Staff Numbers Dwindling

Discussion of present-day CM&Q operations, as well as discussion of predecessors Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) and Bangor & Aroostook Railroad (BAR).

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Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby necr3849 » Sun Jul 31, 2011 5:14 pm

While talking with an MMA engineer yesterday at Northern Maine Junction, it's apparent MMA is stretched about as thin as possible when it comes to employees right now. Supposedly, there are only 10-11 crew members employed at the moment. Basically, all jobs are one man crews. As for NMJ, there used to be the weekday switcher PLUS the three-times-weekly Searsport runs run by another crew. Now, ONE whole daytime engineer is based strictly out of NMJ five times a week, and he is also responsible for the normal two trips to Searsport during those five days(like Thursday.) So, the runs out of NMJ south are almost all daylight again. The Saturday runs to Searsport that I've been following this year are run by a Brownville crewman normally assigned the #1 and 2s during the week. His weekend call starts with the nice long drive down from the Brownville area just to get to the NMJ office (Usually he arrives at NMJ between 12 and 1pm, so you can do the math for when he cuts off again.) He then sometimes has to put away a waiting Brownville turn(like yesterday) while making up his Searsport train. So much for family time. While it's great for railfans to see stuff in the day again, this has gotta suck for the crews! It makes you wonder how much longer MMA will survive.....
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby necr3849 » Sat Sep 10, 2011 8:50 pm

Just as you get used to something, change comes along. Story of everyone's life.
This Saturday the 10th, MMA's usual weekday engineer for #211 out of Hermon was on duty instead of the one from Brownville. This afternoon, we met the former in Searsport doing the normal switching of GAC and Sprague. Real nice guy, and we're not normally lucky enough to see him other than during the week. Anyway, the latest is that a whole NINE trainmen are employed by MMA over the entire system as of now. All are engineers operating alone and under remote when switching out customers and trains. The deal with the Brownville man coming down on Saturdays to NMJ is history. He will stay up there from now on and likely work Millinocket. The one remaining crewman responsible for NMJ and Searsport stuff is on a Tues-Sat schedule with Sun+Mon off. Fortunately for railfans, that puts him on duty around 6a+/- at Hermon, which means some nice early runs down to the shoreline and returns around the time 211s recently left southbound. Good timing considering Winter isn't far off and light will be scarce. On opposing days, one would assume he will do his runs up to Brownville and back.
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby Cowford » Sun Sep 11, 2011 8:06 am

Nine trainmen on a ~500-mile system? How many enginemen are active?
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby BAR » Sun Sep 11, 2011 12:13 pm

Does this number (9) include Canadian trainmen? It seems almost impossible to for them to run their trains with this few trainmen. I believe there were twenty-one employees in train service in May prior to the partial takeover of MM&A routes.

Is MM&A back to servicing the mill in Madawaska?

Do they still have RTC's around the clock seven days a week at NMJ?

The MM&A website has not been updated to reflect the route changes and it still shows they are operating 750 miles of track.

Thanks for any information.
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby necr3849 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 1:53 pm

Try to narrow it down.....This is for non-MOW crew numbers only

1-2 engineers on for the NMJ area five days a week doing three runs to Searsport and the others to Brownville whilw switching the PAR interchange.....

1-2 engineers on #1 and #2 opposing days Sun-Fri
As of now, these guys can also cover Millinocket switches

possibly 1-2 on the Madawaska mileage, so that totals what? 3-6


As for VT, that would leave at least three heads to handle the moves. All are one-man with RC capability. I would guess the (9) count was based strictly on train-related numbers. It can fluctuate a couple either way I suppose. No matter, a skeleton count for sure! Not sure what laws in CAN allow.

You're talking about their website BAR....Ever try to email or contact anyone? Forget it! Phone isn't any better.
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby doublestack » Sun Sep 11, 2011 3:40 pm

necr3849, what's going on at the Derby shop, anyone being layed off or let go? How many people are employed there now?

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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby necr3849 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:10 pm

Peter,

I can't speak for Derby. The numbers I was talking are mostly to do with a sort of "mass exodus" of MMA train crew employees who are leaving for better pay, benefits and job security. Supposedly, NBSR is offering folks on the Maine Northern upwards of 60% better pay than when MMA owned the same trackage. How exactly accurate that is depends on what employees have to say.
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby BAR » Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:26 pm

Thanks for the information and updates. How times have changed. I looked up some Statistical Reports that the Bangor and Aroostook sent me at my request in 1978. That year the Transpportation Department had 19 yardmasters & hostlers, and 162 train & engine employees on the payroll. Total employment was 747: Officials 30; Professional & Clerical 102; Maintenance of Way 192; Maintence of Equipment & Stores 205, Transportation other than train & engine 37.
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby necr3849 » Sun Sep 11, 2011 7:12 pm

The engineer I spoke with briefly yesterday was at one time well beyond #100 for seniority. Now he is THE #1. He was saying the same thing as you BAR...How times have changed! His position is understandable. He's looking into retirement and why not finish on the road he started on? Also, he has grown somewhat accustomed to foregoing a bit more money for conveniences he accumulated during his tenure. A set shift, being close to home most every day and so forth. Not everyone has those rights, but its another spin on the whole thing.

Trust me when I say these railroad guys don't complain anywhere near what I hear out of SOME mill workers in this state. The latter cry because they make less money than the next mill or think they are above the citizens in the rest of the town that don't work for the "imaginary empires." Dude, it's a job that well over a million unemployed Americans would love to have. So, shut the f--- up and be happy!

Sorry for that last second rant, but I'm sure I'll hear it at least once this coming week!
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby employee4 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:37 am

This is to be expected. With dwindling people comes dwindling service. I always thought moving freight was a service and thus people were the most important aspect of this business. I guess the "modern" thinking is, "screw the customers, they are nothing but trouble anyway" so if we don't provide service then we don't need people. Great way to save a buck and ruin any service company.
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby Cowford » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:39 pm

"I guess the "modern" thinking is, "screw the customers, they are nothing but trouble anyway"..."

Modern thinking? Back in the 70s, folks on the MEC would joke that "we could make all this money, if we didn't have to haul all this damned freight!"

Joking aside, causal analysis regarding MMA's decline must be carefully considered here. Did service drive business away, or did declining business force the railroad to cut back on service in order to stay afloat? There is plenty of objective evidence that the declining economic fortunes within MMA's service area forced the decline of MMA's physical plant and service offerings, e.g., the Millinocket mills did not close down because of poor service. Evidence to the contrary has been anecdotal or conjecture.

Short-sightedly cutting service to save a buck is rarely a good long-term play, but it'll keep any railroad afloat longer than if it spends bucks it doesn't have.
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby necr3849 » Tue Sep 27, 2011 6:17 pm

One thing that cracked me up a couple weekends back was when MMA was dropping a few hot cars for PAR at Northern Maine Junction. As the MMA power was pulling away, PAR's OT-2 went over to retrieve the cars. Being in that close of a location you'd figure both roads would be keyed in on the other's frequencies. Anyway, the PAR dweeb on the ground was taking shots at the MMA guys like they couldn't hear him. I was so wishing I had my buddy's radio when the PAR guy said MMA was a joke of a road to work for! Imagine that.....The PAR employee should be bitch slapped! I guess only geniuses work at PAR! Makes me sick....

With MMA having the right to operate one-man crews, why not take advantage of that when it comes to costs? Saturday the 17th, a Millinocket guy was qualifying or "training" on the Searsport Branch. This past Saturday, the 24th, a Millinocket engineer was on the #211 run again. From this end, they're doing what they can to keep these trains running on the days they are supposed to. With at least one of the Millinocket-area mills considering exporting a decent amount out of Searsport, it could make things interesting when it comes to staff numbers. I mean, how many can leave and go to NBSR/MNR before the latter's slots are full?;)
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Re: Staff Numbers Dwindling

Postby employee4 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:13 pm

Hopefully someone will look at the facts. When, at a meeting with shippers in Presque Isle, Mr Grinrod stated he doubted the truth as to what the shippers were saying about not getting any service, the writing was on the wall. When it took 34 days for 2 test cars of logs to go from Jackman to a mill in Derby, the writing is on the wall. When the employees are forced to take a 15% reduction in wages and told they are now all on salary, the writing is on the wall. When the same, mostly dedicated employees, are told they will have to work more than 40 hours a week and/or more than 8 hours a day without any overtime pay, the writing is on the wall. The first time Mr. B was at an employee meeting he made the statement that the employees is what put the BAR into bankruptcy and after he took over there would be all new pickups in the parking lot. Well I guess he was partly right, in that last summer there was just 11 employee vehicles parked in the Derby employee parking lot, none of which I recognized. I was also told by former coworkers up north that they couldn't haul all of the freight coming out of the same area that MMA couldn't make any money off just a year earlier. In reality they did make a bunch of money from the section of track now operated by Irving, in the form of taxpayers dollars when the state bought the property. It's the usual "take the tax dollars and run" that I have witnessed in my 33yrs of service to BAR and MMA. And as a former president of the old BAR once said, "I don't care if I am the only employee working, this company will be in the black".
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