Capp79 wrote:What's up everyone i hope you're all doing well. I've been offered a temporary position with NS as a conductor and i have 4 questions that an experienced NS railroader might be able to answer.
My first question is have any of you conductors/engineers moved into management? If so, how did you like it compared to your duties/schedule as a conductor/engineer? Did you take a pay cut or pay increase? I understand management positions are salaried and they are entitled to an entirely separate pension but i've heard of senior engineers at NS making between 130-150k (information came from a current NS conductor). With pay like that i'm kind of wondering why someone would want to leave a senior engineer spot that entails the ability to pick whatever job you want for a management gig where you deal with all kinds of BS like hiding and watching people to cite them with safety infractions. I just can't ever see myself doing that.
My next question is how does the railroad feel about tattoos? I currently don't have any visible tattoos but getting a sleeve, possibly 2, is something i've always wanted to do. The idea may seem foolish to some but i'm a firm believer in the fact that life is short and we should live it the way we want to. I love tattoos and the ability to display yourself through them.
My 3rd question is what's the best schedule out there that a senior engineer can have? I've heard of something resembling a monday-friday/weekends off gig but i wanted verification from some engineers if possible.
My final question is if i transfer to another yard will i lose any seniority and are transfer like that common?
Thanks in advance to those who take the time to respond
I am assume by temporary, you mean "provisional." NS only states "provisional," because they can terminate you at will up until after you have been promoted to conductor for 60 days.
To answer your question, the pay for taking a trainmaster's position depends on a lot of things. Some management folks come from T&E, while many others come from NS's OST (Operations Supervisor Trainee) program for college graduates. If you are a junior employee, they won't offer your much money. It might be comparable to what you make as a conductor trainee, but will start to lag behind as you pass the conductor "step up" rates, and move to full rate. If you are an established employee (more than five years), they typically take your last three years' base salary (meaning not factoring your bonus if you are engineer), average it out, and then offer you 10% over that as your base starting salary for management. If your average salary exceeds the management pay grade that you are being considered for, don't count on being offered the job unless you are willing to take a pay cut.
If you do take a management position, be prepared to have the railroad as your new wife. To advance, you will have to spend a lot of hours on the property, and be expected to break plans with your family every time there is a derailment in the yard, or a train in need of assistance on the road. The hours won't be any better than T&E. You will work nights, weekends, and holidays, with no holiday pay. You will be stuck driving employees around during major snow events, when they shut down the contract van service. You will also have to be willing to relocate. Those who move up the ranks typically relocate about every 2 to 3 years. While it is possible to stay local, don't expect to move up much beyond a Road Foreman, or Lead Trainmaster position. Many folks in T&E make more money than those managers, without the aggravation of having rotating 24/7 weekend coverage, or being called in when something goes wrong.
As far as "senior engineer" pay, what you were told isn't entirely accurate. Pay depends upon a lot of things. What kind of job you are on, is the biggest. A 5-day yard assignment working daylight M-F may be high seniority, but don't count on it making anywhere near $130K to $150K per year. Unless it makes a lot of overtime (which not a lot do any more), count on your base salary on a 5-day yard assignment being half of that. To make that kind of $100K+ money, you would need to work a high mileage pool, and spend a great deal of time at work. That type of job may not be the highest seniority, because many guys value having a regular schedule over a fat wallet. There are tradeoffs for everything. You have to decide if you want to know when you are going to work, or if you don't mind spending considerable time away from home. You also have to realize that "senior engineer," depending upon the terminal, could mean having 20 to 30 years' worth of time in. When I hired out, there were certain extra lists that you needed 20+ years of seniority to hold outside of the summer months, because the work they covered was extremely lucrative. You needed even more time to even sniff any of the regular jobs at that terminal.
Schedules also depend on a given terminal. Some terminals have lots of locals or yard jobs (if the yard jobs aren't RC jobs, which many are). Other terminals may be heavy on through freight pools, that don't have a set schedule. Unless you are the top three or so guys on the roster, you will never have the full ability to pick what job you want. You will end up picking the best job you can hold. At the terminal I work, you have a lot of guys with 10 to 20 years of seniority, who are on through freight jobs with 2 days on/1 day off runs that work overnights including weekends. Why? Because that's the only regular schedule they can hold. To hold the best jobs, you need 25 years+ as engineer (NOT including the time you spent working as conductor, waiting to be selected for LET school ... which could be up to 5+ years of time, depending upon location).
Tattoos are no big deal if you work in T&E. Lots of guys have them. If you want to be considered for management, don't get anything visible, or be prepared to wear long sleeve shirts all year round to cover them up. NS prefers their supervisors to have a clean-cut, business-like look. NS doesn't value individuality in management. They want team players who follow orders without question, and respect the chain of command. That is why they recruit heavily for armed services veterans, and you'll find lots of VMT graduates in supervision's ranks. Plan accordingly, if you have management aspirations.
As far as transferring ... it depends. Some districts are extensive enough that you can bump to another location without losing your seniority. To go outside of your district, however, will require approval from supervision, and losing your seniority. You will go to the bottom of the roster at that new district. Some guys with only a couple years in transfer, but seniority is everything on the railroad, so not many people give it up to move to another district, once they are established.