• Opening Your own rail Business

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by RailBus63
James, the best advice I would give any young person who is interested in a particular occupation or industry is to get in on the ground floor. See what really goes on and learn both the good and the bad. I've never worked in railroading, but I'm a public transit fan also and I had an opportunity to work as a bus driver when I was younger. It was a neat job in many ways, but it was stressful at times, I had to work weekends, and it quickly started making hash of my social calendar. Those are the realities in the transportation industry for both skilled labor and many management positions. I took what I learned from that experience, and began taking classes towards a transportation management degree at a local university. My career has since been on the shipper side, but I did the same thing along the way - I started by working as a supervisor at a distribution center and learned how all those shipments actually get moved before I moved up to my current position negotiating logistics contracts.

It's also important to note that while some folks love making their hobby a full-time occupation, many others find it becomes just another job and lose interest. The nice part of my career is that I'm close to the transportation industry, yet I still enjoy going trackside on the weekends to see and photograph trains. I doubt I'd want to do that if I spend 80 hours a week around the railroad, but that's just me.

Keep up the high average at school, and good luck as you make your plans for the future.

Jim D.

  by Engineer James
Well, I can see what ya are saying Aji, I have always wanted to be the King of my own Road since I was 3. The hmmmmm of an S4. Now another question.

Can you pull/Push bombarders behind a loco such as an S4?

  by tahawus84
where do you come up with this stuff? you need some friends..

  by GN 599
Hey cant blame the kid, who wouldn't want a S4 ? Seriously talk to anybody in the "business'' though that is not a locomotive you would want to open a shortline with, its a museum piece.

  by Engineer James
Gn 599> Really? Never knew.

and its only $25,000. less than a brand new Hummer!

  by Aji-tater
"And it's only $25,000"

Re-read my post above. It's only $25,000 if you want to own it, and sit there and pretend. Even so they will probably want a storage fee. If you want to run it somewhere for real it's 2 to 3 times that or more. Reality sucks, doesn't it! Face the truth and figure it costs $75,000.

  by Engineer James
Wait. Doesn't a shortline run a refurbed S1? Oh, I remember the Carolina Thermal Belt Railway. Do they still operate a rebuilt S1?? Circa 1939?

True. Just tough it would be a good project maybe for later in life. Unless I can find a cheap Plymouth. a 2 or 3 axle, maybe a coach, and a SF Steel type Caboose.

Any way, back to reality..... :-)

  by Aji-tater
I think the Thermal Belt runs some sort of old EMD. The point is NOT that an ALCO won't work. The truth is there are still a lot of S4's and similar engines still out there earning their keep both on excursions and shortlines. The point is that in some cases the cost of saving something is more than it's worth. If you had $100,000 sitting in your pocket you could fix up that S4 or whatever it is and have it shipped to Michigan. Then what? Or you could find something closer to home in better shape, maybe pay $50,000 for it and still have the other $50,000 for money to start up your railroad, with stuff like insurance, a hirail, tools, an office and a lot of other things. I'm not suggesting that's an actual cost but with the cost of transportation, obsolete trucks and stuff like that "location" is an important factor. If that same S4 was sitting in your home town, and you had a dormant branch which could be used for excursions right there, it MIGHT make a LITTLE more sense but still no slam-dunk. Keep studying and it's OK to keep dreaming too, just keep reality in mind as well. And just for the record I would be very happy to see somebody save that ALCO you mention; I'm just not optimistic it will happen.

  by Engineer James
Aji, thats my probem I cannot find any equipment except a few steamers that are for sale. Those will cost me more than a Million.

  by MEC407
You'd probably be better off spending $50K-$60K for a GP7 or U23B or something like that... easier to get parts for it, no need to change out the trucks, etc. Or even a "newer" Alco such as an RS11 or RS18 (something with a 251 in it). Here is an RS11 for $35K and it's not that far from Michigan, and most likely would be a lot friendlier to your wallet than that poor old S4: http://www.railswap.org/cgi-bin/classif ... =retrieval

(And I'd love to see that S4 saved, but realistically, if it hasn't happened yet, it probably ain't gonna happen)

  by RailBus63
Check out the June issue of TRAINS magazine which just came out - it features a multipage article explaining why some shortline companies are more successful than others.

In a nutshell, holding companies are now dominating the shortline business. The days of an individual buying an underperforming branch line and turning it around are probably gone - if a line has potential, one of the big shortline groups is probably going to outbid you for it.


  by Engineer James
OK... end of that.

  by jg greenwood
Engineer James wrote:JG.. Thanks....* Not Happy*

Ok... I have been dreaming of OPERATING my own shortline. Now, I have found an EX-Cape Cod S4 #1000 on sale on D.F. Barnheart &Assoc. for a while now. $25,000!!!

Just a dream... and yes, I WILL BECOME A LOCOMOTIVE ENGINEER, hopefully for CSX or NS.
I sicerely wish that you could have been with me last week. I enjoyed three wondeful days on a work-train. Had you been at the throttle during this fun-filled event, your romantic aspirations of becoming an engineer would be forever changed.
Our duties consisted of shoving a Jordan ditcher/spreader at the blistering pace of 2-3 mph. The first day was the most "enjoyable" of the three. Our engine (CN 9541) was facing south and our direction of travel was north. No mirror on this puppy. You sat half-turned in the seat as it was impossible to turn the seat completely around. (Thanks CN!) Now, as you well know, we aren't owls. Our head isn't meant to be rotated 360 degrees. After about 2-hours of this your neck is screaming for relief. Relief is not forthcoming!
The first day we progressed only 4-5 miles. In addition to clearing up for traffic, every road crossing, bridge, culvert, fiber-optic post, etc. reuires that the spreader be retracted and raised. Due to the fact that you're shoving this puppy, you are constantly breathing the dust that this monster creates. We were extremely lucky that the weather was cool. There's nothing like operating in a dust-storm while you're sweating like you're in a sauna! In addition, since you're behind the ditcher/spreader, when the wind is "favorable," you inhale the fumes from the Detroit-diesel that powers the hydralics for this beast. No, closing the windows doesn't alleviate the problem as these engines are anything but air-tight.
The second day was somewhat better. We were fortunate to have a north-facing unit, (WC3025) no more head-swivelling. In anticipation of operating the ditcher, the MOW people remove whistle-posts that are in the projected path of the ditcher. The conductor has his hands full listening to the machine operator. He can't always keep an eye on the up-coming road crossings. This requires that the engineer keep his head in the storm window of the engine in an effort to see any road crossings. This isn't quite as uncomfortable as the owl-trick, but after several hours of constant leaning it ranks right up there. Your left side starts cramping and eventually no more cramps, just a dull ache.
I've been banging around railroads, off and on, since 1966. I've been an engineer since 1994. All in all, these were the most miserable three days I've ever encountered.
It is not my intention to discourage you from a career in railroading. There are enjoyable days, times that I actually enjoy running trains. I would like to pass along the same message to you that I "attempt" to convey to my grandsons. It's perfectly OK to enjoy trains, railroading, etc. BUT, you can do much better than this for a career! Retain you love of trains while you take advantage of your educational opportunities. A degree in Transportation/Logistics Management would be the perfect niche for our industry. Get that sheepskin and then become an engineer it that's your goal. The proper education will give you that much needed "ace in the hole."

My turn. James, while it's nice to "play trains", and yes, they are fun to watch, the life of a career railroader is a life I wouldn't wish on anyone. You probably should figure out how to scratch up enough money, to buy an Atlas S-4, before you "entertain" us with your fanciful thoughts on buying/refurbishing a real one, to run on that imaginary road you are creating. This is not a job/career for the wanna-be's, the weak willed, or for dreamers. This is a hard, mind numbing, body draining job, that is NOTHING like what you enjoy, while fanning with your dad, in his car. You seem to constanly ask questions, that have been answered a thousand times before, on this very site, then go off into strange tangents, related to your desire to model this as a hobby, although you don't actually model. You will definately need to mature, and work on your ability to think, and reason, for yourself. (it's a significant portion of the tests, used to hire men on the railroad.) You ask a question, then before it's answered, you grow bored, and ask another totally irrelevent question, ad infinitum. Patience, reasoning ability, spatial awareness, self-starting and a high degree of motivation are skills people have and use, to get jobs on the railroad. Those with only questions, short attention spans, and an inability to finish a task, thought or conversation usually don't get "the nod", when the hiring process begins. You might want to finish school, get a job, and start to pay your own way, before deciding to become the next Asa Packer. Not to discourage you, but you need a reality based plan, and a way to get there, rather than the wild speculations/fantasies you have been posting recently. Get older, get serious, then think about railroading as job. Perhaps the PC game "Railroad Tycoon" might be what you are really looking for......... :-D

  by Aji-tater
James, here's another example of reality. You'd like to run an engine, and I agree it can be fun at times. But let's say you just landed the position and you're assigned to a certain job I have worked. There are a couple towns involved, and in each one there is a yard of several tracks, each track holding 20 to 35 cars. They transload out of these cars, and because there are a lot of different blends and chemicals, they don't unload them in order.

So you pull the first track out, set one to the main. Then two cars back into the yard track, Then two to the main, one back in, and so on, back and forth, over and over, gradually working your way until the track is done. Then you tie on to track two, and do it all over. You spend the whole morning and half the afternoon going back 8 cars to a hitch, forward 6 to clear, back 8 to a cut and so forth until you know every tree, rock, and piece of ballast that goes under your window over and over. And the next day is the same, and the next: you're the regular engineer on that job and you're going to spend weeks or months going back and forth like a ping pong ball. You're so bored you could fall asleep but that's how somebody gets killed so you force yourself to try to stay alert. You'd like to trade off and work the ground to stretch your legs but the other guys on the crew are not certified engineers. Somehow the word "fun" goes out of your vocabulary.

Don't get me wrong, there are good things too, even if some guys won't admit it. Being the first train out in the AM after a snowfall, pine trees all white with snow. Wildlife: deer, fox, coyotes, wild turkeys. The satisfaction you feel when they gave you too many cars and you get over the hill without stalling. Going west on a flat landscape as a thunderstorm approaches at night, watching the lightning bolts blast the ground.

If it's really in your blood you won't be happy doing anything else. I heard the same sermons as JGG and GA say, enjoy the railroad but have a different career, and that was a long time and many railroads ago. I would not be happy doing anything else other than railroading. But that sure does not mean it is all fun, happy or that you enjoy every minute. As I have said in other posts and the other guys are telling you, get a good education first. If you still want to become an engineer by all means do it but get the schooling so if it is not what you want to stay with, you have options to fall back on. And always be aware of the reality versus the illusion of romance and adventure. Spend 12 hours drilling cars on the same quarter mile of track and see how much fun and adventure is left at the end of the day.

The soap box is now available to next speaker.