9. Railroad Work

 A Reborn Job!

150 Years ago, railroads were the US Economy.  Even by the 1930s, railroads were so powerful that railroad workers were allowed to have their own version of Social Security, which survives to this day.  After WWII, however, the industry began to decline.  The Interstate Highway System madcialle trucks real competition, especially for smaller loads.  Inflexible unions saw the new competition even less than management, and bled the railroads dry, in some cases demanding workers whose job had been eliminated by technology be kept on payroll to do nothing.

By 1970, the US Railroad Industry was in near collapse.  Several railroads were merged into the government controlled Conrail, with the passenger lines being made into Amtrak.  The later is a financial sinkhole and mess to this day.  Do not consider work for Amtrak.  You will live life on the edge forever as it is always slated for cuts in government funding and, to be quite honest, little about it is any good.  As a government white elephant there is a never ending life of worn out equipment and other hassles.

So What is Good?

While passenger rail has probably outlived its usefulness in the USA, except in the populated northeast corridor, freight rail has reinvented itself.  What in 1970 was a barely functioning disaster, by the 1990s had become profitable again, to the point that Conrail was sold and split between 2 private (non-government) railroads.  Today the industry is very healthy.

So Why is it a BPB Job?

Here is where it gets interesting.  Because of how awful the railroad industry was 1970-1990, few new people were hired.  This meant that by the mid-1990s, the labor force was “cycling.”  Or in other words, almost everyone was within a few years of retirement.  That was over 20 years ago, meaning that today, a new albeit lesser cycling will be happening.  There will be regular hiring.

It meets a few other BPB requirements as well.  For one, the railroad will pay to train you.  As there are very few railroads out there and this is specialized work, no college or tech school could realistically make a program for it.  Depending on what railroad you go to work, training may or may not be a fully paid thing.  For some jobs like this, you might have to sit thru weeks to a couple months of “basic” training.  As an example more easy to understand, airline flight attendants must take a “basic” course of training where they learn things like CPR and flight safety.  This weeds out those that are not going to make the cut.  The ones that do then go to more specialized training as a direct hire.  Same process goes for casino workers who will have to learn their game unpaid before getting hired.  So do not be surprised if your “training” is first more of an unpaid course on rail safety and regs.

Once hired, though, you get some advantages, though it takes some time to get all of them.  First of all, focus on the job of Conductor that leads to Engineer.  The initial road is a little hard.  You will be working odd hours and will for sure be required to be “on-call” the first few years.  While this will make a social life harder, there is a bonus.  Engineers and Conductors “certify” on just one or a very, very few routes.  You must know every turn and grade, every crossing.  That limits you to a few hundred miles of track.  This is noit at all like the OTR truck driver, who may be gone from home over a month at a time.  You will have mandatory rest periods after a shift, same as an airline employee.  This period is no joke.

As you move up the ranks, your schedule will get more and more stable.  While you will fall back should you move up to engineer, you have the same process.  Pay varies wildly, from $30,000-90,000 per year with most at $50-60,000 as of 2018.  This is not a bad base if you have no student loan debt.  Conductor work is going to require slightly above average physical ability, and a fair amount of being outside.

You Gotta Stay Clean

With trains up to a mile long and all the dangers, drug testing is very serious for this job.  Even with the movement to legalize, if smoking weed is your thing, do not even bother.  When you are on-call, you will not be allowed to have a beer with dinner or for any other reason.  This is simple maturity, but again, if you cannot live by this, do not even bother.


This one is not the easiest path.  The first few years will make a social life hard and you might even have to move to where the job is, which might be a non-BPB big, expensive city.  But progress is mostly on seniority, which while not the best at least means the bosses cannot play favorites and you know exactly where you stand at all times.  With a decent retirement plan run by the feds, the end game is there.  Start in your 20s and you will be able to be a real BPB by your late 30s!