Got an offer for a CSX Freight Conductor, should I take it? is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.


New Member
I am currently employed at a manufacturing plant and my position is what equates to be a supervisor that does mechanic work. This job pays pretty good but never getting any time off is what has got me wanting to leave. I've heard that CSX employees hardly get time off either but the job I'm at now takes it to the extreme. It's nothing for us to work 7 days straight for months on end right now and when you're on 3rd shift, that pretty much means that you have no life other than your job. Working these 7 days bumps my pay considerably because of Overtime/Time 1/2, so I could pull anywhere from 700 to 830 a week. Usually around 550 for 40 hours. My question is, would CSX be an improvement on this job or a downgrade?


New Member
I'm not going to tell you yes or no that's your choice. I can tell you about my ns experience. I work for the other guy! I quit a job that was paying 40k a year to work on the RR, and was ready to move onto something else. Training for NS wasn't terribly to difficult but they were always watching you like a hawk to make sure you were safe and had some common sense. I had a NS train master threaten to fire me for not having my CT hat on while on NS property one time. That was my really only run in with an official. As long as your in training do what your told and keep under the radar I don't think you will have a problem. After I marked up I had 60 days that I was on my own until I got into the union and they forced me into the yard. At NS while you are in the yard you are an easier target in my opinion. The yard train masters only have say 20 people to be in charge of compared to say the road like 56-70 ppl. Anyways remember at any minute you can be fired, I've seen it. As far as the job it's really not that bad of a job. I have worked the road and yard but now I'm in the yard since I can not hold the road.

It depends on what type of work your terminal does really could make life good or bad. Where I work for the road life is better then other terminals but it's not all get on and go trains. You are on call 24/7, we have a 2 hour call window where they will call you say 1pm for 3pm, 10a for 12p etc. sometimes we get 1 1/2 calls but nothing less then that. We have a short pool which is 51 miles and 2 long pools, one is like 138 and the other is 228. Once we get onto duty we check the bulletins and print out our train clearance that allows us to operate. We recrew the train get on and go to where we need to go. For example our short pool we take all freight trains into the hump yard. So once we get to the hump yard we talk to the yard master and see where we need to go if we are shoving the train in to get humped or pulling it in. After getting those instructions we place the train in the track. After that we cut our engines away and see wherer they need to be placed. We navigate the yard and place the power in the requested tracks. At this hump yard 90% of the switches are power switches so you just need to pay attention to which way the switch is lined for and make sure it's taking you to the right place. Along th way your talking to the yard master and following his instructions too. After the power is place we either deadhead home or stay at the hotel it all depends. It's really simple 8/10 times you go the same way talk to the same people so it just becomes muscle memory. Now we also have to build the train. We talk to the engine shop see where our power is, talk to the yard master see where the actually train is located if it needs to be doubled up etc, and we also get a consist and train clearance. Once again after navigating the yard light power we tie onto the train do a few things like test the marker, inspect the first 6 cars for hazmat, knock off a few brakes talk to the yard master and tell him your ready to depart. We'll he talks to the dispatcher they get a route for you. This could take 10 minutes or 4 hours it all depends on train once we are out off the yard it's signal indication take it to the recrew point get recrewed at go home. It could be a 4 hour day 8 hour or 12 you never know. For a short pool job I get paid 172 a day with OT after 8 hours and I'm at 75%.

For the long pool it's also the samething more pay, but on our long pool say 7/10 trains are get on and go with no work. Sometimes you need to add an engine or take off an engine it all depends. It's really easy.

For yard work you report to the yardmaster see what needs unless your familiar what a certain job does but sometimes it's changed if need be. Anyways after sitting around for 2 hours complaining that no one does anything and if it wasn't for you nothing would get done. At least that's how most conductors act. You might switch cars out, work industries, or build trains for the guys who work locals can just show up to work and go. Like I said it all depends on the day, the yardmaster. It's really not that bad it's lots of walking since NS is cheap some days and won't call you a breakman.

Now as far as the lifestyle I personally think it sucks on the extra board and that's what I am on. You are on call 24/7 and when they need you guess what you better go. They don't care if your balls deep in your women, out to eat with your family, at your kids birthday, seeing your mom in the hospital, when they need you they expect you to be there. Now don't get me wrong here at NS you can call and ask for permission off or take a personal day but it's 50/50 if you will get it! One guy once told me if you need it off call off sick but that's your choice. If you work the road and go out of town I can expect to be home anywhere from 30-36 hours after I go to work, sometimes it may be longer but upon average that seems to be the norm if you go out of town for us. As far as pay they will tell you stand there's with your pocket open we will stuff it full. I would take that with a grain of salt. I had it open my first year and after training for 6 months and 6 months on my own I made like 34k that year. Then winter came It got super slow and I got laid off for like 7 months or so. They finally called me back to work but I wasn't really able to hold anything. I kept getting bumped around for another month and was able to find a spot. So be prepared to get laid off, always expect it. As far as the benefits they are really good. I am single so the health insurance is a little high for me it's 198 per month but I think it's a flat rate for 0 kids or 10 kids. Union dues run me like 89 bucks then job insurance is like 60. I would quit this job for something better but you have to think long term man. Railroad retirement is awesome, you get 401k, good benefits. In today's world it's kinda hard to get a retirement from anywhere so I'm in it for the long hall. Another good thing about the job I think is the lack of supervision here. When I go to work on the road I barley see my supervisor I don't think he could pick me out of a lineup so there is some trust that you are going to do the right thing. But then again they call them weed weasels for a reason. As first the extra board is difficult to get use to, you will miss lots of events, prepare to work a lot of nights and weekends normally I get 1-2 days off a week normally like mom tues or. Wednesday. This is just my experience from my 2+ plus years. Remember if you don't like it and quit they have 100 people in line behind you to take the job. It's kind of a hard to come by job theses days. I have know guys applying 10+ times before even getting invited o a hiring session.


New Member
Thanks for the reply man. Yea, I know it's a hard job to come by which is pretty ironic considering I only applied 1 time but I know a ton of people that have applied multiple times. A few questions though...

1. As far as layoff's, in 1 full year, what's the average amount of time you can expect to be laid off? This would actually be a plus in my eyes because financially, I'm not rich but I can handle extended time off with no problem. I'd look forward to it actually. Also, I've heard that people have gone through training only to get furloughed once they actually got to their terminal, is this normal?

2. You used a lot of technical terms that I'm not really familiar with. Like just in general, how would you classify the Freight Conductor position? A labor intensive job or a more technical/mental job? The reason I ask is, this can make all the difference in the hours you work. I work 8 hours at my job now but it's WORK for the whole 8 hours. Lifting 30-50 pound parts constantly unless I'm having to fix a machine or deal with other problems. After working 7's of this, it just leaves you run down with little time to enjoy yourself and even less motivation to do it.

3. Would the towns make a difference in the pay/work/time off? Probably a silly question but thought I'd ask anyway. My "terminal" I guess you would say is located in a town that probably has **maybe** 5000 people in it. So, it's pretty small. There aren't too many big towns even close to this area. The nearest big town is over 45 minutes away.

4. How many days off a week you say you'd get on average? My goal is just to get away from these 7 days that I'm on now.

5. You said you made 34K the first year. This is probably around what I'm making now on average. I've heard this increases yearly at a rate of 5% until you reach the top pay for your position. Is this true? If not, how do pay raises work?


Forum Host
Staff member
...never getting any time off is what has got me wanting to leave.

Well, in my opinion, that's all I need to hear. You think your factory job is ruining your social life? You ain't seen nothing yet! The railroad owns you. You're on call 24/7!

Time off? Sure, you get time off. In some hotel in some town you're laying over in.

There are a lot of reasons to go to work for the railroad. "Lots of time off" is not one of them. Sure, you might get that, but not predictably.


New Member
1) AS far as lay offs you can never really know. It slowed down here so they were calling guys for brakeman or extra crews. I got a text message Tuesday to be at a union meeting Thursday to tell me I was getting laid off Monday. I got a letter and a call saying I was laid off and I couldn't get RR unemployment or state unemployment since I quit my job in sept and the state years go from like oct-oct or something and the railroad goes either june-june or july-july, whatever it was I didn't qualify since I didn't have enough time in the previous year. I thought I could handle the layoff too they said oh in no time you will be back like a month or two, turned out to be like 8 months until I got a paycheck again. The union didn't know crap.

2)Freight Conductor-Perfect lazy mans job. There is a lot of walking on uneven terrain like the ballast (rocks) on what feels a 45 degree incline sometimes. You go 1 step forward then 3 steps down. ITs nothing bad unless your carrying a hose, wrench and a hammer 10K feet to the back to find out the air hose disconnected. You might have to change out a knuckle I have only had to do it 3 times, once in training, once in the yard and the road. A knuckle weight like 60-70lbs. You have to pull yourself up onto equipment might have to apply several handbrakes, maybe adjust a drawbar. I personally use a brakestick cause working in the yard climbing up and down all day putting on 30 brakes can get old, quick. Its physical in the yard like walking and the above duties but on the road you might have to open a bag of chips twist the cap off your soda. It all depends in the yard you might inly have 2-4 hours of actual work at least here. All depends on what needs to be done if its busy but then again I worked with a conductor that made us a 12 hour night switching cars.

3). As far as towns im not sure how CSX pays, I think they do trip rates the farther you go the more you make, at least here at NS. Terminal I mean like Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami etc That's the terminal you work out of it has nothing to do with city size again I cant speak for CSX.

4) I may not get one day off a week or 0, like right now its slow I have not worked since Monday and its friday. You will get 48 hours off after 6 consecutive starts (days worked) if your called within 24 hours from the time you get off. and 7 days is 3 days off.

5). As far as pay rate im at 85% first year, 85% second year, 90% 3rd, 95% 4th, 100% 5th.

and as far as carrying a knuckle your not carrying it all the way back to the broken knuckle. You will tell the engineer to throw a E or F down and flag it (red flag day time or fuses at night) pull up to it, throw it on the car and shove back.
As far as time off, its way to unpredictable unless you realized that you didn't have to work that day guess what you had a day off!!!!


New Member
Well I went to the interview. It was pretty straight forward. Got to the hotel and waited around the lobby for a little bit with about 14 different guys. They eventually called us back then we got to hear around a 2-3 hour long presentation and had one on one interviews afterwards in order by what time we all showed up. A few notes that stood out to me...

* If you work 6 consecutive days, you get 48 hours off. If you work 7 days, you get 72 hours off.

* Training pay is around 600 dollars ( before taxes ) when you're at REDI, bumps to 704 when you go for OJT and 85% of the pay rate when you finally become a conductor.

* Insurance is around $200 dollars a month but is supposedly some of the best insurance available. However, no dental coverage until year 2.

* Chance of being furloughed is pretty high. They even asked a question about it during the one on one interviews "What is your definition of "furlough"?".

* $5000 bonus for 2 years without any safety violations ( $3000 in year 1, $2000 in year 2 ).

* Employees don't pay into Social Security. They pay into Railroad Retirement.


New Member
So did they offer you the job?
Not yet. I'll know within 48 hours. They said 1 of 3 things will happen. I'll either get a call saying I got the job, an email saying I'm in the pipeline which means they want me but don't have a spot for me right now or I'll get an email basically saying thanks but no thanks.


Been Nothin' Since Frisco
* If you work 6 consecutive days, you get 48 hours off. If you work 7 days, you get 72 hours off.

Believe me, the railroads know this. You will have five starts and be first out (the next one to be called) only to get no phone call in 24 hours, which resets your starts to zero. Then, one minute later, after you're rested 24 hours and one minute, the call comes. It's like magic! No days off for you.

Time off with the railroad is either spent:

on the bump board
lay off sick/personal day

The time off you get is generally at a time that is inconvenient for everyone else you know. "Hey, you worked hard! Enjoy your Wednesday off at 3 in the morning!" Or you get on some swing job in the yard that starts off on first shift for two days, second shift for two days, and third shift for the fifth day. You spend your first "day off" sleeping and recovering from a grueling 12-hour nightmare flat switching in the freezing rain or pulling a grain train and air testing it in the blistering heat. You emerge from your coma at 10 pm after your kids have gone to bed and now you're wide awake leaving you with the option of trying to force yourself back to sleep so you have some kind of day off the next day or pull an all-nighter to get back on track for your first shift job that's only a short 32 hours away.

I've heard at a few railroads the trainmasters really try to fire you for anything. I guess it makes them look like they're experts at weeding out bad apples or something. It's not that bad where I work, but expect to get caught if you break rules. Break the wrong rules and you are out on the street.

That percentage pay nonsense is ridiculous but not uncommon. If you work in a certified position at my employer, you get 100% pay. If you're working as a brakeman or yard helper, you get the step rate which is 75% for year one, 80% year two, and so on. Extra board is step rate pay, though.

We don't get a safety bonus around here. Too bad, I'd have some extra cash. Here we get a safety award, which is a collectible dinner plate or any of a variety of junky promotional gifts. I took one of the junky gifts a couple years ago but decided to go with the plate this past year. At least I can ebay it to somebody who wants it. 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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