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New Member
Hello all,

Just looking for some good honest information, straight no chaser.

Basically I am looking to possibly enter the railroad industry. I think I would love to work around trains all day. Enjoy my job, have a decent quality of life, decent pay, go home feeling like I accomplished something. You get the idea. So here are a few questions that would help me, I will say that currently have BNSF in my cross hairs.

1. What can I realistically expect to bring home every 2 weeks, month, year?

2. Working my way up from a breakman (or similar) to engineer how long does that typically take?

3. Working my way up how many days can I expect to be away from home? Does it get better or worse with each advance (conductor to engineer)?

4. Would you even recomend I come into this industry?

Thank you for your replys.


Been Nothin' Since Frisco
"Depends on the terminal" is the answer for 1 through 3. At the Fort Worth Terminal, there are guaranteed extra boards for switchmen, conductors and engineers and all of them pay differently. Before any deductions, you can expect to earn anywhere from $3K/month for switchmen just starting out to $8K/month for engineers with good seniority. If you work in assigned service on yard jobs, locals or road switchers, you will make somewhere in between those numbers.

Around here it's going to take awhile to move since they hired several people last year and only brought them back from furlough a couple weeks ago. If you are willing to work in North Dakota, you can probably cut your promotion time significantly, but you won't be able to transfer your seniority there until you have met whatever primary recall agreement you hire under (it may be 3-5 years at that terminal; it's 5 years here).

Time at home is measured in hours, not days. For example, I'm home now while the wife is at work and the kids are at school. It's useful for getting laundry done and catching up on emails, but since I'm going out again around 7pm today, it's bad for having a family life. If you can work a yard job, you'll be home every day and have two days off per week. Odds are good that it will be a 2nd or 3rd shift job with crappy days off, though. If you're working the road, you'll be home a minimum of 12 hours at a time between trips. Since the lower seniority switchmen/conductors work the yard around here, you can expect to be home often at first. Higher seniority conductors work the road, so they won't be home often. Engineers will most likely work the road since many of the yard jobs here are RCO. In fact, it takes pretty decent engineer seniority to hold a yard job. Those days at home are worth the lower pay to most folks.

If you want a lifestyle change as opposed to a job change, this is a good place to get it. But it's not a job. Your whole life will revolve around it. And it's no place for tourists - things happen quickly here even when you're paying attention. If you're off looking at the latest ES44C4 when you should be protecting a shove, you or someone else can get hurt or worse in an instant. You have to leave that at home.

Also, you will work in the rain, snow, and blistering heat, dust storms will come up out of nowhere, there is diesel exhaust in the air constantly and God only knows what kind of spilled ladings are in the yard that you'll be stepping in. Your feet will hurt, your back will ache and when you bump your knee on a pin lifter or your wrist on a grab iron, it's a kind of pain you won't soon forget. This stuff is heavy and unforgiving. Bumps and bruises are the least of your worries.

Is it worth it? I wondered sometimes in the freezing rain or sweltering heat. But for me, yes. I love the work unlike any job I've had before. It feels good to provide for my family and to know there's a day in the future when I won't have to work.


The Unwanted Line
Ya CP recuiter was at a job fair in Huron, SD last year. He told me the best way to put it is you give the Railroad 10 to 15 years of your life 24/7 then you can get regular time off. I am to old now for that so i stick with my crappy 65K a year truck driving job and home every night 99% of the time. I wish i would have pushed harder when i was 18 to 20 years old to get into the Railroad, to me just not a place to start at 40 plus years old. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

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