Path to Yardmaster

General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.

Moderator: thebigc

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby Freddy » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:22 am

That supervisor I mentioned the other day would come over with his dog and we'd ride around and help do whatever I'd had planned and catch any signal trouble the dispatcher or signal center would call about. We'd have the dog in the bed of the truck and just go about the business at hand. He was talking one day about how he knew the railroad was screwed up when they recruited him and his buddy because my guy had a civil engineering degree and his buddy was an electrical engineer but liked the title of Roadmaster(track supervisor) even though he didn't know anything about the job. So they put my guy, with civil engineering, in signals and his buddy, with electrical engineering, in roadway. Go figure.
Freddy
 
Posts: 473
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:48 pm
Location: Walker Co. Alabama

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby COEN77 » Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:31 am

Gadfly wrote::wink: :wink: :wink: The very best supervisor I had in Line of Road was an old conductor promoted to TM. He understood the job, understood what the employees were going thru and wasn't "too good" to roll up his sleeves and help! When I was called to work a job I had never "cubbed", it was Crew Caller. I didn't know sh** from shinola about the crew book and who had what seniority! :( This old TM stayed with me most of the night and helped me get thru that assignment!
Some of the crews would try to pull illegal moves and "claim out" on jobs they didnt have seniority for! "AAAAAAANK!," Mr Davis would cry, "You KNOW better than that! Don't you TRY that on my clerk now!" :P He knew that book by heart and who qualified for what job. 44 years on the railroad!

I don't know what I would done without him! If not for him, I'd have caused a time claim and got put on the ground for 15 days for an "innocent" mistake! Other TM's would have taken the opportunity to yell and scream at me. I think nothing beats experience!

GF

I don't know how the Norfolk Western/Southern did it in those days with crew boards. On the C&O everyone had a wooden name plug on a board that the crew callers moved around to whatever job or where ever they stood on the board to get out. Even as a brakemen it took a while to make sense of it. LOL! You would walk in the crew room look at the board with 300+ name plugs in various locations. Funny the system worked better than these frigging computers these days. When they tore down the plexiglass crew board switching over to the computer system I took my old wooden name plug which i still have today.
COEN77
 
Posts: 1777
Joined: Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:11 am
Location: Richmond, Va

is a 4 year old DUI a deal breaker for aspiring conductor?

Postby ewain » Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:16 pm

Thanks everyone. I have a 4 year bach degree in history. I was studying the hist of RR's in kentucky

1.) I am thinking about going to MODOC Academy for Conductor training

2.) In Aug 2010 i got a DUI (not aggrevated). No problems since

1.) Does anyone have any opinions or advice on going to MODOC School for Conductor training?

2.) Does my 4year old DUI completely kill my chances for getting hired on as conductor, even with conductor degree?

Anyone with advice or experience please let me know, Thanks!
ewain
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2014 3:28 pm

Re: is a 4 year old DUI a deal breaker for aspiring conducto

Postby Gadfly » Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:22 pm

ewain wrote:Thanks everyone. I have a 4 year bach degree in history. I was studying the hist of RR's in kentucky

1.) I am thinking about going to MODOC Academy for Conductor training

2.) In Aug 2010 i got a DUI (not aggrevated). No problems since

1.) Does anyone have any opinions or advice on going to MODOC School for Conductor training?

2.) Does my 4year old DUI completely kill my chances for getting hired on as conductor, even with conductor degree?

Anyone with advice or experience please let me know, Thanks!


I can't tell you either way about the DUI. Choo Choo U. Save your money. Experience is the best teacher, and no matter HOW much you think you know from some "school", hands-on training works best. I know NS pretty much trains you from scratch. They may even prefer it over a school. I hired out as a laborer and they actually made an Agent/clerk/TO Operator out of me! With a tour at McDonough, of course!
Gadfly
 
Posts: 1190
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 11:28 pm

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby Neophyte » Wed Mar 19, 2014 11:00 am

What's frustrating is how these type of jobs never ask for any specific experience but, they only hire those with experience. Sorry about the whining but I have no where else to vent.
Neophyte
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:34 pm

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby Desertdweller » Wed Mar 19, 2014 2:50 pm

MODOC will teach you basic skills you need to know in order to work on and around trains without getting yourself hurt. They are limited in scope of what they can teach you. What you learn at MODOC will be roughly what you would learn during orientation on a short line. If a short line hires you, they will teach you those things for free. Even if you do graduate from MODOC, each railroad will want you to go through their orientation and training so you will learn how to do things their way. And yes, there are different ways of doing the same thing.

I have worked in both labor and management in all three classes of railroads. What railroads are most interested in is hiring people that are not going to cause trouble. This means people who are dependable, who can get along with others, and can work safely. The best way to determine this is to look at a person's work record. This is why experience is so important. When a new person applies for a job, a background search is initiated to help determine if the new guy is a potential problem. The main reason people do not get hired is because the person doing the hiring is worried that if the one he hires screws up badly, the person doing the hiring will get blamed.

Railroads realize that no one is born knowing how to do this. They usually give preference to people coming from a railroad background, like a railroad family. They do not do this to discriminate, but to consider how exposure to railroad life is absorbed by potential new hires. As you probably have figured out by now, this is a distinct lifestyle that people either like or hate. It is so demanding that people who cannot get to like it will wind up hating it. There are many sacrifices that must be made to work in this field.

You have chosen a noble goal. I have worked with many excellent Yardmasters, generally second or third-generation men. It is much like a Trainmaster's job: it combines technical and problem-solving skills with human relation skills. You have to know the yard as a whole: which way all switch points face, track capacities and names. You will have to know how to use the yard as a tool to make up the trains you need to build every day. You will need to know every person who works for you, their strengths and limitations. Sometimes, you need a lot of patience.

There is really no way you can just be hired and walk into this job, and have any hope of doing well. My advice to you would be to forget MODOC and get hired out on a smaller railroad that is big enough to devote the time needed to train you properly. A few Class One's do this well: BNSF has partnered with Johnson County Jr. College in Overland Park, KS in maintaining a true railroad university. If you get hired, they will send you there at their cost.

Even there, they will not teach you to be a Yardmaster. But they will teach you how to be a brakeman or switchman, and how to do it properly and safely.

The key to being a good Yardmaster is familiarity with the yard. Try to keep assignments in the same yard, regardless of hours and days off. Get to know the place intimately. Learn what each track is named and what it is used for. Learn the pattern of arriving and departing trains, and the time allotted for working each. Know by heart every detail of the yard, and get to know your customers and what details they like in the service they want.
I mean, get to know these guys by name. Call them by name if you run across them in a setting away from work. Make that yard become your yard.

Eventually, as you gain experience, you will find opportunity to be considered for switch engine conductor or switch crew foreman. You will then be the go-between linking the Yardmaster with the switch crew. When the time comes for another Yardmaster, you will then be a candidate.

When you start working, keep a notebook for each yard. Write down everything: tracks, switches, industries, trains built or torn down, peoples' names. When you are off duty, study that book until you know it by heart. Believe me, I've done that and it works.

A problem faced today that I didn't have to face when I started is the fact that railroads have pared their work forces down so much that the train crew is expected to handle virtually everything related to their train's work, including yard switching in most cases. Only the biggest, most important yards are going to have dedicated crews. Trains are switched from computer-printed lists that probably are not based on physical checks. The clerks are gone with everybody else. The longer these lists are made without the aid of human eyeballs, the further they are from reality. Train crews really don't have the time to check tracks that do not relate to the work done by their train. You will have to deal with that as a train crew member.

In the "good old days" a major yard would have a Yardmaster assigned to each 8hr. shift worked. Usually two or three per day. Inbound trains would drop off lists of cars and waybills. Yard clerks would walk the tracks and prepare fresh lists for the start of each "trick"(shift). These lists would be presented to the Yardmaster, who would spread them out on his desk.

He would study these lists and make note of where they must go: either for delivery to local industries or into outbound trains. After he gets a good handle on that, he meets with his switch crew foremen and gives them lists for the tracks he wants worked. The industry crew builds their train to go around town spotting and pulling cars. The yard crew foreman decides what tracks are clear for building trains, and starts pulling the inbound apart to mix with cars already there for outbound trains. When the industry crew gets back, their pulls are added to the outbound trains. It is the job of the Yardmaster and crew foremen to devise efficient plans for doing all this.

During all of this, the Yardmaster would keep the Dispatcher appraised of progress, and when the trains would be ready to go. The Dispatcher can then use these time estimates for calling road crews. The Yardmaster can also call the Roundhouse Foreman and let him know when he needs power and how large the trains will be, so appropriate power can be assigned.

This is, you see, a lot of work that must be co-ordinated between different departments.

Been there, done that, now retired.

Les
Desertdweller
 
Posts: 639
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:28 pm

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby Freddy » Wed Mar 19, 2014 4:50 pm

Dynamite post Les. Me and a few others often wondered how it all got done after the clerks had their jobs cut.
Freddy
 
Posts: 473
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:48 pm
Location: Walker Co. Alabama

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby swing brakie » Thu Mar 20, 2014 3:17 pm

It gets done but not well.
swing brakie
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:08 pm

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby Desertdweller » Thu Mar 20, 2014 7:18 pm

My thoughts exactly.

From what I've seen, the task first got dumped on the Trainmasters. This made them high-priced clerks, and prevented them from doing their other duties.

Then the thought occurred: " the train crews are going to be there anyway, why, not have them do it?"

The train crews are responsible for their own train, not the lost car sitting on some other track.

The system works well enough to keep trains moving. Quality control is not as important as cutting jobs.

I found that to be extremely frustrating. I complained to a Santa Fe clerk, a fellow sufferer. His reply, "Things are like this because the railroad wants them to be that way."

After thinking about that, I have to agree.

Les
Desertdweller
 
Posts: 639
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:28 pm

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby COEN77 » Fri Mar 21, 2014 6:50 am

Freddy wrote:Dynamite post Les. Me and a few others often wondered how it all got done after the clerks had their jobs cut.

I guess it was around 20 years ago when CSX put cameras on the mainlines to check cars with inbound trains half the time it didn't work. When that happened we had to slow down to a crawl coming in the yard for a clerk to get the numbers. When I left in 2010 they were still losing a car every now & then which most times they'ld have yard crews on the look out. LOL! Which yard crews are scarce with the one man remotes. That poor guy already has to much on his plate
COEN77
 
Posts: 1777
Joined: Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:11 am
Location: Richmond, Va

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby Desertdweller » Fri Mar 21, 2014 9:39 am

COEN,

That's right. Too often, "cutting jobs" is just an illusion. It's the job position that gets cut. The job itself is still there, and somebody has to fill it. That person is always someone who is already being paid to do something else. So fewer people have to handle more work.

In my own case, I moved into train service. Ten years as a clerk was good preparation, seeing how the train crews were now the new clerks.

Les
Desertdweller
 
Posts: 639
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:28 pm

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby COEN77 » Sat Mar 22, 2014 7:16 am

Desertdweller wrote:COEN,

That's right. Too often, "cutting jobs" is just an illusion. It's the job position that gets cut. The job itself is still there, and somebody has to fill it. That person is always someone who is already being paid to do something else. So fewer people have to handle more work.

In my own case, I moved into train service. Ten years as a clerk was good preparation, seeing how the train crews were now the new clerks.

Les

Les

Every contract past 20 years the crafts keep losing more of a clear description of their duties. Gone are a lot of the penalty claims that stopped one craft from infringing on another. I remember for 3-4 years turning in claims over the End of Train device (EOT) under the premise monitoring rear end train pressure ect...was the responsibility of the conductor not the locomotive engineer. We all thought this was a good claim. Just like every other contract out there one had to read the fine print. When railroads & rail unions started vacating national contracts for on-property contracts the playing field shifted. Now on CSX locomotive engineers are up for the 3rd on-property. Those that voted it in are now seeing how much the've lost. Us oldheads tried to warn them once it gets it's foot in the door nearly impossible to get rid of it. Most of us are gone now it's their fight.

Jim
COEN77
 
Posts: 1777
Joined: Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:11 am
Location: Richmond, Va

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby Desertdweller » Sat Mar 22, 2014 10:48 am

COEN,

When I retired in 2011, GCOR rules required a crewman to be at the rear of the train when making an initial terminal air test. He had to read the EOT pressure by eye and report it to the engineer. He had to be there anyway, to verify that the brakes were set and released properly after the leakage test. He also had to walk both sides of the standing train to check for loose rigging, etc.

The engineer could use his head-end device to read air pressure when picking up blocks of cars enroute (those cars get tested when picked up), or to confirm trainline continuity. If the engineer were to use his EOT for initial air tests, the car inspection and leakage test would still have to be made.
There are several things that could go wrong doing it that way (receiving signal from wrong EOT, EOT off calibration), but the railroad might be tempted to overlook that in the interest of saving crew time. If the EOT is not getting checked, the cars are not getting checked, and no one is the wiser until something very bad happens.

If a railroad is going to have a union, that union had better be interested foremost in protecting the safety of the crews and public. It should not be a surrogate for management, or a partner in job-cutting schemes. It boggles me that Class Ones allow one-man switching "crews" when blind shoves are the number one cause of yard accidents. I would not work in such an arrangement on even a short line or regional, yet here is the biggest railroad in the country doing this in the biggest yard in the world. And with the union's blessing.

It is not my intention to slam unions in this post. I merely want to point out that they have a moral obligation to look out for their members' interest.
And that includes the junior members as well as the senior members. After all, they all pay the same dues and deserve equal protection.

Railroad management has no less of an obligation for the workers' safety. If the desire to get work done quickly exceeds the desire to to do it safely, and the management is willing to "look the other way", bad things are going to happen. Three of my fellows were put in their graves last fall in an accident that never should have happened. Another is crippled for life. And those are just the ones I know about. If I were to go back to the start of my career, I would not have room here to list them all. Some deaths were "unavoidable" (meaning the victims could not have avoided being killed). Most of them were avoidable. Even the "unavoidable" ones were avoidable if circumstances had been handled differently. I have been involved in accidents myself, and have investigated accidents of others. I firmly believe all accidents are avoidable, they just aren't all avoidable to the victims.

Les
Desertdweller
 
Posts: 639
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:28 pm

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby COEN77 » Mon Mar 24, 2014 7:28 am

Les

The one issue that no one not the railroads or unions really looked at after downsizing was proper training of new hires. One can't learn the job in 4-5 months then call them a conductor or 2-4 weeks training on a remote control. What were they thinking? I understood the loss of a job the flagman with the elimination of the caboose but not the head brakeman. Railroads once thought it took 2-3 years before a promotion. Now it's 6 weeks class training and 3-4 months OJT. Some railroads train better than others I can only go by CSX policy. That is a big safety concern. When I use to get someone just released first day as a conductor I had to reassure them we will get through this alright together. It's always been a team effort. All this downsizing occured years before a need to hire to replace a generation.

Safety concerns seem to take a back seat these days. Unions are afraid to utilize safety strikes which even when we did they were just symbolic but it worked. Most times the railroad had a court injuction by the time we had picket lines set up. It still got the message across.

No easy anwers.

Jim
COEN77
 
Posts: 1777
Joined: Tue Sep 26, 2006 6:11 am
Location: Richmond, Va

Re: Path to Yardmaster

Postby gp80mac » Mon Mar 24, 2014 1:19 pm

Biggest problem is you are fighting the tide. There is so little support or respect for labor (esp. unionized) in this country anymore, that you have to choose battles carefully. Fewer people doing more is the way every other business goes anymore - it's hard to think the railroads can buck the trend (unfortunately).

With the latest HOS laws, many took a hit in pay. As one manager told me: the days of the $100,000 railroader are over. It's not something I am happy about, but I believe he is correct. Honestly, since the money will never be there anymore, I sometimes wonder if it isn't time to change directions and start trying to get more regular hours/days/assingments in this industry? If course then they'd want to pay us even less, so who knows....


Every year the reasons for staying with this profession seem to get fewer and fewer.
Yep.....
gp80mac
 
Posts: 843
Joined: Wed Mar 17, 2004 5:08 pm
Location: here. Or there.

PreviousNext

Return to Employment

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests