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OT. Any hamb'rs work in the railroad industry?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by elcamino65, May 31, 2011.

  1. elcamino65
    Joined: Jan 24, 2010
    Posts: 277

    from washington

    I am thinking of pursuing a career in the railroad industry. I am looking at train crew positions and was wondering if anyone had any experience with these jobs.
  2. WhiteDevilsCC
    Joined: Aug 8, 2009
    Posts: 385

    from Spring Tx.

    I'm a locomotive electrician. Never been on a train crew but if work gets slow they are the first to go and last hired is first layer off just keep that in mind.
  3. customs by jason
    Joined: Oct 3, 2010
    Posts: 207

    customs by jason

    ive been trying to get on with norfork/southern for a while working on the trains but no luck yet seems like a great job tho
  4. If they're short on crews you can work 30 days without a day off, expect to have no life while working, it's rough on personal relationships and marriages - a lot of guys I know have been divorced at least once - until you build up seniority there's nothing regular about it, you bid jobs by your seniority so at first you'll get the toughest, crappiest assignments no one else wants. You can work 30 years and still not be able to hold down a regular, 5 day a week job out of your home terminal, because there's almost always guys ahead of you.

    If the train breaks down you can be expected to change hoses or knuckles after walking back 50, 75, 100 carlengths regardless of weather, location, or time of day, they just have two men on the trains now, so the conductor does all of the ground work. You might work a full 12 hours and outlaw and then have to wait longer still for a cab to get you - and get called back as soon as the legal rest period is up. It can be grueling hard work at times.

    Some of that is from my own knowledge and some of it is what the CSX rep told us when I took the test they give prospective employees.

  5. elcamino65
    Joined: Jan 24, 2010
    Posts: 277

    from washington

    doesnt sound that great. They realy talk the job up and i figured it was alot of hype but not that much
  6. billsill45
    Joined: Jul 15, 2009
    Posts: 784

    from SoCal

    Pretty accurate job description ... my dad put in 40+ years with the Northern Pacific/Burlington Northern RR (now the BNSF), over 30 of those years as a locomotive engineer in Western Montana. Back in his day, seniority dictated everything about the job, so one month was turkey and feathers the next. It's the type of vocation where you had better love it or you won't last long. He loved it and eventually the seniority game worked in his favor ... very good income for a blue collar job and excellent benefits.

    When I was a little kid, I though he had one of the 3 coolest jobs you could have. The other 2 were being either a cowboy or a fireman.

    Now, back to hot rods...... :)
    Last edited: May 31, 2011
  7. hotrodladycrusr
    Joined: Sep 20, 2002
    Posts: 20,763


    HAMB member Peter pan of Chicago works for the railroad. Might want to PM him and link this thread as it will probably sink pretty quick and he doesn't get on here too often.
  8. hdman6465
    Joined: Jul 5, 2009
    Posts: 657


    I just retired after 39 yrs. as a railroad machinist. Most of what has been said is true. Generally, it will be a long time before you will be able to hold a stable job, but there is a chance to make a lot of money, with good benefits. The trades seem to be a lot more stable than the train crews, but are harder to get hired on. If you can weld, have CDLs, and have a good safety attitude, this is what they are looking for. Most hiring is done after an online research process. You can PM me for an honest, no-bull opinion of the railroad. It is NOT for everyone, but for some it is just the ticket.
    Tom Trainor
  9. Midwest Rodder
    Joined: Dec 7, 2008
    Posts: 1,768

    Midwest Rodder

    One of my good friends has worked for the railroad in the train crew for the last 3 years. He will be the first to tell you that the job is talked up and they do their best to hire you on then your the first one on the chopping block when work starts to slow down. He used that position as a stepping stone working his way to a better and more secure job with them. He is pretty happy with the job now but still worries about lay offs.
  10. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 29,786


    I've got a friend who lives in Spokane and has been with the railroad for quite a while. It did take him a lot of years before he got what you would consider a regular shift though.
    Every job has it's good and bad but if you are young and can cope with what they throw at you it should be a pretty good job in the long run. Beats the hell out of being a mechanic on a Yakima Valley Wa dairy farm and having to repair loaded manure trucks in 20 below weather. I've been there and done that the pay was great but sometimes the work wasn't fun.
  11. rodnut1
    Joined: Oct 8, 2010
    Posts: 45


    Worked for the BN for several years back in the early 70's. Started as a round house laborer, diesel shop laborer, hostler helper in the yard, then moved up to hostler, then attended the BN engineer's school, worked as a fireman on Amtrack, and finally as a locomotive engineer. After about 3 years of constantly relocating and being pulled back and forth from one place to another, I said enough of this. As mentioned, it's a tough life until you have seniority- and that can take a LONG time! I quit and moved into the merchant marine industry from which I retired. The railroad is glamorous, until you actually work there. But then their retirement plan was one of the best to be found anywhere. Just my experience.
  12. 39cent
    Joined: Apr 4, 2006
    Posts: 1,569

    from socal

    Worked on the Santa Fe out of San Berdoo, [L.A. Coast lines], from '59 to '64, as locomotive fireman. Was laid off when the state full crew law was removed. I was a railfan from time I got my first Lionel train set. I loved running a real train, it was tough at first, as has been pointed out, but it gets better with seniority. Would love to go out and run a 8 hr shift on a switch engine now, especially with the new power they have. Just missed steam era by a year. Got on Kaiser Steel RR and then transferred to electric shop, ended up working electrical maint. on the locos there.
  13. overspray
    Joined: Jan 14, 2003
    Posts: 1,232


    I've only been a trainman for 10 years, but the above is fairly accurate. I worked hard for about 30 years before hiring on the RR and aside from the hours it's still the easiest labor job I've done and I make more than twice what I did painting cars. You have to get your family to get used to the lifestyle as well as possible. Usually you have fairly reasonable seniority for time off, vacations, and job assignments in around 5 or 6 years. It's like working on commission, if you want to grind yourself day after day, you can make a ton of money, but you don't have much life. If you are young and like to party, find something else. You probably never get used to the hours, you just seem to try live life in between train trips. The paychecks are real good for hobbies, but you have to make some time to enjoy them. Check out a forum for railroad workers. The BNSF has been in a hiring frenzy for about 2 years. Trains will always be the most efficient freight carriers.
  14. kingofknights
    Joined: May 31, 2010
    Posts: 192


    i worked for union pacific as a conductor and was furloughed for 2 1/2 years till they called me back, i have since got a new job
  15. RidgeRunner
    Joined: Feb 9, 2007
    Posts: 906

    from Western MA

    35 years ['69 - '04] experience as a locomotive machinist and enginehouse foreman including general railworker for 3 years on a short line [Green Mountain] while I was laid off [after 22 years and a day on the B&M/ST] before I eventually got called back.

    The above posts mirrored my experiences and observations very closely. Like any other job no truely free lunches but there are a lot of positives to go with the negatives if you, and any family you may have, can adjust to the lifestyle. Work on most lines counts towards the common pension plan which is currently [and into the forseeable future] in good shape as a result of a neccessary and visionary restructuring back in the '70's.


    Retirement has been the best job I ever bid, made all the side BS worth it! For me, I would have probably gone nut-so working in any other industry. Don't miss the work but do miss the people I worked with, some great crews over the years.

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