Who’s in charge?

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Who’s in charge?
Posted by Lithonia Operator on Monday, August 12, 2019 8:04 PM

Clearly, things have changed massively since I was a railroader, back in the days of cabooses and five-man crews.

In other threads, I have learned that most engineers nowadays are conductors who have been promoted. This would suggest that engineers top the pecking order.

But who is boss of the train now? In my day it was the conductor. But it seems that with an eye towards one-man crews, the railroads are putting more authority in the hands of conductors. Is this accurate?

Also, related to this subject, I read that on some roads if a conductor does not graduate to engineer after some specified number of years, he loses his job? Is this because they want all trainman to be engineers in preparation for the day when conductors become extinct?

Just for the record, I think one-man crews is a VERY BAD IDEA. 

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, August 12, 2019 8:13 PM

As backward as it may seem, promotion-wise, AFAIK, the conductor is in charge.

With both crew members in the cab these days, I suspect it's rather a team effort.

Of course. what used to be two very different career ladders is now one.

I think I've heard that about conductors not working up to engineer.

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Posted by oltmannd on Monday, August 12, 2019 9:03 PM

tree68
I think I've heard that about conductors not working up to engineer.

Yep.  The roads want everyone in the cab qualified to run.  You'll wind up with qualified engineers holding a conductor job in many cases.

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Posted by zardoz on Monday, August 12, 2019 9:22 PM

Who's in charge?

No; who's on first.

   23 17 46 11

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Posted by jeffhergert on Monday, August 12, 2019 9:25 PM

The conductor is still in charge.  There's just really less to be in charge of.  

A person hiring out on a railroad that is party to the national union agreements may be required to become an engineer at some point.  I don't know if all do it the same way, but for us as long as there are junior trainmen willing to go into engine service, a person isn't forced to go.  Out of my original 12 in my hiring class in 1998, there are 5 of us left.  Of that, 2 haven't gone into engine service and probably won't have to before they retire.  As long as there is a supply of younger people they won't be forced.  If no one applies when positions open up, then they start forcing from the bottom of the trainman's seniority list, so they still won't have to go.

Now not going when you first can could result in a person losing a lot of seniority as an engineer if they ever had to go into engine service.  I went as soon as I was able.

Once you do decide to go into engine service and fail the program, you are out of a job.  You can't go back to being a trainman.  I don't know of anyone who has failed the engineer training program.  

Jeff 

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, August 12, 2019 10:21 PM

zardoz
Who's in charge?

No; who's on first.

Don't think they got to the Right Fielder!

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Posted by SD70Dude on Monday, August 12, 2019 11:04 PM

jeffhergert

Once you do decide to go into engine service and fail the program, you are out of a job.  You can't go back to being a trainman.  I don't know of anyone who has failed the engineer training program.  

Jeff 

CN tried firing someone for failing their engineer training exam a few years ago.  The arbitrator un-fired him:

http://arbitrations.netfirms.com/croa/45/CR4436.htm

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Posted by zardoz on Monday, August 12, 2019 11:24 PM

BaltACD
Don't think they got to the Right Fielder!

Your right!

I never noticed that before.

   23 17 46 11

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Posted by zardoz on Monday, August 12, 2019 11:27 PM

oltmannd

 

 
tree68
I think I've heard that about conductors not working up to engineer.

 

Yep.  The roads want everyone in the cab qualified to run.  You'll wind up with qualified engineers holding a conductor job in many cases.

 

Sometimes it seemed as though the crew I was working with seemed like an Abbot & Costello bit; sure made for an interesting trip.

   23 17 46 11

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 7:21 AM

jeffhergert

The conductor is still in charge.  There's just really less to be in charge of.  

A person hiring out on a railroad that is party to the national union agreements may be required to become an engineer at some point.  I don't know if all do it the same way, but for us as long as there are junior trainmen willing to go into engine service, a person isn't forced to go.  Out of my original 12 in my hiring class in 1998, there are 5 of us left.  Of that, 2 haven't gone into engine service and probably won't have to before they retire.  As long as there is a supply of younger people they won't be forced.  If no one applies when positions open up, then they start forcing from the bottom of the trainman's seniority list, so they still won't have to go.

Now not going when you first can could result in a person losing a lot of seniority as an engineer if they ever had to go into engine service.  I went as soon as I was able.

Once you do decide to go into engine service and fail the program, you are out of a job.  You can't go back to being a trainman.  I don't know of anyone who has failed the engineer training program.  

Jeff 

 

What is the rationale for firing guys who don’t pass the engineer test? If they were competent conductors, why get rid of them?

Jeff, of the guys from your class who are no longer with UP, do you know what happened to them? Are most/all out of railroading, or did some move to other roads?

What would be the most prevalent reason that conductors do NOT want to be engineers? I would assume that the schedule irregularities are the same for both positions. Are some guys intimidated by the idea of controlling a train?

Finally: I settled for being a clerk/operator, but like most train fans, I wanted to be an engineer. I was told that engine service employees had to have 20/20 uncorrected vision, and I did not. Back in the early 70s, would that requirement have been true on all roads? Is/was that a government rule? Is that requirement still true today? After I’d been hired by GARR, I got an offer to be a trainman for the SCL in Richmond. It seems that the job application would have asked about my vision, so I guess being a brakeman on the SCL did not require perfect vision.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 12:17 PM

Lithonia Operator

 

 
jeffhergert

The conductor is still in charge.  There's just really less to be in charge of.  

A person hiring out on a railroad that is party to the national union agreements may be required to become an engineer at some point.  I don't know if all do it the same way, but for us as long as there are junior trainmen willing to go into engine service, a person isn't forced to go.  Out of my original 12 in my hiring class in 1998, there are 5 of us left.  Of that, 2 haven't gone into engine service and probably won't have to before they retire.  As long as there is a supply of younger people they won't be forced.  If no one applies when positions open up, then they start forcing from the bottom of the trainman's seniority list, so they still won't have to go.

Now not going when you first can could result in a person losing a lot of seniority as an engineer if they ever had to go into engine service.  I went as soon as I was able.

Once you do decide to go into engine service and fail the program, you are out of a job.  You can't go back to being a trainman.  I don't know of anyone who has failed the engineer training program.  

Jeff 

 

 

 

What is the rationale for firing guys who don’t pass the engineer test? If they were competent conductors, why get rid of them?

Jeff, of the guys from your class who are no longer with UP, do you know what happened to them? Are most/all out of railroading, or did some move to other roads?

What would be the most prevalent reason that conductors do NOT want to be engineers? I would assume that the schedule irregularities are the same for both positions. Are some guys intimidated by the idea of controlling a train?

Finally: I settled for being a clerk/operator, but like most train fans, I wanted to be an engineer. I was told that engine service employees had to have 20/20 uncorrected vision, and I did not. Back in the early 70s, would that requirement have been true on all roads? Is/was that a government rule? Is that requirement still true today? After I’d been hired by GARR, I got an offer to be a trainman for the SCL in Richmond. It seems that the job application would have asked about my vision, so I guess being a brakeman on the SCL did not require perfect vision.

 

I think it's to insure an adequate supply of engine service candidates.  On the unionized class 1s, you used to be able off the street into engine service.  However, if you couldn't hold an engine service assignment, you would be furloughed.  I'm guessing the change, made in increments in the 1970s and 80s, to hiring for train service first, and retaining trainmen's seniority while in engine service, was to allow to hold on to qualified engineers when business is slack.  (I still have my trainmen's seniority, and although I doubt I'll ever use it, I could to be setback to conductor if I can't hold any engineer's assignments over my entire district.)  This way, they don't have to worry about a furloughed engineer going somewhere else, or not coming back when you need them.

Of the guys who are gone out of my class, one quit during training.  He decided it wasn't for him.  One guy, who was an engineer at the time, was disabled off the job.  (He was bicycling when a motorist hit him.)  One, also an engineer, may have been fired but I don't know why.  The others were trainmen and melted away, mostly of their own accord over the years.  I wasn't working in the same terminal and I didn't realize when they left.

The conductor may be in charge, but there is a lot more scrutiny of the engineer.  Even before inward facing cameras, on our engines they are usually aimed at the engineer, you have the event recorder.  (On the newer engines managers can access the system anywhere.)  The system flags anything it regards as irregular, even if a perfectly normal procedure.  And now we have PTC and the engineer logs in to the system and it also immediately sends notices of irregularities, even those PTC itself causes.

There was an article in Trains about the late 1960s/early70s of a trainmen on the GN.  He wore glasses, but the railroads were beginning to relax the 20/20 uncorrected requirement.  I've worn glasses from about the time I hired out and have worked my way up to trifocals.  And I model in N gauge with no problems.

Jeff 

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 12:29 PM

Back in steam days, some railroads had similar rules. You hired on as a fireman, and if you didn't pass the test to become an engineer within a certain amount of times (or failed the test so many times) you were fired. Some railroads didn't have this. I know on NP there was a "golden seat" that was a much-desired firing job on passenger trains. Once a fireman got that job, he might well stay on it until he retired.

BTW some trains do still have brakemen (at least if "Alaska Railroad" TV show is accurate).

Stix
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Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 3:40 PM

All railroads still have jobs that have a brakeman, usually jobs that do a lot of work.  Some places it's still required by contract.  Others it's at the behest of the company.  The same applies to switchmen helpers in the yard. 

All new hires become qualified conductors once their training period is over.  Unless there is someone left who hired out before the requirement to take promotion to conductor, there are no trainmen who only can work as a brakemen anymore.  Our last guy on my seniority district that hadn't taken promotion to conductor retired over 15 years ago.  A former CGW man.

Jeff

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 4:36 PM

Jeff, you say you’ve worn glasses since “about the time you hired out.” But did the company know you were not 20/20 when you were hired?

I always thought the rule was dumb. Glasses are only an issue outside and in bad weather, and engineers work mainly “indoors.” My vision was perfect with glasses, well into my fifties. I have often wondered if the uncorrected requirement was only on some railroads, not others. I had a great career as a self/employed commercial/editorial photographer. But still I wonder if I‘d been more persistent and inquisitive, maybe I could have become an engineer.

BTW, I also wound up regretting not going with the trainman offer from SCL. (My time at GARR did not end well.) But I was three months into the GA job when that offer came. I was 21, needed some stability in my life, and had signed a one-year apartment lease. So that was that.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 1:55 PM

Lithonia Operator

Jeff, you say you’ve worn glasses since “about the time you hired out.” But did the company know you were not 20/20 when you were hired?

I always thought the rule was dumb. Glasses are only an issue outside and in bad weather, and engineers work mainly “indoors.” My vision was perfect with glasses, well into my fifties. I have often wondered if the uncorrected requirement was only on some railroads, not others. I had a great career as a self/employed commercial/editorial photographer. But still I wonder if I‘d been more persistent and inquisitive, maybe I could have become an engineer.

BTW, I also wound up regretting not going with the trainman offer from SCL. (My time at GARR did not end well.) But I was three months into the GA job when that offer came. I was 21, needed some stability in my life, and had signed a one-year apartment lease. So that was that.

 

Yes.  The requirement for uncorrected vision has been gone for a long time.

Jeff 

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Posted by zardoz on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 8:19 PM

jeffhergert
On the unionized class 1s, you used to be able off the street into engine service.  However, if you couldn't hold an engine service assignment, you would be furloughed.  I'm guessing the change, made in increments in the 1970s and 80s, to hiring for train service first, and retaining trainmen's seniority while in engine service, was to allow to hold on to qualified engineers when business is slack. 

When I started on the C&NW back in '73, I started out as a Trainman, as they had just eliminated the distinction between switchman/brakeman for newbies. I was a gropo for just under one year when one of the Engineers I had frequently worked with (as a brakeman) reccommended me to the local Travelling Engineer as a good candidate for engine service. Of course I accepted the advancement; however in order to transfer into engine service I had to give up my train service seniority.

On the plus side, I was in a group that could not be furloughed until all Engineer jobs had a 'fireman' (trainee). Luckily there were still fireman positions on all suburban trains, so I had a nice cushion. Also, working as a 'fireman' afforded me the opportunity to get lots of running experience under the guidance of an Engineer. Plus if the fireman positions were all filled, those in my group had the option of temporarily working in other districts within my seniority division; but if an insufficient number of 'firemen' did not voluntarily relocate temporarily, we could be forced to move.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Thursday, August 15, 2019 9:10 PM

zardoz

 

 
jeffhergert
On the unionized class 1s, you used to be able off the street into engine service.  However, if you couldn't hold an engine service assignment, you would be furloughed.  I'm guessing the change, made in increments in the 1970s and 80s, to hiring for train service first, and retaining trainmen's seniority while in engine service, was to allow to hold on to qualified engineers when business is slack. 

 

When I started on the C&NW back in '73, I started out as a Trainman, as they had just eliminated the distinction between switchman/brakeman for newbies. I was a gropo for just under one year when one of the Engineers I had frequently worked with (as a brakeman) reccommended me to the local Travelling Engineer as a good candidate for engine service. Of course I accepted the advancement; however in order to transfer into engine service I had to give up my train service seniority.

 

On the plus side, I was in a group that could not be furloughed until all Engineer jobs had a 'fireman' (trainee). Luckily there were still fireman positions on all suburban trains, so I had a nice cushion. Also, working as a 'fireman' afforded me the opportunity to get lots of running experience under the guidance of an Engineer. Plus if the fireman positions were all filled, those in my group had the option of temporarily working in other districts within my seniority division; but if an insufficient number of 'firemen' did not voluntarily relocate temporarily, we could be forced to move.

 

As I recall it was a 1972 agreement that gave trainmen first preference when hiring for engine service.  I wasn't sure, but thought you'ld have to give up your trainmen's seniority.  Now I know.  

I think it was the 1985 agreement (The Halloween Agreement) that required all engine service candidates come from the rank of trainmen and all new hired trainmen would have to go to engine service if or when called.  It also stripped new hires of a lot of arbitrary payments (air pay, hang on pay, intial and final terminal delay pay, etc) that the pre 85 guys still received.

The RI had switchmen as a separate craft up until the end.  I was told that after the demise, many hired out on other railroads where they no longer had the distinction.  Many had trouble with the signal part on rules tests.  They had never worked with block/interlocking signals beyond a few basic ones and weren't familiar with them.  

Jeff    

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