Monday, November 29, 2010


So Thanksgiving on the railroad had its ups and downs-- as life on the railroad always does. First, our conductor was marked back down to student status a week before Thanksgiving. He didn't mind that at all- more training never hurt anyone. On top of that, he was told, students never work holidays! Cool! We could plan on being together for Thanksgiving. So we went ahead and made plans. He worked right up until the last minute on Wednesday.

Then he came home from work looking stressed. He said that he was taken off of student status and marked back up again, and put on the board for Thanksgiving! It wouldn't have been too bad if we had planned it that way to begin with, but to be told that for sure we'd have a family Thanksgiving and then to have it yanked right out from under us... well, that's another thing.

I was a little upset, but we have to keep things in perspective: We appreciate this job. Lots of people are losing their homes in this economy, and right now the medical insurance is much needed. It would have been nice to have known ahead of time, but this is what we signed up for. This is life on the railroad.

So just when we got all adjusted to not being together for Thanksgiving, and helping the kids to adjust to THAT, our conductor realized that in fact, the extra board was moving very slowly. Not too many people were laying off sick. He might be home after all.

Then again, things might pick up and he might have to work.

So that's what Thanksgiving was like. It's not so much the stress of the schedule, it's the constant not knowing. You have to develop a sort of zen "live in the moment" attitude about family plans.

I'm working on it.

Really, I am.

So we were together for Thanksgiving dinner, and after dinner. I left my in-laws house a little early to get my hubby's uniforms ready, just in case he would need one (in case he got called for commuter service). It's a good thing I did, because I don't know if I would have had time otherwise. The call came just after I had fallen asleep.

Two lessons learned: Never, ever count on the conductor to be there, because he just can't plan on anything. Also, always, always have a spare passenger conductor uniform clean and ready to go- because he won't always get called to freight.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back to Work - Again!

So my husband got called back to work a couple of months ago. I don't know why I didn't update the blog. I really should have. I think the roller coaster ride has burned me out- but now I regret now not posting all the little intricacies of life in the railroad bureaucracy- because by now I've forgotten most of what's happened.

But in a nutshell: My husband got called back by the Original Class One Railroad- the one that furloughed him. It was quite a surprise, because we weren't expecting him to start work until at least January 2011. He went BACK to conductor school, which was a LOT easier for him this time, considering it was his THIRD conductor school in two years. He was always at the top of his class, but it does get to be less stressful every time.

He's been bouncing around between commuter (passenger) service and freight. As a matter of fact, they're short on work again- so they put his whole class back on the training board again, and they are training again- which my husband is quite happy about- the more training the better. Being a conductor is a lot of responsibility.

Probably the hardest thing for my husband was learning to do the radio work. There's a lot of radio verbiage to learn. You just can't say things any old way on the radio in the railroad- you have to say things pretty specifically and in a certain order. Some of the younger guys seemed to pick that up a bit quicker, my husband said. But when you are past 40 (I won't say how far past 40), it's a bit harder to learn new tricks.

For me and the kids, the hardest part is the unpredictable schedule. For some reason, we have a hard time maintaining a normal sleep schedule when the family conductor's schedule is all over the place. It doesn't help when the railroad crew caller calls us at all times of day and night and wakes us up looking to tell my husband to go to work, EVEN WHEN MY HUSBAND IS ALREADY ON A TRAIN! Alright- I exaggerated. This does not happen at all times of day and night. It only happens IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, WHEN WE ARE ALREADY ASLEEP. And it doesn't USUALLY wake up the kids. It just WAKES ME UP.

But in this economy, we're just happy to be here. This beats unemployment. It beats odd jobs. It pays better than-- well, for us, it pays better than just about anything else.

More about railroad life later. Thanks for reading.