Looking for some advice..... Need help.

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Looking for some advice..... Need help.

Postby Afatheroftwins » Wed Jul 26, 2017 1:38 pm

Good day to everyone. I have a situation I'm facing which seems to be one of the hardest in my life. I just got hired on for BNSF conductor trainee in Seattle. I currently have a decent job yes, it's retail. I made 61k last year I've been with my employer for 11 years this month
I get great benefits, paid holidays and a 3k bonus every 6months. I also get 4 weeks of vacation and work a swing shift (which I like) I'm just burnt out on retail and I was interested in a good retirement. We have a 401k in which they match pretty good. Last year I bought a home and I also currently have 18 month old twins. My mortgage is manageable and I have little debt. I've been having the hardest time to decide if the railroad is right for me. It's not for the money it's for the retirement and other perks BNSF offers. I'm riddled by fear to leave my job for the railroad. I start my training August 28th. I know some of these questions are silly but please bear with me as I am new to this. Has anyone recently gone through the 15 weeks of training with bnsf and if so what were the hours you worked during training. I know furloughs are unpredictable but how did you make it through it. They currently need help in the Seattle yard but what are the chances of getting transferred to the Tacoma yard after some time? I ask about the hours because of the tough commute from Tacoma to Seattle. I know I'm not a shoe-in just because I start training but I'm 33 now and intend on taking it very seriously. I know the railroad is a lifestyle and 3 years ago when I was single I wouldn't think twice about it. Truth is , I don't spend much time at home now. I was up with my kids put them down for a nap then I'm out the door for work. I just don't know what to do. Please if anyone can offer any advice or insight. I will truly appreciate it!! Thank you!
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Re: Looking for some advice..... Need help.

Postby Gadfly » Thu Aug 10, 2017 4:17 pm

Afatheroftwins wrote:Good day to everyone. I have a situation I'm facing which seems to be one of the hardest in my life. I just got hired on for BNSF conductor trainee in Seattle. I currently have a decent job yes, it's retail. I made 61k last year I've been with my employer for 11 years this month
I get great benefits, paid holidays and a 3k bonus every 6months. I also get 4 weeks of vacation and work a swing shift (which I like) I'm just burnt out on retail and I was interested in a good retirement. We have a 401k in which they match pretty good. Last year I bought a home and I also currently have 18 month old twins. My mortgage is manageable and I have little debt. I've been having the hardest time to decide if the railroad is right for me. It's not for the money it's for the retirement and other perks BNSF offers. I'm riddled by fear to leave my job for the railroad. I start my training August 28th. I know some of these questions are silly but please bear with me as I am new to this. Has anyone recently gone through the 15 weeks of training with bnsf and if so what were the hours you worked during training. I know furloughs are unpredictable but how did you make it through it. They currently need help in the Seattle yard but what are the chances of getting transferred to the Tacoma yard after some time? I ask about the hours because of the tough commute from Tacoma to Seattle. I know I'm not a shoe-in just because I start training but I'm 33 now and intend on taking it very seriously. I know the railroad is a lifestyle and 3 years ago when I was single I wouldn't think twice about it. Truth is , I don't spend much time at home now. I was up with my kids put them down for a nap then I'm out the door for work. I just don't know what to do. Please if anyone can offer any advice or insight. I will truly appreciate it!! Thank you!


No one can predict how this will work for you. Its something you must decide for yourself. I WILL tell you that you will need to be prepared to suffer some loss, at least, at first thru furloughs and abolishments. That is a fact of railroad life. There are no "shortcuts", no paths to enhance your status as an employee, no way to curry favor with the boss, as it were. You WILL be on the bottom of the seniority list. At first, IF there are abolishments, or furloughs, YOU will be the first to take the hit. It is a gamble, a roll of the dice. It might work out so that you don't get laid off at all, or you could be cut off for several years. No one can know that. IF things DO work out for you, the railroad IS a good living with good bennies. It also can be tough financially and tough on your family. You will likely miss your twins' birthdays, ball games, and doctor appointments. You will almost never know when or IF you have a day off. it takes a special breed of person to do this. If you can stick it out, it does get better over time, and you will have a good career and some good memories, too.
However............................if your income is what you say it is, and the benefits THAT good, I would consider carefully what you are about to do. I am not sure this is a step UP for you. It was, however, a good move for me as I had nowhere NEAR that level of income when I hired out. I kinda doubt the pay will equal what you have, at least, in the first 10 years. You are starting over on vacation, sick leave, personal days. You have to have 120 "qualifying" days to GET these benefits. IF you get furloughed before you get vested in these company benefits, it will DELAY your getting them. (It may be different now due to union contracts). It reduces to 100 days over time.

If your wife has a good job, and you can STAND to be furloughed for a time, then, maybe IF you are that determined........ I would think about my children as you think carefully about this move. Is it really what you want to do, OR is it a kind of childhood dream? People get fascinated with the railroad, hire out based on that dream, then find out it isn't what you thought it was. It IS a tough way to make a living. Only YOU can make that decision. Gud Luck!

Gadfly
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Re: Looking for some advice..... Need help.

Postby Engineer Spike » Sun Sep 03, 2017 12:00 am

I second Gadfly's comments. There is no way to see the future. I'm not sure that now is a good time to hire out. It seems like they hire in cycles. The boomers are nearly gone, and us Generation X guys are in the 40-50 year old range, with an average of 15 years to retire. This isn't always the way it is, since there may be some boomers who are straggling on, like a guy on my line. He just retired in his 70s.

The best advice is to have another skill set. Many guys come from the building trades. They just pick up a hammer if it is slow. I have college, plus a class A driver's license. You need to be prepared. Insurance coverage enters this equation too. If your wife has coverage, it won't be an issue. Same vein, does she have a good job? If so, you could do whatever. A $9/hr. greeter at Walmart might be good enough. Hamburger instead of steak might just be on your supper menu.

The other point is to be frugal. There was one new guy who was about to be cut. He had just gotten a fully loaded F350 diesel crew cab. His payment was more than my mortgage. He was half jokingly asking me if I would mark off, so he could catch my job spare. Make the car last. Buy a cheap house. Mine was a dump, which we have slowly renovated. This way it was manageable, even when I got cut off.

The family life is a much bigger issue. Your family will have its own routine. Your wife will need to have the fortitude, in order to deal with whatever comes up. You may be 200 miles away. What happens when the car breaks down? What about when a pipe springs a leak? How about both twins catch the flu? I am lucky that my wife can call her parents or brother to help. They each live in a 2 mile radius.
"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: Looking for some advice..... Need help.

Postby AmtrakLocomotiveEngineer » Sun Sep 03, 2017 12:24 pm

I agree as well that now would be a difficult time to attempt starting out as a newbie on the railroad as the lifestyle is difficult on many, not to mention somebody who just had babies. If you want to hire out on the railroad and have a better chance of some stability in work hours, perhaps look at passenger service such as Amtrak or Coaster.


Nowadays Amtrak looks for people from retail because of the customer service aspect of the job. This is good since you're dealing with the public but at the same time many don't have a clue about railroading, even after years of being here.

Best of luck with whatever path you choose.
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