manager was more than happy to dedicate her Tuesday through Friday in the Bay Area to work.

“I escaped the snow,” she said.

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