Thursday, June 24, 2010

Don't Apply to More Than One Railroad at a Time!

This is a cautionary tale:  When my husband started applying for railroad work a couple of years ago, we enthusiastically filled out applications with several railroads.  Every railroad he applied with called to schedule an interview.  Eventually, he was hired by one of those roads.  One of those roads called to schedule after he was hired for the first railroad, so we thanked them graciously and declined to schedule the interview.  Well, guess what?  Now that my husband is furloughed and has been looking for work, he put in an application with that second railroad.  They automatically rejected him.  The first time this happened last year, we thought that perhaps they just had too many applicants.  But this time, he applied as soon as the opening was posted.  He is absolutely qualified, yet he was rejected instantly by email.  We think he was blacklisted from that railroad simply because he declined to interview with them the last time they called.  Lesson learned:  Apply for railroads ONE AT A TIME.   You want to stay on their good side.   

Monday, January 12, 2009

Just Got Furloughed

My husband was out of town working when he got the call-- he's been furloughed. That's bitter news for us, since we were looking forward to the insurance. It was not a surprise however. We knew it was coming. My husband is worried that the recession might last long enough to end his railroad career before it ever got started.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Furloughs Everywhere

All around the country people are getting furloughed. Even people with a few years of seniority are having to seek jobs at Walmart. My husband was supposed to mark up to conductor soon, but before that happens he will be furloughed. His last week of scheduled work is next week. He's been told to expect to be put on the furlough board after that.

Guys who have worked for the RR for 120 days are eligible for benefits and get paid a small amount to defray living expenses. New people don't have those advantages. This is going to be a rough ride. We are hoping he'll eventually get called back.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Be Sure to Have a Back-Up Alarm Clock

Being late for work will get you fired if you are within the first 120 days of employment. If you are a passenger service conductor promptness if of course even more critical beyond the first 120 days. During his first few months of working for the RR my husband has learned a few things about making sure nothing goes wrong, as far as getting up on time.

First, I must say that my husband has NEVER (that I am aware of) been late to ANYTHING. He is always early, and has been for the past twenty years that I have known him. But even HE has had a couple of close calls. Learn from his experiences so that you won't have to go through the same thing:

1. NEVER TRUST THE HOTEL ALARM CLOCK. During his first few trips my husband relied on the hotel room alarm clocks, and he never had a problem. Then one day while packing for another trip he spontaneously threw in his own alarm clock into his overnight bag. He thought, "Why not have a back-up alarm?" It must have been his guardian angel who inspired him to do this, because on that very trip his hotel alarm never sounded, and he wouldn't have gotten up on time if he wouldn't have had his own back-up alarm.

2. NEVER TRUST THE WAKE-UP CALL system. The automatic wake-up calls that you can request have also failed him on his trips. Now he sets TWO of his OWN ALARMS. He sets a digital radio alarm from home, as well as his cell phone alarm.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Details About the Hang Test

I am going to provide you with details about the Hang Test that my husband went through a few weeks into his training. Just so you know- this test may be regional. It may be peculiar to a certain region in his railroad, or to his railroad in general. You might not encounter this test, or you might encounter something similar but different. That having been said, here are the details of what he encountered. Even if this test isn't exactly what you will encounter, it wouldn't hurt to prepare for it. It will help you to be as physically prepared as possible for the demanding job of freight conductor.

As I posted earlier, two people flunked this test. Maybe they would still be employed by the railroad if they had known in advance about the test, and if they would have prepared.

Here is an exact description of what my husband went through.

He had to hang on the ladder on the side of a car for several six minutes. At all times both feet were on the ladder. You can practice this on a jungle gym at a park or on a play set in your yard if you are luck enough to have one.

1. Climb onto the ladder. Keeping both feet on the ladder, hang for two minutes with both arms supporting you.

2. Then, keeping both feet on the ladder, let go with one hand. Use the freehand to perform railroad hand signals such as: Go Ahead, Keep Her Coming, Stop, Car Counts, Go This Way.

3. Continuing to keep both feet on the ladder, hang for 1 Minute with BOTH HANDS supporting you.

4. Keeping both feet on the ladder, let go with one hand. (This should be the hand that was holding on during the first one hand test). Hang one-handed for 1 minute while performing the hand signals.

My husband's instructor didn't demand absolute accuracy with the signals. Lots of people messed up the signals, and still passed the test. They were looking for the physical ability to hang on to the side of a car and to move the other hand to signal.

If you take this test they may demand a higher degree of proficiency than was demanded of my husband's class-- ask the instructor what the expectations are.

I am going to try to post diagrams for the hand signals in the near future.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Hang Test- Prepare Early or Possibly Get Fired

A few weeks into my husband's conductor training, they were taken out into the freight yard and told to hang off the side of a car for several minutes. They had to alternate hands a couple of times during the test. Most people did fine, but a few failed. Those people got fired. One thing my husband noticed was that every single person who failed was obese. That makes sense, because they had more body weight to suspend. So if you are overweight and want to work for the railroad, either make sure that you have a strong upper body or lose weight to make the hanging less work for your upper body. It was a real shame to see those people go. My husband said that a couple of them were really good students and had a lot of enthusiasm. My husband's on the road right now, but when he gets back, I'll get the details of how this test was done and I will post them for you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

So Ya Wanna Work for the Railroad

Are you in it for the money-- or the glory? That's what they asked my husband at his interview, and what his conductor school instructor asked on the first day of class. Whether it's your life's ambition or just another way to get a great paycheck and the best benefits around, you'll be competing with hundreds of other applicants for just a few open positions. The good news is that due the aging population of railroad workers, there's lots of positions open- for the moment. And rising gas prices are going to help with the expansion of the railroad industry.

In this blog I will share with you how my husband got his job, which resources were most helpful, and I will also share with you any resources I come across as I look to support his new career. Check back often Oh, and by the way-- the correct answer to the first question is YOU ARE IN IT FOR THE MONEY. If you're in it for the glory, the RR doesn't want you. So even if you're a lifetime subscription holder to Trains Magazine, even if you spend your freetime operating railroad simulators on your computer, keep it to yourself. As far as everyone else is concerned, you're in it for the money.