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Reading through this forum and elsewhere on the internet, I've seen posting on what life is like for those in the industry...especially those engineers and conductors who have to go on the road. With the announcement by Norfolk Southern that they'll be hiring 500 people within the next few months, I thought it would be appropriate for there to be a thread where people in the industry talk about their jobs or, as I have seen described, their lifestyle (since people say its more that than a job).
I have seen it mentioned a couple of times that some railroads are looking hard at their scheduling methods to appeal to the next generation of employee who may not be hip to being on call 24/7. There was one article I read where a company (sorry can't remember which RR) was thinking about having folks on call during an 8 hour period to give them greater stability/predictability.
Some of the questions I could think of:
What is it really like to work for a railroad? (very general, but a starting point)
What is your schedule like?
(Asked another way...) What is the average week/month like as a conductor/engineer?
What's the pay like?
What are the benefits?
What drew you to hire on in the rail industry?
How does your family cope with you being away from home?
How/where do you take bathroom breaks while on a moving train? (silly question perhaps, but I bet there are quite a few folks who are curious about it)
How does advancement to engineer process work in the various companies?
That's what I could think of for now...I'm sure there is more.


Do you like working outside, in all weather, day or night? Thayt's about as general as you can get before adding the details. The work is not difficult, you do move around a lot of heavy rail bound equipment: locomotives, railcars of all kinds, line track switches to change the routing of the railcars to different tracks, gather up the railcars and put together to make trains, break up the trains to make other trains, and so forth.

When starting out, the basis of your work schedule is related to your seniority, that is the day you hired on versus when other people started. For some time as you gain seniority, you will be subject to call 24/7, with time for rest in between calls. Some days you will work yard assignments, some calls to be a "through train" that goes from a to b, lays over and returns the next day from b to a. Some calls wil be to work an outlying assignment (one that is based at a location some distance away from the supply point (home terminal). When you have been working long enough, you may be able to bid on a regular assigned job, for a 5-day work week, or a 6 round-trips per pay period through job. OR, you may be able to work a local job based at your home town. There are lots of jobs out there also depending on the size of the company you work for.

Pay starts out about 75-80 % of what a 5-year or more employee would make, most Class 1 properties are under contract by collective bargaining by the representative union you would belong to when you hire on. Example; my daily rate is $254.34 for 8 hours or less (I work as a Yardmaster, so it's 8 hours or MORE). at 80% entry level = $203.47; 2nd year, 85% = $216.18; 3rd year, 90% = $228.90; 4th year, 95% = $241.62. This is just an example, and the pay would increase based on contract renewals about every 5 years. Benefits compared to private industry are great in the long run, you need to commit yourself to this kind of work in order to get any good out of it.

I had friends in the industry and I loved trains from a very young age. It also helped that I had family working, too.

With little seniority, you may be away from home a lot of times. Back when I started, I could always depend on being out of town on the holidays, (not so much now). So starting a family working in the industry would be a tough road, but your choice: stick it out or quit...

All locomotives are equipped with toilets, some better than others, a challenge when you REALLY need to go on a moving train...

Most Class 1's now get you hired on as a conductor when you pass the required tests, then as a condition of your employment, you must step up to train for an engineer's position when called. You would be sent to a training facility (REDI center) for about 6 weeks of classroom work: rules, safety, loco simulator, air brake requirements (federal law) hours of service, etc. THen it's back to your supply terminal where you will ride ALL the assignments that you may work: getting familiar with the territory, signals, siding locations, etc. Then a solo trip with the RFE, then it mark-up and wait for the call (you will start back at the bottom when you get qualified as an engineer).

Hope this is a good start for you to digest. One thing about this kind of work: our economy woult really have toi tank before the railroad industry would be affected and that would nopt be so good for ANYBODY. THanks that it is as strong as ever and hiring...good luck. 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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