Crew size

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 8:53 AM

The conductor is in charge of the crew.  Everyone is required to do their job.  If one crewmember fails to do their job, another crew member can report them to the company.  If that happens, and the person still refuses to do their job, I suppose the person who reported them could walk off the job if they feel they have a case that their job is made unsafe by the fact that the reported employee is not doing their job.   

I have never heard of any rule or contract that would give the engineer veto power over the company on the choice of the conductor they called to work with the engineer.  I have also never heard of any engineer instituting a standing order with the company that automatically excludes certain conductors to be called to work with that engineer. 

However, I don’t believe this is what Balt meant when he said, “You get the kind of Conductor you allow in YOUR cab.”  By “allow,” I believe he meant “allow” in terms of allowing the conductor to not do his job.  In other words, an employee on a crew does not have to accept the fact that a fellow crewmember is not doing their job. If a crewmember were forced to do their job plus someone else’s job, then they would be doing two jobs instead of one and they should be paid double. 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 6:58 AM

So in summary,  it seems that the conductor is nominally in charge and that the engineer cannot refuse to accept a conductor on the engine nor "supervise" him or her, all depending on the contract. Correct? 

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 5:28 AM

charlie hebdo

So Randy,  did you have veto power over which conductors were in the cab with you?  Or is Balt's remark factual?  Both are not correct.

 

I cannot refuse an assigned crew member.

 

It's not my job to supervise them. I could certainly complain but that has never worked out for me in the past. When we started having engineer only trains everyone had to become an engineer. those who didn't were soon gone, I didn't mind sharing the cab with another engineer, they seemed to get it.

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Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 11:41 PM

BaltACD

 

 
charlie hebdo
Obviously,  but that is not the thrust what it appeared Randy Stahl was saying.  Unless I am totally mistaken,  neither he not any other engineer can refuse to accept a duly assigned, qualified conductor.

 

Correct - they can also require that they WORK, not sleep.

I have also had to recrew trains where the engineer and conductor where in physical combat with each other; various causes.

I was not always a Dispatcher - 8 years as a Weed Weasel.

 

You always have the option of not accepting the call.  I've heard of conductors who wouldn't work with certain engineers.  They'll lay off if they look like they're lining up with them.  What's rare, but I've heard of it happening, is someone telling managment ahead of time that they will refuse to work with a certain person because they are unsafe.

I haven't been in that situation.  There are conductors whom I prefer to work with and some I would prefer not to work with.  It's less about safety and more about attitude and/or ability to doing the work.  (Some are better than others when it comes to working on the ground.  When most of our trains were get on/get off, it wasn't as much of an issue.  Now when almost all our trains do work at some point in the trip, it's become more of an issue.)

Jeff 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 11:26 PM

charlie hebdo

 

 
Lithonia Operator

This begs a question I've asked here before. Who is in charge? From what I can discern, nowadays it's the engineer. But it seems like the lines of authority must be pretty blurry if a conductor is asleep, and the engineer is on the ground throwing switches. That's shocking to me.

 

 

 

No one seems to want to answer.  Perhaps the line of authority is blurry. 

 

I've had conductors who were 'deep in thought' before.  But never so deep that they couldn't do their work on the ground.  And if they were, they wouldn't be in so deep for much longer.

The conductor is in charge.  In the conductor's absence, then the engineer becomes in charge.  Although in reality, there's not much left to be in charge for.  Mostly what moves to make when setting out or picking up.  Deciding whether a car is safe to move when stopped by a detector and the defect can't be corrected by the limited tools carried on the train.

As communication became easier between management and field employees, the autonomy that the field employees used to have has waned.  

Jeff

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 10:42 PM

charlie hebdo
Interesting admission but you are not answering the question I asked. 

Can an engineer refuse to work with a conductor (and vice versa)?

I suspect you have to go to the contract for that.

If the other crew member is clearly not fit for duty, it's time for management to step in anyhow.  

If it's because Fred and Joe don't get along (perhaps even to the point of fisticuffs). it's time for management to step in.

If the two employees do have such a history, odds are a lot of people are aware of it.  I'd opine that one of them will be assigned elsewhere, if possible.  If their behavior crosses the line, they'll probably be out the door.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 10:35 PM

Lithonia Operator

This begs a question I've asked here before. Who is in charge? From what I can discern, nowadays it's the engineer. But it seems like the lines of authority must be pretty blurry if a conductor is asleep, and the engineer is on the ground throwing switches. That's shocking to me.

 

No one seems to want to answer.  Perhaps the line of authority is blurry. 

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 10:26 PM

This begs a question I've asked here before. Who is in charge? From what I can discern, nowadays it's the engineer. But it seems like the lines of authority must be pretty blurry if a conductor is asleep, and the engineer is on the ground throwing switches. That's shocking to me.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 10:01 PM

BaltACD

 

 
charlie hebdo
Obviously,  but that is not the thrust what it appeared Randy Stahl was saying.  Unless I am totally mistaken,  neither he not any other engineer can refuse to accept a duly assigned, qualified conductor.

 

Correct - they can also require that they WORK, not sleep.

I have also had to recrew trains where the engineer and conductor where in physical combat with each other; various causes.

I was not always a Dispatcher - 8 years as a Weed Weasel.

 

Interesting admission but you are not answering the question I asked. 

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 9:31 PM

charlie hebdo
Obviously,  but that is not the thrust what it appeared Randy Stahl was saying.  Unless I am totally mistaken,  neither he not any other engineer can refuse to accept a duly assigned, qualified conductor.

Correct - they can also require that they WORK, not sleep.

I have also had to recrew trains where the engineer and conductor where in physical combat with each other; various causes.

I was not always a Dispatcher - 8 years as a Weed Weasel.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 9:25 PM

Obviously,  but that is not the thrust what it appeared Randy Stahl was saying.  Unless I am totally mistaken,  neither he not any other engineer can refuse to accept a duly assigned, qualified conductor.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 9:15 PM

charlie hebdo
Sorry,  Randy's statement and Balt's are largely mutually exclusive.  Let's hear from other engineers on the major rails such as Zugmann, Jeff,  etc.  

If the engineer allows the conductor to slack off his duties and sleep - it is on the engineer.  Sometimes - in all professions, you have to be a badass and require those you work with to do what they are being paid to do.  You 'get' the level of employee you are willing to accept - no matter if they are a regular on the run or a person off the extra board.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 7:06 PM

Sorry,  Randy's statement and Balt's are largely mutually exclusive.  Let's hear from other engineers on the major rails such as Zugmann, Jeff,  etc.  

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Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 6:58 PM

charlie hebdo
Both are not correct.

I think they both have a valid point.  With a few exceptions, you get someone from the pool/rotation - whoever is up next.  Not a lot of options for choice there.

As for getting the conductor you allow in your cab - that's rather analogous to your kids: they behave the way you let them (for the most part).  

And conductors probably feel the same way about engineers...

With chiefly volunteer staffing, we're often stuck with whoever is available and chooses to run that day.  Some days you hit the jackpot, some days you wonder why you even came in.  I had one volunteer conductor who had gone to work for a short line.  Working with him was a dream.

He quit railroading and now plays steel guitar as a session musician around Nashville...

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 6:48 PM

So Randy,  did you have veto power over which conductors were in the cab with you?  Or is Balt's remark factual?  Both are not correct.

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 6:20 PM

Randy Stahl
 
Lithonia Operator

Did you just find most conductors too talky, and you personally didn't care to listen?

Or was it more that you found the distraction a significant safety compromise.

I have to admit, thinking back on my approximately 6-8 cab rides, I usually asked a lot of questions initially, but pretty quickly got the message that I should mostly keep my trap shut. 

Most of the time the cnductor was asleep 10 miles into the trip, he might as well not even be there. I was talking to the dispacth, throwing switches etc, while they were sound asleep.

There were a few individuals that I enjoyed having with me in the cab but for the most part not.  

I wasn't allowed to run long hood forward by myself so there were times I had no choice but to share the cab...

You get the kind of Conductor you allow in YOUR cab.

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Posted by joesap1 on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 4:32 PM

Lithonia Operator

I just read this article: http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2020/01/railroads-unions-butt-heads-on-crew-size-ahead-of-first-national-bargaining-meeting

Is this (any upcoming negotiations, whenever they might occur) solely about railroads wanting 1 person, and unions wanting 2? Or is it more complicated than that?

 

I can only speak from my own experience. I have operated many trains with just me for my 12 hour shift. One time the train went into emergency and wouldn't recover.         
    I had to leave the cab and hike back, looking for an air leak. I found one car just in front of a bridge blowing air. I cut out the car. If the leaking car had been past the bridge, I wouldn't have been able to locate it.

   One more thing, I had a friend whose engineer began to choke on his sandwich. If he had not been there to preform the heimlech maneuver, the engineer would have died. The train would have gone into emergency when the alerter kicked in.

 

Joe Sapwater
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Posted by Randy Stahl on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 3:06 PM

Lithonia Operator

Did you just find most conductors too talky, and you personally didn't care to listen?

Or was it more that you found the distraction a significant safety compromise.

I have to admit, thinking back on my approximately 6-8 cab rides, I usually asked a lot of questions initially, but pretty quickly got the message that I should mostly keep my trap shut.

 

Most of the time the cnductor was asleep 10 miles into the trip, he might as well not even be there. I was talking to the dispacth, throwing switches etc, while they were sound asleep.

There were a few individuals that I enjoyed having with me in the cab but for the most part not. 

 

I wasn't allowed to run long hood forward by myself so there were times I had no choice but to share the cab...

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Posted by DAVID GRIMM1 on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 11:13 AM

daveklepper
Under some conditions, once when I rode B&M locomotives, it was walking speed, four miles-per-hour.

And I have pointed out (to the dismay of some dispatchers) that sometimes conditions (such as thick fog) are such that I don't move at all until the fog lifts at least a little.

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Posted by Doktor No on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 7:22 AM

 And what is the actual hours on duty of that engineer? Almost all Amtrak trains operate with a one man crew in the locomotive...then again they are on a less then 4to 5 hour run in most if not all instances and get rest at the other end of the road on a lot of runs. Freight jobs, here in the midwest operating into Chicago or Detroit are usually on the job for maximum 12 hours and run at all hours of the day. Try getting called at midnight for a 2am on duty and run 12 hours sometime. Then do it for many times a month and see where your mental alertness is at. Then run into the Chicago terminal over various routes.....not fun at all.

 Sleep deprivation is an evil thing and comparing Amtrak locomotive crews to freight crews is absurd at best.

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 2:21 AM

To clafify Zugman's point.  To stop when viewing an obstruction, restricted speed will actually vary with circumstances, including grades, curves, weather, and visibilty.   Under some conditions, once when I rode B&M locomotives, it was walking speed, four miles-per-hour.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 1:13 AM

BaltACD

 

 
Lithonia Operator
Running long hood forward for collision-safety reasons?

 

Lack of turning facilities.

 

My mistake. I had missed Larry saying "if." I thought he had stated flatly that they ran long hood forward, meaning always.

Yes, many tourist roads don't/can't turn engines. We rode the Stourbridge Line, and the train simply backed up for the return half of the trip; the engine did not switch ends; there was no siding to use.

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, February 10, 2020 10:46 PM

BaltACD
Lack of turning facilities.

Never mind that we don't have any turning facilities at all, this is very common for tourist operations - even the Strasburg and their steam engines.  

We can run around the trains, but the locos stay oriented as they are.  We do have locos facing both ways, and when they get used in pairs, we can keep a short hood in the lead.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, February 10, 2020 10:05 PM

Lithonia Operator
Running long hood forward for collision-safety reasons?

Lack of turning facilities.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Monday, February 10, 2020 9:42 PM

Running long hood forward for collision-safety reasons?

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, February 10, 2020 7:02 PM

Electroliner 1935
Only negative I had with my cab rides was that PRR only had two seats and I had to stand the whole time.

We have three seats in our RS18u's, but if we're running long hood forward, the other crew member has to be in the "fireman's seat", leaving the rider to stare at the bulkhead...

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Posted by zugmann on Monday, February 10, 2020 7:01 PM

SD70Dude
I prefer working with someone with common interests. Talking helps me stay awake.

Yeah, seriously.  Doing nothing but talking signals or other purely work -related crap makes for a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG and boring trip.

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Monday, February 10, 2020 5:45 PM

tree68

 Lithonia Operator

I have to admit, thinking back on my approximately 6-8 cab rides, I usually asked a lot of questions initially, but pretty quickly got the message that I should mostly keep my trap shut.

Non-crew in the cab can be a distraction.  I get them occasionally.  They're generally immensely grateful, but trying to balance hospitality with doing what I'm there for has to go to doing the job. 

I will always remember my first cab ride on the PRR in 1957 from Cincinnati to Richmond IN as a coop student working in the Signal & Communications dept. I requested and was granted a cab permit (alegedly to observe the wayside pole lines) which I did but it was not in my job description. Kept my mouth shut but the fireman had been to a union meeting the night before and was bitching the whole way to Richmond. To me, he was a distraction to the engineer and not calling signals or doing anything productive. All engine crew were hospitable to me. Only negative I had with my cab rides was that PRR only had two seats and I had to stand the whole time. 

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Posted by Saturnalia on Monday, February 10, 2020 5:37 PM

SD70Dude

Saturnalia - the railroads will soon find a way around any regulation like that.  And clauses like that in union contracts are not worth the paper they aren't written on anymore.  'Do it now, grieve it later'.

That may be the case. This is where the Railroads, Unions and FRA need to get together and figure out a good place to start. Begin with what there is now - limited one-man crews on waivers - and expand that out. What needs to be done to allow this, that or the other thing? FRA regulations have the force of law. 

The last thing anyone wants is a patchwork of state/local laws on the issue, or dragging this question out until the economic necessity slams home like it did decades ago when multi-man crews were terminated, often abruptly. It would be best to set up a system to transfer it over along known guidelines, which railroads and unions can work together on and maintain an understanding. 

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, February 10, 2020 12:06 PM

SD70Dude
I prefer working with someone with common interests.  Talking helps me stay awake.  It sucks to get a trip with someone who is having a bad time at home, or falls asleep in the chair, or just stays silent and stares out the window.  Saturnalia - the railroads will soon find a way around any regulation like that.  And clauses like that in union contracts are not worth the paper they aren't written on anymore.  'Do it now, grieve it later'.

You know they have the technology and in fact the U.S. Army uses the technology to link together seperate vehicles miles apart using a virtual WAN so you can talk via intercom and keep off the radio.    Surprised the railroad industry does not use the technology.    Understood radio communications are needed for official and rules based communication.    However you should be able to chat with other railroad crews or trains within 10-20 miles from you using WAN based Voice over IP.

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