Trainman and Conductor

Eastern Lackawanna County 
Agricultural and Technical University
Division of continuing education 
School of Railroad Crafts Technology
Conductor Training Certificate Program
Conductor Training Certificate Eligibility Course Requirements

What is the Conductor Training Program?

The Conductor Training Program is offered by the Eastern Lackawanna County Agricultural and Technical University (ELCA&TU) to supply railroads with highly qualified and technically trained job applicants. In return, railroads are paying finder's fees and monetary bonuses to our University administrators. The Conductor Training Program can be a stepping stone to completing the Associate of Science Degree in Railroad Management. Individuals who successfully complete the program receive a Certificate suitable for framing and are top candidates for employment in the railroad industry.

Why Become a Conductor?

Conductors, who are responsible for supervising over-the-road operation of freight and passenger trains, are in demand throughout the railroad industry. Conductors may choose career paths leading to locomotive engineer service, railroad management, or as a major fast food chain fry chef. Conductor's salaries are among the highest entry-level salaries in any industry and benefits are extremely competitive. However, as new contracts are signed, salaries and benefits are dropping to the point where they may soon equal those of migrant farm workers.

The Conductor Training Program graduate may, subject to actually getting a job, have the opportunity to work outdoors; many times under conditions which would cause a dog owner to be subject to arrest and fines if they treated their pets the same as railroads treat their employees. The Conductor Training Program graduate will get to work in every kind of inclement weather for up to twelve hours and may then be left to sit on the train for more hours waiting relief. The Conductor Training Program graduate, once hired, can look forward to working seven day a week, 365 days a year, and be subject to return to duty within ten hours after being relieved. Conductor Training Program graduates, assuming they attain employment with a major railroad company, can look forward to being disciplined for laying off for personal reasons or because of sickness. If caught during their service time violating any one of the thousands of applicable rules they can be terminated from their job and may have to fight for years to get it back, if at all.

Who is Eligible for Admission to the Conductor Training Program?

Currently, the minimum requirements for admission to the conductor program is 30 hours of college credit, successful completion of the Train Conductor Aptitude Test, an interview with railroad and college personnel, and a physical examination including drug and alcohol screening and color blindness test and , if accepted, a personal background investigation.  These requirements are for entry into the academic program only and are not the same standards for employment with a railroad which, depending on the need to hire, can be very stringent or extremely lax. Typically, each railroad will generally look more closely into the candidate's personal work experiences and background as well as physical and medical qualifications as well as to whom the candidate is related or who recommends them for hiring.

How Long is the Conductor Training Program?

Conductor training consists of 6 weeks of classroom and laboratory training at the Eastern Lackawanna County Agricultural and Technical University Campus in Scranton, Pennsylvania and at the Lackawanna Terminal Railway Training Center, also in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Graduates of the six-week program who secure employment with a railroad move on to 18 weeks of paid on-the-job training at a location determined by the employing railroad.

What Does Conductor Training Cost?

Participants must provide their own transportation to the Scranton, Pa. and pay for their transportation, lodging and living expenses while at the University. Housing options include fully furnished apartments at a cost of $3600 for six weeks and motel rooms at varying rates from $75 - $150 per day. The University has arranged for living accommodations with local residents at several trailer parks around the Scranton area, however, the University cannot guarantee the sanitary conditions at these trailer parks and suggests that the student contact the owner's personally. Rental costs include the usual "kickback" fee to the University.

Participants in the Railroad Conductor course must provide their own steel toed work boots and work gloves at a cost of $100 - $180. Tuition and fees for the Conductor Training Program are $3,357 ($1,761 for Pennsylvania residents and $4,740 for qualified New York and New Jersey residents). You must be prepared to pay a tuition deposit of $100 and a $600 apartment deposit one week before the start of the program. The remaining balance of tuition and fees and apartment rental are due on the first day of the program. Tuition, fees, and apartment rental costs are not refundable after the first week of class.

The Conductor Training Program is a component of the Associate of Science Degree in Railroad Management. You may be eligible to apply for Federal financial aid, veterans education benefits, other scholarships or low interest loans to help pay a part of the cost of tuition and fees. Active duty military personnel may be eligible to apply for military tuition assistance if they are able to complete the program while on terminal leave. Application and approval for financial aid often will take up to three months. Financial aid forms should be submitted well ahead of the start date of the program. Call (717) 555-3978 or 3917 if you have questions about applying for financial aid. The Railroad Conductor Training Program is no longer eligible for Title IV funding.

Monetary considerations paid to ELCA&TU employees to enhance the chances for acceptance to
 any School of Railroad Crafts Technology program are not tax deductible under any IRS code.

Please check the
 financial section of the Railroad School Home Page for further information concerning financial aid for students.

Where Will Those Who Are Hired be Stationed?

Generally the major railroads have had employment opportunities throughout their systems and it is very likely that individuals will have to relocate if they are offered employment.  There is also a good chance that the new employee will be displaced by a senior trainman or furloughed by the railroad prior to starting work. In such cases, we also have had contacts with regional and short line railroads although employment opportunities, pay, and benefits packages are not as great as with the larger railroads. It is suggested that Conductor Training Program candidates check the web sites of as many railroads as possible to learn more about employment opportunities with the desired railroads.

What is My Likelihood of Success in Securing Railroad Employment?

The Conductor Training Program provides rapid entry into a train crew position, and we have been very  successful in helping our graduates find employment with a railroad.  Beginning with the 1998 classes, approximately 85-90% of those admitted to the Conductor Training Program successfully found employment with railroads at various locations. It might be significant to note that all of those who found employment with a railroad had to start their careers as trainmen who work on the train under the supervision of the conductor and engineer. Newly hired trainmen normally earn 70% of what a senior trainman makes doing the same job. This is due to United Transportation Union contracts with the national freight carriers that allows new hires to be paid less than others doing the same tasks. There is also a probationary period after hiring during which the new hire can be terminated for "cause".  This probationary period can last up to six months depending on the railroad involved.

Since July 1998, almost all of the Conductor Training Program graduates have received or will have received a job offer from a railroad.  We have been working closely with railroad human resources personnel at the various railroads to establish an employment connection with our graduates. Typically the Conductor Training Program student's resume, along with a personal check from the student, made out to "cash", is sent to approximately 80 human resource contact people at the various railroads throughout North America. We have found through experience that the greater the amount of the check, the better the chances that the applicant will be accepted for employment with the desired railroad. Although locating a position with a railroad has been and will continue to be the responsibility of the Conductor Training Program graduate, we attempt to utilize as many of our resources as possible to help the program graduate find a position compatible with his or her interest.

What is the Bigger Picture?

The Conductor Training Program is part of a larger North American effort among Class I railroad managers and community college administrators to reduce costs, increase the company's bottom line, and consequently receive massive productivity bonuses as well as produce a pool of graduates from which railroads can staff conductor, customer service, dispatching, maintenance of way, mechanical, signal systems, system electrical, telecommunications, and terminal operations positions.  This is done by encouraging the applicant interested in a career as a railroad employee to bear the cost of his or her own training prior to employment.

Often, sometimes in as little as two years, successful railroad train service applicants will be forced to take promotion to conductor, then into locomotive engineer service and later, if they haven't been fired or otherwise severely disciplined and show a overpowering disregard for the welfare of their fellow employees, may be eligible for management positions with the railroad.

Where Do I Get More Information?

To obtain more information about the Conductor Training Program and job opportunities in the railroad industry, please contact the following people or the human resources department of the railroad of your choice.

Gabrielle Botchalewsky
Human Resources Director 
Lackawanna Terminal Railway 
1 Lackawanna Plaza 
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18503 
Tel: (717) 555-6537

Office of the Dean of Admissions
Eastern Lackawanna County Agricultural and Technical University 
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18503 Tel:
(717) 555-7400, ex. 565

© Steven Kay 2013