Greetings and Questions

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

Moderator: thebigc

Greetings and Questions

Postby WesternNation » Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:09 pm

Good afternoon, everyone.

My (user)name is WesternNation. Despite the name, I live in Michigan. I've been interested in railroading for some time now and I've decided that I want to go into a career in the rail industry.

I am currently studying Supply Chain Management/Logistics at Western Michigan University and I'm trying to research my options for careers as well as internships and where to possibly start my journey. My goal is to become a trainmaster or other sort of "field management" within the company, however, I've done enough research to know that direct-hiring out of college as a TM isn't a bright idea. The information I've seen so far indicates that the TMs that come straight from college don't know jack about how the railroad really works and aren't exactly respected. I'd rather earn the respect of my coworkers before going into management by doing the same job and going through the same crap with them and gaining seniority before moving up rather than going directly in.

Right now, I'm a "first-year sophomore" (first year in college but enough credits to be a sophomore) and I've applied to BNSF and CN for their transportation internships (which are essentially job shadowing a trainmaster, but paid). CN sat on my application for about 6 months and then denied my application the day after I inquired about any updates. BNSF requested an interview (recording myself answering questions), sat on it for four months, then when I inquired (around the same time I inquired for CN) they also rejected it the day after. Not the best start, but I'm hoping it was my age and relative lack of SCM experience and not a sign of how things are going to be in the future.

My questions are:

Who should I be looking at for a potential career? I've always liked the sound of Amtrak, but I feel that I may have more use for my degree in the freight sector.

What is the hiring process like? Should I be concerned that I was rejected for internships?

Am I making the right choice? Is a railroad career worth it?

I know that a position a conductor/engineer is far from a cakewalk, and I fully embrace that fact. 24/7/365, rain, snow, or shine. Mama didn't raise no pansy.

If you've made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read my essay.

-WN
WesternNation
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:33 pm

Re: Greetings and Questions

Postby Cowford » Tue Apr 10, 2018 1:53 pm

By having "done enough research" I hope you don't use the heckling by the Debbie Downers on this site as a factor in your decision. Operating internships or recent-graduate management training programs are a great way to get into the industry. I won't sugarcoat it - operating supervisors get all the grief and none of the glory, work awful hours, often are required to move frequently, etc., etc. But it's a solid stepping stone to bigger and better things. And don't worry: There are plenty of seasoned TMs that get no respect - it's about how you conduct yourself and treat your crews. I know many training program "graduates" that are moving or have moved their way up the ladder to much higher levels of management in operations, service design, engineering and marketing & sales.

Since you've already been turned down a couple times, I'd suggest the first thing you do is figure out why. Were you too enthusiastic? Not enthusiastic enough? Too shy/timid? Didn't have a good enough story as to why you wanted an internship?

And since you're in MI, you may want to consider Michigan State's Railway programs - there may be something there for you.
Cowford
 
Posts: 2739
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:34 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Greetings and Questions

Postby WesternNation » Tue Apr 10, 2018 7:40 pm

Cowford wrote:By having "done enough research" I hope you don't use the heckling by the Debbie Downers on this site as a factor in your decision. Operating internships or recent-graduate management training programs are a great way to get into the industry. I won't sugarcoat it - operating supervisors get all the grief and none of the glory, work awful hours, often are required to move frequently, etc., etc. But it's a solid stepping stone to bigger and better things. And don't worry: There are plenty of seasoned TMs that get no respect - it's about how you conduct yourself and treat your crews. I know many training program "graduates" that are moving or have moved their way up the ladder to much higher levels of management in operations, service design, engineering and marketing & sales.

Since you've already been turned down a couple times, I'd suggest the first thing you do is figure out why. Were you too enthusiastic? Not enthusiastic enough? Too shy/timid? Didn't have a good enough story as to why you wanted an internship?

And since you're in MI, you may want to consider Michigan State's Railway programs - there may be something there for you.


Greetings, and thank you for the reply!

It’s not just this site that I’ve looked at...I’ve also taken stories from the Trains Magazine forums and personal conversations with railroaders into account as well, and I think over all I want to spend some time actually being part of a train crew. I figure the experience couldn’t hurt, especially if I want to remain in the same division, but TMs get shuffled around a lot.

As for the internships, I did attempt to inquire why I was turned down. Neither BNSF or CN replied. I figured I shouldn’t keep attempting contact if I wanted any hope of having another chance. This fall I plan on trying again. I know the UP recruiter at MSU has interest but they had nothing available at the time. NS also asked me to apply this fall if they can get their transportation internship back.

Coincidentally, I’m at Michigan State now. I will be transferring back to WMU after this semester is over. MSU is still on my list for graduate programs, but for an undergrad I can get a better education at the school I’ve practically lived at for the last 17 years. I suppose it’s because I’m used to Western and how they do things. Doesn’t help that MSU’s reputation has been shot to hell due to recent events.
WesternNation
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:33 pm

Re: Greetings and Questions

Postby Cowford » Wed Apr 11, 2018 12:42 pm

Doesn’t help that MSU’s reputation has been shot to hell due to recent events


No-one gives a crap about a school's athletic program drama when making hiring decisions.

Sparty on!
Cowford
 
Posts: 2739
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:34 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Greetings and Questions

Postby Engineer Spike » Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:32 pm

The trainmaster jobs are terrible jobs, and now more than ever over glorified babysitters. I too have a logistics degree. I started in train, and later engine service. Management was on the horizon, but I never jumped at the brass ring.

If I was in your shoes, I’d look for intern jobs in the sales and marketing department. Service design would be a good fit too. The trainmaster job, as mentioned is a gauntlet. You have to take crap from workers, and the more senior managers. Sometimes you’ll be stuck with a Hobson’s choice, where you are the fall guy. This would be less likely in marketing. The only flack would be from disgruntled customers. This department would be more 9-5, and the chance would be less of frequent moves. The trainmaster is moved so he doesn’t become too friendly with crews. There is a distinct class division, which the companies maintain. In contrast, a salesman might get reassigned to various online, or offline locations. In the end, you have a better chance to be assigned where the marketing department is headquartered.
"Welcome all ye who enter; the show that never ends. Tingfield Sperminal Railway." (Graffiti on the entry to Mohawk Yard Office)
Engineer Spike
 
Posts: 1731
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:24 pm

Re: Greetings and Questions

Postby WesternNation » Sun Apr 22, 2018 12:32 pm

Engineer Spike wrote:The trainmaster jobs are terrible jobs, and now more than ever over glorified babysitters. I too have a logistics degree. I started in train, and later engine service. Management was on the horizon, but I never jumped at the brass ring.

If I was in your shoes, I’d look for intern jobs in the sales and marketing department. Service design would be a good fit too. The trainmaster job, as mentioned is a gauntlet. You have to take crap from workers, and the more senior managers. Sometimes you’ll be stuck with a Hobson’s choice, where you are the fall guy. This would be less likely in marketing. The only flack would be from disgruntled customers. This department would be more 9-5, and the chance would be less of frequent moves. The trainmaster is moved so he doesn’t become too friendly with crews. There is a distinct class division, which the companies maintain. In contrast, a salesman might get reassigned to various online, or offline locations. In the end, you have a better chance to be assigned where the marketing department is headquartered.


Respectfully, I have zero interest in either sales or marketing.

I have started looking into an internship/career with Amtrak over freight companies as the potential career path is more to my liking and I believe I can do more good there than I can with a freight company. I'll still apply to everyone to keep my options open, but that's where things stand right now.
WesternNation
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2018 2:33 pm

Re: Greetings and Questions

Postby armyvet90221 » Thu Apr 26, 2018 3:18 pm

I will tell you this: i got some advice from the "recruiter" at the job fair prior to me ending a 20-year career in the army. This guy was actually the head of military staffing for BNSF. He said don't go straight into management. Get in as a conductor or other craft and establish some ground seniority. Coming in 'straight off the street' isnt advisable. If you want to at least have a career in railroading, come in as a conductor first. Work your way up. I've seen the scenario where new management came in and the whole vibe in those back offices changed. Those that had previous ground seniority (conductor/engineer) bounced. Some were good managers too. But the ones that came in straight off the street were stuck. Also im not sure about the other railroads but bnsf can kick you to the curb with no warning. As management you have no 'protection'. Do youself a huge favor and come in as a conductor first, get to know the occupation/lifestyle for a few years and then go from there. I too has the same thought as i had years of leadership experience-some combat. Now looking back after 5 years I'm GLAD I didn't hire out as management.
armyvet90221
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:50 am

Re: Greetings and Questions

Postby Engineer Spike » Sat May 05, 2018 8:54 am

Army Vet is exactly right. College boy trainmasters have several drawbacks. First, they’ve been drinking the company Koolaid, so they try real hard to exert a little more authority than necessary. The next point is that they have no practical experience. Those things together make for fun times. Sometimes the trainmaster will say that he thinks that switching a certain cut of cars a certain way is best. The yard forman, with 20 years says OK, but will start smiling as soon as you turn your back. The reason is that the experienced switchman has learned a few shortcuts, which might save a few moves. We always say to just follow orders, then open your pockets. A crew could double switch things all day long, and you’d never know. They can make you look bad, but all the retribution that you dish out, and you’ll still be on the short end. That will look cute to your bosses, that you have no control over your crews. This means no promotion.

Start as a trainman, conductor, and engineer. You could then be experienced, and if promoted, would have the respect and experience. I have lots of respect for the bosses that came up this way. They were less confrontational, and generally had good advice. I’m still in touch with some old school bosses that I have had. They were always fair and helpful.

The choice is yours. The railroad work environment is right out of the 1800s, and you need to know that it is different from any other place that you could work. Keep it in mind.
"Welcome all ye who enter; the show that never ends. Tingfield Sperminal Railway." (Graffiti on the entry to Mohawk Yard Office)
Engineer Spike
 
Posts: 1731
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2004 3:24 pm

Re: Greetings and Questions

Postby atsf sp » Thu May 10, 2018 3:16 am

I also studied Supply Chain in hopes of ending at Trainmaster. I spoke to a few ex-trainmasters that hired straight out of college and their advice to me was get in from the ground. So that is what I did. Hired up as a conductor. You learn more being on the ground than thinking you know what to do without ever being on a train. Work from the ground up and even see if you like the railroad for that fact. I have yet to move up but the railroad I am with right now is not the best for management promotions. (You may not even want to after seeing what the job of trainmaster requires.) I am actually looking to job to the intermodal management side of the railroad after a few years seeing what T&E Management entails.

Also I completely agree with Engineer Spike. The trainmasters and road foremans that were on the ground to start their career are better and more respected by the employees. You can tell how they got their start from your first conversation with them.
"Why would you take a train to go see another train?"
Some people just don't understand.
My Photos
atsf sp
 
Posts: 2174
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:00 pm


Return to Employment

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 7 guests