Potential Employee of BNSF. Please help.

dscamaro Apr 1, 2011

  1. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    Well first I would like to thank eveyone on here for all the interview tips. My interview/test is on the 11 and i am from the Chicago area. I have alot of Questions but first i would like to explain my situation. I am a truck driver, I haul petro products like gas and eth. I make on average of 65,000 to 70,000 a year and work alot of hours.
    But in the last 5yrs the market has gone way down in this industry. the big company drivers are all gone even though it may say shell or BP or Mobil on the trailer it is not who's hauling the gas.All Union trucking jobs are being weeded out.I want a stable career so I saw a Conductor traniee postion posted on line and applied for the job. within 2 days they responded and invited me to take the entry test and interview.

    My Question's are?
    Im 35 yrs old so i need to make a good amount of money each week how much will i average my first year in chicago market? Is there alot of overtime avalible.

    I dont mind working long hours and traveling out of state how does the pay differ from local work and traveling out of state runs?

    What kind of math Questions are on the test other than add,sub,multi,divide.

    I have High blood pressure and take diovan will that affect my chances of getting hired?

    How well is the Insurance coverage?

    On average how long will it take to become an engineer thats what i really want to do is drive the train. and maybe go into management later on.

    If you guys could be so kind and give me some tips and answers to get in I would really apperciate it.

    thank you.
     
  2. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    Hey there! I started on the BNSF in 2005 and my first year my wife and I totaled over 100 grand. She was alocal truck driver making it pretty good, I think I had 70 that year? I cant recall been a while lol.

    First question is where will you be working? Some areas you dont make as much cause you work more in the yard than the road.That can make a difference.

    I stared in 05 and was an engineer in 08.It depends on where you are as well. If they really need engineers then they will roll through the list fast. If you want to move elswhere then you can do that as well.Just ask around. But if I had to do it over I would probably have waited for an opening at my home terminal.Then I could have come up to Chicago,but I am happy where I am now ( I think lol)
     
  3. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    hello

    :psmile:Hi fireball thank you for responding. I will be working in the town of Cicero IL. its right outside chicago about 20 min from down town. I see BNSF trains everyday because im a local truck driver around the chicago area. I haul gas to gas stations and I need a career change. can you answer some of the other questions i have posted?

    thank you very much.
     
  4. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    Ohhh good old Cicero! Mostly its yard jobs out of there. Some locals and then the road trains( most of those are held by super high in seniority people) You would only be going to LaCrosse Wi.I am not sure if Savanna is a crew change point for some locals ( youll have to check when i was there Savanna was closed ,opened, closed open going to be torn up etc etc.)Oh and before I forget,you can be a trainman on the Dinkies!

    Blood pressure issues shouldnt be a problem.If you can get a DOT card then you should have no isue as we dont have medical cards and the FRA has different standards.

    Insurance is real good.I loved my BNSF insurance. It may have changed but it paid for a lot.

    As for the Math.I hate math and had no problem with the tests. No offense to those that thought it was tough,but its basic math really. Nothing to sweat over ( to tell you the truth I dont think they really look at it)SO have no fear there.

    If you have anymore questions feel free to ask. I sure wish Charlie was here though,he worked out of the area you will be working. He can give you more of an idea on the jobs there.
     
  5. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    hello

    Thank you for the reply that makes me feel better. I hate math also, besides the basics, it is a pain in the neck. as far as my blood pressure meds, its good to know that it shouldnt be a problem. 10 yrs driving a gas truck in chicago will do that to a person.
    I stopped counting a long time ago how many times i've come close to death either on the road or at some of the stops. After being shot at,told i was an ¤¤¤¤¤¤¤ for high gas prices and told im going to stab you. It takes its toll over the yrs.

    I think the conductor job will be a much more peacefull job for me. I hope.

    thank you.
     
  6. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    At Western Ave in Cicero its kinda rough area. I never had a trouble there,but then again I am 6'4 280 and have a goatee thats about 13 inches long and no hair on my head! So I scare bad people.( plus three fussee's and hte air brake wrench helped lol) but as for being personally threatened it neve rhappened. However getting stuff thrown at you on the train is another story.

    Its a good gig man.I drove for 18 years and I wouldnt go back to driving a truck.It is what you make it.
     
  7. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    thanx

    Hey fireball thanx for the help and advice. I hope I can get the job Im sick of driving a truck, this industry is going down like a Cicero hooker.LOL {I used to deliver gas to the corner of Rosevelt and Cicero so Ive seen some of them walking around LOL}.
    Well I let ya know after monday how it went. I hope my certfications help me.

    talk to ya later.

    thank you
     
  8. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    ANytime my friends. We had to add a fence to Cicero to keep the hookers and other malcontents from stealing water out of the material shop lol. Ahhhh I love this area.
     
  9. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    hello\

    Hey fireball,Well I took the test last monday and now im just waiting to see if they call or email me. It was a very loooooonnnnggg process there was at least 130 people there. I dont even know if I passed the test but they did do an interview with me. I know they cut at least ten people before the hair samples were even done.
    I thought they could have done a better job in the process of the whole thing but i guess thats just the way it is. I told them I am the safest man in the world which I am very close to being considering my job is very dangerous if you mess up. 1 wrong move can cost thousands of dollars or even someones life. So overall I think it went well but I guess time will tell.

    thanx :thumbs_up:
     
  10. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    ???????????

    Hi All

    I was wondering if after you pass the test and interview if you get called to take the physical strength test does that mean that im going to be hired for sure?
     
  11. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    If you pass the strength test your pretty much in like Flynn. Takes a bit of time though so dont stress too much ;)
     
  12. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    hello

    Hey fireball thanx for the info ill let ya know after thursday if i pass the strength test.
    I should have no problem thanx again.
     
  13. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    hello

    Hey fireball, Well I took the strength test today it was a little different than I expected. But I tried to break the machine and did not succeed.LOL. I hope I make it. So now I go next week for the physical. wish me luck.

    thanx:thumbs_up:
     
  14. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    HI

    :thumbs_up:Hi Fireball, Well I took the strength test and the hearing and vision test. now Im just waiting for a start date if I passed everything. Thanks for the GCOR info ill look into that.
    talk to ya later.
     
  15. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Didn't get a chance to read this thread since I was offline for a while.

    Cicero yard is the @$$hole of the earth. I can't candy coat it anymore than that. To my knowledge it is still a "hog board" . In the yard they bid every day for the next day's job.
    If you have the seniority, you get what you want and the people at the bottom of the seniorty roster get what's left over, if anything. So the old heads "hog" all the good jobs.
    My home terminal was Eola when I first started but for the first year & 1/2 I worked in Cicero most of the time. There were so many jobs in the Chicago terminals on the BN side at the time I hired on and began my qualifying trips in late September and didn't finish them until the end of March! Some of the people at Cicero are OK but most of them are just there to earn a living and you,as a student,are an annoyance although your mentors get a 10% premium on their pay for that day for having you with them.
    Dont listen to any of the bulls**t some of those clowns at Cicero or Eola tell you about
    Suburban service and that "you won't like it"!. Most of them are incapable of handling that sort of job and fortunately there are enough people who do like it.
    Here are some "pro"s
    1/ it is CLEAN
    2/ you are not working outside in gawdawful weather except to be on the platform at the stops.
    3/You make considerably more money as a commuter trainman than as a yard grunt.
    4/ You have defined hours of service and designated rest times(respite).
    5/You actually get a chance to sit down now and then while on the job.
    6/These are commuter trains and women of all ages ride them. In the summertime the
    "scenery" is excellent! I needn't say more except that some of the people have married passengers they met on the train.

    "Con"s
    1/ The rest times(respite) inbetween runs on the day jobs can be as long as 7hrs or so making for a LOOOOOOONG day. They are commuter trains and the greatest need for them is during the morning and evening rush hours , hence the respite times(actually a "split rest")
    2/ In the summertime you are inside a stainless steel,air conditioned box when maybe you would much prefer to be working outside.
    3/you will deal with some really nasty people at times, especially if the train is running late.
    4/ you are more or less constantly moving, going up & down stairs, walking thru the train collecting and/or selling tickets.

    I preferred Suburban service, I made more money, the job I was on until I was finally set-up again was the 3rd or 4th highest paying job in suburban service AND it was a day job.
    It was also a "worker" and for that reason a lot of senior guys didn't want to work it.

    If you decide to go into the engineers program you don't have much of a choice as to where and what you do. You fill the holes in the boards until you are "old enough" to hold a regular job. I was "on the ground" for about 3 years after getting my promotion to engineer. By the time I was "set up" I had decided to take early retirement and I took sick leave due to some physical problems I had at the time. I never did really work all that much as an engineer and realized that it is a job for a much younger man than myself.

    Even with all the recent changes to H.O.S. laws, railroading is still a demanding job,ruinous to family and social life. They dont care if your wife,kid,parent,grandparent are deathly ill,
    they want you on the property! You Will work crappy hours and at gawdawful times of the day and night. You WILL find yourself being ordered for a job as soon as you are rested and the notice times are complied with more often than you care to think about. Your only weapon is seniority, as soon as you have enough to hold a regular job and not be subject to call, grab that job!

    Other than that, what "fireball" has said, gives you pretty much an idea of what it's like today.

    Charlie
     
  16. fireball_magee

    fireball_magee TrainBoard Member

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    Dead on Charlie I am glad your back for this guy. I never did work out of there but I almost made it to Suburban service;)

    Good deal on the strength test, that is a weird dang machine man lol.But glad you made it.


    Charlies dead on about your lifestyle. The only good thing is once you can hold a regular job your off the 24/7 call BS.Even if you dont like working nights ( that was me) jump on that 2300 or 2359 regular job no one wants.My first month out of class I was a brakeman on the Clinton Local With guys named Flipper ( engineer) and Hockey (conductor) both of them were CRUSTY old heads! I mean you mark that job you had better have more than 15 years cause they HATE new guys! Anyone newer than 15 years lol.But I had sat sundays off ;) Till I got off of it and went to the switchtender gig in Burlington Iowa. BEST JOB ON THE BNSF!All I did was sit in Burlington till sent by the DS to a location on the Ottumwa sub. There to cross Amtrak over ( my partner was at another location to cross them back over) Mon thru Fri 7 am till 7 pm ( if you forgot to call the DS you got 12 hours ;) )I would sit in a lawn chair by my Jeep waiting for Amtrak and other crews would laugh like ha ha look at you jsut sitting there. Then it dawned on them that two guys with only 3 months had the best times and days off on the entire sub. Then the old heads took over lol.

    Get on the Hostler board learn those jobs, find one you like then grab it when it opens. Not any like Hostling.But I did it for the majority of my time at the BNSF.Its a good gig and you get to run the engines.

    Good luck man! Remember also 99% of the guys you met on the rails are pretty cool.Its the 1% that piss you off and say "I dont like working here" Dont let them get you down.
     
  17. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    Hello

    Hi fireball and Charlie,

    Thanks for the help I apperciate it.Well Im hopeing to hear from them this week when my start date is. I wish the training time was less than 15 weeks I need to make at least 1200 a week after taxes which i know training pay is nowhere near that. So i will work 2 jobs until I can start getting overtime. its going to be a loooonnggg 15 weeks.Im not worried about my home life my wife has no job, we have no kids so Im not worried about time at home. I need the good money so I will work as long as I can. I already have a twic card so Im wondering if i can get an early start on the job.
    I cant wait to get out of driving a truck. I was wondering what is the most a conductor make in a year? I will let you guys know when my start date is.

    Thank you both for the help.:thumbs_up:
     
  18. Charlie

    Charlie TrainBoard Member

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    Now this is going back 6 years or so, but I knew a METRA conductor, name is Frank, now retired. He worked the former Milwaukee District line to Elgin-Big Timber Rd. He made 90K p/yr. I mentioned to him that I guessed it took a lot of seniority to hold that job. He said no it didn't, nobody wanted the job,even though it was a big payer,it was a "worker". He said his regular brakeman(collector) had less than 5 years seenie. I mentioned to him that if their was a job paying 90K on the BNSF that guys would cut each others throat to get the job!!! ROFL I've mentioned before that the regular commuter job I held before I got set-up and retired was about the 3rd or 4th(depended on the length of the month)highest paying commuter train job AND it was a day job. Old heads used to tell me that they were
    amazed that someone with my seniority could hold a day job. Not many guys wanted to work the job because it was a "worker". There are 26 stops on the Chicago-Aurora "racetrack" including the end terminals, my job stopped at all of them(26-24-25) for the first 3 of 4 runs, the last trip was express Chicago-Hinsdale,then local to Rte 59 and pull in to Hill Yard.We didn't make Aurora on the last trip. It had weekends and every holiday off except for working every other Saturday. It was also a good job for catching a "set-out" flagmans job. We got an extra basic day for that. Lemme tell you, it's difficult to pull $400+ for a day like that, but somebody's got to do it. ROFL!!!
     
  19. TwinDad

    TwinDad TrainBoard Member

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    It's amazing how much better you can do in about any career if you're willing to take on the jobs that require one to work harder than others...
     
  20. dscamaro

    dscamaro TrainBoard Member

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    Hi

    Well guys I got an email today and it says I meet all the standards for the job.
    I should hear hopefully the next few days when I can start.

    talk to ya later.
     

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