Female Minority

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pdiva2

New Member
Hi Guys. I am very new to the forum, and looking forward to learning more from others! I live in Calgary, AB and I will be researching the Railway conductor position starting in September for 15 weeks. I look forward to being a part of the Railway, and perhaps one day meeting someone on here that is in the industry. I will be following posts, and learning, and possibly using information from here for research purposes! I do have one question, an hopefully I will be able to post on the forum (for some reason I can't yet) but being female, I know I am minority... or am I?? Am I alone or are there many others out there. I guess might consider myself NOT to be a very strong girl, but working on getting into physical shape for the position, before working my way up to be a locomotive engineer. But can any of you give me an example of a typical day as a railway conductor. What kind of 'physical' work is required, how much weight, how often? I am aware the job is physically demanding, and It may take me a few weeks on the job to build the muscles, but I want to hear from someone that has been in the industry for a while. Is there a lot of time off due to injury? what kind of repercussions are there...Ok, so 2 questions, but hope someone can shed some light!! :)

Thanks for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon!!

Frances
fvandieren8@hotmail.com
 

Tacoma Tom

New Member
Hello. Women are a rarity in the conductor/engineer program. However in the bigger yards it is not uncomon to see one woman as a hostler,conductor,or engineer. I used to work with a woman as a hostler and she did her job very well.

I was formally a conductor for the Union Pacific and I did not find the job to be physical demanding much at all. You do a lot of walking either to throw switches or to hook up air brakes in a train and that can be tiring espcially if the rock is rough. Some of the switches can be hard to throw but you will learn which ones they are( I used to keep a quart of oil in my locker and bring it with me if a switch was hard to move).

If you are a new person to the railroad then you will probably start out as a switchman working the graveyard shift in the middle of a big yard for quite a while. Your job will likely be switching out cars from a incoming train and making up another train that is leaving town in the morning. You usually have one guy pulling the pin to detach the cars from the train and one person just throwing switches all night. In the first few weeks you will probably spend some time on the road traveling the mainline back and forth as well as working various yards and routes so you will be ready for them if they call you to work for them.

Setting hand brakes can be tiring if you are doing it all day long but in a yard you won't be dealing with them too much.

Probably the most demanding thing is climbing up and down ladders of cars all day long. That first step is pretty high. You will be doing a lot of riding and getting on and off all day long.

One of the worst things that can happen is if you have to replace a broken knuckle on a car. You have to lug one of those knuckles(which weights 75 pounds) to the car it broke off on which could be a half mile away. Most engineers and conductors have common sense though and if they are thinking smart they will drop you off with the knuckle where you are,pull the train forward to the last car,then you can get on the last car with the knuckle and back the train up to car with the broken knuckle saving you a long walk and a lot of time.

Throwing mainline power switches is rather tough but it rarely happens since the dispatchers can move them electronically.

Hopefully you won't get injured on the job since most railroad injuries are pretty serious. Time off for injury will be set forth by your union rules. In my experience most of the people who are injured on the job take several months off and sometimes even years. The railroad of course frowns on injuries and would like to fire you permanently but due to union laws you would probably still have your job doing something for the railroad even if it sitting at a desk answering phones.

I wouldn't worry about the physical stuff too much. Working for the railroad is much more mental. There is a lot of people who who give you advice and work with you to make your job easier. Listen to what they have to say. You will find there is also many old timers working the yards. If a old man can throw switches and climb up ladders I am sure you can as well.
 

pdiva2

New Member
Thank you Mark and Tom for your replies!! :) I am confident that even though being in the minority, I am ready for the job at hand.. and maybe out run some of the guys out there :)
I am more confident in the job now, with your description Tom, so thank you. I am attending College for the Railway Conductor, and hope to gain employment with the Canadian Railways here. But I understand I can quickly work my way up to being a locomotive engineer, which is my ultimate goal. And although I have no desire to be railway conductor, a friend told me yesterday, focus on the goal.. and it gave me a whole different perspective. I guess I will have to be getting used to the night shifts also.. That should be interesting. But I am certainly interested in the traveling part. :)
Anyway. Thank you for your support, and hope to have more replies!!
 

Abilene Ks Railfan

Active Member
Welcome to the forums Frances! I live in central Kansas,and I've seen several female conductors working the UP, and BNSF lines thru here. Years ago there was a lady engineer that ran on the UP,she handled trains quite well. I say if you put your mind to it, you can do anything!

Good luck to you!
 

April

Reality escapee
A friend of mine worked as a Conductor for a class-one in the United States. She was the only woman working trains in her division and she caught all sorts of crap. It took her several years for others to respect her (and she was an excellent employee). This was two years ago so hopefully the macho BS is less common now than then.

Not trying to scare you but I hope the men are more mature on the railroad you are interested in.

April
 
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Tacoma Tom

New Member
Thank you Mark and Tom for your replies!! :) I am confident that even though being in the minority, I am ready for the job at hand.. and maybe out run some of the guys out there :)
I am more confident in the job now, with your description Tom, so thank you. I am attending College for the Railway Conductor, and hope to gain employment with the Canadian Railways here. But I understand I can quickly work my way up to being a locomotive engineer, which is my ultimate goal. And although I have no desire to be railway conductor, a friend told me yesterday, focus on the goal.. and it gave me a whole different perspective. I guess I will have to be getting used to the night shifts also.. That should be interesting. But I am certainly interested in the traveling part. :)
Anyway. Thank you for your support, and hope to have more replies!!

If you want to operate locomotives you should try getting a job as a Hostler. A hostler cleans,re-fuels,and re-supplies locomotives before they are put on a train. A hostler usually takes the locomotives from the train as they come in and after they are re-fuled and inspected they are moved to the front of the new train.

I mention this job because it is a job that is most people pass up or are not interested in. I also mentioned it because you could be operating locomotives in the first year you are there. I worked as a hostler for around 5 months and loved it. It was a day shift and usually lasted about 6 hours(we were paid for 8). Even though I was not qualified to operate locomotives I could move them around as long as I had a qualified person in the cab with me to supervise. We called this "on the job training".

After some training I was often often moving locomotives sometimes several miles to the train it was supposed to be on. Sometimes I would have two sets of locomotives for two trains that would involve moving as many as 13 locomotives at a time!

I may have never been a engineer for a railroad. But I can say I operated a lot of locomotives and rode on hundreds of them. For me that was more than enough bragging rights and peace of mind as well.
 

pdiva2

New Member
Thanks everyone for your support it is certainly a little frightening being a female, and judged because of it. However I do have the determination, and ambition, and willingness to become an engineer. It may not be handed to me, but my work, and skills, and willingness to learn will step me up the ladder hopefully in due time. Thanks for the advice Tom, as for getting a job as a Hostler, it sounds like a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it!
You say these are typically 6 hour days.. what about being a railway conductor, or Engineer? How often are you away from home.. how long? and Trainboyh 16-44, what are you doing for work? where?
 

nick

New Member
Hello pdiva2! If you hire onto a Class One, after training you will more than likely end up marking up on what is referred to as the "Extra Board". This fills all vacancies at the terminal you would be working at due to illnesses, vacations, layoffs(not the company induced kind), discipline time off, etc. Meaning you will be on call 24/7 365. This work arrangement you will pretty much follow most of the time in the early part of your career. Hours vary. May get an "early quit", may "die on the law"(reach your legal hours limit, which is 12 hours). This also means irregular rest cycles. As far as time away from home, depends on the pool assignment you mark up for when your seniority(which determines what/where you work on the R/R) allows. There are long and short distance pools which have plenty of "turns", allowing you a chance to get back to your home terminal, but on the railroad, be prepared for anything! Hope I didn't scare you off. Good Luck!
 

pdiva2

New Member
Thanks Nick for the input. I am actually going to school starting in 5 weeks, for the railway conductor program, so hopefully I won't have to be stuck with all the crappy shifts for too long :) I hear the pay is pretty good either way.. but would take whatever I can to at least get my foot in the door!
 

RailroadJeep

The Herder Himself
A hostler cleans.... I mention this job because it is a job that is most people pass up or are not interested in.
Most people pass it up because it's one of the lowest paid jobs in TY&E. You could work as a switch helper and make more than a hostler, as well as not have all the responsibilty that comes from working in a certified capacity. As a trainmen, you can bid into hostling for a 4 to 6 month lock down, and make next to nothing. Or you can roll the dice of getting bumped occasioanlly or forced to a crappy job, but be able to take promotions to switch foreman, conductor, etc... All of which pay alot better.

Don't get me wrong though, I enjoy being a hostler, and I can survive on this wage. And being a hostler, you'll gain the experience in running a locomotive and identifying problems with your locomotive, things that will help if/when you take a engineer's promotion.
 

Pete Sakes

New Member
And being a hostler, you'll gain the experience in running a locomotive and identifying problems with your locomotive, things that will help if/when you take a engineer's promotion.
Plus you will become an expert on knowing every control point and every track in a confusing, busy terminal. That will make a huge difference when you are an engineer someday, especially if you're stuck with a brand new conductor who is fresh out of class and is completely lost out there.
 
Thanks everyone for your support it is certainly a little frightening being a female, and judged because of it. However I do have the determination, and ambition, and willingness to become an engineer. It may not be handed to me, but my work, and skills, and willingness to learn will step me up the ladder hopefully in due time. Thanks for the advice Tom, as for getting a job as a Hostler, it sounds like a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it!
You say these are typically 6 hour days.. what about being a railway conductor, or Engineer? How often are you away from home.. how long? and Trainboyh 16-44, what are you doing for work? where?
I'm a photographer, around and about. I tend to hang around the parks, and of course, trains aren't the only thing I shoot - I'd starve otherwise! Interestingly enough, the main reason why I haven't tried hiring on with CP is the hours...until you get enough seniority to hold down a job with a predictable schedule (according to a recent video released by CP, 30 years!) you're going to be susceptible to being on duty every hour the law allows. I can't say I remember exactly what, but it's probably 12 or 16 on, 8 or 12 off. Someone else here will know better....either way, you're technically allowed to work more than you don't, and you can't have a regular sleep cycle. That's just as a train crew, though - lots of other jobs have regular hours.
 

nick

New Member
Current updated HOS(hours of service) laws: 12 hrs max time allowed on duty, then 10 hrs undisturbed rest(cannot be called for work during this time). After 5 days consecutive, 24 hrs off, 6 days, 48 hrs off, 7 days, 72 hrs off. 276 work hours maximum per month. Limbo time(stuck on a siding waiting for your shuttle to retrieve after your 12 hrs are up) is added to your rest time.
 

nick

New Member
Since that is what I'm most familiar with, I believe so. Both of the Canadian roads(CP and CN) operate trackage in the US, so in those areas, they would fall under the US laws.
 

pdiva2

New Member
Thank you again for your replies boys!! I am getting a personal tour of Alyth Yard today, Western Canada's Busiest Rail Yard! First time for anything like it!! So excited! Starting the Railway conductor course in 3 weeks!! :)
 
Too bad I've been on vacation, I should have asked if I could tag along! I hope your course goes well and that you love the job, it's not the easiest to love after all. And if you see an unusually cool guy with glasses and brown hair, don't call him in for trespassing ;)
 




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