Freight Railroads: An inside perspective

America’s freight railroads are extremely efficient. Since their partial deregulation in 1980, their productivity has soared. Most don’t appreciate them, and many pay no attention to them. But they play a vital role in our economy. They also help save the environment. And most importantly to me, they are one of the highest paid industries in the country.

I became a railroader when I was 23, and it was the best decision I could have made. My first year, I made over $70,000. That is unheard of in this country. I was making more at 23 years old than my friends with college degrees are making right now. And right now, I’m making more than they’ll make ten years from now.

And I have a better retirement benefit. And cheaper health insurance. The only think that is worse, is the work schedule. Or lack of one. Always working on call gets to be old really fast. It takes a special kind of person to work the way the railroads wants you to. But its the reason they pay the big bucks.

Me personally, I’ve grown to like it. Its turned me into a “24 hour” kind of person. I coined that term myself. What I mean is, it’s sort of fun being out and about, awake, and doing things when everyone else is asleep. The railroad lifestyle makes the middle of the night the same as the middle of the day. I have phone conversations at 3:30 am, when most people wouldn’t ever imagine doing that.

I regularly stop and do some grocery shopping in the middle of the night when I get off work. It’s fun, and quiet. It takes toll on relationships though. It takes an equally strong companion in order to put up with it. And being single is no easier. Everyone seems to think that, especially younger conductors. I thought that way. The reality is, you don’t have anyone to take care of your life when you are away on a train. Your to old and independent to have your parents do everything for you. But being single, there’s no one to really do the important stuff and it becomes apparent quickly. It can be lonely, but your sort of in this own different world.


Borce is a conductor with a Class 1 railroad in the Eastern United States. This is just a short excerpt from his blog here. We’ll do our best to get some more stories from him in the future!



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