Where do I go from here?

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Where do I go from here?

Unread postby minernut333 » Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:07 pm

I'm 22, living in Westmont, IL and intend to find a career in the railroad industry as a conductor and work my way up to engineer. I have a High School Diploma since 2013 and have completed an Associates Degree at College of DuPage as of December 16, 2016. I have three applications in since November of 2016: Norfolk Southern conductor Kankakee, IL, Canadian Pacific conductor trainee Savanna, IL, and Canadian National conductor South Chicago, IL (Markham Yd, Hawthorne Yd, and Glenn Yd). Since finishing my Associates Degree I have been sitting around the house all day doing nothing. I only work two days a week on Friday and Saturday. I have looked at careers on OmniTrax and Genesee & Wyoming but a conductor/engineer requires Minimum of two years’ experience in railroad operations which I do not have and don't know how to get it. My parents and I went to a open interview for RJ Corman in November 2016; which I have also applied for as a switch man. The recruiter stated that railroads only hire when they want to.:( I hate sitting around the house all day because I WANT TO WORK and I'm available RIGHT NOW. :!: I don't mind waiting but while I wait, I would love to work part time doing something in the railroad industry but I'm having a tough time finding anything in the Chicago land area. I feel stuck and I don't know where to go from here. :? Any comments of help or guidance will greatly be appreciated. :)
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby GreatLakesRailfan » Sun Jan 08, 2017 6:50 pm

You could try volunteering out at IRM, even though it's a little drive from where you are. Several people on this site started out volunteering at their local tourist lines, and got the required experience that way. IRM seems to have a lot of connections to the Class 1s in the Chicagoland area, moreso than, say, the Fox River Trolley Museum has.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby PatAzo » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:35 pm

Try Watco. I have a friend who works for Watco and along with refugees from other short lines they've hired people with no experience. In the meantime work doing something even if it isn't what you want to do.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby minernut333 » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:19 pm

I actually applied twice at Watco, one for Grand Elk Railroad and the other for Wisconsin & Southern, shot down. :shock:
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby railohio » Sun Jan 08, 2017 9:57 pm

1. Get a full-time job. If you don't have a significant full-time employment history, you will likely not ever get hired on a railroad.
2. Don't take your parents.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby Ypsi » Mon Jan 09, 2017 12:17 am

I would also suggest at least part time online/ communist college classes. Metra will not hire anyone without 2 years college or previous railroad experience as a conductor IIRC
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby Jetlink » Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:36 am

railohio wrote:1. Get a full-time job. If you don't have a significant full-time employment history, you will likely not ever get hired on a railroad.
2. Don't take your parents.


Disclaimer, I'm not a railroader

I agree with railohio and will add a couple more:

3. Don't take your parents.
4. Go to every hiring session/open house/interview possible regardless of location.
(I flew to Texas from Michigan to interview for the job I have now; relocated there for a while after they hired me too. You can always relocate after you get experience)
5. Don't stop applying. Apply to everything, every time it is open. Keep at it and don't give up; no matter how many times you get rejected. Persistent people are almost always successful eventually.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby AARR » Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:50 am

Did you ask them why? If not always follow up and ask why and what you need to be considered next time.
minernut333 wrote:I actually applied twice at Watco, one for Grand Elk Railroad and the other for Wisconsin & Southern, shot down. :shock:
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby SousaKerry » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:15 am

I do not know if CSX still does them but they used to have a conductor training coarse with some colleges. You would pay about 4K and take some classes for a few months, if you passed they would give you an interview, not necessarily a guaranteed job but highly likely.

There is always the Modok Rail academy as well.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby SD80MAC » Tue Jan 10, 2017 10:54 am

Thankfully, the "pay your own way" conductor school at CSX is no more. Now they pay YOU, as it always should've been!
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby CSX_CO » Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:18 am

SD80MAC wrote:Thankfully, the "pay your own way" conductor school at CSX is no more. Now they pay YOU, as it always should've been!


Yeah, God forbid you make a $4K investment in yourself. 1/10th of the cost of a 4 yr degree with twice the earning potential out of the gate. Plus, applicant has "skin in the game" and $4k worth of "incentive" to stay at the job.

Unless you're looking at short lines, bad time to be trying to get on at a Class One. Thousands furloughed, and unless traffic ticks up they're going to stay furloughed for awhile. Throw in PTC and the distinct probability of one man crews in the next 10 to 20 yrs, going to stay lean. Have a feeling that move will coincide with the next round of retirements. Still 10 to 15 yrs away from the next round of retirements. Almost Everyone the railroads hired in the 60's and 70's are gone. Next round of hiring wasn't until the mid 90's. Those guys still have 10 to 20 yrs to work to reach 60.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby GreatLakesRailfan » Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:59 pm

SousaKerry wrote:I do not know if CSX still does them but they used to have a conductor training coarse with some colleges. You would pay about 4K and take some classes for a few months, if you passed they would give you an interview, not necessarily a guaranteed job but highly likely.

There is always the Modok Rail academy as well.


There used to be a program at a tech school on the south side of the Twin Cities (Minnesota) that did almost the same thing. It was a semester or so long and at the end, you'd have pretty much the same training as if you'd been trained by the railroad. CP, BNSF, UP and I think the local companies would hire out of it every so often. I have a friend who moved out to go through the program, and he wound up hiring in at Union Pacific. And promptly went through UP's training program for new hire conductors. Because of the program he was already familiar with the basics, but the companies want to make sure you're doing things their way, not the way you learned it somewhere else.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby cbehr91 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:17 am

Pretty much any employment experience will be better than none. On a resume, despite what your guidance counseler told you, no one cares about your GPA, or what clubs you were apart of in high school.


And as others have said, bad time to get in on a Class I. Furloughs and layoffs everywhere.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby dmitzel » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:18 am

Consider as a stepping-stone... lots of jobs available OTR and local. Motor carriers can't find enough drivers, and they'll train to get your CDL. This will give you some demonstrated work history in transportation, will show you can pass a DOT test and physical, etc. Then keep applying at the RR's while you're driving (and earning $$$).

A dray driver to/from the IM yards is another angle, or with MoW.
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby Tier4GEVO » Sat Jan 14, 2017 2:43 am

Take this with a grain of salt as I'm five years behind you at 17 y/o... but as I am a stressed out junior in high school at the convergence of many paths/routes/choices/decisions, and not knowing what the hell I currently want, there are a couple things people have said to me that shed a different bit of light that I wouldn't have thought about previously. I know what you're going through - it sure adds a lot of stress!

First, focus on the most important aspects. You got an associates degree. As you applied to three Class 1's for conductor options, and most likely didn't learn a second worth of education pertaining railroading (that's what the hobby is for, learning, CSX's REDI training center in Atlanta, job training, etc...). As you're situation seems pretty open-ended, might I offer a few suggestions. First, it seems as if the college degree you earned is just something to have on a resume. Maybe consider going for a bachelors degree? Because regardless of the job - you need to be financially stable (not saying you aren't, just mean whatever route you take should not be risky in terms of keeping a cash flow). Many of the higher paying jobs (most that require college degrees, typical 9-5 office jobs, etc) have a requirement of college and background/drug testing. Having that degree unlocks many doors. Having good work ethic, wanting to do your best, and being team-friendly is what will actually open the door with a company. Many undergrad college degrees are earned by doing good on homework and tests from an old textbooks. It's not guaranteeing anything with how your specific individual job may be. Engineering can vary so many ways, though applicants may all have the same engineering degree. What really prepares you for a job is job training and learning experience. If you can have a 4 year degree, that puts you in a caliber way higher than before.

And we could say, "but I want to work in the railroads". That is fine! Go for it. But job security isn't as high as other jobs. Wake up one morning and realize you're furloughed like many people I know, and have no secure backup plans. That's where the degree comes in handy. Tons of people would want to hire you.

Alternatively, you could start out with a full-time employment job that your degree would benefit, gain some years of work experience, move into your own place, and keep railfanning as your hobby you can always look forward too. As long as you can tolerate your job, you can always keep railroading a big part of your life when you aren't at work. Probably the majority of this website's users are as described just above. It's not as pretty as it looks working for a Class 1, though as railfans we obviously are skewed on this.

This is because our end goal cannot always be what happens first. Sometimes we have to do things in order to allow further options ahead.

Whether you choose to work for the RR's, decide to start out with something else and THEN join the RR's, or simply work a non-railroad job and keep it as a big interest outside of work, you can end up successful and happy. Determined people always find a way. There's millions of lazy bums and a-holes in our society, the fact you WANT something out of whatever you do is already a huge sign you'll end up where you want.

If further college is simply not possible, an associates can get you somewhere. Many places will take you. If a company REQUIRES a "2/3/4/5 year experience in the field of blahblah", don't work for them. We all have to start out somewhere! Also, furthering your college can open the chance of an internship, many of which employ graduates. And it's not where you go to school, it's what you do with it. My dad develops transmissions at Ford and knows a lot more mechanical engineers from smaller, "easier-to-get-in" less-known schools than the famous nationwide renowned ones, and they are the ones who get the job because they want to try hard and problem solve and won't mind getting their hands dirty if it means sticking to a task.

Good luck on your journey!
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Re: Where do I go from here?

Unread postby MMRR-24 » Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:49 pm

Have you thought about military? i'd recommend National guard or reserves and not active. I did active navy for four years and didn't care for it, But I will say, it opened up a world of opportunity for me when I got out. In fact I would not have the career I have now without the military. I also did get multiple calls from NS and CSX after posting my resume on indeed. Most railroads (and many other companies as well) have a veteran/reservist first hire policy and it wont guarantee the job but it will get your foot in the door. Like many of the post before...gotta start somewhere.
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