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Thread: Getting Hired by the Railroad

  1. #11
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    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    I almost take insult to your remark there Riptrack.

    This one man crew bullcrap is still YEARS off. I dont care what you've heard or think you know. Yea i know AMTRAK does it, but what the common foamer forgets is that AMTRAK has crews in the passenger cars themselves that can very easily big hole the train if the need arises.

    As far as the Government is concerned..they are alot more "hands-on" than you think. Why the hell do you think we have the rules pounded into our head? The railroads get in BIG trouble w/ the FRA if we don't follow these rules, even if it's as simple as not responding over the radio in the "correct" way.
    --BNSF Conductor--

  2. #12

    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    >I almost take insult to your remark there Riptrack.
    >This one man crew bullcrap is still YEARS off. I dont care
    >what you've heard or think you know. Yea i know AMTRAK does
    >it, but what the common foamer forgets is that AMTRAK has
    >crews in the passenger cars themselves that can very easily
    >big hole the train if the need arises.
    >As far as the Government is concerned..they are alot more
    >"hands-on" than you think. Why the hell do you think we have
    >the rules pounded into our head? The railroads get in BIG
    >trouble w/ the FRA if we don't follow these rules, even if
    >it's as simple as not responding over the radio in the
    >"correct" way.

    You shouldn't take Riptrack's comments as an insult, because there's a lot of truth to what he says, and after you've been on the railroad for awhile, you will see.
    I don't want to destroy your or anyone elses "dream" to work for the railroad, but I have to admit that I don't really RECOMMEND this job to anyone. I posted the information I did simply because I didn't think it was wholeheartedly RIGHT that some guy was making 40 bucks for a book about gettin hired by the railroad.

    I will tell you right now that the railroad does not have their employees best interests in mind, not by a long shot. The rules they have are to protect the railroad. We don't qualify for workmen's compensation should be get injured on the job, so the only recourse is to sue the railroad if you feel their negligence has caused you injury. It is the railroads ajenda to prove that it was YOUR negligence that caused it, thereby relinquishing them of fault. Trust me, if you work on the railroad and get hurt then fill out an injury report, there WILL be a BULLSEYE on your back! Trainmasters and other officials will be hiding in the bushes everywhere watching you trying to catch you violate a rule. If you watch any RR employee long enough you will see a rule violation...even the most rule complying people will break some rule somewhere pretty much on a daily basis.

    Also...if the railroads manage to get the engineer only crew consist through, it WILL be disasterous. It's hard enough for two people to keep a vigilant watch for signals, things fouling the tracks (such as people, automobiles, trees, whatever), and staying aware of any temporary speed restrictions that have been imposed on the route and all the other things we have to contend with. Then you have to constantly deal with dispatchers, trainmasters, customer service clerks (whatever your railroad calls them...NS calls them CYO), and anyone else likely to call you by radio. The rules actually state that conductors are supposed to handle radio traffic leaving the engineer free to operate the locomotive. The conductor is supposed to call the signals by radio, copy track warrants/track authority forms, deal with CYO (or whatever it's called on the RR), etc...

    If you have an engineer only crew...then it's not possible for the engineer to NOT answer the radio. What will we do in that situation? Stop the train, then answer the radio? I don't think so. I don't see anything wrong with the engineer calling signals and even speaking briefly to the dispatcher concerning train meets or such...but lengthy conversations between the engineer on a moving train and anyone else by radio are only inviting disaster. In many instances simply having someone else on the engine with the engineer is useful just to help keep the engineer awake! And it's a whole lot easier for TWO people to remember where all the slow orders, speed restricted curves, wide car meets and so forth are. Plus if the train goes into emergency or sets off a hotbox detector the conductor is supposed to walk the train
    looking for defects, and in some cases and situations making repairs.
    Say a knuckle breaks 75 cars back in a 120 car train. The usual proceedure is that once the conductor finds the break, the engineer will drop one of those 80 pound monsters off where he's sitting. The conductor catches up and the engineer pulls ahead letting the conductor stop him when he gets to the knuckle. If it's the car he's riding on that broke, he replaces, recouples the train and you're off, or you might have to put the knuckle up on that car and shove back to the rest of the train, then fix it. Kinda hard to do with an engineer only. Say a detector says axle 148 is a hotbox...and your conductor walks back and verifies that it's glowing red hot. Common practice is to set that car out at the first available side track. Not possible with conductor only. In situations like this a solo engineer would have to stop the train radio the dispatcher and wait for a utility man to arrive to perform the duties of a conductor. Imagine this U-man is 25-50 miles away and it's a heavy traffic time of day...it could take hours before he gets there, and your train could be strung out across a bunch of public road crossings during rush hour...not good.

    Yes it's true that on a lot of mainline runs, the conductor does very little while the train is in route. There may not even be any stops along the way...and I have caught trains where you swapped out on the mainline both at your home and away terminal, and never stepped off the locomotive in between, but a lot of the trains are what we call short-hauls, where although the train may have come out of Macon, GA heading to Linwood, NC, and we get on in Atlanta and off in Greenville, you still have to stop at several locations along the way to pick up and set off cars. Our pig trains aren't as bad though, because after you build your train in Atlanta, you generally don't get off unless there is a problem until we get to Greenville. Or on the return trip, we swap in Greenville, then have to yard the train (often in many different tracks) when we get back to Atlanta. There are paperwork considerations that have to be kept up with too. On the shorthauls, you have to keep record of what you've picked up and set off, and the times and locations and such, and you're supposed to keep track of delays on your trip and anything else pretaining to the trip, and make a report at the end of the trip, usually by computer when you tie up the job. The conductor also has to braketest cars picked up along the way before you depart the outlying terminal, unless they've been pre-tested no more than 4 hours prior to pick up time. There's more to being a conductor than people think. I'm sure you're finding this out now. But in any event, on a train, two heads are better than one.

    Even if the one-man crew is "years off" you have to remember...you've only just STARTED your career. Even if it takes 10 years to take effect, that still leaves you nearly 20 years to deal with it. That's something you should think about. The other side of the coin is...the one-man crew eliminates a LOT of jobs! On my seniority district, on the mainline alone we have 7 carded jobs, 10 general pool jobs, 3 interdivisional runs, 2 dedicated pool runs, and I may be forgetting a few others. I'm not going to count the locals because it'd be impossible to run a local with engineer only, so I'm only looking at mainline runs.

    If you add up what I have above that's 22 mainline jobs (and something tells me I'm forgetting something). So that's 44 people total...one engineer and one conductor per job. Should they convert all these to one-man jobs...then 22 people will be displaced. They will roll men below them with less seniority, and those below them will roll people below them until the last man with enough seniorty to hold a job will roll someone. That will leave 22 people ultimately with no job. The railroad might put a few on the extraboard, but you have to think about this...with all the jobs cut, there won't be as many vacancies created by illness, vacation, personal leave, etc on those jobs...so what will happen is, they'll wind up cutting the extraboard as well, and in fact, they'll probably wind up cutting the extraboard in half, as the mainline is where most extraboard people on our end tend to work anyway.

    We have a relatively small seniority district compared to some others. We actually have only ONE mainline route to contend with not counting the interdivisional runs (which periodically get cut off when we exceed the mileage payback from whatever division it's from). Our neighboring division has employees that run north from Atlanta to Chattanooga and south from Atlanta to Macon. My route is Atlanta to Greenville only. Just imagine the people on the Georgia division who have the multiple routes to contend with and they have probably five times as many employees as we do on our end, maybe more. If they cut a conductor off all their mainline trains, then there'd be a hell of a lot of people put back out on the street. Next add all the rest of Norfolk Southern's divisions...then add all of CSX, BNSF and UP's divisions, and all the other class 1 railroads which operate a two man crew on the mainline. 1000's of people out of jobs.

    In all likelihood people who have just been hired by the railroad in the past couple of years could expect to lose their jobs. How long ago was it you started training on the BNSF? Think about that! There's a LOT of guys with a lot more seniority than you'll have for a long time. They'll be there until they retire...will you?

    And if you don't think the railroad would run trains WITHOUT people if they could...you're fooling yourself. They could save billions of dollars on wages, benefits, and all sorts of other costs I haven't even considered.

  3. #13
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    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    I have seen a lot of comment on single-person crew operations in this thread. Prior to accepting my present position, I worked for 27.5 years for the only common carrier railroad in North America which currently operates single-person crewed long haul freight trains (QNS&L). Let me state that not only is it possible, it has already been done. That railroad is essentially a closed-circuit without any direct physical connection with the rest of the rail network.

    The conditions for safe operation were reviewed by Transport Canada after we had a rear-end collision in single person operations three days after implementation of single person crews. It turned out that the railroad had not performed due diligence with regards to performing the proper regulatory review and getting approval prior to implementation of the new operating scheme. The net result was a long drawn out joint consultation process involving the union, the railroad, and Transport Canada to etablish what the safe operating parameters should be. The result was the installation of anti-collision warning systems on all locomotive and on-track equipment, and the drafting of safe working procedures acceptable to all parties, including napping and rest provisions enroute and rest periods both home and away.

    These procedures are still in place, with approved revisions, and single-person crews have been operating freight trains safely for nine years. When enroute switching is planned, freight trains are operated with two locomotive engineers (the conductor's position has been abolished and his duties are performed by the locomotive engineer). Where unplanned enroute switching is required, such as setting out a bad order car, a qualified person is required to assist the locomotive engineer. If a motive power swap is required between two trains operated by single-person crews, the work procedure requires that the two locomotive engineers assist each other in performing the swap, fully securing their unattended trains before moving to assist the other crew in performing the swap.

    Single-person operation on that property is restricted to signalled CTC territory, on all trains, including general merchandise freights with dangerous goods cargos, which are not required to perform enroute switching. This category fits most unit coal trains or bulk haul unit trains, most intermodal trains, and large numbers of general merchandise freight trains which are destination-blocked and do not require single car or block swaps or setouts enroute between terminals where switching assitance in the form of qualified personal or yard assignements are available to assist with pickups and setouts.

    Do not make the mistake of saying that it cannot be done in the US. It can and it will, given the industry's clout in the executive office, by Presidential Order if the parties cannot agree to a settlement, which is the likely path that this will take. It has been like this in the past, and, trust me on this, it is not going to change if the public perception is that the employees are sandbagging to the detriment of the public good. The railroads are very good at the PR game (better than the unions in this instance) and have far more lobbying clout than the unions do.

    The reason why I do this in some depth is to point out that the only reason why that QNS&L lessons are useful is due to the fact that some sharp union reps, knowing that the railroad had not done due diligence with regards to safety, in a negative labor relations climate, took advantage of their employer's mistakes to get safe working conditions imposed by the regulator despite the negative impact the changes had on the members of their local (80 lost jobs). So do your homework beforehand with regards to the issues, especially safety issues.

    With regards to the economics, the bottom-line impact will vary from one railroad to the next, but in the example described, the union evaluated the net savings to the railroad in labour costs alone over the life of a single union contract of three years to be 26$ million CDN, or about three-fifths of their running trades labour costs. And this is for a regional carrier hauling rocks!With those kinds of economics, no railroad will pass up such an opportunity. I repeat, do your homework, or make sure your unions do it or you will get the shaft if you are in the running trades

  4. #14
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    Chico, California, USA.
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    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    Well Kyle after being in the business as a Conductor/Engineer myself for 25 years, I must be imagining things then. Missing or bent grabs on cars, non functioning air brakes, bearing cap bolts missing, cars that wouldn't pass Class A airbrake tests, missing stirup steps, locomotives that always have one or two FRA defects. And this wasn't just common to my road but the outfit that interchanged with us.(A Class one at that!) I don't know how many times I myself have tried to get the Feds or the State involved.

    As to the One PERSON crew, isn't that what they said about the remote units and cabooses too....that it years off before that would happen and it seems that both things happened pretty fast.

    Sorry if you got pissed off, but my experience has been bad to say the least. Granted you may work for a railroad that does care enough to do things right.

    Rip


  5. #15
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    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    On the subject of one man crews...Sure its being done..but in my opinion it is NOT safe. What happens if this "one man" has a heart attack? Many of my friends, who aren't foamers or have ties to the railroad, feel it is very unsafe.

    As for the insulting part. It was kind of a slap to the face, when i put the time and money to do this, and then some1 (yea you've worked there for 25 years, so you have a right) says its a bad choice. I just kind of took it as if i was being called dumb for throwing away college and deciding to pursue a goal of mine.
    --BNSF Conductor--

  6. #16
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    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    I am not critizing anyone's career choice. I have ate, slept, eat and breathed trains my entire life, and would not change my original choices if required to make them again in the same conditions as when I first hired on. I still love driving trains, make no mistake about that. The only reason for giving up my place in the right-hand seat was the negative change in the work environment. With my children grown and gone on to their own lives, I had other options open and took the opportunity to put all of my railroading experience to work to help better safety in the rail industry in a different but challenging role while improving my quality of life. I'm still in the railroad business, but not as an employee or as a manager.

    If you are sold on railroading in any capacity, go for it, but make an informed decision.

  7. #17
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    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    If the Railroads do make a major push for one man crews the UTU and the BLET will step in and do some thing abought it.

    http://letstalktrains.us/showlist.asp

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  8. #18

    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    >If the Railroads do make a major push for one man crews the
    >UTU and the BLET will step in and do some thing abought it.

    Don't work for the railroad I take it? What do you mean IF the railroads make a push for one man crews? They already are.

    The UTU and BLET can't even settle things amongst themselves. A few years ago they had a chance to merger the two unions into a single solidarity, and it was voted down by the members of the BLET...then what do they do? They merge with the Teamsters, the railroad's biggest competition. Where's the sense in that?

    The railroads love this, because it keeps the workforce at odds with each other rather than united against them. As someone else already said, cabooses are gone and remote control is in effect in many places, the one-man crew is coming.

    When I went to engineer school, two guys that were in my group were from Alabama from the same terminal. One of them was on a remote control job when they sent him to eng. school. He had been on the same job previously when it was an engineer/conductor job. They'd promised him that when they did away with the engineer, that they'd add a brakeman to the job, and there'd be two people on the ground working the job, but he was lied to, as he became the ONLY person on that remote job, and there were other jobs at his terminal who were in the same position. He said they also did away with a Yardmaster's job as well.

    None of this is about "safety", it's all about the bottom dollar, and fattening up investors portfolios, and bonuses for multi-million dollar salaried officials.

    The railroad is a damn strange place. Only place I've ever seen where they spend thousands of dollars to train a man to do a job, then spend twice as much trying to run him off! They hide in the bushes trying to catch you doing something wrong, then take you out of serivce, and then complain on the weekend that they can't find anyone to work, but don't think about the fact they have fifteen people held out of service for some reason or another. Or they'll ask a man to do a favor...take a man from a local that has a day off and get him to work his off day, then they sit out there and try to bust him instead of leaving him alone to do the work and being thankful he gave up his off day to work. It's a screwed up mentality if you ask me. I've known a few officials who wouldn't do this kind of thing, but they are few and far apart. The majority of the newer officials on the railroad are not former engineers or conductors who've been promoted. They are people right out of college who've never had railroad experience.

    I saw a similar thing when I used to be in the grocery business. The "bigwigs" were not former store managers, and in fact never worked in a grocery store, but rather college graduates who went directly into management and therefore had no real idea of how the business operated on the lower levels...all they know are numbers. You have to be an engineer to be a road foreman, but you don't have to be a conductor to be a trainmaster. I don't think this is a good way to do it...it used to be they promoted up through the ranks to these positions...but not any more.

  9. #19
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    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad


    Steve very true.Not to take anything away from those that hire out on the railroads but do remember one thing.One man crews will come and its been proven safe.Let me ask you one thing...If Europe has had one person crews for years baring the train length of North American Class1's why can't it be done here,it can and it will happen.
    Now to economics the railways will always look at finding ways to reduce costs and guess what it comes off the backs of the running trades...that right Kyle,you me and others that work for any railroad today.
    I myself hired out at 48 right off the street but have heavy equipment and transport skills.The average age of this last class here in Vancouver was 32.They found that a higher age gave stability but they forgot one thing,treat employees bad and they don't stick around.
    As the others that have years of experiance to you new hires..listen to what they say as it WILL save YOUR LIFE ONE DAY.Time buys experiance but can also give way to complaicensey.

    My two cents worth.

    Just Rollin Down The Tracks
    http://www.espressohosting.net/
    http://www.notch-8.com/
    http://www.railroadradio.net

    Dale

  10. #20
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    Jul 2004
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    Default RE: Getting Hired by the Railroad

    When I was working for the RR, (I have since resigned), the talk was "engineer only". Main-line trains would have two engineers on board and the running subdivisions would be doubled. The engineers would take turns at the controls something like team truck drivers. One would control the train, the other would rest. This is still basically a one-person crew, no more conductors. With the second crew member you would still be able to operate trains in non-CTC territory and switch cars enroute. We were told this about 3 years ago when I first hired on and they really stressed to us to become engineer qualified ASAP. They could see that starting in about 10 years. With traffic levels increasing they were bringing in distributed power to make trains longer, not add more trains.

    I left the RR for alot of reasons. I never really got into it. Trains have been my passion all my life. I though I was the luckiest person in the world to get my dream job! But once I was there I found alot of reasons to hate it and eventually leave it behind. I still enjoy the hobby, but that is it. There are many accurate stories in above posts about managers more interested in ways to fire you that keep the RR running. It was a very negative environment for me. I honestly can't recommend this career to anyone unless you are hiring out now. With all the expected retiring I think the RRs plan to get by with fewer employees. I really don't think that alot of positions will be filled with new hires when retirements occurr. The RR seem to rely too much on technology and working current employees with overtime to reduce the number of total employees. With ever increasing remote operations and the almost certain one-person crews how secure would your "dream" job be in 10 years?

    With the hours of service, on call basis, working 24/7/365, any weather, all the rules and regulations, ease of being punished/fired and volatile job security I sometimes wonder if that "dream" job with the RR even exists anymore!

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