Hiring Question

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Hiring Question

  • I was wondering, if you want to become a engineer for csx, can you train immeadiatly to be a engineer, or are you promoted to engineer?PLease, if you do get premoted, will somebody list the promotion list.

    "Lionel trains are the standard of the world" - Jousha Lionel Cowen

  • You guys are scaring me now, I've been wanting to work for the railroad for years, i got a 2 more years of high school left, then I want to go to a "railroad training school" somewhere, I've heard of them. When you come out you are a certified railroad engineer/conductor. I would also like to have a wife and kids someday. So is it easy to have a social life, and a railroad job,with a shortline, rather then a class 1. What is the pros- and cons of working with a shortline, if any?
  • Geeps , here is the best way , good god it looks so complicated here but just get your foot in the door at SOME railroad in ANY capacity and wait for opportunity . ALL railroads that I worked for would prefer promtions from within . SO you have to spend a few years at the buisness end of a spike mall , keep a good safety record and you will be very eligable for promotion . Spend a few years in the engine house , go to tech school and learn electronics or diesel engines. Again , keeps a good work and safety record and your in .
  • Main thing is have a solid work history & no crime record. RRs today hire people from all walks of life.I spent 17 yrs in flour milling prior to getting hired. I work w/ex policemen, car sales, truck drivers, teachers, const, radio broadcaster, blue collar production, contract van drivers and even a lady condr out here who spent time as a topless dancer! Like i said, from all walks of life.
  • You're ALL RIGHT in your responses to railroad hiring, but let me add two-cents to this topic if I may? Point one, you NEED to KNOW the ROAD that you are going to be OPERATING that train LOCOMOTIVE on!?! When I say "KNOW" I mean all the up-hill areas, down-hill areas, the road crossings, the tunnels, the switches and SIGNAL areas (let-alone WHAT the signal MEANS if you DID know it was THERE!), where all the industries are at on your particular run and all the idocincraticies of HOW they want their cars spotted and empties handled, etc. etc.etc. You CAN NOT know all of this (sometimes) life-or-death information just from off the street?!! You SHOULD WANT to be a conductor for a few YEARS just for these reasons!! POINT TWO; You need to learn HOW to properly get off/ on rail cars, how to hook air brake lines, what you are looking at when the "man" tells you to INSPECT the train before departure, etc.etc.etc. AGAIN, you are NOT going to KNOW any of this stuff from "off the street". Railroading is a VERY DANGEROUS business. You will be severly decapitated if not KILLED from any seemingly simple mistake of walking in front of moving cars, or getting between coupling cars with your hands or body, etc.etc.etc. Let alone wrecking a train that has hazarous flamable materials on-board and you're responsible for almost KILLING a WHOLE TOWN full of PEOPLE from your inexperiance?!! I could go on and on about how SERIOUS Railroading is and how CRITICAL it is that people that are DOING it need to be MATURE and KNOWLEDGEABLE about what they are doing and hopefully do it SAFELY, but I think you get the point. It's NOT..."Just a job" to earn a coule bucks like a newspaper passing job or McDonalds; It's a whole WAY OF LIFE. They will call you at the most inopertune time. They will call you when you are in bed asleep. They will call on your weekend and on your vacation. (Which you will have NONE until you build seniority BTW) You will get into it and come to accept all of these challenges and all of the B.S. you'll have to "eat" until you earn your keep or build your seniority. You'll do it because when you get DOWN off that locomotive for your first day on the job and your body is humming and vibrating from being on that locomotive for hours you'll realize how GREAT that job is and how lucky you are to be there! Good Luck! ALL RR's are hiring very HEAVY right now. Not to make LIGHT of it, but (unless you are a TOTAL JERK or drug addict) I can almost GUARANTEE you'll be hired very soon!
  • 2 cents about getting to be an engineer

    on my end of the RR, family conections are not really important anymore.  Back under the old NYCentral/Penn Central, and even Conrail, it may have been, but since the RRs went bust and got rebuilt a few times, the family dynasties are pretty much gone. 

    I hired out as a conductor less than 5 years ago on CSX, and hiring is pretty much the same now.  You interview with the school, usually AMDG in this case.  They know how many openings the railroad has, and they choose that many applicants.  This way, they know before you even apply that there will be a job waiting for you when you graduate.  After you apply and interview with the school, and if the railroad likes you, then you go to the conductor's school.  This is almost all classroom based, and they go over all of the rules with you, and usually takes about a month.  You used to have to pay for this, but I hear that the 5000+ dollar cost is causing recruits to shy away (as it should), so CSX may start to pay for the school again.

    Most of the guys I hired out with were seasonal construction workers who didn't have health bennies, or truck drivers/heavy equipment operators who were looking for more steady work, or guys who worked several jobs over the last 4 years and kept getting laid off due to their industry.  As long as you're drug-free, your criminal record is clean, you pass the physical, and your psych test shows that you are mature and don't have a problem with taking orders, you're in.  This usually means that the guys hiring out are kind of... old, average age about 40 or so, but there were alot of younger guys with me too.  They may talk about wages between 30K and 45K or so for the first year, and actually that's about right, even though for a lot of it you are only making training pay which is low.

    After the AMDG school, you go through a few weeks of training hands-on at the Georgia training center, working mostly outside with live rail equipment.  You then get your certificate and get sent to your home terminal, where go for on-the-job training for a while.  You need this to get in tune with how the locals speak and do their work.

    After the OJT, you are assigned to a job for qualification, and that may take a few more weeks to a month.  If there are several jobs, you may be qualifying for a few months.  My OJT and qualification took about 6 months because I worked locals, yard jobs, and several long-haul jobs...  and that wasn't long enough, but that's a subject for another argument.

    Once you get qualified to work jobs as a conductor, you either go on one of those jobs, or (more likely) work on-call for a while.

    After doing this for between 3 and 5 years, you will know enough about the railroad to be a good conductor (we hope), and then they will send you to engineer's school.  the company pays for this.  You spend about 2 months in the school, again in Georgia, and then you come back to qualify for local jobs as an engineer.  After the qualification, which again may take several months, at low pay, you will be certified by the RR and the FRA as a Class 1 Engineer.

    You will then be on call again for a good long while, and you may be set back to do conductor's work every so often, but only at first.  You certainly will be busy.


    As for the family, I would recommend that you get married before joining the RR, and that she's a pretty understanding sort and won't mind you being away from home for a few days at a time (or on a night shift job - if she works days, you will hardly see each other ever again). They say a trainman is a hobo with a well-to-do family, so get ready to be away from home.

    This sort of thing is hard on families, and trainmen too, so guys get burned out after a while, or (around here) try to work on Amtrak/Metro rail as soon as they get the engineer certificate.  Or, they decide to become yardmasters or whatever.

    I saw a program that the RR put out earlier this year, and it predicted that after 10 years or so, due to retirements and whatever, everyone on the railroad will have less than 15 years experience - all new faces, people having to learn jobs without the guys that have been working them for the last 30 years, and so on.  The job openings are there, but the RR has to pay so much to train new guys that they are slow to hire and want to make sure you will stay a long while.  You have to love it, or you'll learn to hate it, but let's face it - it's just about the only union job where you can get on without a long appreticeship and journeyman period, previous experience is hardly ever needed.

  • I will be starting my conductors training on September 18, of this year at National Academy of Rail Sciences (NARS) this class entails 6 weeks of training M-F 8:00 am-4:30 pm this class cost me $5,740.00 plus the additonal money for my room and board. As far as lifting the 80lb. knuckle you will need to posess the strength to lift that before you apply for the course since your going to need a physical before you start your training. Once I complete my training I would like to hire with one of these lines; BNSF, NS, or CP (I won't even rule out CN).  Once you get hired by a railroad its 6 months on job training I believe. Then you have to pass a final test in order to qualify as a conductor.  As far as becoming a locomotive engineer, I do know that with NS after a  year (which actually can be anytime) of conductors service you get a mandatory promotion to locomotive engineer. Like CSX engineer said railroading is a demanding profession.  I too am a railfan yet I understand what is expected of me once on board. The website is www.railroadtraining.com NARS has 90% job placement yet just because 9 out of 10 students get hired doesn't mean everyone will be working right away or even land a job. Yet 90% is good so your odds are better, also you get 16 college credits when you finish the course and I do believe they are transferable. To get employment with BNSF you can bring $25.00 once you complete the NARS training to take the BNSF Trainmen Conductors Aptitude Test if you desire to hire out with BNSF.
  • Well, while I was out railfanning a special move that was to take place, I found a coupler lying about.  I succeeded in lifting it and walking around with it, so now I'm sure I meet that final requirement.  That was heavy, though.  I have a new question.  Since I'm trying to get on NS, and my driver's licence will expire some time at the end of summer, should I get that renewed now?  I know with the conductor training, I'll be busy, and I'm not sure if I'll have the time to do it when it's about to run out.  Also, I know that NS will provide meal tickets for the first phase of training as well as lodging throughout the entire training.  Does anyone who has been on NS know how long they provide those meal tickets for?  I'd like to know how much food to pack.
  •  kolechovski wrote:
    Since I'm trying to get on NS, and my driver's licence will expire some time at the end of summer, should I get that renewed now?  I know with the conductor training, I'll be busy, and I'm not sure if I'll have the time to do it when it's about to run out.  Also, I know that NS will provide meal tickets for the first phase of training as well as lodging throughout the entire training.  Does anyone who has been on NS know how long they provide those meal tickets for

    I start training with NS on the 31st, and I would say yes on the DL, and from what I understand the meal tickets are good for $15 a day while you're in McDonough at the Training Center. Also, lodging is provided for Phase I and Phase III at the Training Center, NOT while you're in Phase II and IV doing field training at your home terminal. If I'm wrong on this, hopefully someone who has already been through will correct me, but what I have written is what I was told at my hiring session.

    Also, I have also been told not to be lulled into thinking the knuckle test is the hardest physical requirement...I have been told by more than one person that more fail the test where you have to hang from the side of a car for a specified amount of time than fail the knuckle test.

  • Go through the National Academy of Railroad Sciences in Overland Park Kansas.


  • I am in 11th grade and I am interested in becoming, over time, to be a Locomotive Operator for BNSF.  What would it take for me to do this?  I know BNSF will hire conductors with a high school degree.  But do I need anything else for a Locomotive Operator?  From what other people are saying in this forum is that the Locomotive Schools are a waste of time.  Is that really true, or just rumor?  Also, once I am in the company, would I be able to move up in rank without a collage degree?  Or would I be stuck at a certin point in rank?
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  • Let me chime in with a few comments:

    1. Family connections are still important.   The railroad will pay more attention to someone with a family connection.  It's also helpful when you actually start working.   Railroaders look out for each others kids (I know I'm 3rd generation PRR/PC./CR.)

    2. Forget the training schools.  Contact the railroad you want to work for and see what their hiring policy is.    Some road prefer to do the hiring and training themselves, Conrail was one.  Didn't matter what training you had, everyone went to AIT (my class included a couple of professional hires from CP).  Others like CSX only hire from the training schools.  If that's the case they will tell you what college to go to.

    3. A college degree is only necessary if you want move beyond front line management (Trainmaster is about as high as you'll go without a dergee).  And a college degree doesn't make you a better conductor.  I know several, very bright, college educationed conductors, that can't find their rear with both hands, a map, and a flashlight.

    4.  You can in fact buy an engineer's licence.   However. it costs $40,000, not the 5 to 6 grand as claimed by the schools.  Most likely no one will accept it, and you're back to square one.

    5. Union agreements (or lack there of) on short lines vary widely.   But on a Class I signitory of the UTU 1985 agreement (BNSF, CSX, KCS, NS, UP) you must first hire as a conductor.  Then after service as a conductor, you will be promoted to engineer.  This is a promotion you must take, or you will lose your job.

    6. Railroading is a tough life.  I've missed many birthdays, Thanksgivings, Chirstmases, and other family events, due to my work schedual.  I've been shot at, and had rocks thrown at me.   I've walked trains in the driving snow, pouring rain, bitter cold, broiling heat, and dark of night.  I've worked so many days straight, I forget what my wife looked like.  And worst of all, I've had to bury a co-worked that was killed on the job.

    I hope this sheds some light on the subject.


    Take a Ride on the Reading with the: Reading Company Technical & Historical Society http://www.readingrailroad.org/

  • Lifting the coupler is easy, or easier than you'd expect.  It's a compact mass, easy to balance.  I've seen guys who were practically crippled humping a coupler around with no trouple.  Carrying an 85# coupler is way easier than a 50# bag of seed or something, due to the awkwardness of a large bag.

    The real killer is the requirement that you have to hang off the side of a boxcar for 4 minutes using only your hands, standing on the bottom strap of the car, while signalling with one hand intermittently.  This is the make-or-break test.  I thought that I had a good strong grip, but that one was too much for me.  If you've never tried it, you will note that the lowest rung of a car's ladder is inset toward the car's center, so you are kind of resting your feet under the car, and your feet are not in line with the rest of your body.  This forces you to use your grip to keep your body on the ladder, and it's HARD.  I was lucky in that they had us try it in the conductor's school early on, before the actual qualification test.  Holding on by curling your forearm around a top rung is not allowed, and climbing up to a higher rung is also forbidden (even that's the way it's done on the job - you climb to the highest rung and curl your arm around the top rung, and you can ride for miles).

    I was able to pass this by leaning a ladder against my house, and hanging UNDER it (so that my feet were not under my body's center of gravity, which is the way the test is done).  After a few weeks of this practice, I was able to beat the 4-minute grip test.  I don't know if I could do it these days.

    A few helpful hints on this - the main reason your grip fails is because of lactic acid buildup in the forearm.  To make your grip last longer, every 20 or 30 seconds convert your grip to hold on with one hand, while you rest the other, then switch grips and rest the other hand for ten seconds.  This little reprieve will preserve your grip strength much longer.  Also, you can "fake" out the instructor by hooking your wrist over the ladder rung, so you aren't using your fingers to grip the ladder, but you'll have to go back to a finger grip to rest your wrists after a while.  They can't tell if they are standing a ways away and your gloves are baggy enough.

    Good luck with the requirements.  Like I say, when you get on the job, nobody's going to care how you hold on to the ladder as long as you can do signalling (and don't forget that you will have to let go with one hand to work that radio or check your switch list).  I heard of one guy who tried to fake his way through the color-blindness test, though, and that's a definite bad thing.  If you can't read a color signal properly, you are going to die and take others with you, so make sure you have good vision before signing up.

  • You know you all are way misconstrewed about all this. The railroads WANT to hire people out of the training schools because it means they have to spend less money on training you because you already know most of the ins and outs of the industry.

    Family means crap, they hire people that are qualified and will be good workers who don't care about being thrown around the country and living out of a bunkhouse for half their lives.

    I went to a training school in Calgary Alberta ans was GUARANTEED an interview by CN and CP ... I got hired by both at 19 and chose CN. CP gave their conductors they hired out of there less classroom training time because of the school ... at CN, since it was there first time there we still got 5 weeks of Class.

    The railroad is a REALLY REALLY easy job. Like it was said before you have to know your territory and how to do the job. Being a railfan I knew about 95% of the stuff I was taught in the school and prolly about 99% of the stuff I was taught in the CN classes.

    The life just sucks and you are always away from home for like 20-36 hours at a time unless you are in the yard. It is so fun tho.

    All you in the States have it rough ... I am in a small town here in Saskatchewan and it rocks. The management here are awesome ... everyone is awesome. Try to stay away from the big cities and get to the small town terminals where your seniority will rise faster.

    If you can work in Canda, do it ... the conditions are better, the locomotives are better for crew comfort and you dont get treated as crappy.

    But the railroad is running itself into the ground. Especially what Hunter Harrison wants done with CN. They are pushing people away ... CN is in a manpower crisis and they are not trying to attract more people they are trying to force current employees into working more and keeping then here longer by not allowing them to retire early. Railroads don't care about human life anymore ... you are just an employee.

    So yea the life sucks and be prepared to not be home alot and possibly to move many many times in your career.

    10000 feet and no dynamics? Today is going to be a good day ... 

  •  kolechovski wrote:
    I will try to grudgingly get hired by Norfolk Southern. Although I'm afraid of all the horrors the employees have said coming true, it will at least serve as the starting point until I'm eligible to start out elsewhere. I have a question about that, though. Although NS is hiring in my state, the nearest position is a good distance across from here, and I do not have the money to move. I have looked at their income projections and am wondering if after 1/2 is ripped out, will the remaining money be enough to rent and still work in the area okay? Anybody have experience with this?

    The NS isnt as bad as it used to be. And the BRCF says that KCS is the worst at pulling people out of service. And the BNSF got caught hiding video cameras in locker rooms. So you see its really no different no mater where you go. I got a friend of mine on the CSX who tells me horror stories about them. Actually I happen to like the NS.

    Oh and by the way you are probably wondering why I have the PC logo on my signature its because its the railroad I grew up with as a kid, the railroad that got me interested in railroading,and the railroad I model in HO scale. Just seems funny sometimes that both the NS and PC painted their engines black with white logos.