hounddog wrote:Seems a little odd - why would they hire someone on as a conductor first, rather than bringing them on as an engineer initially to learn the ropes.
You've got things backwards. The conductors job is to be on the ground to get the freight cars coupled together take off hand brakes couple air hoses even make a brake test if necessary. Everything concerning the freight cars is the conductors responsibility. The engineer only moves on the instructions of the conductor while making up a train in the yard or during set offs/pick ups. The conductor is the engineers eyes on the ground while making a move by radio contact sometimes hand signals. MOST train lengths average 1 to 1 1/2 miles long. The conductor is responsible for making sure the engineer is informed of anything that will affect the movement of the train. In essence a conductor does all the ground pounding work on the train. Some railroads have agreements that eventually a conductor will be forced to become an engineer. It's easier to learn the ropes running as a conductor before becoming an engineer. Once you have the knowledge of what it takes to work the ground an engineer has a better understanding of the moves being made. Besides they are two different crafts under two different union contracts.
So, essentially I will only be "running" a train. I'm assuming because of the Union aggreements I wouldn't be allowed to do anything else? (such as helping the engineer couple the cars to assemble the train)
So I would help assemble the train, ride with the engineer to the destination, then help unload/ uncouple the cars? Or would I be working strictly at the Cleveland yard? Also being on the extraboard mean working five hours one week and sixty-five the next (quote)
Probably not. It is more likely that you, if hired, will be on an "Extra Board", especially on a ROAD crew. Road crews *usually* make more $$, but have to be away from home more. Depending on the local situation and the local employees, this could be the "preferred" situation (due to the $$), or some may prefer the Yard work so they can be at home more. Just 'pends on how folks feel. They "bid" their seniority for what suits them better and what's available. I've seen shop men that preferred 2nd or 3rd trick--even tho they stood (seniority-wise) for 1st. Don't "hope" for work at your local yard when it is unlikely! It is more likely you will be away from home a lot in the first years unless you are extremely lucky! "Expect the worst, and be thankful when it works out better than you thunk!" That way you won't be disappointed.
They would NEVER put people on engineer positions first, IMHO! Really, now! Who in their right mind would put inexperienced people out there, not knowing or having experience with Operating Rules, Signals, and procedures on such a dangerous job? It is TOO easy to set up a collision, split a switch, turn a train over to do that. You can KILL people that way!
Depending on whether your extraboard is 'guaranteed', you could, indeed, work 5 hours one week and 65 the next. Trust me, NS ain't gonna have you sitting on your tail doing nothing and getting paid for it! They'll furlough you in a skinny.
NO ONE can tell you HOW it will work out. If you WANT the job, you will have to pay your dues, suffer the furloughs (if any), work around the hardships and build enough whiskers to hold a long-paying railroad job. There's no way around it.
Let's not get the cart before the horse!