First, please let me stress that while I do have a little knowledge about some railroading positions, such as engineers, conductors and brakeman I have never worked in the railroad industry myself and therefore probably cannot answer any job-specific questions that you may have. Having said that, I will do my best to answer your questions or try to point you in a direction where more help is available. So, if you have a question(s) please feel free to get in touch with me and I'll see what I can do. If you are here searching for jobs and have never worked for a railroad or know much about the industry please let me warn you that such a career is not for the faint of heart, at least if you hire on in the transportation or maintenance departments. Railroading is tough work and takes a dedicated breed not only to handle the physical demands required but also the mental fatigue, as working 12-hour, seven-day-a-week shifts is normal (and overtime is mandatory).
While a more predictable work schedule does come with seniority, don’t expect it to happen within a short period of time. Some railroaders wait 20 years or more to land a “9 to 5” workday, which usually consists of working yard or local positions. There is a reason why railroaders state that railroading becomes a lifestyle, its not just a saying! Long hours on the job and days away from your family are typically common on the big Class I railroads. However, if you are qualified and are lucky, you can sometimes find openings on shortlines (Class IIIs) and Regionals (Class IIs) where the hours are shorter and the work schedule is much more predictable. It should also be noted that while the hours are long on Class Is, they also offer the best pay where, with benefits included, one can sometimes reach six digits in earnings.
This type of money usually isn’t available with the smaller railroads, although again, they do offer much more predictability about when, where and how long you will work. Aside from the good pay Class Is offer there are also other perks by working as part of a train crew. Because most rail lines run through the wilderness and backcountry the scenery is spectacular. Also, if you enjoy being your own boss this line of work essentially offers such perks as [in most cases] it’s just you and your engineer/conductor between the time you enter the locomotive cab until your 12-hour shift is complete (where you reach your intended destination or not).
Lastly, retirement for railroad workers is perhaps the best of any industry. This is because of the Railroad Retirement Act, which was established in 1935 and is a fund that railroader’s pay into separately from the Social Security system. All in all, the pages here will direct you to further information regarding several different railroad positions/careers such as engineers, conductors, maintenance, etc. Maintenance department work, such as in a track gang, requires much of the same grueling, long-hours as train crews. You must be available at all times when not on duty and the work consists generally of some type of right-of-way maintenance whether it be line inspections, replacing rail/ballast/ties, overhauling the track structure, etc. Also, keep in mind that whether you work on-board the trains or as part of a track gang, the work can be quite physical and require a lot of lifting.
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