Unsure and Slightly Frustrated (Amtrak)

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Unsure and Slightly Frustrated (Amtrak)

Postby AMTK822401 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:43 am

Hello Railroad.Net,

I realize the odd posting hours but I suppose that's what energy drinks during the night shift will do to you.

Anyway, I have had a strong interest in railroad employment for the past 4 years. I became involved with a tourist operation near where I live while attending college and I quickly realized that the railroad was not only more interesting to me than what I was studying, but it had a much more tangible path to a stable career with good pay and benefits. While I realize some people don't consider tourist lines "real railroads," I nonetheless tried to use the opportunity to learn everything I could and try and prepare myself to eventually enter the industry professionally. I started out as a coach attendant and a flagman, became rules qualified in order to progress to brakeman, and finally became a conductor about a year or so ago. Along the way I have grown up quite a bit and tried to pick the brains of any old heads/current railroaders I could in order to learn as much as possible. While I am still young (23) I strongly believe my foray into railroading will remain one of the most important and satisfying choices I will ever make.

While trying to learn the ways of the railroad in my spare time I completed a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. This is after multiple setbacks and wanting to drop out because it felt irrelevant at times. I stuck to it not just because of family pressure but because I had some belief that having the degree would help in some way in my career along with other credentials (I'm an Eagle Scout, have maintained Red Cross lifeguarding qualifications for the past 6 years etc.)

Because of some preexisting interest as well as my experience with the tourist road, I have focused much of my effort into getting into passenger service, mainly with Amtrak as there is a rather busy crewbase within an hour of me. I have applied to 2 local commuter agencies and a Class 2 freight railroad as well, but I did that with the intention of eventually trying for that Amtrak crewbase again later on after getting FRA qualifications. (I am a bit attached to my local area for one and I have friends who currently work there.) I got an interview at said crewbase for a Carman position last September. The process went well and I have reason to believe I was a well liked candidate but I was ultimately not selected.

65+ applications later I am stuck working two small time jobs and I do not understand why after long periods of sustained effort it seems extraordinarily difficult to break into the industry. I am unsure what else to do, I feel as though I run into "keep applying" and "never give up" platitudes without much substantive advice on how to change the situation. Is there anything I am overlooking or not doing that might help? Are the platitudes correct? Is the tourist experience hurting more than it's helping? Anything is appreciated, thanks!
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Re: Unsure and Slightly Frustrated (Amtrak)

Postby tundraboomer » Wed Jun 14, 2017 10:25 am

I don't know what to tell you but I share your frustration. I have tons of work experience, including two railroads, one of which I'm currently employed with and have current 242 certification for both freight AND passenger service. Still, I haven't been able to get a nibble on any Amtrak applications I've submitted over the past two years.

I've been applying up and down the west coast for just about every AC and engineer trainee position that comes up. I'm assuming with my work history they are estimating my age, and that is working against me. But I was hoping my experience, squeaky clean safety record, and references would overshadow my age. I still have well over 15 years left in me before I'll have to hang up the lantern (or reverser).

I wish I knew the secret formula that Amtrak HR people look for in a resume/application. Whatever it is, I apparently don't have it. I've been told repeatedly from people I know who work there that military service is highly prized, but other than that, I don't know the answer. You would think railroad experience, GCOR experience, including passenger service and dealing with the public, would be golden. Apparently not though. But I'll keep trying.
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Re: Unsure and Slightly Frustrated (Amtrak)

Postby Engineer Spike » Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:32 am

Amtrak jobs ads seem to prefer class 1 engineers. Much of the training process is therefore unnecessary. Maybe the some goes for train service.

Some friends who work there say that they have been over hiring. Many of the baby boomers are reaching retirement age, but since passenger is mostly daytime, and shorter runs, why give it up. Therefore, HR sees X number of guys who will be eligible to retire, but X-y actually go.

You might have to look further afield. The class 2 might be getting burned out class 1 guys, but who knows. Maybe you need to try the class 1 lines. Pay your dues, and wait for something at Amtrak, or a commuter line to open.
"Welcome all ye who enter; the show that never ends. Tingfield Sperminal Railway." (Graffiti on the entry to Mohawk Yard Office)
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Re: Unsure and Slightly Frustrated (Amtrak)

Postby AMTK822401 » Tue Jun 20, 2017 9:58 am

Engineer Spike wrote:Amtrak jobs ads seem to prefer class 1 engineers. Much of the training process is therefore unnecessary. Maybe the some goes for train service.

Some friends who work there say that they have been over hiring. Many of the baby boomers are reaching retirement age, but since passenger is mostly daytime, and shorter runs, why give it up. Therefore, HR sees X number of guys who will be eligible to retire, but X-y actually go.

You might have to look further afield. The class 2 might be getting burned out class 1 guys, but who knows. Maybe you need to try the class 1 lines. Pay your dues, and wait for something at Amtrak, or a commuter line to open.


One of my friends at Amtrak (who is an engineer) has run into problems with not getting a ton of work because he was hired to replace someone who was supposed to retire and they have yet to do so. I know someone high up in management at the Class 2 and when I first applied it sounded like I was going to get hired, however, CSX laid off many people in a nearby terminal and he told me HR was only going to hire furloughed Class 1 guys from then on. Needless to say I was a bit bummed, especially when he said it probably would have worked out if that hadn't happened.

I wasn't keen on applying to Class 1s for a while. The same friends at Amtrak are mostly former CSX employees who have told me and others that they despised the place and it killed any interest they had in their work. As far as applying to them it doesn't seem like a good idea right now, given the layoffs as well as a systemwide hiring freeze. I did, however, start applying to NS recently. There is a crewbase in the state that always seems to be hiring conductors. I would have to move a bit closer to make call but at this point I'd rather be on most any railroad vs my current jobs.

I have no problems with getting a license at another railroad then transferring. My only fear there is repaying training costs or breaking a contract if an opening comes up early on. There is also an Amtrak station agent job that just opened near me and I asked one of the agents I know for an employee referral and he agreed. I also emailed the Mechanical Superintendent who interviewed me and he said he was trying to fill 2 Carman positions in the fall.

Guess this is just the world of "real" railroading huh?
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Re: Unsure and Slightly Frustrated (Amtrak)

Postby 8th Notch » Sun Jun 25, 2017 10:51 pm

Amtrak is very hard to break into, took me 3 tries and I had a Class 1 license with another RR! The thing is you have a ton of people applying for 1-2 open slots so your chances are already very slim to begin with.
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