I tried to get on with NS in Binghamton and the first time, they couldn't even get the location right for the test; the ad said it was in Binghamton, I use Google maps to show me where, get there and find out it's actually down the highway another 20 minutes in some resort. When those online maps can't find the address, they just gave you the center of town....
When I finally got into a test with CSX, they actually gave preference to a guy who'd been laid off by Penn Central. Not sure what good it does them to hire a guy who's going to retire again in 10 or 15 years tops. I had a connection or two there and it didn't help me, and then my one buddy got hurt and CSX screwed him over on the settlement, so I kind of lost interest in working for them.
The test is not hard if you have some common sense and were a halfway decent student.
If you do get hired out, you have to go to a training school where you learn to become a conductor. Eventually as they have need you may get trained as an engineer. After that working depends on what jobs you can bid to with your seniority - the less you have, the less regular your hours and the crappier the positions.
My buddy had a decent job as a clerk - which meant he drove a truck around the yard bringing crews back and forth to trains, or bringing the train paperwork back and forth. It had relatively regular M-F hours and was easy for him to bid into because the pay was lower, so it was less desirable a position.
I also know a guy who got hired as one of Conrail's last in prep for NS's taking over - and he got hurt, too, busted his knee up in the snow. Railroading can be a dangerous job - I also know guys who've retired and are fine, but there have been guys hurt and even a few killed over the last dozen or so years up here.