Questions For Employees.

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Snifyson

Benching the freights!
#1
Hey, my name is Cliff. I'm currently in highschool in Allentown, PA, and I've really been looking over the conductors job. NS pretty much runs this area, but there is a small CP yard in Bethlehem, but doesn't get too much action, and doesn't look like too much stuff is going on there. I've heard from somebody, that basically "NS is a bitch", and that you work 12 hour shifts, sometimes the conductor acts as the engineer, and take turns so eachother can sleep in the cab, and being called to yards in nearby states in 2 hour notice. I'm wondering if all of that is true, and I'd like to know what I'm in for with this job. Unfortunately, I've heard of people just going for the job, because it only requires training, and not college, which takes it away from people who actually have a heart for the railroad... I only want to hear from conductors and engineers, please state what company you're from too!

Thanks, Cliff
 

PNWhogger

"Loco" motive engineer
#2
Hey, my name is Cliff. I'm currently in highschool in Allentown, PA, and I've really been looking over the conductors job. NS pretty much runs this area, but there is a small CP yard in Bethlehem, but doesn't get too much action, and doesn't look like too much stuff is going on there. I've heard from somebody, that basically "NS is a bitch", and that you work 12 hour shifts, sometimes the conductor acts as the engineer, and take turns so eachother can sleep in the cab, and being called to yards in nearby states in 2 hour notice. I'm wondering if all of that is true, and I'd like to know what I'm in for with this job. Unfortunately, I've heard of people just going for the job, because it only requires training, and not college, which takes it away from people who actually have a heart for the railroad... I only want to hear from conductors and engineers, please state what company you're from too!

Thanks, Cliff
It sounds like you've been talking to disgruntled employees.

NS has a reputation of being strict on rules compliance. Follow the rules and you won't have any problems.

If a conductor has an engineer's license then he can run if the engineer allows him to. As far as sleeping on a moving train, if you get caught then your job is in jeopardy.

In a fairy tale world, everyone would work for the railroad because they like it.

It's a job and not everyone will like it and will complain about it to others. The funny part about it is that twenty years later those same people are still working for the railroad. It must not be that bad or they would find another job.

I work for the BNSF in Washington state and have been working for the railrad for over 22 years.
 

gp80mac

Remarkably Snide
#3
Lots of people that started out did have heart for the job. But after years of being beaten down, denied claims, jobs lost, working conditions worsened, rules checks, etc.. even the most diehard railfan can become burned out.

So yes, it does turn from a dream job to a simple job.
 
#4
But at the same time the OP is correct in what he has heard. A rail road is a rail road is a rail road. The people he talked to may havwe been bitter, hatefull or crotchity. Those people are out there, believe me!

Cliff, I know you said you only want to hear from Engineers & Conductors. I am a Machinist in the Mechanical Locomotive Division for UPRR. However as my name states I am a 5th Generation Rail Roader. Most of my family history is in train service with them being Conductors & Brakeman/Switchman as well as an engineer back east for P&LE & PRR also SP, D&RG & UP. Being in train service is not easy. That is why I work in a different department. I have extensive knowledge in TE&Y and if you have questions I can get you answers if I don't have them.

THE best time to hire out for a RR in TE&Y is when you are young out of high school. Not middle aged with a wife and kids. Life is hard until you get some seniority. You WILL be on call and not on a scheduled run (unless you get lucky). So yes, they will call you and expect you to be there at the yard or to meet the town bus to take you to the train. Different RR's have different expectations. It may be a 2 hour window for that RR & the Crew Dispatcher may call you at 10:00PM or maybe 1:00AM to go to work. The longest they are allowed to have you is 12 hours. That is not a policy but a Law. You are correct some times the Engineer and Conductor "Take Turns." I have always heard stories about that but they are not supposed to. If you leave town and go 8-12 hours on the rail the RR has one of 3 choices. They will lay you over in a hotel (most common), Have a Town Bus get you and bring you back to your home terminal or you will ride in a unit on a train that is headed back home. The latter is the most uncommon. You are correct, it is mostly on the job training so you have no degrees to go to school for. They never higher people as an engineer as you move your self up to that position over time. The pay is decent, as well as the benifits and the retirement is great. We all pay into the same RR retirement no matter what RR you belong to. Unless it is a smaller RR like a short line. My oppinion for you in your situation is to go for it as long as you know going into it what the downsides are. Good Luck
 
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gp80mac

Remarkably Snide
#6
But at the same time the OP is correct in what he has heard. A rail road is a rail road is a rail road. The people he talked to may havwe been bitter, hatefull or crotchity. Those people are out there, believe me!

Cliff, I know you said you only want to hear from Engineers & Conductors. I am a Machinist in the Mechanical Locomotive Division for UPRR. However as my name states I am a 5th Generation Rail Roader. Most of my family history is in train service with them being Conductors & Brakeman/Switchman as well as an engineer back east for P&LE & PRR also SP, D&RG & UP. Being in train service is not easy. That is why I work in a different department. I have extensive knowledge in TE&Y and if you have questions I can get you answers if I don't have them.

THE best time to hire out for a RR in TE&Y is when you are young out of high school. Not middle aged with a wife and kids. Life is hard until you get some seniority. You WILL be on call and not on a scheduled run (unless you get lucky). So yes, they will call you and expect you to be there at the yard or to meet the town bus to take you to the train. Different RR's have different expectations. It may be a 2 hour window for that RR & the Crew Dispatcher may call you at 10:00PM or maybe 1:00AM to go to work. The longest they are allowed to have you is 12 hours. That is not a policy but a Law. You are correct some times the Engineer and Conductor "Take Turns." I have always heard stories about that but they are not supposed to. If you leave town and go 8-12 hours on the rail the RR has one of 3 choices. They will lay you over in a hotel (most common), Have a Town Bus get you and bring you back to your home terminal or you will ride in a unit on a train that is headed back home. The latter is the most uncommon. You are correct, it is mostly on the job training so you have no degrees to go to school for. They never higher people as an engineer as you move your self up to that position over time. The pay is decent, as well as the benifits and the retirement is great. We all pay into the same RR retirement no matter what RR you belong to. Unless it is a smaller RR like a short line. My oppinion for you in your situation is to go for it as long as you know going into it what the downsides are. Good Luck
We were discussing some of these points at my yard, and we figured the best time to hire out would be when someone hits 27. You get your 30 years in when you are 60, plus it gives you a little buffer space in case you get pulled out of service a few times. Sure if you hire out at 18 you will have mega seniority when finally retire, but like one engineer here says: "all the jobs suck - they just start at different times!"

And some clarification: the most you can perform service is 12 hours. But you can be on duty far, far longer. Example: called for 12pm. Take 12 hours to take a train A to B. It's now 12am. You are told to deadhead back home. (here you have low-ball bottom of the bid barrel van drivers take you back). Van shows up at 3am. Takes 2 hours to get home. So now you are home at 5am.

As far as the conductor/engineer thing - if the conductor has his license and is fully qualified on the territory then it's not always prohibited. There's rules governing that sort of thing.
 
#7
We were discussing some of these points at my yard, and we figured the best time to hire out would be when someone hits 27. You get your 30 years in when you are 60, plus it gives you a little buffer space in case you get pulled out of service a few times. Sure if you hire out at 18 you will have mega seniority when finally retire, but like one engineer here says: "all the jobs suck - they just start at different times!"
In my Family We all highered out quite early. I myself went to work at 18. Some do have the oppinion that all jobs suck. But as my sig line denotes being the "youngest old timer" has a lot of perks. In my side of the RR I have the availability to work almost all jobs and currently have weekends off on days. Us RR's know that life goes on when you work odd hours but as a young man trying to date maybe even courting a girl becomes a lot easier with the choise of jobs. Unless she is a RR'er too. That's how my folks met. With that said I see your point about the example you layed out. But I also know many people who are in their late 20's to early 30's who wish they could have gotten there years prior.


And some clarification: the most you can perform service is 12 hours. But you can be on duty far, far longer. Example: called for 12pm. Take 12 hours to take a train A to B. It's now 12am. You are told to deadhead back home. (here you have low-ball bottom of the bid barrel van drivers take you back). Van shows up at 3am. Takes 2 hours to get home. So now you are home at 5am.

As far as the conductor/engineer thing - if the conductor has his license and is fully qualified on the territory then it's not always prohibited. There's rules governing that sort of thing.
Thank you for the clarification. that gives him much more info for his decision. I wasn't going to go into it too far for fear that his head would explode. We all know how complicated it can be. My wife was so over whelmed at all of the rules, regulations, and union BS when I went to work there.
 

RailroadJeep

The Herder Himself
#8
The one I always stress to people looking to hire out: Working for the railroad is NOT just a job, it's a way of life. And it's not for everybody, more so with being in train service, the hours alone can drive someone off. Just keep in mind, as you gain seniority, your not always going to be stuck on the extra board. Someday you'll be able to hold a pool job working the same route, or a regular job (likely with crap days off) working a regular schedule. I hired out in the midst of a big hiring blitz, so after about 2 years I was holding a regular 5 day a week yard assignment. But don't take that as the norm... Seniority is a weird thing. Just realize that someday you'll be off the extra board and holding a regular assignment, and might be able to restore some sort of structure to your life.

As far a unhappy employee's go, you'll find them anywhere on the railroad. Talk to enough people, you'll find the ones who still enjoy this job. I still enjoy what I do, and I enjoy getting to run locomotives and being a hostler. But what I thought of as my dream job has fallen just a tad short, it's not all rainbows and unicorns, it's a job. Like gp80mac said, years of denied claims, denied days off, good jobs being cut, shorting my pay and then having to fight for what I'm owed, it wears you down. But don't take that as being a railroader is all doom and gloom! It's still a great job with decent benefits, the downside is the effect it can have on your personal life.

I work for BNSF as a Locomotive Hostler.
 
#9
Hi There, I recently had an interview with CN on friday last week where I did my switching test (I was told I passed) then the regular scenario questions (HR lady said I did very well) and that the training would start on Nov/7th in Fort St. John BC. I was asked to call the Occupational Health and safety to book a medical appointment at the end of the interview, which I did on Wednesday(2 days ago) and then I got a call from CN in edmonton to clear out a few questions at the end of which they told me that I had passed all the medical requirements. I already know that I am going to pass my criminal back ground check (worst thing I got on my record is an unpaid city parking ticket, currently under dispute). I was wondering if the training is going to start with in 3 weeks should I not have gotten a call from them by now (if they are hiring me)


P.S: The HR lady asked me if I needed to give anyone 2 weeks notice ( I do not and thats what i told her) also she said at the end of the interview that I did very well. I know I meet all the requirements for the job, I have done some construction work, customer service, management, and business school.



Any insight would be helpful, I am really excited for the job and do want it. I specially love all the negatives (like being moved around to different terminals, not having a set schedule, working out doors)


I do apologize for stealing your thread Cliff, I do not know how to start a new one, I just joined this website today.
 

gp80mac

Remarkably Snide
#10
Any insight would be helpful, I am really excited for the job and do want it. I specially love all the negatives (like being moved around to different terminals, not having a set schedule, working out doors)
I love new guys. So full of hope and optimism...

Don't worry, it'll pass.
 
#11
Anxious about the Hiring timeline

Thanks gp80mac, I was wondering if you know of the steps in the hiring process, would i be called in for a 2nd interview or screening of some sort or would I just get a call from CN saying you start on this day come in to sign your offer of employment, and the whole nine yards. Would they get people to do medical examinations if they are not going to hire them or have not made up their mind (coz of the costs associated, I do understand that CN is huge and these petty cost(s) prolly dont mean anything to them but I am sure they do add up) Should I call them on Monday if I dont hear from them, considering that the potential start date would be exactly 2 weeks from Monday.
 
#12
Hello...I am a conductor for CSX here in Nashville TN...I got hired in June with csx and attended 6 weeks of school in atlanta at the REDI center...(Railroad Education and Development Institute...Then I had 12 weeks of OJT..In those 12 weeks,I had to "cub" 10 road locals,12 yard jobs,and the rest of the time I was cubbing on the road,which is two subdivisions...Ill be honest I love my job,I mean there alot of guys who hate it with a passion but if you can appreciate what you have and love the job its great...You will lose alot in the fact that odds are you will be on an extraboard for some time,which means your on call 24 hours a day 6 days a week.(in my case atleast)...As it stands right now I have a bunch of other new hires under me so I'm in pretty good shape as far as holding what i can,and getting furloughed...I have been going going going on this extraboard as whenever my rest is up the phone is ringing and im getting on the train...The only downfall I see with working for a major class 1 and this probably isnt like this everywhere,but atleast in my expeirence, you have to give a 100% at all times...This job is alot more than just getting and sitting in the left seat and looking pretty...You have to have your orders,and bulletins,and all your train documentation...Then you have all your rules which here at csx there are 750 rules which are covered in 3 rule books....You must comply with all rules and regulations and always have you eye out for problems....but hey Ill tell you what,there is nothing more satisfying in my opionion,than working a train where youve hauled 135 cars 9000 feet long and around 12000 tons succesfully and safely..That makes it all worth it in my opinion...Not to mention even at 80% the money is good :)
 
#13
thank you everyone for much needed feedback. I really badly want this job, I dont want to jump the gun but i think since cn is such a huge company they might be a career choice
 
#14
Hi There,

I just checked my online status on CN's website. It has now changed to "Candidate Pool". I was wondering if anyone knows what does that exactly mean? I am hired just wait for a call on the start date or I am part of a pool where they may or may not select me.
 
#16
Well, having worked for three different companies in several capacities now (NO I HAVE NEVER BEEN FIRED..EVER)( 2 class 1's and a short line), I can tell you this: Railroading is something that you have to want to do, however for most, they like to complain but when actually sat down and asked, they wouldnt do anything different. That being said, and yes I started out as a conductor, spent the longest time in 10+ years as an engineer and have been on both sides as I have served in several management jobs, if you do take a job, be your own person. Keep your head in the game, maintain a good attitude and be a leader in safety as well as getting the train out on time. If you do that and keep your attendance in good shape, most if not all company managers will do the required tests and monitor for rules compliance, but will allow you to do your job. safely. When presented with the chance to go to engineer's school, capitalize on the opportunity because if the industry ever goes to engineer only, or engineer/co-engineer on train, you will want that seniority. I promise you that. As for sleeping on trains, that will get you fired as well as any employee operating the locomotive. You must be certified as an engineer to operate the locomotive on any train, conductors dont if they are not engineer qualified. (unless they are breaking the rules)
 
#17
As KCSHogger stated, you have to WANT to do this. It is NOT something you go into waiting for something better to come along. This is the type of "CAREER" you want to commit to. For me, I was the ideal new hire as I love model railroading since I was very small, I had family in the industry that would fascinate me with all the stories they would tell, some true, and some not so much. I went to college for a year thinking I would get a degree, find a good job, and move forward. Well, as you can see, college did not work out, the railroad was hiring (SCL here in Florida), and I knew some people that did hire out, so I went in with both feet. I was furloughed after 2 years in Hialeah, moved to Waycross, GA for 2 more years (wife of 1 year was NOT happy with that move), moved back to Tampa and have been in this area ever since. I have worked in all ground positions in Train/Yard service as well as Hostler/Loco Service Engineer. I am now working as a Yardmaster since 1998. I have 38 years with SCL/FLRS/CSX and probably work a few more then look at my options.

AS you wait patiently for the phone to ring, just think of the long-term benefite you will get, stay focused on your job, stay safe, comply with the rules and be professional. You will not regret it. Good luck.
 



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