• The wisdom of this decision (or lack there of)!

  • 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 bdj
OK, so I've been with The BNSF for just under a year now. I'm a conductor, RCO qualified. Overall, I have only one complaint...or should I say one thing I prefer not to do given the opportunity. Midnight Bum Jobs in the yard!!! Aside from that, all is well. I've also experienced a furlough (albeit a short one) in my breif time here. My home terminal is rather large, lots of guys and "top heavy" seniority wise. For the better part of my time here, myself along with the rest of my class have been jostling over the few scraps (jobs) we are able to find. Mostly that is of course the yard extra board.

I've been trying to look ahead a little bit and see what I can do to put myself in the best position possible. That brings me to the LETP classes. I'm well aware that my seniority is super low. But be that as it may, I think I may have a slight chance at getting on a roster at some of the terminals around my district. As for my home terminal, with the number of guys there...it's all but set in stone that it would be many, many years before I would even have a remote chance of getting in a class. It could be a few years before being able to hold the road, even the extra board with any frequency. That being the case I'm considering trying for an LETP class as I've said. Provided I would get in, I realize I'm going to have to move. The engineer side looks incredibly interesting to me. I don't recall talking to any engineers who have regretted their decision. I even spoke to a manager of training who suggested that if i have any interest in doing so that it would be to my benefit to get into a class as soon as possible. Many guys say it's a good idea to get in when you can get in so you can "run around" a lot of people. Also, the idea of making the jump before you establish good seniority on the conductor side.

My rather long winded question is this......Are there any guys who have made this decision to move to get into an LETP class? Do you regret your decision? How has it affected your life? Would you do it again or would you have waited until you had a shot at your home terminal, even if it was many years?

I realize the ultimate decision is mine, but I welcome your insight.

  by jz441
I was ready to move to another terminal to get in the LETP class, but never made the cut.... Finally after 5 years I got in the class at my home terminal.
  by EricL
My first instinct is to say that a fellow shouldn't apply for engine service until he's ready. But that isn't true. I beat around the bush for months and ended up watching other guys go ahead of me. It finally ended up just being, one day, "what the hell, why not, I'll throw my name into the hat", and I was lucky enough to get in on the first go.

I only spent two years in (Amtrak) train service before going to LETP, about six months of that time on a regular assignment. After getting used to a regular schedule, of course I started all over again and spent another year and some change on the engineer's extra list, before being able to hold a job again. But really, I'm extremely lucky, because that's NOTHING. Guys used to spend years upon years on the extra list or worse. But with all the retirements and such happening these days, it has become easier to advance quickly.

You may as well go for it, as long as you feel comfortable with the job you're doing now. You obviously don't know everything (and who among us does?) but chances are you're good enough. So just do it, and see what happens. The folks who tell you "the sooner the better" are absolutely right. Get the date. Seniority is everything.
  by COEN77
I'm assuming on the BNSF dual seniority in effect? If it is then can't go wrong. I know the reason I voluntarily went into engine service in 1980 was over the fact that I didn't have to give up my trainmen seniority. On the C&O (Chessie System) an agreement was made in 1978 to allow dual seniority. Things were different back then we also established locomotive firemen seniority. The chances of ever being cut back to a trainmen were slim to none.
  by bdj
Yes. Dual seniority is the rule in play. I would retain my conductor seniority date.

I spoke to several guys at my terminal who waited it out. Took them around 5-6 years to get in a class. Honestly, I don't know if I'm willing to wait that long. A few of those who waited just had no interest or desire to move, which is understandable. They keep piling on the guys at my terminal. New hire class, after new hire class. Plus, there is a steady stream of guys flowing in from the west coast.

If you're familiar with the Dead Sea, you know that it takes in water all the time...but there is no outflow. Therefore everything in it dies. That's kinda what it feels like here. Guys coming in all the time...but no one is leaving. I should mention that I'm 34 years old and I don't really feel like I have 5-10 years to play around with.

I spoke with a manager about some of the concerns some of the guys were expressing with my decision. They we're of the school of thought that you should become an excellent switchman, then an excellent brakeman, then an excellent conductor before you become an engineer. Which I understand has some validity or so I thought. The manager dismissed that outright. He said and I quote..." You could be a s*** a** switchman your whole career and be an excellent engineer! Don't listen to that!"

Few things I've encountered in life are this 50/50. It really is damned if you do, damned if you don't.
  by jz441
bdj wrote:
I spoke to several guys at my terminal who waited it out. Took them around 5-6 years to get in a class. Honestly, I don't know if I'm willing to wait that long.
Wow, less than a year of seniority and you are whining about not wanting to wait another 4-5 years to become an engineer? What is wrong with you? Relax and learn the basics of railroading first. There is plenty of time for you to become an engineer.
  by gp80mac
Seniority is everything. The earlier you get your engineer number, the more time you will hold the better jobs.

If I worked for an outfit that allowed you to bid into engine service, I would have done so the second I could.
  by COEN77
Why wait? The only thing good about having experience on the ground it allows the engineer to formulate what's going on. Gives them a better understanding. A year is long enough. I agree with gp80mac seniorty is everything quicker one establishes it the better. I've known people who spent 3-4 years in the yard get called for engine service they forgot alot of the basics. Especially signals, some radio rules, taking instructions from a train dispatcher ect....the earlier going into engine service the better.
  by bdj
Well, I took a last second leap of faith and tossed my name in the hat. I received a message about 10 minutes ago.......I'M IN!
  by Engineer Spike
I knew that I wanted to be an engineer from the start. My uncle was one, and he encouraged me to move to get in a class. It turned out that I got cut off in my original terminal. I got into engineer school a few months later, there. I ended up senior on the engineer roster to some guys who had not moved. They were senior to me in train service. My new terminal was taking guys with less seniority. It was a good move.
  by supernova1972
That's cool you have an option to put in for it. CSX is called based on seniority and it will probably be 15 years before I'm called. There are still 150 guys in front of me, and I'd say only 50 or so will retire before they are called. I may be a lifelong conductor, but that's not bad at all.

On that note, how are you tired of waiting after a year on the railroad? Most guys get that out of them or leave after 6 months.
  by bdj
No, there's nothing bad about being a lifelong conductor. Actually, we're all, lifelong conductors. Some just get an extra card. It's kinda of like being in the service... Regardless of what your occupational specialty is, you're a soldier first.

There seems to be some misconception about my post. I've been in the yard nearly 90% of the time since I hired out. Some guys like the yard, some don't. I wasn't crazy about it at first. It was rather intimidating. It's a really active yard, lots of crews working simultaneously. A lot to think about, a lot that can go wrong. That said, I have gotten used to it and learned A LOT! I mentioned that given the choice, I would "prefer" to not work midnight bum jobs. I'd say this is the case with 99% of the guys.

I always had my sights set on becoming an engineer. By not wanting to wait, I was trying to say it did not make sense to me to wait in one terminal 5, 10, 15 years to get on a roster when I could go somewhere else and get it sooner. I was just trying to decide within myself if it was worth the hassle of moving.

In the end I decided it was. I don't have any children, so that made the decision a little easier for me. For better or worse, I've always been the type of person who feels an obligation to myself, my family, to society and to God to be the very best I can be at whatever it is I'm doing. Of course I don't always hit the mark, but you know, you try.

But there is absolutely nothing wrong or less than about being a conductor or car man etc. Every peice is essential to the overall machine!
  by Engineer Spike
For me the engineer classes were bid by seniority too. It was just that my new terminal needed more engineers, so less seniority could get me in. Both terminals were in the same seniority district also. I could have bid back, but I ended up going to another railroad.