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Career Change---Am I crazy?
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BUCABIN
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Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« on: Oct 8th, 2011, 11:19am »
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I currently work in a Law Enforcement field and I am 40 years old. I am contemplating making a career change and work for the Railroad.
 
I always was fascinated with railroad operations when I was younger and wanted to work for the railroad. I did not pursue any career with the railroad due to some poor advice given to me. I was told that the railroads were a dying industry and that there wasn't much future working for them. SO I never made any effort to seek employment.
 
In my current job, I am considered the senior officer, I have seniority over everyone, including some of my supervisors. I have tons of vacation time and good benefits, the pay is good, but not as good as the railroad.
 
I am currently divorced and have no obligations, and I am also looking to relocate, and hopefully to a specific region.
 
I am not content with my current employment and since my divorce I am looking to make a complete life change and start over.
 
What would you say?
 
My only concern is passing the physical, I have developed high blood pressure and a slight hearing loss. My health seems excellent despite my issues. I never miss work, and I am not allergic to hard work or being in the outdoors in searing heat or cold.
 
If I were to secure a job with the railroad, it would allow me the possibility of moving back home so I could be with my family and friends. I currently live a long ways from home and want to move back, and the railroad is one of the few industries that are there.
 
What do you think?


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BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #1 on: Oct 8th, 2011, 11:27am »
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Also, I forgot to mention that I don't really desire to be railroad police, I would do anything be a conductor, track repair, or maybe be an engineer.  I definitely don't want to work in an office or sales.

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penn_senseless
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #2 on: Oct 9th, 2011, 2:58pm »
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Just my two cents, but you would be nuts to give up what you have established today. Changing careers in a recession is not a good idea, especially when Im assuming, you have a taxpayer guaranteed salary. No railroader can say that. Their salary is at the mercy of those a-holes occupying Wall Street
Who knows when or ever this current one is going to end
 
You would be especially crazy to quit to go work for NS or CSX. Hell, good luck even getting hired.
 
Ill work for a railroad when their hiring and management practices get out of the ninteenth century.....not twentieth, im talking the the 1800's!
 
Plus, if you do get hired (you better have a relative to get you in, railroads are huge on nepotism...drunks even get hired... with the right connections), forget about being able to do ANYTHING else until you retire, outside of a two week vacation once a year. Sure you'll have a great retirement, thats their big selling point..... which they love to tout .....if you live to collect it. Many dont.
 
Some of the most ignorant, foul, greedy, sorriest so called "human beings" with horrible attitudes are todays rail employees. Dont romanticise about it.
They arent your grandfather's railroaders
 
Here's something to consider, take UP for instance...how can they be hiring while they have tons of people laid off? They're cutting up practically new locos as well.  I guess they forget about you once youve been laid off. As a career choice, it SUCKS in my book. If you like being outdoors you should try being a game warden...fish&boat patrol, etc...


« Last Edit: Oct 9th, 2011, 3:05pm by penn_senseless » Logged
BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #3 on: Oct 9th, 2011, 3:18pm »
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Thanks for the info, but it is pretty much the same for law enforcement. Todays law enforcement is not the same as it used to be either.
 
I am looking for a career that will give me the opportunity to move back home, and law enforcement doesn't pay well there.
 
I have known 3 people that work for the railroad, 1 of them was negative and talked me out if it years ago, and 2 others who absolutely loved it. One even said he would help me get a job.
 
As for family obligations, I have none, I am divorced, free, and able to work in places that I could not have in the past.


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Gadfly
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #4 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 2:55pm »
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on Oct 8th, 2011, 11:19am, BUCABIN wrote:       (Click here for original message)
I currently work in a Law Enforcement field and I am 40 years old. I am contemplating making a career change and work for the Railroad.
 
I always was fascinated with railroad operations when I was younger and wanted to work for the railroad. I did not pursue any career with the railroad due to some poor advice given to me. I was told that the railroads were a dying industry and that there wasn't much future working for them. SO I never made any effort to seek employment.
 
In my current job, I am considered the senior officer, I have seniority over everyone, including some of my supervisors. I have tons of vacation time and good benefits, the pay is good, but not as good as the railroad.
 
I am currently divorced and have no obligations, and I am also looking to relocate, and hopefully to a specific region.
 
I am not content with my current employment and since my divorce I am looking to make a complete life change and start over.
 
What would you say?
 
My only concern is passing the physical, I have developed high blood pressure and a slight hearing loss. My health seems excellent despite my issues. I never miss work, and I am not allergic to hard work or being in the outdoors in searing heat or cold.
 
If I were to secure a job with the railroad, it would allow me the possibility of moving back home so I could be with my family and friends. I currently live a long ways from home and want to move back, and the railroad is one of the few industries that are there.
 
What do you think?

 
It is not the best idea you could have, really at 40.  The railroad is NOT a secure position like that of a law enforcement officer. In the railroad, you are basically starting over at the BOTTOM whereas, now, you are at the top of your field in your department with the potential for further advancement until retirement.
 
You need to look at the underlying reasons why you would ditch a good career at the top of your seniority list to start over with a railroad.  This 'fascination" with railroads is likely the real reason why you would chuck it all to start all over again with zero vacation, zero personal leave, zero medical and zero seniority. Its just not crazy, it's just............well, CRAZY!  Even if you take your training into the railroad police department, you are still going to get sh***y hours, sh***y assignments. And OH, YES!  The railroad cops DO work 24/7 shifts with oddball days off.
 
No matter what your friends tell you, the railroad is a rough, gritty, mean, employee-hating environment which, coupled with the long, odd hours, takes a toll on the person.  You think you have high BP NOW.....wait a few years on the railroad and see what it is.  Again, the public perception of railroads is this sugarplum, peaches and cream, 'choo choo around the Christmas tree", and all fun and games!  Usually what someone, all foamed up over dumb trains, finds is quite disappointing and very dissolutioning after just a few years.
 
Now, is it not true that, at 40, you've got......maybe 15 years to go, if that! You can then retire in your 50's and then move near family: you can do whatever you LIKE once you are free.  Railroad Retirement is based on 360 months of service and minimum 60 years of age.  So if you chucked your current employment and even worked until you are 67, you are still "short" of the service requirement for a full retirement! Weighing the service requirements of both systems, is it WORTH starting over--especially when you are going to have to extend your working life way beyond  and into your 60's?
Forget about the railroad! It ain't that great!  You're better off where you are!
 
GF


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penn_senseless
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #5 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 3:54pm »
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Buc:
 
  Gadfly is not snowing you. I wasted 5 years trying to get on NS, CSX, B&P, B&LE/CN. The guy KNOWS what he's talking about. He permanently cured me of any desire to work for these railroad companies, and im thankful for it. Him and the guy who worked for either CR or NS in Harrisburg that said somehwere on this board that on his  first day his TRAINER said " I could care less if you croak or not"....nice attitude  


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Lfire83
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #6 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 6:54pm »
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First off, welcome to the forums.
 
I have worked on every class one railroad in the United States and Canada as a contractor, and have been able to see the way these companies operate. I strongly suggest you stay away from those 7 railroads, and any other railroad under union contract. Whether you are maintenance of way or transportation, you are a number, and a very expendable one to boot. You may have to work there 30 years to secure a bid on a job location you want.
 
If change is really what you want, most shortlines are a decent working environment. I was fortunate enough to finally get my foot in the door as a track foreman and I love the work. The four hours of commuting back and forth is rough, but it beats working over the road for 3 months at a time.


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BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #7 on: Oct 10th, 2011, 10:25pm »
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I have talked to 2 guys recently, and they absolutely love it, they wouldn't trade their railroad job for anything.
 
I am looking at the railroad as a possibility for when I move back home, I realize it is hard work, and I am OK with that. I realize they will most likely work me night shift since I would have low seniority, and I am OK with that.
 
I am also looking at other options too, working in the coal mines, working at a coal prep plant, or maybe get a job working on the highways.
 
Either way, if I do stay here, I will have to work to 65 anyway, because of all the benefits offered at my job, retirement insurance is not one of them. So I would have to work until I am eligible for medicare.
 
I really don't like living here, never have, and I just can't see myself wasting the rest of my life here.
 
As for the tip about the shortline, I will have to look into that and see where any are located. Shortlines are something I am really not familiar with.


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RRG2

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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #8 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 9:17am »
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maybe you can work a shortline or a tourist line part time? Take it from some one who has worked full time on a class one railroad ....your current jobs sounds pretty darn good to me. Gadfly is spot on in what he preaches on these boards........

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EACH DAY IS A GIFT....NOT A GIVEN RIGHT
BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #9 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 9:29am »
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There aren't any shortlines or tourist railroads back home. The 2 big industries there are the railroad and coal mining, thus I am looking at my options.
 
I don't want to live the rest of my life here, and I have already wasted my youth here.
 
Now is the time to to make a change.


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DRAWHEAD
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #10 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 11:22am »
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Hmmm, Well if your divorced and have no family obligatons you've got a couple things going for you because once you get hired by the RR your going to be married to the RR for as long as you work for them! I don't know what craft your interested in with the RR but transportation/T&E service or supervision will keep you from doing everything else in life you might ever want to do!  
 
I'm not making any of this stuff up either because i'm a engineer and am 52 and have 20 years in currently working for the black horse.I hired out when i was 32 years old.I've been married to the same woman for 30 years now have 3 grown children and 1 grandson and that's even been a struggle because of the job.The RR will take a huge strain on ones life with the lousy hours work conditions ect.and they will even tell you that when they hire you but will also tell you that's why your being paid what you get.I've seen countless other RR workers go thru divorces,some quit their jobs and there are alot of ruthless greedy fellow workers out there.I think some wouldf even stab their own mothers in the back!
 
I'm not saying all fellow employees are bad as there are also alot of good employees out there.The same goes for supervision but some of them are deffinately a different breed of people wich i will not discuss here.The first 5 years will probably be your roughest time because that will either make or break you of wanting to work for the RR.After that it's more of a routine you just get used to and live with wether you like it or not most that don't like it are strapped financially and need the money other wise they would quit,but instead you have to listen to them constantly b*tch about how much they hate their job when you work with them.  
 
You will spend more time on a engine if in train service with other RR employees more than you would with your own family.Working for the RR now is all about safety and your life and job depend upon it.Be prepared to get lot's of rules checks because they will watch and wait for you to make any mistake and you will hear about it and even get time off depending on the severity of it.
 
When my sons were younger i missed all but 2 of one of my son's ball games.I missed countless family functions and get togethers with old friends and when i say old friends i mean it because after missing countless functions or events that you could not attend your friends quit calling on you and you drift away from them.That's probably why so many RR workers get divorced as they will spend more time on a engine away from home than in bed with their spouse each night.Even me being married for 30 years my marrige has been a roller coaster ride with lots of up and downs.
 
Do i like the job? At time yes i really do but sometimes i absolutely hate it and can't wait to retire in 10 years.In my case before hiring on with the RR i had several dead end low paying jobs and i was not getting anywhere at all financially with a wife and 3 kids.I had alway's wanted to work for the RR and tried back in the late 70's after graduating from HS but none were hiring and many had workers furloughed back then.I was lucky to hire out close to where i live.I now have good senority,get 4 weeks vacation and 9 personal days a year.In a few years i'll get 5 weeks vacation a year.At my age for me it's better to just wait out the 10 years to retirement because i'd never find another job that pay's the same.Even the pay isn't the greatest but it's better than being a greeter at Walmart or flipping burgers at McDonalds.
 
If your dead set on working for the RR you might want to consider working in the mechanical or car dept.My oldest son after getting out of the Navy hired on with the RR at the same terminal as i and i had nothing to do with him being hired as everything is done on-line application wise now and they will email you and invite you to a hiring session.My son hired on as a machinist in the loco shop he gets 2 days off a week Mon.& Tues. and works 3rd shift.He's not crazy about 3rd shift but really likes the job.In my case being a engineer even with good senority and holding a regular run i'm still on call 24 hrs a day and when my turn comes up,and you never know when, i have to answer the darn phone! Maybe you'd like being a RR supervisor? If so be prepared to move all over the east coast every couple years and answer your phone 24 hrs 7 days a week.
 
It sounds like your willing to give up a really good job postion with lots of senority.It will take you 20 years on the RR just to get some senority.Is that what you really want? Let's face it all jobs today are nothing like they used to be i'm afraid the good old days are long gone due to the change in society,fast paced life style we live in and the lousy economic situation that has plagued this country.All i can say is if you make the decision to work for the RR i wish you the best of luck!


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Norm_Anderson
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #11 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 11:38am »
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BUCABIN, sorry to join in a chorus that sounds like it is "piling on," but this sounds like a decision to be made very, very cautiously-- even warily.
 
I have heard that railroading for many, especially in the first decade or so of their careers, can be seasonal.  That is, you spend four or five months sleep-deprived (as well as deprived of any semblance of a social life) because you are working to the point of physical exhaustion; and then for several months work might be so scarce that you have to chase down family members for loans and consider selling your blood plasma to make ends meet.
 
My brother has worked for Amtrak as an on-board service employee for nearly forty years (this is a "Cloud 9" working environment compared to working for a freight railroad!); and even he assures me that the romance is long gone.
 
Whenever your life goes through a major earthquake (like a death in the family, or a divorce), it is often wise to wait at least a year for the aftershocks to die down before making any major life decisions.  No one is trying to tell you what to do-- I'm just being like that goofy robot from the old TV show-- "Danger, Will Robinson!!"   We all could be wrong, but to me this thread is filled with wise advice.  I wish you well.
 
 
May you guess right.
 
Norm


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BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #12 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 12:09pm »
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Thanks DRAWHEAD and Norm Anderson.
 
 
DRAWHEAD--- I don't mind working 3rd shift, in fact I love it.
 
 
The thing is you will always find negative people in every field who will complain about their job, even in Law Enforcment.
 
I could have wanted to be an Airline Pilot, and sure enough someone would have talked me out of that too.
 
Same thing for the military, there will always be people complain about the military and try to talk our young people out of joining.
 
I have a good church, friends,and family who live 200 miles from me, so I am already missing out on everything as it is.
 
I do have plenty of money in my 401K that I could use, so it wouldn't be like I was changing jobs and moving with very little money. This time money would not be a concern.
 
I met 2 RR employees recently, one is a freight conductor, and one is in track repair, they were both super positive people who loved their jobs, if I could only find this freight conductor again, I could ask him questions, however he was a friend of an ex-girlfriend that I broke up with, and I don't want to deal with her again.
 
The guy in track repair said he would help me get a job and use him as a reference. He says the railroad loves to hire law enforcement types.


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BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #13 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 12:42pm »
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The type of info I am looking for is basically location and hiring, and how the 2 go hand in hand.
 
Suppose I get hired by CSX or Norfolk Southern while living here. Would they station me here or would they move me to Florida or wherever?
 
I notice Norfolk-Southern has actual job listings with the location. Do they only hire people for that location who are currently living in that location.
 
Suppose I work for the Railroad here, how difficult would be it be to transfer to another location when that job comes available?
 
These are the types of answers I am seeking.


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Gadfly
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #14 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 2:50pm »
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on Oct 11th, 2011, 12:42pm, BUCABIN wrote:       (Click here for original message)
The type of info I am looking for is basically location and hiring, and how the 2 go hand in hand.
 
Suppose I get hired by CSX or Norfolk Southern while living here. Would they station me here or would they move me to Florida or wherever?
 
I notice Norfolk-Southern has actual job listings with the location. Do they only hire people for that location who are currently living in that location.
 
Suppose I work for the Railroad here, how difficult would be it be to transfer to another location when that job comes available?
 
These are the types of answers I am seeking.

 
 
Your "home terminal' would be where the advertising, or HR rep tells you it's for.  If they HIRE you for "here" (wherever that is), that is where you would be working.  If it is T & E service (train & engine) you will operate within a specified district (example: Greenville, SC-Linwood, NC). The only way you would be "transferred" is by rules governed by the Union under which you work. Usually, T & E employees don't usually move or change districts. If it's a SHOP environment, they CAN move work or entire facilities to another place, in which case you would be expected to follow your work or take a hike.
 
They don't CARE where you live now. They don't CARE if you must move.  All they care is you report for work at the specified time.  Getting to work, or where you live is up to you.
 
Voluntary transfers? Not usually.  You see, your work and your seniority is on a certain roster and a certain territory. If conditions change enough on YOUR roster, it will affect YOU. You will then "roll", or displace lower seniority employees on that SAME roster until there is no other place to displace.  At that time you will be on a "furloughed" list.  Just voluntarily changing districts or locations, generally, result in a LOSS of seniority in your "OLD" location, and placement at the BOTTOM of the new, and they usually won't allow you to even DO it unless 1) your work transfers to a new location, 2) you are furloughed. After that it becomes complicated according to Union contracts and agreements as to what you might be able to do. Its not a good thing. Depends on the situation.  Basically, if you HIRE "here", you are stuck HERE. I won't say it can't be done, but it is not a good idea due to the union contracts. Its not like civilian life where you can choose to take another job and just move.  It involves LOSING a lot of things too numerous to list here.
 
When you see your  happy railroad friends again, ask them if they carry "run-off" insurance and, if so, explain what it is to you.  That will tell you more about the railroad "culture" than anything else could!
If this is what you want, good luck. Me? Would I do it over again? I don't know. As someone pointed out, it is a love-hate relationship, filled with memories, moments of excitement, others of extreme stress and pain. It is the most unusual environment you will ever experience. It provided me a good living, but I earned every penny and every moment of hate the railroad ever gave me.  Sometimes it was fun, even tho the environment was so darned hateful, for, whether I wanted to experience it or not, I DID!
Steam trains, handing up orders, running in near panic up the landing to hang orders for a train because the Dispatcher forgot(?) to read me the order in time (and now the headlight is shining on me as I run, heart pounding, desparate to not have the train have to stop because of my "Approach for Orders" signal.  Yeah, if I "cause" him to stop to keep from running my signal, then the Chief Dispatcher will yell at me---even give me 'ground' time---and it's not really my fault it happened!!!!!!
Yet, people "yearn" for this life-----until they live it. Like some else said, I came to the railroad at age 30 after a series of dead-end jobs.  Even with the lousy atmosphere I was told about, in THOSE jobs, I had nothing to lose.  So I went from an semi-office job to a greasy, filthy, smelly laborer cleaning out parts in a gang tool car. It became a career that gave me everything----and then took it all away at the same time!
If you are determined---go for it. That's all I can say.  Gud luck!
 
Gadfly
retired, Norfolk Southern


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BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #15 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 3:19pm »
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Thanks Gadfly, this is the info I was looking for.
 
So basically if they hire me for my current location, I am stuck. That won't work for me, and I am glad to know this info.
 
My target area is Eastern Ky or Southern WV. I notice that Norfolk Southern has current openings for freight conductors in Kenova, Williamson, and Mullens WV.  Of course those would probably be filled by the time I got hired and went into training.
 
I would like to work on CSX anywhere from Russell Ky to Pikeville Ky, that would be the exact targeted area for me.
 
By the way, I am not a big FOAMER, I wouldnt stay in this city if they offered me a train engineer job here 24 hours a day.
 


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Gadfly
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #16 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 6:03pm »
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on Oct 11th, 2011, 3:19pm, BUCABIN wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Thanks Gadfly, this is the info I was looking for.
 
So basically if they hire me for my current location, I am stuck. That won't work for me, and I am glad to know this info.
 
My target area is Eastern Ky or Southern WV. I notice that Norfolk Southern has current openings for freight conductors in Kenova, Williamson, and Mullens WV.  Of course those would probably be filled by the time I got hired and went into training.
 
I would like to work on CSX anywhere from Russell Ky to Pikeville Ky, that would be the exact targeted area for me.
 
By the way, I am not a big FOAMER, I wouldnt stay in this city if they offered me a train engineer job here 24 hours a day.
 

 
Then I would certainly try for your targeted area if this is really what you are wanting.  I think I've said enough to let you see and make up your own mind.  But you won't get a job as an engineer right off the bat; they don't work that way.  You will spend, at least, some time on the ground as a conductor/trainman.  It is actually better this way, and you LEARN how to do the job better.  Conductors move up to become engineers after they've been "on the ground" for awhile. It is a dangerous and awesome responsibility, and you must KNOW the ropes to operate a 10,000 ton train.
 
Best of luck!  The best part of railroading?  Collecting railroad retirement!!!!
 
GF


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BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #17 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 6:35pm »
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Thank you for the info.
 
Everyone back home is begging me to move back, and I am wanting to move back, and if need be I would shovel cow manure there if it paid decent.
 
I am currently reading every topic I can on railroad hiring, how things work, etc etc.
 
I probably ought to attend one of the job fairs they have and maybe get more answers there.


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BUCABIN
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #18 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 6:41pm »
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As for the Engineer thing, I would much rather prefer to start as a conductor and learn it from that end, and who knows maybe I would like it so well, I would stick with that. Besides my current job is so totally different from the railroad and with no experience I wouldn't expect, nor desire, to hire in off the street and operate a 10,000 ton train.

« Last Edit: Oct 11th, 2011, 7:06pm by BUCABIN » Logged
DRAWHEAD
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Re: Career Change---Am I crazy?
 
« Reply #19 on: Oct 11th, 2011, 9:31pm »
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Well with NS you will start out as a conductor trainee/ACT.You will go down to the training center in McDonough Ga. for a few weeks then go back to your home terminal to then start training on the territory you will work.You will work with a conductor maybe in the yard,on the road or maybe even on a local.The conductor you may work with may only have a year or two on the railroad themself! That's no lie either!!!! I had a conductor once who had only been promoted himself for two months and they threw a trainee along with him on a road train where we got stuck going into another yard along the route where both the conductor and trainee had never been before and the conductor didn't even have that peticular radio yard channel programed on his radio! He called up the trainmaster before we even left telling him the situation and that we would have to go to the other yard where he had never been.He was asked first if he was refusing to go and the trainmaster told him that he had to go with the trainee on my engineer qualifications.That peticular trainmaster is now the system road foreman of engines.Safe railroad huh!  
 
Anyhow your ACT training will last 6 months before you become a conductor,some trainees down by Williamson W Va.only got 3 months because the RR was so short of help.Eventually whenever they get to you and need engineers you will have to go to the engineer training LET school,same place down in Ga.That is the NS policy.You will eventually have to become a engineer sometime be it whenever they send you.You will also have to pass the LET schooling.If you don't pass the second chance they give you then you are out of a job and that is no joke! I have seen it happen to a few people in my career already.Perfectly good conductors who were damn good at their job could not pass the engineer tests and and only missed from passing by a few points and they were SOL.
 
When i hired out it was a bit different as i didn't have to go to the training center and was trained right at the home terminal where i hired and had 2 weeks training on different jobs on the road,yard,and locals.I then worked on a local as a brakeman and also off a brakeman extra board for a few months and then took a conductor test about 9 months after i was hired.Exactly 14 months after i was hired i got sent to engineer school as they were so short of help.Talk about getting thrown right into things.I'm not sure how CSX is and what there hiring policy is? As Gadfly said the RR is a love/hate relationship!


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