Sunday, February 3, 2008

New Direction

O.k. here's how my journey ended. After speaking to some Union Pacific employees in North Platte and Denver I realized that this was not the life I wanted to give my family. Turns out the divorce rate on the R.R. is high, apparently due to the lifestyle of a railroad employee. In the end I was offered a position as an operations manager for a surgical instrument company here in Denver and I chose that position over the railroad. I have no regrets and was thankful to be chosen by Union Pacific. If anything here helps someone else then I suppose the journey was worth the effort.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Railroad Retirement and Unions

Railroad retirement can be a bit confusing. The best resource I have found for explaining it can be found at You can also visit to explore anything you would like to know about railroad retirement. The other helpful sites for those of us going into Train Service are Union Related. There are two unions serving Train Service employees. The first is the United Transportation Union (UTU) and the other is the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET).

Friday, April 20, 2007

Union Pacific Physical Abilities Test

Took the Union Pacific Physical Abilities Test today. It measures a variety of things including your ability to lift, pull, push, stand and bend in different directions. The test took about 45 minutes. Not complicated. I could only see someone failing if they had a prior injury that limited their mobility or strength. The other failure would be due to extreme poor physical condition that kept your heart rate from returning to normal within two minutes after a bit of strenuous exertion. I was hooked up to a wireless heart monitor that kept track of my heart rate during the entire test. The machine I tested on was hooked up to a computer that recorded all the results. These results are eventually sent to Union Pacific for review. My next step is to head to North Platte, Nebraska in June, 2007 for training.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Railroad Hiring

Here are a few more thoughts about hiring on with a railroad. "Count the cost." This is far from a typical job working a normal 40 hour workweek. They will reward you for this unusual lifestyle but you must come into it with the right attitude and maintain a positive attitude throughout your career if you are going to make it and enjoy it. Here are some things you need to know, the railroad is highly regulated and safety is a top priority. Remember that when you interview you will be asked questions for which the right answer is "Safety." You might also be asked, "Why do you want to work for the Railroad?" "What skills or qualifications do you have that qualify you to work for the railroad?" "Have you ever done shift work before?" "Are you comfortable being away from your family for extended periods of time?" Also, be thorough on your application. Don't guess about dates and other information that is requested on the application. If you can't remember something stop filling out the application. Use an online service and run a background check on yourself then use this information to continue filling out the application. The railroads are looking for people that take time to do things right. There are reasons for this. If you are serious about landing a job on the railroad take time to do things right! Out of 1100 people that showed up to the hiring fair I attended 180-200 were hired. Give yourself the best chance possible! I had been applying with UP for over a year before I landed a job or even an interview. Things took off when I got serious about the opportunity. Also, check job postings often and as soon as a new one is posted apply right away. It can take months to hear back on some jobs. I decided to drive four hours from home to attend a hiring fair. This was the right decision as I was hired the same day. Be committed and do what it takes. You'll get there.

Union Pacific Hiring Process

I called HR at Union Pacific to see how my status is progressing as far as the hiring process goes. Because I am relocating from Denver to North Platte, Nebraska I need to be sure everything is in order before I move. I took my medical on April 9, 2007 and I was still waiting to hear if I had cleared my background check. When we interviewed we were told we could start training but if the background check was not completed by the time we started training and it turned up something we would be immediately released. I have only been arrested once and spent one night in jail for failing to pay a traffic ticket. That was 17 years ago so I didn't figure that would be a problem. I did have three speeding tickets within the last year and a half and wasn't sure if that would be a problem. Apparently it wasn't because when I talked to HR they told me I had passed the medical and cleared the background check. I have an appointment on April 20, 2007 for my physical agility's test but I don't see any problem there. I have seen some pictures of recent hires at UP for the same position and some of these guys are in a lot worse shape then I am. I figure it's a go and I am now making plans to move. I have had a few jobs over the years and been through a variety of hiring processes. Union Pacific has been far and away the most rigorous and thorough process I have been involved in. Here are my suggestions for those of you trying to get hired. First, do some research on the railroad you are thinking about applying for. Find some recent hires that have been through the process and talk to them. Find out what it is really like. Also, talk to some folks who have been at it for awhile. Get their perspective. I also talked to a senior manager out here in Denver who started in Train Service to hear his thoughts. The conductors and engineers offer one perspective, managers offer another prospective. Try to talk to both. Next, seniority is King on the railroad. Make sure you are hiring out in a place where you can build seniority as quickly as possible!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Helpful RailRoad Forum

I've been doing a lot of searching trying to learn as much as possible about the Railroad. Came across a great forum located at Tons of information here for people exploring a railroad career or interested in the industry. Lot's of help from men and women working in the trenches. Also, using to get the scoop on North Platte. Great forums on this site too.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Union Pacific Pre Hire Medical Assessment

I went for the Union Pacific pre-hire medical assessment today. Arrived to the appointment fifteen minutes early and filled out about 12 pages of medical history questions and release authorizations. Once I was called into the office I took the first of three eye exams. The first was the same one we all take reading letters off the chart. Covering one eye and then the other and then reading with both eyes. Next my height was measured and my weight was taken. Then my blood pressure and pulse were checked. Next I filled my cup for the drug test. My near sight vision and color blind tests were next. I then took a lung capacity test and finally a hearing exam. Once the hearing exam was finished I was released and the results are being sent to Union Pacific. I have my physical ability test scheduled for later this month.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Bailey Yard

Bailey Yard is the largest classification rail yard in the world. Located in North Platte, Nebraska the yard is 8 miles long and contains 315 miles of track. Every 24 hours Bailey Yard handles 10,000 railraod cars. 120 trains pass through Bailey Yard daily. 3000 railroad cars are sorted daily at Bailey Yard. The yard is 90% RCL. Bailey Yard has been seen on the History Chanel. It is listed in Guiness Book of World Records. Union Pacific employees 2600 people at Bailey Yard and pays $100,000,000 anually in salaries at this location. This yard currently handles 35 coal trains a day with plans to increase the number to 50 coal trains a day by 2012 due to the high demand for coal. This will increase the number of employees at Bailey Yard by 1500! Putting total employees working out of Bailey Yard to 4000 by 2012. Anyone see an opportunity here?

My Union Pacific Journey Begins!

Welcome to my Union Pacific journey! Here's the jist. I currently live in Denver. I was invited to a hiring fair in North Platte, Nebraska by Union Pacific Railroad. I was currently unemployed and I have always loved trains so I bit. I loaded up my family on March 30, 2007 and headed to North Platte. My scheduled time to meet with the U.P. reps was at 2:00 p.m. We were running a bit late but arrived at the hiring fair at about 2:10 p.m. Thankfully, I was still able to get in. I was told that if I was late I would not be admitted. The actual hiring session started promptly at 2:30 p.m. I was in a room of about 60 people who all applied for the same job. We sat and listened to a human resources rep for a good 45 minutes. He discussed the working conditions and painted a bleak picture of life on the railroad. He was obviously trying to get people to carefully consider their decision before proceeding in the process. We then listened to a local manager discuss the life of a railroad worker. By this time some people were already opting out of the process. Next we took a reading comprehension test. Pretty simple if you can comprehend what you read. This test knocked out a few more participants. We took a 40 minute break while they graded the tests. If you take the test and fail you cannot be considered for a job on a train service crew for 6 months. However, there are other jobs you can apply for that do not require the reading test and you can apply for these right away. After we received the results for the test we were given a time to meet with a U.P. interviewer. My time was very late as the interviews were scheduled by last name and mine comes toward the end of the alphabet. I had about an hour and half so I went and ate around 6:30 p.m. I came back at 7:45 p.m. and was finally interviewed at about 8:20 p.m. After the interview I was offered a conditional job offer on the spot. The conditions include passing a medical exam with drug testing, a physical abilities exam and a background check. I was then taken to another room where I was logged on to the U.P. website and filled out additional paperwork online. I was assigned an employee number and told to schedule my exams within 48 hours. I got out of there at about 9:35 p.m. I came back to Denver, scheduled the exams and I am waiting to here if I will pass the background check. In the meantime, I was given a date to return to North Platte to begin my initial training. I am scheduled to return for training at the beginning of June, 2007. Needless to say the pay is $60 a day for initial training and then increases slowly as you move forward. There were 1100 people at the hiring fair and they hired between 180-200 people. 40% of U.P. employees will be retiring in the next 10 years and 90% will be retiring in the next 15 years. There are great opportunities within the company if you can get through the first 3-5 years and handle a very unusual lifestyle. It's not for everyone so count the cost before you proceed!