• Working on a shortline

  • 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 freshmeat
If you're tired of working So. Cal., use your system wide seniority and go elsewhere. Thus far in 3 years, worked KS, AZ, Cal. and WY. Liked the work in Winslow and the country was beautiful. WY we worked like crazy. I now work in Newton and since Nov., I've been away from home exactly 3 nights,. Not a bad gig for Class I wages.

Not quite sure how you would see that as "working with different people everyday". Figure there are hundreds of guys in your BNSF terminal right now. There might be a few dozen, where you are looking. Seems you are going to run out of "different guys" rather quickly. Also take into account, some shortlines offer little, or no real training. You hear about "old school" railroading, but a lot of it is just plain unsafe. I enjoy working either way, but the number of near misses on the smaller roads outnumbers the larger ones many times over. Some places are using guys with only a month, or two on the job, to train their "new guys". They themselves were trained by a guy, with only a few months on the job, as well. I sometimes spend hours a day, making sure I'm not about to couple up, or run over some of these guys. (as well as trying to figure out just what the hell they are doing, back there) It makes for a very long day. as for the San Joaquin, we have about half a dozen of their guys up here. They quit, for the better money up here, and the chance to work without switching hundreds of cars a day, into industries over a few scant miles. No sidings, or storage yards mean the industry tracks serve as storage tracks, and you have to switch out cars, just to get in there, and switch out cars.

  by ExCRHog
Don't think this is too far off topic because using old equipment is part of shortline work. UPRR engineer, let's turn back the clock a little more and see if you remember the ol' 6BL and 14 EL brakes. I dug out a 1974 publication from the Air Brake Association on the 6BL. Independent was self-lapping, kinda like the one used with 26 brakes. Automatic positions were Release (shot main res. to brake pipe for faster charging, but was often disabled to prevent overcharges and sticking brakes), Running (charge brake pipe to feed valve setting and release train and engine brakes), Holding (pretty much useless, but intended to keep locomotive brakes applied while charging brake pipe. Seems like that's what the independent is for), Lap, Service, and Emergency. 6, 14, and 24 brakes all required going to service to reduce BP, then to lap to stop the reduction. As I recall, the 14 had a funky independent that worked like the automatic without the emergency position. You had to go to service to apply the engine brake, then an internal spring would push the handle back to lap. 6 and 14 brakes had no pressure maintaining feature, most but not all 24 brakes have it. Did you ever do any feed valve braking? It could get you in trouble with unintentional releases, but worked pretty well if you had to bring a leaky train down a long grade. Poor man's pressure maintaining. A long way from air conditioned cabs, AC traction and distributed power, but the old stuff was kind of fun.

  by Aji-tater
When you used those non-self-lapping brakes every day it was no big deal, you took it in stride. But get away from them a few years and then go back and what a pain in the rear! Get a couple leakers back in the train and a decent grade and you get busy. Yeah, feed valve braking is a no-no now, I'm not sure if it's a company thing or if the Feds prohibit it. I guarantee it's still done.

Another thing about those older brakes, most railroads didn't go to any great lengths to pipe the exhaust below the floor. By the end of a shift your head was hurting from the "whoooosssh" all day long, especially if you were doing a lot of switching. Most places seem to vent the 26L down under.

  by strider1500
Golden-Arm hit the nail on the head. I started with a short-line and not two months into my job, I had an accident. The training consists of watching videos for a few days then being thrown out with a working crew.

From what I've heard NS schools their conductors for six weeks before they get on a live train. I love the job, but training and proper supervision in the beginning, should not be overlooked.


  by Georgia Railroader
Everything is different between shortlines and class 1 railroads. I started out with a shortline and worked there two years. There was little to no class training. I was switching cars my very first day on the job. The engineer was great at his job. He came from the SCL, then on the CSX. The conductor who trained me was there two years before I was and was great to work with.
Fast forward two years and I was with CSX. The pay was great, I had never made that kind of money before and I was happy, although the enviornment at csx is crappy. They look for reasons to fire you and they want you to fail. I loved working the extra board and being out on the road. I made a mistake and paid for it with my job, but that's another story.
Now I'm back with the same company I started with and things stink. The pay has increased a little but the conditions are still bad. Debris everywhere, power that should have been retired 30 years ago. But on the flip side we do get away with murder. Rolling a cut of 20 cars by is common practice. We get E-tested about 6 times yearly, but don't get written up unless it's serious. Guys have torn up more equipment and track than I can count and not one has ever served time off. I do things the way the FRA says to. Radio rules, brake tests, PPE, these are the main things they look for when they come around.
It is a loose laid back enviornment compared to csx, but the pay has got to be some of the worst of anywhere. I would like to go to another shortline, preferably one backed by a union, but untill then I'll keep on stumbling over old crossties, and getting smacked with tree limbs, while rocking over track with hollow ties LOL.
  by peorge
steam371 wrote:The only downside is hearing from the "Class 1" or "big railroaders" that we're not a real railroad. Anyone?
be happy working for either class 1 of shortline. a good job is hard to come by now days so i say just be happy you have a pay check and benefits. if your company has trains and rail i would have to say they are a real rr. :-)


  by USMC Vet
What kind of hourly rate are you guys getting on the shortlines you work ? Conductors and engineers.

  by Georgia Railroader
USMC Vet wrote:What kind of hourly rate are you guys getting on the shortlines you work ? Conductors and engineers.
I don't make hourly I make weekly. I don't make overtime, so every check is an exact copy of the last. Some shortlines pay by the hour, and have decent rates.