Saturday, October 11, 2008

Our New Life as a Railroad Family

So my husband just got hired as a conductor trainee for a class one railroad. The railroad life is a very different life than most people are used to. New hires are on call 24/7/365. You never know when they might be heading off to work. They can never be more than 90 minutes from where they would report for duty. They might be off for a few days, then work several days in a row. We haven't experienced this yet, and I am bracing to see what it might be like. I am imagining that we will keep his work bag ("grip" as they seem to call it) in the car, and if we want to do a family outing, we won't go far and we'll take two cars in case he gets called. We've heard that after a while you get the hang of predicting when it will be his turn to get called in, but I'm not sure how that will work yet. I guess there is a website that they can check to see how close they are to getting called.

So this blog is sort of a diary about our new life. I thought that other people considering a RR career might find it interesting or helpful to hear about our experiences. I'll try to share about his hiring and training experiences, the details of his first weeks on the job, and our family's adjustment to the new routine-- or lack of routine, more accurately.

Feel free to drop me a line if you have experiences or advice to share. In future posts I will chronicle his hiring and training experiences in detail.


Toni said...

I love that you've started this blog. My husband was just offered a hire position for the railroad but has not yet accepted it. We are still weighing out the pros & cons of this whole ordeal. If you don't mind I'd like to ask a few questions. How has this affected your children? )We have one child who is only 18 months) Is it really like you're a single mom since your husband is gone a lot? Do you find that the only friends you have are from the railroad? Personally, has this strained your relationship or were you both prepared for the lifestyle change? Thanks.

Railroad Wife said...

Great questions- I'm glad your asking them- they're the right ones to ask! How has this affected our children? It probably has not affected our kids as much as it would other people's kids. The reason for that is that before he was a railroad conductor, my husband was a communications tower repair man. He was constantly on the road with that job. When big storms hit, he would have to go out on the road with a crew- and we would have no idea when he would be home again. Sometimes he was gone a couple of weeks! He would just have to work and work until all the repairs were done. Also, that job provided no benefits, and the pay was much lower. We had no healthcare at that time, and I had to take the kids to the local low income community health center- which provided very incomplete healthcare. This was not good, since our daughter had an on-going health issue that needed the care of a specialist. So for US, our standard of living is much higher, and the kids at least KNOW when their Dad will be home.

YES- you will feel like a single mom. I do feel like a single mom for sure-- but then again, I also felt that way when he was climbing towers, too. If you can handle being a single mom and being away from your husband, then it could be great. If you hate it, then the railroad life is not for you.

Friends-- actually, my husband's only friends are from the railroad, that's for sure. Since he's always working, those are the people he sees. But we have no friends that we share-- no other couples to go out with and share dinners or outings with. I know only one other railroad wife personally, and that's a coincidence! She happens to be a part of a homeschooling group that we already belonged to. I didn't even know that she was a railroad wife until someone pointed that out. She has been a real rock for me-- especially during the long furlough. She really helped me keep my spirits up. But in general, you will NOT know anyone from the railroad at all. It will be HIS domain, not yours.

I DO belong to some online support groups for RR wives-- I mostly lurk, just because I have been too busy to introduce myself. If your husband takes the job, I highly recommend joining those groups. There is a Yahoo group and a Facebook group.

Relationship strain-- for us it has been a good thing. We went through an extremely rough time together in our marriage before he got this job, and sometimes old tensions surface- but then he goes to work for a couple of days, and distance makes the heart grow fonder! I think that the regular time apart is actually good for us.

Brooke said...

Railroad wife...

So nice to see someone who is in the same boat as my family. In my opinion people work for the railroad mainly for two/three reasons. 1. The money 2. The benefits and 3. The retirement. The scheduling is absolutely horrible. I work shift work as a 911 dispatcher and believe it or not my husband I have contemplated me quitting my job so at least one of us can be home with our children. We have a nanny but I never see my husband, because when he is off I am working, and when I am off he is either on a train or on a rest time out of state. I think the time apart does help sometimes. Makes us realize how much we mean to one another and how special our little family is to us, but it is rough most days. I am truly thankful for the job he has, we moved because the economy where we lived before was horrible and we could not make it at all. I know that we have to make sacrifices for the better, and once he has some seniority it will be better but until then I would be lying if I said this was a walk in the park. I do feel like a single mom some days because when he is gone, I have no contact with him while he is on the train due to FRA regulations on cell phones, which I understand. Most of our conversations take place on the phone, but we are making it work and continue to let our marriage become stronger with the challenges that we face even miles apart sometimes. I pray that other wives can find your blog and be able to share with you. Thank you so much.
Loving my railroader.