I work for the Hudson Bay Railway that starts in The Pas, MB and travels roughly 500 miles north to a port of the Hudson Bay in Churchill, MB.

Proof-ish? http://imgur.com/71MrNMd I'm open to ideas proving what I do. This is my rules card. It's the only thing that really identifies what I do.

Comments: 185 • Responses: 73  • Date: 

NekoQT47 karma

Why did you choo-choose that line of work??

How much train-ing does it take??

themadturnip8 karma

I worked construction for a while but I got tired for the feast-or-famine lifestyle piece-work offers. I checked out a local college and applied for the first course that a) had space available, b) wasn't very long and c) had the promise of a decent wage at the end of it. I honestly didn't know the first thing about railroads or what a conductor actually did. I love my job now, though and I'm glad I took the plunge.

The course (which is not necessary, btw but was a big leg up) is 4 months long. When you hire onto a railway (at least in Canada) you are put through classroom work then OJT. CN & CP takes about 3 months before you can qualify. Short line and provincial railways generally take the same amount of time, but less classroom work.

NekoQT5 karma

I honestly didn't know the first thing about railroads or what a conductor actually did

What do they do??

themadturnip7 karma

We have two roles, essentially.

1) We are the ones on the ground when the train is being built (edit or taken apart). We turn the switches in the yard to direct the engineer to move forward or backwards, coupling onto and cutting in cars (connecting and opening the air hoses that provide brakes to the train) that eventually make up the train and setting off and securing cars en route (edit like giving a car full of chemicals to a mill) to a final destination. We do a series of safety tests prior to and during our trip.

2) We do the paper work and most of the radio work that is required to get the train from point a-b. We are in charge of the movement of the train and executing instructions from management.

NekoQT3 karma

It seems kinda exciting, is it constant work or is it "Theres a train in an hour and nothing else for that hour"??

themadturnip6 karma

When we are building the train it's pretty constant. When we are ON the train it's a different story. We have to look out for signs and flags indicating slow orders and other things that effect the movement of the train. However, it's pretty boring. Some nights I just get one piece of paper work that says "you are allowed to go from point a, and then point b which is 180 miles away". Then I just sit and do very little for about 8 hours. We do have to stop and inspect the train every 60 miles, though. So that gives me something to do. It can be kind of monotonous while en-route.

NekoQT7 karma

We do have to stop and inspect the train every 60 mile

Thats not very long, i can see how that would annoying really quickly

themadturnip15 karma

Well our track is built on soft tundra. The yearly freeze/thaw warps the track so there are plenty of slow orders preventing the train from moving very fast very often. At 10-20MPH it can take 2-3 hours between inspections. The max speed on this railway is 40MPH.

Oreosmooshy3 karma

What sort of stuff are these trains carrying?

themadturnip5 karma

Mostly grocery store items, hardware store items. End user stuff. There are a few towns who don't have any road, boat or plane access so the railway is all they have.

Grain is the biggest commodity that we transport, though. On average, about 500,000 tons are taken to the port of Churchill every year.

thspimpolds1 karma

You are also the only person the train cannot leave without.

themadturnip3 karma

Myself and the engineer :)

thspimpolds2 karma

Well yes, and no one cares about the breakman, lets be honest

themadturnip2 karma

Haha. Poor brakemen. We just run two man crews :)

cdnav8r11 karma

I was flying from Pikwitonei to Ilford once. Down low, following the tracks because the weather was bad. Come around a corner and there, at the other end of a straight stretch of track was the train.

So I flashed my lights, thinking there's not a chance anyone will see I'm here. Then the lights of the train flashed back.

A neat connection to make. Cool moment in my career.

themadturnip8 karma

I think you probably made a train crew's night that night :)

Sherlock51210 karma

Have you ever hit anything if so, story please?

themadturnip25 karma

Oh god. So many animals. This is an especially hard part of working on the railroad and for me, being vegan. A 10,000 ton train does not stop on a dime and is actually dangerous to try to do so. When an animal runs onto the tracks, I just have to close my eyes and make a silent apology.

One of my co-workers hit a moose. It was a large male and was running along side of the train and for some reason made the decision to run onto the tracks directly in front of the train. The train collided with the rear of the moose and split it in half, then behead it. The corpse rolled under the train and hit the traction motors (which are close to the ground) and actually lifted the wheels of the train. Luckily it did not derail. The train was put into emergency (all brakes lock up) and as it slowed, the antlers of the moose dug into the ground along side of the track spraying gravel and sparks as high as the engineer's window.

An engineer, now retired, once startled a polar bear who was sleeping in the middle of the tracks. He warned the bear by blowing the train horn. This scared the bear who jumped up and chose fight mode instead of flight mode. He charged the train and well, lost that battle, which is unfortunate because polar bears are awesome.

Luckily, I've never been involved in hitting other trains, vehicles or people.

dead_bodies11 karma

I am sorry with you being vegan but I had to giggle when you said the polar bear tried to fight the train. Darwanism at its finest!

themadturnip6 karma

Don't be sorry. I feel like I'm living a more peaceful life with my choices. I feel healthier and stronger than I ever have. You should give it a try! ;)

jd428jd2 karma

30,000 tons? That's crazy. Most I've seen is 19,000 all coal. Is it all flat ground up there?

themadturnip6 karma

To be honest I pulled that number from thin air. I grabbed a journal and most of our trains are about 8000 tons. There is one train that pulls ore from a mine and loaded sand cars together. It is about a mile long and needs 4 units (sometimes even that's not enough), so I assume it's near the 20000 ton mark and that's the heaviest we pull.

Very flat ground though there are a couple of hills that are pushing 1.5%-2% grade. I don't have a profile handy so I can't be certain. Most of the ground is very flat.

Richard0153 karma

I work in Port Hedland in Western Australia where iron ore is brought from inland and loaded onto ships and our trains are typically 336 cars, 44,500 tonnes of iron ore, over 3 km long with six to eight locomotives including intermediate remote units. You can be waiting at a rail crossing for ages...

themadturnip3 karma

Wow - that's huge! I did a quick Google search and found this. Canada's heaviest trains are just over 30,000 tons.


Allclutch6 karma

How much money do you spend on average at The Alouette? Why does everyone who takes the line going north of The Pas swear they've seen UFOs? When the Aliens come I promise they are not going to go to Pukatawagan, if they land there they are getting in the spaceship and going home.

themadturnip5 karma

Hah! Not sure who this is, but hi. I'm not in the Pas. I'm in Gillam. That should narrow things down for you ;)

jampola5 karma

Does Freight hopping occur much? Any stories? I've always been intrigued about how modern day railways deal with Freight hoppers!

themadturnip1 karma

No, but I keep wishing! Like I said on another answer, this lifestyle really intrigues me. I think I'll look for an AMA for a train hobo today :)

mugiwarasan2 karma

I used to be a hobo when i was 18-19. I live in america and i've ridden the UP highline back and forth between Massachusetts and Washington, CSX down the east coast and BNSF from florida to california and back. And several independent companies between states that i don't really remember. I was drunk pretty much the whole year and i did it a couple weeks after i graduated hi-school. I was reading this AMA waiting for a question about Hobos. I can offer proof when i get to a real computer and not mobile if anyone wants it, but what i want to know is if CP units have hot plates in them. We've tried to heat up cans of mac and cheese and stuff on the heaters of units we've stowed away on but that barely works. So hot plates would be awesome.

themadturnip1 karma

The newer CP units have microwaves. Our units have hotplates. I would love to know more about your travels. Did you tag any cars? How old are you now? You should do an AMA on being a train hobo. Most people don't think that stuff happens anymore. You must have some cool stories? Do you know the "hobo code" or speak hobo?

mugiwarasan1 karma

Damn microwaves? That's awesome. And yeah when i would tell people i rode trains or if they saw me somewhere dirty with a back pack they would look incredibly surprised. I do have some stories, and have accidently given some conductors a scare. I almost got shot by an engineer once in Alabama. I did tag cars i wrote TomSoyer. And noone really uses hobo code anymore or speaks the language but there i do know a few symbols. And there's alot of slang for the names of certain rideable train cars. And other things not related to trains. For example pig in a bucket would be a trailer car in a 50ft well. Or someone that wasnt homeless would be a housey. Im 20 now. Ive thought of doing an AMA, but for some reason i just never did.

themadturnip3 karma

Do it!

CharlieKillsRats4 karma

How are the ladies up there in Northern Manitoba? Blonde with big boobs? Or hairy with bad makeup and a tucked penis?

themadturnip5 karma

Lolohshit. Um, not a lot of blondes in this area of the world.... unless they're tourists or the wife of a rich contractor. I can't really say for certain if there's any tucked penises (penii?). Maybe there's a government survey online you can check?

AmishCableGuy1 karma

Are there many people at all?

themadturnip1 karma

No. Not a lot and there'd be even less if it wasn't for temporary workers for the giant hydro electric dams in the Gillam, MB area.

scalethemachine4 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

A couple questions: 1) What are you usually hauling?
2) Are you allowed to listen to music? 3) What types of weather limit your operation, if any?

Thanks again!

themadturnip3 karma

1) Grain mostly but there are a couple of Freight trains that service small communities that have no other means of outside access. No roads, no airports. The railway is all they have. So we carry all manner of things for these people, but our biggest commodity is grain.

2) Nope :( This may change, though. It's been proven that people are more alert when they can listen to music. It helps prevent people from getting tired. I heard through the grapevine the Federal Government is considering using a system that would cut the music out when certain actions happen (someone broadcasts on the radio, equipment alerts, etc).

3) None so far! There have been heavy rains that wash out tracks but we run 24-7, 365 days a year. I've seen -55C (-67 F for the Americans) with wind and snow like you wouldn't believe.

denkyuu7 karma

I can attest to the music. I'm a bus driver for a major university's campus transit system, and as long as we don't mess with anything other than the physical volume buttons on our phones/mini speakers, and we still respond to radio calls, then we're allowed to listen to whatever we want just so we don't go crazy.

How about reading, though? I know driving a train is fairly involved, keeping an eye on speed limits and everything, but for the 10+ hour trips, do you take shifts or anything to give your brain some variety?

themadturnip4 karma

Unfortunately, no. No none-railway reading material allowed. We get to read our rule book and general operating instructions though! :P It gets reeaally tedious sometimes. It's the worst part of the job.

wasntitalongwaydown3 karma

I find this very surprising. I know a guy who flies planes across the atlantic and all he does is watch tv shows on his laptop and check on the autopilot with a half eye. So there is no auto-pilot or cruise-control type setting on the train?

Great AMA by the way - love it!

themadturnip3 karma

I could have lived the rest of my life without knowing this. Thanks for the new fear of flying.

scalethemachine2 karma

Cool stuff!

One more question: do you have to calculate your braking distance every trip (based on total mass, traction, conditions etc.), or do you just assume you need X distance to stop?

themadturnip3 karma

No - there's no formal brake calculation that we have to do. The engineer will perform a running brake test within the first few minutes of our departure and that gives him a pretty good idea of how the train's brakes handle.

unpopularopiniondude4 karma

Whats your favorite cereal brand?

themadturnip16 karma

I like oatmeal. I feel like this is a setup to choose a train related cereal I've never heard of. If so, I'm deeply sorry to ruin the joke.

MrJakeJ4 karma

This being Reddit: Is there prison sex?

themadturnip13 karma

I think true prison sex can only happen in prison.

UltraFeeder3 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA, train conductors are like heroes to me because I used to only get around on trains, so thanks =D.

How popular are trains nowadays? With the introduction of so many other methods of transportation, did you see a decrease in people? Do you think train conductors are provided with enough training to handle their job?

themadturnip1 karma

We are really well trained for the freight aspect of it. I can't comment on Passenger trains. I imagine they'd be trained in a host of life saving skills, evacuation skills, etc. Again, I'm only used to doing freight so I'm not sure what the standards are for a service agent onboard a passenger train.

I think there are still a lot of people who are romanced about the railway. Trains, I feel will always be a part of the modern commute. As far as long distance travel, I see a shift towards marketing the railway as a form of luxury travel. Flights are so cheap and so fast, I think the people who just want to put their minds on auto pilot and slowly see the landscape and be pampered over the course of several days will choose rail.

LewdConduct3 karma


themadturnip6 karma

I make just north of $30/hr. I like cooking, working out, reading, hiking (I actually live in British Columbia and work here seasonally) Muay Thai and Breaking Bad. Holy shit new episode tonight.

edit: We can work a maximum of 64 hours a week without taking 24 hours rest. We can work a maximum of 12 hours regular service, 16 hours work train service (a train that dumps gravel unloads ties, etc) and 18 hours if we work two separate jobs if the first job is 10 hours or under.

shortline861 karma

Do you know what your engineers make? How many hours do you typically get? Do you have a guarantee? How long is your season?

themadturnip2 karma

Roughly the same, a little bit more, but not much. We have a 40 HR guarantee. The season runs from July to the end of October. The grain comes in batches. One week I will collect my guarantee, the next week I'll have 30 hours of overtime.

dead_bodies3 karma

Has anyone ever jumped out in front of your train to kill themselves?

Have you ever ran over any animals?

Scariest moment during your job thus far?

themadturnip15 karma

No one has jumped in front of my train. As for the animals, read up, I answered a question like that.

Scariest moment would have to be going about 40MPH and having to put the train into emergency when, around a curve, we see a quad in between the rails. The driver saw us, but when he tried to leave the middle of the track, his wheels just sort of slid along the inside of the track. We stopped in time, but my engineer was SUPER pissed and went outside to yell at these numbskulls. They were hunters and just sat there, sheepishly, while getting yelled at by a 5'5" 60 year old train engineer. That was pretty exciting.

Zomg_A_Chicken3 karma

Has this ever happened to you or anyone you know?


themadturnip6 karma

Nope! Thank goodness for that. There are so many fail safes on a train, things like that just don't happen very often. But when they do, it's usually a disaster. Look no further than Quebec.

ListenFirst3 karma

How does a train stay on the tracks?

dead_bodies3 karma

What is protocol for someone jumping in front of your train trying to commit suicide?

themadturnip3 karma

Put train into emergency. Make emergency broadcast over the airwaves. Help person or wait for help.

The_Perverted_Arts1 karma

Is that your company policy? Because at CP we don't put the train into emergency if someone/something is on the track. Only after we hit them does the train get put into emergency. Why risk derailment or other situations for someone who could step out of the way at the last second?

themadturnip2 karma

Nope, it's the same thing here. I answered the question on the assumption we hit them - hence the help the person or wait for help. You are right, though. There's a lot more than can happen, a lot more people that could be hurt if there was a derailment, especially if the train is carrying dangerous commodity.

I am lucky in the sense that on this railway, there are only 3 (that i can think of off the top of my head) public crossings at grade that are in areas where the train is doing track speed. The rest are 105 territory.

wasntitalongwaydown1 karma

105 territory?

themadturnip1 karma

Oh, sorry. That means that it's all visual. You can occupy any track you want and so can any other train or track unit (hirail truck, for example). You don't need specific permission to go on these tracks. Thus, the speed is "be able to stop one half the distance from thing x" x could be another train, switch not properly lined, etc. Speeds are generally in the 10-15mph range in these places.

dead_bodies3 karma

What is the craziest story you have been told by a co-worker besides the bear attacking the train?

themadturnip3 karma

Stories of suicide are the craziest but also the hardest to hear. This isn't the first railway I've worked for. I worked in a busier part of the country where there are a lot of crossings. One co-worker told me of a decapitation of person and how coldly the "clean up" crew handled the situation. I.E. Picking up the head by the hair and tossing it into whatever they use to carry away parts of people after accidents. Other than that, I haven't heard a LOT of crazy stories.

The funnest are from the old timers on the railway. Stories of wild parties on the caboose (when cabooses were a standard thing). Girls, booze and fights. That sort of thing would not fly in the slightest now adays, but it certainly makes for fun listening. Safety culture on the railway is INTENSE.

Sorry I don't have super cool stories for you guys haha.

Superfluous4202 karma

what's some of the weird shit you've seen in the sky? Ever transport something really odd or cool?

themadturnip5 karma

I've seen lights moving erratically - in ways that I just don't know how to explain. Like two lights - one in the center and the other making a circle around it, and then both vanishing. I've seen two dots of light moving at various speeds, converging, then vanishing. I've seen dots of light move really fucking fast, then just stop. Then fast again and then vanish. I have no idea what is going on when I see that stuff. I'm pretty skeptic so there's probably an explanation, but I'm left scratching my head. I've also seen a shit ton of satellites (the skies are ultra clear up here -it's a real treat looking up at the night sky, especially with the northern lights are active).

arkycop2 karma

I think I took that train like 15 years ago. Some friends and I drove up to a small village in MB, and then had to take a train up to some cabins and get off in the middle of the woods. It was very strange and awesome being completely away from civilization. We spent two weeks fishing and enjoying nature...Although after two weeks of nothing but northern pike, you really start craving a little variety in your diet.

themadturnip4 karma

We still do that. I think this whole railway is considered a flagstop. I.E. people will come out of the woods with rifles and survival gear, flag down the train and get on. It is a little surreal to be a part of this weirdness but I love it. Do you remember what the station name for the Cabins was? Was it Mclintock or Herchmer?

shortline861 karma

How does this work? Do they just jump on the unit with you?

themadturnip2 karma

No. They wave down the train. The engineers (there are two engineers on a passenger train) radio the onboard crew who opens the coach doors and let's the guys in. They then buy their tickets at the first available station (either Gillam or Churchill).

The_Perverted_Arts2 karma

Hopefully the Omnitrax railway CEO likes your company more than he likes CP rail. When we were on strike trying to stop the company from slashing the pension the labor minister ordered us back to work. Merv Tweed stood there and told us he would do what he could to help. 2 days later on national TV they voted to put us back to work. Merv stood up and said "Yay" to the vote then did a bow and a wave. What a two faced piece of shit.

themadturnip2 karma

I know. That sucked. You have to wonder what the point of having a strike option is. There's always "working to rule" in lieu of striking, though.

xXPecuniamXx2 karma

What's the creepiest thing that's happened...not funniest, not weirdest, creepiest.

themadturnip2 karma

Not creepy, but gross - one of our conductors had a freshly changed baby diaper thrown directly into his face by one of the passengers.

rumpistelios2 karma

Why is it that you guys are so incredibly sexy?

themadturnip3 karma

You know, I have no idea. Women do perk up when I tell them what I do, though - they get a big sparkle in their eyes :) My girlfriend loves it.

RoyalKangoeroe2 karma

Do you need to where a hat to work, do you wear your hat outside of workhours?

themadturnip3 karma

I wish I had a conductor's hat. It's on my purchase list.

FriboR2 karma

Something I've always wondered about, especially about trains.. because if the tracks are impassable the train is pretty effed in the a, but also trucks and even individuals passing through wide swaths of "middle of nowhere", so far away from any civilization or back-up or any sort of law....

Is there any risk of violence or robbery? Do you guys have means to defend yourselves en route if necessary? Do you have any stories (either yourself or stories you've heard)? I mean, I feel criminals are usually a fairly smart bunch when it comes to picking an easy target.. and it seems like robbing a train passing through parts of Canadian tundra is pretty vulnerable... I always think of drivers making their way through the southwestern US with all of the empty desert roads and no civilization for a 100+ mile radius being terrifying in a way... like you're just prey for any wrong-doer that chooses to do wrong to you.

themadturnip5 karma

I've never heard of a modern day train robbery. I think the people out here would have to put substantial effort into robbing a train for grocery store items. We don't have an official means of protecting ourselves. Our windows are bullet proof, however. There are pipe wrenches and shovels and stuff on the train. I guess I'd use that if my life or someone elses was in danger and I had no other options. Good question though. It's intriguing to think of a modern day train robbery. I've often wondered why more trains aren't robbed, but I'm thankful they aren't.

SenseIMakeNone1 karma

Just as a friendly reality dose, I would not trust those windows for much more than a .22 that was fired out of a pistol. JS.

themadturnip1 karma

I looked it up a while back and that's all they are rated for. That and stopping a cinder block traveling 8MPH that hits the window on it's corner.

Titillium2 karma

Do you ever get to shout "ALL ABOARD!"?

themadturnip3 karma

No. I missed my opportunity. I could have shouted it once while working on the passenger train. The normal conductor was off sick and I took his place. A regret I shall carry through life :(

wheeler2022 karma

Whats the weirdest thing you've seen on a train/platform

themadturnip3 karma

Wish I had something for this :( Never seen anything weird on the platforms. I've seen weird shit in the sky - I discuss that in another answer.

atd442 karma

Has the end of the canadian wheat board affected the port of Churchill Manitoba?

themadturnip3 karma

Eh, not yet. I think it might, but I'm really not sure. This year we are expecting quite a bit of grain more than average - but I'm also told that this is the last year of particular government subsidies that entice farmers and grain movers to use the Port of Churchill. So I can't be quite sure.

A_generic_man2 karma

I didn't expect to see this on reddit, one of my parents works on the via train to Churchill, anyway what's your favourite part of your job?

themadturnip2 karma

Oh cool, you should PM me and let me know who that is. Favorite part of the job would have to be yard work - pushing and pulling cars around the yard, turning switches, planning my moves ahead of time. It's like Chess with a train. It's a really satisfying feeling putting together a 50 car train in the span of a couple of hours. :)

Jaysethemedic1 karma

hi and thanks for the AMA. Definitely interesting as I have applied to CN to be a freight engineer!

Their web site said that engineers in training may have to do upwards of 100 runs with a real engineer before they would be allowed to go on their own. How long approximately would that take?

Also, I'm in Manitoba myself, a couple hours south of The Pas. Thanks!

themadturnip2 karma

I didn't think that CN hired and trained engineers off the street. Unless you are already an engineer and they are in dire need would they hire you to be an engineer. To my knowledge they would hire you as a conductor and hire engineers from the conductor board. 100 trips would take you, based on 3 trips a week (which is probably on the higher end of average) the better part of a year.

murexmuris1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA. One of the most interesting ones I've read in a while.

Do people ever bring their kids up to talk to you? I ask because I remember my parents once bringing me to talk to the pilot on a plane (with his invitation). No idea if that's something you can (or should) do on trains.

themadturnip2 karma

No one has brought their kids up to me, but I would welcome it if it was safe to do so. It would be a good idea not to take your child to a rail yard as they are private property and trains can occupy any track, any time and in any direction.

Toyou4yu1 karma

What is the craziest thing that happened in the train?

themadturnip1 karma

Nothing crazy comes to mind. Some guys hit a polar bear once and another crew hit a moose that nearly derailed the train. Nothing that exciting has happened to me. I would like to keep it that way :)

dmdearing1 karma

Have you ever had someone stow away in a boxcar, or that sort of thing? It may sound stupid, but it'd be cool to know if people still do that.

Also, what do you do while on conducting the train? I'm assuming there is minimal "steering" involved and have always wondered how conductors keep themselves busy

themadturnip2 karma

People DO still do that! There are hobos that travel all through North America via train, undetected. I don't know if there's anyone that's hopped on MY train, but I'd love to talk to someone about it.

I look for speed limits, station name signs, monitor my location, copy instructions from the rail control centre. My engineer does the throttle control and braking. Aside from that, we gossip, bond, argue, general bullshit :)

fdbk1 karma


themadturnip1 karma

Certain terminals have carmen that inspect the train and perform the brake tests. If we are not at those terminals, the conductor does the brake tests. We perform these tests after a train is made up or we pickup cars enroute or when the leading locomotive is changed, etc.

fdbk2 karma


themadturnip2 karma

Sure. PM me anytime.

ShawtbusShawwty1 karma

How much time off do you get? What's the longest you've gone without seeing family/friends? If you get lonely, how do you deal with it?

themadturnip1 karma

This railway is a little different. I'm hired as a seasonal employee. I work about 4-5 months of the year (I stayed a while longer last year - June-Feb it gets fucking cold here). The rest of the year I get to do almost whatever I want. That's the longest I've gone without seeing friends or family too. There are a bunch of guys in the same boat as me and we deal with the loneliness by being kind of a family together. We cook, eat, watch TV/movies together, go to the gym, etc. Everyone is friendly so while you miss your loved ones (skype is great, btw) there's still people to interact with.

ShawtbusShawwty1 karma

That sounds nice, having a second family like that. So what do you do when you aren't working? Do you have to have another job, or does your time with the railway suffice your financial needs?

themadturnip1 karma

I collect EI when I'm not working and look for odd jobs in the interim. This year I am going to Thailand with my lady. Other years I just try to hike as many mountains as I can. The year before last I got 23! :)

oriolvp1 karma

If I was in Canada and wanted to check out Churchill would you give me a ride?

themadturnip1 karma

Maybe. It would have to be top secret.

no1skaman1 karma

Any way a fat mechanic from england could come up there and work for ya?

themadturnip1 karma

We already had one. And we miss him dearly.

ziggypwner1 karma

What type of engines do you run on? Railfan here, just curious.

themadturnip1 karma

SD40s, SD50s, mostly.

DobeyC1 karma


themadturnip1 karma

The view is pretty barren, but it's beautiful in its own way. It can get lonely, but there are a bunch of other guys in the same boat as I, so we always have someone to relate with. Skype is a great tool. Seasons are meh. It gets dark quickly in the colder months, but during the longest days of the year, the sun does go down but it still illuminates the sky until it rises again. Very cool.

The engineer has to make certain manipulations (throttle, brake, horn, bell, etc) or there is an alerter that goes off. It starts flashing, then shortly after it makes a beep, then a constant high pitch noise, then a brake application will be made if none of those steps are interrupted by the engineer manipulating something or hitting the "alerter reset" button.

DoctorPan1 karma

Has this kind of work lead to an interest in railways in general? Or is it just a job?

themadturnip1 karma

Definitely more interested in railways, but not to the degree of being a hobbiest. I'm proud of my job and I like talking to other people about it. Hence the AMA :)

isosceles19801 karma

Ever run someone over?

themadturnip1 karma


stonah1 karma

Is Bigfoot real? Yes or no.

themadturnip1 karma

My heart says yes, my mind says no.

hopiesoapy1 karma

This is actually my dream job, do you have any advice on where to start?

themadturnip1 karma

Apply to every railway in your general area :)

SenseIMakeNone1 karma

What locomotives have you operated on? Any ice related derailments?

themadturnip2 karma

Mostly SD40s and SD50s. I was involved in a minor derailment of an empty flat car. We couple onto it in Churchill and started to pull it away from an unloading ramp. It was sitting there over night and the snow around the wheels became rather packed. As the car moved, it rolled up the packed snow and then fell onto the ground outside the rail. I radio'd to the engineer to stop and the car was rerailed by the car department while we went about our work. Not very exciting :)

Threwitallaway1111 karma

Ever seen Sasquatch out in the bush? Ive heard some of the myths that have cone out of the local reserves over the years.

themadturnip2 karma

Sadly, no. :( I've seen some weird shit in the sky though.

nitrogea1 karma

Do you need a lot of mechanical knowledge for your job? Is there a difference between a train conductor and a train engineer?

themadturnip4 karma

Not so much mechanical knowledge needed, but it helps. Occasionally, I'll have to replace an air hose - A pipe wrench is all that's needed. Or a knuckle .. but everything's been designed and redesigned over the years, it's all very simple and modular - what I attend to, anyhow.

The engineer is responsible for the engine. He operates and trouble shoots the locomotive. I am like the secretary and the labourer.

stoicsmile1 karma

Do you think that railways are moving in a direction of automation? Like trains will driven by computers or remotely by people in a control room somewhere?

You mentioned that hunters flag down your train for rides, so probably not your route, and I could see why you would want someone behind the wheel in urban areas, but what about in long, empty stretches of railway?

themadturnip1 karma

Not sure about this one. It would be a big undertaking to automate the trains. CP has trains that control their own speed but still have two man crews. Not sure how the train would recognize an emergency, do inspections when necessary, etc. I don't see it happening anytime soon.

JonChurch1 karma

did you hear about the train/bus collision in ottawa? What do you think we can improve to stop accidents like these to happen?

themadturnip1 karma

I haven't heard much about it. I did hear that the bus actually ran into the train, didn't it? Probably not the most economically viable option, but it would be nice to put under/over passes for high traffic areas so the train doesn't cross traffic at all.

shadowguise1 karma

Not sure how often trains break down, but has one broken down on you before? How long does it generally take for someone to get out there and fix it, or do they typically just bring another locomotive to take over? Does anyone on the train know enough to try to fix some problems themselves? Anything that breaks down more frequently than other things?

themadturnip2 karma

Trains have broken down before. If it's just one locomotive in a consist of 2-3, then enough cars are put off into a siding so the train can continue with available power and the remaining cars are picked up at a later date. Sometimes this takes long enough so that the crew runs out of the time they are allowed on duty and a relieving crew is driven (usually by high-rail truck in these parts) out to where the train has stopped and takes it the rest of the way in. Generally if it's a problem that's serious enough to stop the train, the crew is unable to fix the issue and the locomotive will be brought to the shop for mechanics to fix it.

rprpr1 karma

You guys hiring? What experience is required?

themadturnip1 karma

They usually hire a few new guys every year to replace the ones who don't come back. They like guys with a couple of years under their belt, but they have made exceptions before. Check out with omnitrax website and send in a resume if you're interested. No harm in trying.

Royal-Al1 karma

Do you ever get stow-aways?

themadturnip1 karma

Maybe! I've never seen anyone but I hope to one day.

Frank_Castle19801 karma

Ever heard of Casey Jones?

themadturnip1 karma


Ben_dover961 karma

I always tell people that I want to be an engineer, because they think its the type that deals with science and mathematics, so then i sound smart. but really i want to drive a train. Do you ever tell people your an engineer, so you sound alot smarter?

themadturnip1 karma

Haha, nope. I love being a conductor. It's such a well respected position and so romantic in a way.