I would simply add that, faced with the question, "Would you do it again", the answer is Y E S. For me, it was, at times, a love-hate relationship. I found the machinery and the railroad culture.........different. Sometimes difficult to take, still "interesting". Like no other job/career I ever had. It pi**ed me off many times, made me wish I"d never set foot on the RoW. Made me want to punch out a couple of managers, but I held my cool and my tongue until the last day. And there were interesting things that made me secretly proud of what I was doing, the challenge of being the operator at some outlying station, or handing up orders to the crews I knew. OR, for the really raving railfan, standing on the ballast to hand up to Southern 4501 or 611----"Yer train's a-lookin' good on the South side, OOH-VER" while Mr. Ambrose, whistled at me goin' by, waving. "Awrite, Mr Operator, thankee---we're on our way, boys!" OR----deadheading on the engines to some assignment. And that doesn't even account for the years I spent at the Shops. Sometimes it was VERY hard work. There, again, I was able to see/work with the machines: track liners, Tampers, Kershaw Ballast Regulators, tie handlers, cranes, and knew many of the parts by heart. And, whether, you are a rail buff or not, it kinda gets into your system, this culture, the methods, the language of the railroad all its own. You become part of a rich history.
So for those who are considering a career in railroading, it IS worth it, Rough, but worth it! College can't hurt, and if your major is more or less mechanical, it is a good thing. I didn't complete college, either, but I was lucky enough to find my way onto the Southern Railway, then Norfolk Southern (after merger) and spent the remaining part of my working life there. If you can separate the "hobby" aspects of railroading from that of profession, you can do well there. This is the mistake that many people make when saying, "I always wanted to work on the railroad". They come to it as if it were a toy, and that's just not true. It is gritty, life-interrupting, all-compassing (at times) and certainly not a hobby! It is DANGEROUS and you must remain alert and do your job while obeying the rules. OTH, it is interesting and rewarding. And despite its drawbacks, I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm proud of my railroad connection. Now "MARK ME OFF ONE DAY ONLY"
Great post, I have read similar posts from other folks both railroad and non-rails from various sites, who retired after many years of working there craft. They say it goes by fast..lol 27 more years for me will give me 35 . Although I got on at 29, I think thats good some of these folks who get on at 18, 19, 20 and go to 62,65 ooohhweeeee... Congrats on a long career sir[/quote]
It seemed like a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g time to me, too! Like it would never get "here". I also hired out at age 30 which was just enough to give me the 360 service credits if I stuck it out for the entire tour. Alas, heart problems overtook me and I went out on disability at 24 years. Maybe the railroad gave me that AND the gray hair. Well I STILL have THAT. The hair, I mean. A little thin-ER than before. Maybe I PULLED some of it out working on the RR! LOL!
But, no..................with all the bad and what I know now, my lack of college, etc. If I were 30 again, and they asked me to go to work for Southern again. I would STILL not say "no". Yeah, I know: the barking trainmasters, the pressure, the schedules to adhere to, the funky work hours, the toll on one's life, I'd still do it. I'd be waking up at 5 AM to the ringing phone, "I have the 7 AM Agent's job at Kannapolis (NC), will you protect?" Yeah, I'll protect! To you and I that know the lingo, that is Call Clerk's language for "Will you show up and work the job"!
Its strange to hate a job and yet remember it with fondness as the years take one towards that final "Yard" in the sky. But that's the railroad for ya! And them durn railroad so 'n so's KNOW it, too! Buncha yahoos.....................!
I suppose college might have helped in my case and maybe I would've been one of "them". But, OTH, somehow I "knew" from the age of 10 that I might work for the railroad. From the time my Dad used to drop me off at the Salisbury, NC station (it's still there in and use) where I would watch the trains while he went to get chicken feed (we had a chicken farm on the side)...I kinda "knew". For the next 20 years I floundered around at various jobs, figuring that that railroad stuff was just childish curiousity. I wasn't "really" a train buff in the truest sense, but I liked machinery of all sorts. I went to college, but I didn't know what I wanted to do or for what purpose I was going. I dropped out after a year w/ no degree. But there was jusssssssssst this little "thing" that kept popping up in my subconscious. When things didn't work out for me by 1976, I needed something
, but what? And then the American Freedom Train came to town and I KNEW while riding that train on a Saturday as a lark with a friend. The rest is history. I had a GOAL. And that was to work for Southern Railway. Hired on the first try, first interview. It was for a laborer! But it was a START! Dirty, filthy, greasy dirt monkey, I was! But I didn't care! I knew what I was supposed to do. And it went from there. Laborer, clerk, Extra Board, Agent, Demurrage, Cashier, Crew Hauler, Block Operator and so on.
College or no, I did it. And, looking back, damn proud of it!