• Civil Engineering

  • General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.
General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.

Moderator: thebigc

  by YamaOfParadise
I'm currently in college for a Civil Engineering degree, and I've been meaning to get around to asking this question in a thread: what are the general prospects for Civil Engineering positions in railroading these days? Particularly in the Northeast, as that is where I hail from, and would preferably wish to stay. My interest in railroads has been a major factor in choosing Civil, and I'd preferably like to (eventually) end up focusing on railroad+transit applications.

What prompted me to ask about this is that it looks like a lot of the civil engineering for projects these days is outsourced; but I am unsure if this view is biased by the fact that locally, public ownership of RoW has become the norm in New England, and as such this stuff generally has to be contracted to someone. I'm left wholly unsure of how this is in the industry generally, in addition to the variance railroad-by-railroad with different management styles.
  by cjvrr
I am a civil engineer for a local government agency in the northeast. We interface with the local railroads regularly both shortline and a commuter operations as well as NS once in a while.

The shortline railroads farm everything out to consultants. Sometimes they have a specific consultant on call as railroad signal work is specialized. However most civil engineers can design track improvements performed by shortlines.

One local regional railroad does have one civil engineer on staff, he has been there forever and he generally oversees construction work. Most of the design work is farmed out to consultants. He oversees those contracts and has an annual budget for track improvements. He also works closely with the track crews on improvements.

NJT has their own in house engineering staff. They have track, structural and I am sure signal engineers. However they too farm out a lot of work to consultants. The in house staff oversees those contracts and they can perform engineering design work for emergent situations.

NS also has in house staff. Even for northern NJ the engineers are located in Atlanta. I think they can perform design work in house but with the large system they have they too use consultants for projects in specific areas.

So, when looking at a career at a railroad. My personal impression is that the larger companies may hire someone fresh out of college however they are going to look for an applicant to have gotten their feet wet some place else. That eliminates their need to train someone fresh especially with limit personnel to perform the training and the need to process the current work. So you best bet may be to work for a consultant that focuses on railroad work. Once there you can make the connections with people at the local railroads and perhaps move to a railroad once a position opens.

The other side of the coin is it is unlikely you would ever make a salary at a local railroad that would surpass a consulting firm.

Not knowing where you are one large local firm in the NYC Metro area that performs railroad design work is SYSTRA .
  by YamaOfParadise
Thanks a ton; what you said confirmed a number of the assumptions I had. I'm still a couple of years off from being at the point where I need to be lining up a job, but it's nice to have some idea so that I can start planning in the near future.

As for location, I'm a UCONN student, so I'm a bit closer to Boston and NYC, and I generally have preference to Boston over NYC, anyways... but they're both near-enough options for me to be fine with relocating somewhere when that time comes.
  by The EGE
In Boston (particularly for the MBTA), most of the heavy civil engineering work is done by the big consulting firms - HNTB and their ilk. Good money, if you can get in, and there's a pretty steady flow of projects.

Transportation (planning) - which tends to be data-driven rather than design/construction engineering - is largely a graduate level program. If you'd rather work with databases and public meetings than design stations and embankments, that's also a possibility. In Boston, both Northeastern and MIT have good programs; MIT in particuular has close connections with the T.
  by Engineer Spike
Go Huskies!
  by Cowford
Yama, you need to start networking. Two suggestions: Reach out to local railroads/transit agencies/rail-oriented engineering consulting firms about internship positions. Join New England Railroad Club nerailroadclub.com and attend their meetings. (No, it's not a foamer group. It's made up of railroad managers and executives, and focuses on operations, engineering and mechanical.) The next one is Nov 5 in Boston, the engineering-focused event is in March. These are at least five consulting firms in New England.