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Date: 02/16/10 17:23
How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: WAF

Thought this might make an interesting thread. So, did you know someone? Was a close relative or family member a rail? ( which was the best way to get hired in years past)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/16/10 17:23 by WAF.

Date: 02/16/10 17:42
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: zchcsse

Applied online for train service for BNSF, got invited to a hiring session in late 2003, did that, showed up to the interview the following day VERY early (impressed the HR guy as I was there and the person's whose turn it was wasn't there yet), and eventually got hired. The CFO of BNSF is a distant relative of mine, and I included that fact on my online application. It probably helped! (It literally DID help when I never heard back from BNSF after submitting my application and I emailed my relative and he had the HEAD of HR in Ft. Worth look into it and found out that someone made a typo with my email address. That got corrected, but it did likely cost me a couple months of seniority. It ALMOST cost me a JOB though!)


Date: 02/16/10 18:06
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: jtwlunch

I went with a fraternity brother of mine who had worked a previous summer for the Santa Fe in Wellington, KS and he introduced me to the Chief Clerk to the Trainmaster, filled out an application, had a brief interview was sent to the local Santa Fe doctor for a physical and a back xray (no pee test in the 70's)and awaited for a phone call. Got a call about 3 weeks later to report in May after school was out for classroom and training out in the yard and on the road to mark up. On our second switch training job we had a engineer who was 72 years old and had to pass a physical every 6 months to keep marked up. We had to help him on and off the engine but he could run okay. If we were switching by radio instead of hand sigals may have been a problem. Our training instructor had a finger missing and we all wanted to know how that happened so we would have a "lesson learned the hard way" example of what not to do on the railroad. He got pinched in a coupler one night and showed us how not to do that. Was a great summer of experience working mainline locals to the Super C, went back to school and came back after graduation.

Jim Wilson

Date: 02/16/10 18:26
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: camelot7unplugged

In late 1973 I was trying to hire out in Phoenix, the fellow taking the
applications and doing the interviews told me after several visits
and now in early 1974 that I would better off hiring out
in Winslow and transferring down to Phoenix once I could hold. I called my
brotherinlaw who was a 2nd District engineer in Winslow and
and asked him about hiring out in Winslow, he said he thought
they were hiring now in Winslow, so I headed up to Winslow the
next day and had an interview with the RFE and was hired out on
the spot. Yes this was nepotism, but it came with a responsibility.
My brotherinlaw was well liked and a very good engineer and he laid
his name on the line to get me hired which ment I had a responsibility
to him, not let him down and be the best employee I could be.
Today there is very little nepotism in hiring and I feel that it is right
that everyone has the same opportunity to have this good job but we
have lost a great deal of being responsible, to be the best we can, to
uphold the family name . Once I could hold Phoenix I had realized the
difference in the job and pay an stayed up north .

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/16/10 18:32 by camelot7unplugged.

Date: 02/16/10 18:31
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: AmHog

I had a friend who rented an apartment from a conductor whose wife was a railroad company nurse. One day my friend told me his landlord told him that the railroad (Penn Central) was hiring conductors. My friend and I both hired on. This was back in the 70's and most railroads hired through through their own personnel dept. Just about everyone I worked with had a relative working on the railroad or "knew someone". You can still get on if you know the right people or are persistent.

Date: 02/16/10 18:34
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: scraphauler

Would you believe I sold the president of the railroad a new car? 1989 Oldsmobile Cierra if I recall correctly. The man was president of a shortline railroad that about a year later purchased the line through my home town from Conrail. On a whim, I called him up and asked him if he would have any openings. Three days later I started as 3rd trick clerk/dispatcher. Been in the rail game for the past 20 years now, currently for a private car line managing a couple thousand cars. Guess that turned out to be a pretty good sale!

Date: 02/16/10 18:39
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: wyeng

Hung around the NYC RR from age 12 or so watching the local switch my hometown while I was supposed to be delivering papers on my paperboy route. Eventually got asked aboard for a ride. Eventually was allowed to run the loco about age 16. When age 18 I started pestering the Road Foreman of Engines calling him on the phone every month or so. After about 14 months He finally called back and I was hired as a fireman.
Got drafted into the Army. On Leave I stopped in at the Road Foreman's office of BN in Wyoming. When he found out that I was a promoted engineer on the PC he practically tied me to the chair until I'd sign on the dotted line. At that moment they were so short of crews they had several trains parked for lack of them. Stepped right into the mainline engineer's pool and never looked back. Retired in 2009 after 41 years in the cab.
Its different now though.

Date: 02/16/10 19:11
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: calhog

I'll echo wyeng's answer: perseverance. I knew some engineers who kept me informed when the company (SP) was hiring, and I presume they put in a good word for me. But it was up to me to convince the Road Foreman that I really wanted the job, so I just kept pestering him until he finally gave in and hired me. This was back in 1967. The hiring process was much different then, but I'm sure perseverance still pays off.

Date: 02/16/10 19:38
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?

Through I friend I met on a railroad picture site, I met another friend who was a UP engineer. I also met another engineer on the MNA. They were 2 of my references on my application to UP for a Conductor position out of Villa Grove, IL. At the hiring session I found out the Manager of Training and Attendance out of St. Louis used to work out of Poplar Bluff, MO (my hometown) and shared a couple warm reminisces about the town. I was hired the next day. I later found out that the MTA used to hostle engines for my UP engineer buddy's grandpa at Dupo, IL back in the 80's.

After I got laid off on the UP I started looking at the MNA. My engineer buddy on the MNA was a railfan and gave some pictures I took to the Assistant General Manager who asked if they could use them in company publications. Well, long story short, I got on over there, too.


Date: 02/16/10 20:23
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: rob_l

A great idea for a thread, Wes. But you should tell us your story, too.

My story:

I had no relatives who worked for the RRs. Being a railfan was an affliction I was born with. However, my father and grandfather were both big shippers and they loved riding the crack western passenger trains of the 50s and 60s, and they were supportive of my interest. I started poring through hand-me-down copies of the Official Guide at about age seven. I absorbed everything: all the roads, their junctions, their passenger services, their freight services (as much as was in the Guide, anyway). I also learned some from the Traffic Agents that called on my Dad and Granddad and who played golf with them. I spent as much time by the tracks as I could and learned a lot from watching and asking myself (and sometimes the employees) what was going on and why was it being done that way.

At the time I graduated from high school, my Dad was friends with the UP General Manager in Portland. He told the GM he had an A-student college-age son who loved the railroad, and asked the GM could he get him a summer job. I was told to report to the Superintendent's office in Albina Yard. The Asst. Trainmaster interviewing me wrote in the comments section of my evaluation form "This man is a personal friend of the General Manager, hire him immediately." It turned out that UP offered summer jobs to sons of officials attending college who were interested in a career with the RR after college, and I basically got added on to that program. I worked various jobs in the Operating Dept. of the Oregon Division during summers and school breaks all the way through college and then took a staff job in the Omaha HQ after graduation.

I always thought that program was a great idea. Providing practical in-the-trenches experience to interested college students before they took a staff job vastly enhanced their education (because they had lots of questions in their minds when they were presented academic material) and it made them dramatically more productive when they stepped into a management job (because they already knew the terminology, the data and some of the politics). I always felt I had a very big advantage over the other new-college-grad hires in Omaha that lacked the operating experience. Moreover, I think it was a good thing for the regular staff. The surge in operating staff levels during the summer allowed lower-seniority men to take vacations in the summer when they could take their families on vacation without pulling their kids out of school.

Now that I am a professor I feel my greatest challenge is to convince students how screwed up real-world operations are. One just can't imagine things could be that bad and the challenges could be that big.

Best regards,

Rob L.

Date: 02/16/10 20:40
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: 72368

I attended high school in my hometown, Mesa, Arizona. The high school was located next to the main line of the SP route from Picacho to Phoenix and Wellton. I had always been curious about trains, and one day on my way home I rode my bicycle down the station platform to the depot. The afternoon train order operator was friendly, and I ended up hanging around the depot on weekends and after school.

During my junior year of high school, every student had to do a "project" in mechanical drawing class. Remember the term
"mechanical drawing"? I drew a map, to scale, of the yard trackage and produce packing houses along the railroad, and gave it to the grouchy old station agent, Mac McKinley. He had it framed and hung over the office safe, so road crews could refer to it when picking up and setting out cars at Mesa.

The trainmaster from Phoenix had been trying for years to get a small drawing such as mine for the depot, but instead the division engineering folks sent him a map over 30 feet long, with every detail known to man kind, such as the age of the rail and ties. The trainmaster, when he met me, told me to come see him for a job when I finished school. I did, and I worked for about two months, and then was furloughed and fired.

You see, they figured out I had lied about my age and was only 17 - so they fired me and then told me to come back next summer so they could rehire me. My railroad career only lasted 42 years........


Date: 02/16/10 20:58
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: CarolVoss

rob_l Wrote:
> >
> Now that I am a professor I feel my greatest
> challenge is to convince students how screwed up
> real-world operations are. One just can't imagine
> things could be that bad and the challenges could
> be that big.
> Best regards,
> Rob L.

Rob, I think it would help if you explained a bit further that you are a prof at the UC Berkeley Hass school of business, what courses you teach and how your philosophy fits into those courses and influences students as to their approach to the railroad industry as a future for them, "screwed up" or not.

Carol Voss
Salinas, CA

Date: 02/16/10 21:19
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: DNRY122

This a ways off topic, but I'll throw it into the hopper. Back in 1978 I was working at an electronics plant where the main product was navigational radios for military aircraft. We also did a special small run for the Space Shuttle. One day a colleague who knew of my interest in railroading told me about a want ad in the LA Times: Southern Pacific was looking for brakemen. I was a bit skeptical, knowing that railroads usually hired relatives and friends of employees. So I checked "help wanted" from one end to the other and found no ads for SP. What I did find was an ad for communications techs at Southern Calif. Edison. I applied, passed the test, and went for the interview. One of the questions was, "How do you feel about overtime?" And I said, "Love it! It puts new tires on the truck." (turns out many of the techs were doing OK moneywise and didn't like OT.) When the subject of hobbies came up, I mentioned working on the track and overhead line crews at Orange Empire and this drew nods of approval. (Some of the newly hired techs were benchwork-oriented, more technical types who were unhappy when assigned to pulling cables, installing telecomm equipment racks or other physical-labor tasks.) And how about out-of-town work? At that point in my life, out-of-town meant the company paid for meals, provided better lodging than I used when traveling on my own trips, and sent me to interesting places, including some with regular train service. And 28 years later I retired with a company retirement party, telling the assembled co-workers and family, "I still enjoy the job, but it interferes with my amateur railroading and riding new light rail lines."

Date: 02/16/10 21:43
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: EMDSW-1

Well...mine was a bit different! In a nutshell, my steel fabricating facility was located on the Portland Traction Co. in the Milwaukie Industrial Park. We received carloads of structural shapes mill direct and were also in the railroad salvage business.

In 1987 we received a letter from the Union Pacific (who owned the PTC jointly with SP) that they had filed for abandonment of the 23 miles from Milwaukie to Boring but would continue to serve ourselves and several other customers located in the industrial park until another operator could be found, or ultimately abandon the remainder of the operation which would total about 6 miles.

As an existing shipper who agreed to operate as a common carrier for the required two-year period under a 10905 acquisition, we found ourselves in the short line business on April 1, 1991 as the East Portland Traction Co. Two years later SP offered their Oregon branchlines for sale or lease and I ended up purchasing the Molalla Branch. We were also awarded the contract to scrap the Boring line which provided much material for upgrading the trackage that we would operate.

So, I guess, that was my "official" entry into the railroad field (although I worked summers for the NPT Co. (now Portland Terminal) during college) and could be considered my first full-time railroad job. What started out as a one-man operation to preserve rail service to our business now supports my three sons, myself, my partner Kelly and her family. Now both divisions are combined as the Oregon Pacific and on April 1st will celebrate 19 years of operation without a single FRA reportable incident.

A bit different approach, I agree, but you gotta do what needs to be done!

Dick Samuels

Date: 02/16/10 21:55
Old SP
Author: Westbound

In 1967 I was not a railroad employee but was doing some special work for a company that had Southern Pacific as a client. They liked my work and later offered me a job which I took, lasting through retirement.

More interesting was the hiring of a co-worker. She had worked several years as an airline stewardess, then one year as a clerk at a stock brokerage firm, then answered the San Francisco newspaper ad, despite the fact that the ad was in the "Help Wanted, Men" section. Here is the ad and the written response to her letter. She was hired on the spot after the face-to-face interview and worked until she retired at 62. We are still close friends.

Date: 02/16/10 21:55
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: rob_l


This is getting way off topic. But:

CarolVoss Wrote:
> Rob, I think it would help if you explained a bit
> further that you are a prof at the UC Berkeley
> Haas school of business,

OK, but I'm not. I'm a professor of industrial engineering and operations research in the UCB engineering school.

> what courses you teach
> and how your philosophy fits into those courses
> and influences students as to their approach to
> the railroad industry as a future for them,
> "screwed up" or not.

I teach courses and guide PhD students on engineering and management of high-tech manufacturing, logistics and supply chains.

Standard academic philosophy: Students learn the theory, then go do "applications" of the theory. It makes me flinch. A lot.

My philosophy: Learn the problems first, learn the opportunities and challenges first. There is no substitute for confronting the real mess, for poring through the real data, for seeing the problem from the trenches, from the middle management view, and from the customer/user view. Learn to ask the right questions, learn to make the right assumptions. Modify and adapt the theories you learned and do the ENGINEERING to solve the real problem. Transform difficult decisions lacking data and clarity into well-engineered business processes where it is very clear what to do and why it is right to do it, and where the right decisions get made as a matter of course.

I structure my courses so we confront the problems first, then I introduce some relevant theories, then we critique what is WRONG with the underlying assumptions of the standard management and engineering theories relavant to the problem, then we adapt/modify the theories for the problem at hand, then we develop the information system/organization/automation/business strategy and engineer a really good solution. Then we go through the feedback of what we didn't do the best and learn from our shortcomings to take things to the next level.

In a broad sense, it is no different in semiconductors, or biotech, or supply-chains from Asian factories to big-box retail stores in the USA, or even in your world of health care, than it is in the railroad. Things are much more screwed up, and the challenges and opportunities are much greater, than one could ever imagine sitting in a classroom or sitting in an office cubicle.

There are no general theories that one can simply "apply". There is only engineering.

Best regards,

Rob L.

Date: 02/17/10 01:45
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: bobwilcox

I got my first railroad job by getting on Joe Fry's short list. I was majoring in Transportation at the University of Tennessee. Joe Fry was the professor in charge of working with prospective employers. After a day of interviews at the placement office the HR folks would ask Joe over cocktails who he thought were the best prospects in that years class. His recommendation got me a summer intern job at the Southern and a full time job the next year at the Rock Island Lines. Dr. Joe was a buff, a great teacher and a mentor to a lot of railroaders over many years.

Bob Wilcox
Charlottesville, VA
My Flickr Shots

Date: 02/17/10 02:35
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: MrMRL

My hire on story is nearly identical to Tom's (zchcsse). I applied for a Conductor Trainee position online with the BNSF in Feb 2005, Got a phone call 11 months later, January '06 (while railfanning the MRL in MT no less). Went in for a exam session and interview in San Bernardino with a number of perspective employees from Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Needles, moved on to a physical a couple weeks later, and started the 13 week boot-camp/training in March 2006. Marked up in June 2006. Then furloughed in December 2008, and am just coming back, hopefully for real this time...

Mr. MRL - amazed I've almost got 4 years seniority already...

Date: 02/17/10 02:57
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: CShaveRR

I just happened to see a sign in the office.

In November 1970 I was visiting in Chicago with my then-girlfriend, and went into the North Western Station for something--maybe a timetable. As we were in our car, I happened to use the Clinton Street entrance, which is where the employment office was. Saw that the railroad was hiring brakemen. I was still in college then, but getting very fed up with it. So I made some trips to Chicago during CNW's office hours, and followed up on it. Had to jump through a few hoops (they wanted a letter from my then-shrink, they asked things like "Why would you want to become a brakeman?" It was a break from school for me, which I thought I needed. I must have, because I never went back.

Date: 02/17/10 04:13
Re: How did you get hired on your railroad?
Author: BNSFhogger

I was out railfanning in October of 1988 and met a conductor. He said that the railroad had just started hiring again. He told me to put in a job interest card at the unemployment office in Lynwood, WA. I did and didn't hear anything back so I went back and put in another one. I think I had 7 cards on file before I finally got the phone call to come interview. My astronomy teacher at the community collge I was attending worked at the crew desk at Balmer yard in Seattle. He put in a good word for me and I was hired in April, 1989. I'm coming up on 21 years at the railroad and have never been furloughed..

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