Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Life of a Conductor's Wife


My husband, Ryan,  is a freight conductor for the railroad. But above all, hes the conductor of my heart. =P

When you think conductor you may think of the guy standing outside of the passenger trains yelling "All Aboard" But that's not what a freight conductor does. They don't carry passengers, they carry hazardous chemicals, coal and other various items. Conductors do everything except 'drive' the train. Ryan has to do so much and he has to know even more. Its not a job most people could do. But as hard as his job is, I feel that it is just as hard to be the wife of one of these guys.

He has no work schedule. He works on call all of the time. They have a system they can log into on the computer to see what out they are. When I say what out they are, that means there's a list of all the conductors in order of who's next to be called. If he is head out, he is next to be called. If he is 3rd out, he probably has anywhere from half a day to a whole day before he gets called. We never know. Because of this unpredictable schedule, he misses holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and more. Its hard. But its worth it. Its enabled us to live comfortably. He makes what is called a guarantee. Meaning he cannot make less than a certain amount for being on call. They pretty much pay him for sitting around and waiting for a phone call. When he works he gets paid by the day/job so he always beats the guarantee. Some jobs pay more than others and he works all over the place.

I am alone 85 to 90 percent of the time. When he gets called to work, they give him a two hour notice. They can call anytime day or night. If he gets called for an out of town job he could be gone over night or for up to 3 days. They cant work for more than 12 hours so by the time they get the train to where it needs to go, they are out of time and stay in a hotel for their rest. If its a local job they come home. They get a mandatory 10 hours of rest after each job they work. So once their rest is over and if everything with the train is on time, they will be on their way back. Some trips, like to Russell Kentucky, they have a turn around of 24 hours. Which means once they get the train there they are stuck in a hotel for a day. So if he leave Tuesday afternoon, they get there in the middle of the night, stay in the hotel for a day and he doesn't get home until Thursday evening, assuming everything ran on time. There's so much more to it, but you get the gist, right?

Like I said, it's lonely. It takes a strong relationship and good communication to get through it. Trust is a big thing. The divorce rate for employees of the railroad is higher than the national percentage. That's crazy, right? But its true. If you think about it, my husband can be in 4 to 5 different cities depending on what job he gets called for, just staying in a hotel. Would most women be okay with their husbands staying in a hotel out of town? I don't think so. But its a job to him, not any sort of opportunity. Communication is key. We text each other, talk on the phone, and even have web cams so we can see each other if the loneliness gets too bad. We keep each other informed of whats going on. I don't even want to talk about how dangerous his job it, I worry constantly.

I was never good at being alone. I pretty much revolved my life around my husband before he got this job. I am no longer that way. Although I still need him very much, I have my own independence now. I have become involved in many different things that keep me busy so I don't feel the loneliness so much. I work a full time job from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday and sometimes hes home when I'm at work. Or Ive scheduled something thinking he's probably going to be out of town and hes not. So theres even times that its not his job keeping us apart. Its a very difficult balancing act. Trying to do what we need to do and still make time for each other and keep our marriage strong.

This life isn't for everyone and its been so hard at times. But we have adjusted and believe it or not have gotten into a routine. We value each other more, trust each other more, communicate more and to be honest I think it has made our marriage stronger. I wouldn't have said this a year and a half ago when all of this started, but I wouldn't trade this life for the world. I am so proud of my husband for what he does and how hard he works. I know its even harder on him that he has to be away and miss things I know he very much wants to be able to go to. But he does it all with no complaining and he truly loves his job. Who wouldn't love riding on trains all of the time?

So theres a glimpse into my life. I wasn't planning on writing this when I picked up my computer, but my husband left today for work and its was on my heart.



33 comments:

  1. Beautifully written Lyndsay. You have shared your life and marriage in a very positive manner. I love trains and could see why Ryan would enjoy his job so much. You are his helpmate and by your love and understanding during these lonely times, you enable him to do his job to be best of his ability. You make a great team! Love you.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. I am also a CSX freight train conductor's wife and today the loneliness was getting to me. In the past three weeks, he has been home for about a day, twice a week. I'm sitting here alone, feeling sorry for myself and missing him like crazy. It was so nice to read this encouraging viewpoint. It has placed hope in my heart that one day I can get to that place on contentment. It is not going to be easy because I absolutely hate being here alone all the time. I confuse his love for his job with thoughts that he loves being away from me, when in my heart I know that is not true. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has helped this fellow conductor's wife heart!

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    1. So glad I could help :) I knew I wasn't the only wife out there feeling this way, its nice that we can support each other!

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  3. Well Im not a conductor's wife yet.. but i am a girl friend.. and this has really helped me know more about the life for us in the future.. I do love my boyfriend alot and it has been tough without him here. But Im starting school in August for nursing so Im hoping that will keep me busy. i do miss him but we do try to text or call when we can. Im really hoping that it will get sorta easier..??

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    1. It does get easier! And communicating is key. It's good that you're staying busy, that really helps the time go by faster. :)

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  4. I am a Norfolk Southern Conductor's wife of almost 2 years. Your blog described my life to a T. It definitely takes a strong woman and a lot of trust to live this lifestyle. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. Nice to meet you! It does take a strong woman, you are right :)

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  5. Thanks Lyndsay. My husband leaves in 4 short weeks for Atlanta. I am already missing him! I hope the kids and work will keep me busy. And that it will prepare me for all the long periods of time he will be away from home when he gets back and starts working. Your story was very inspiring!
    THANKS!
    Amy B,New csx freight contractor's wife!

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    1. You're welcome! :) Its definitely worth it, and you have me and I'm sure everyone else who has commented on my post to talk to if you need some support! :)

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  6. He left today for the redi center. I miss him so much already! it's gonna be a long 6 weeks.
    Amy B. , Freight conductors wife:)

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  7. it is a tough lifestyle, especially with kiddos! i struggle with the times that he is home (but waiting on the call) it could be 2-4 days you never know. how do you and your husband participate, help out with chores, kids, etc.? does he help when he's home or does he continue to just lay around waiting for the train?

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    1. We just had our first child about 3 months ago, so it has been a lot of give and take. With being called to work all hours of the night, its easier for him to wake up in the middle of the night if the baby is crying, and I am up with him most of the day. When he's home, we really share a lot of the chores, but its different all of the time. He just does what I need him to at the time. There are days he does just lay around because he knows the call is coming and wants to catch up on his rest. Believe it or not we have gotten into routine, but its one that other people probably wouldn't understand haha!

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  8. So excited to see this blog! My husband "joined" back in '08, but was furloughed soon after - he's been in the military for 4 years & is heading back to the RR in just a few weeks. Milso's have tons of blogs & such, so when the going gets tough there's tons of other spouses to talk to... not so much for the conductors wife!!

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    1. Thank him for serving our country! I think that is such an honorable and brave thing. And congrats to him on being called back! I know what you mean about there being NO blogs for the conductors wife! I'm glad I could offer that to other ladies living the same lifestyle I am, its definitely nice to meet you all!

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  9. My boyfriend wants to join but I'm so attached to him that I am sad instead of being happy because of how much money he would be making. He says he will probably be out for a whole week and be home the next week. I love him soo very much and I want the best for us I'm just scared of how its going to be. We have a really strong relationship and we trust eachother a lot. So I know that we can get through it.

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    1. I'm glad you are confident that you will get through it, that's a good attitude to have and I share that attitude with you! Money isn't everything and I know it will be hard and you'll miss him but you will be surprised how normal it will all start to feel. :)

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  10. Hello all,
    I recently started dating a guy that works for the railroad. I am really feeling him and vice versa. He is an awesome guy. I can see and feel myself falling for him hard. I am experiencing his not being available. I'm 40 years old, I was married for 15 years and divorced two years ago. The dating experience for me has been like water boarding. I finally meet a guy that I can get lost in and he isn't available. I am a teacher and I have two teenage children. He told me to Google the life of a railroad engineer. He told me that it was more than a notion being with him and the difficulties that could present. I really like to travel and was looking forward to being able to travel with my mate in the next phase of my life. Ladies, tell me is it worth it to sign onto something that may provide me with limited contact. I keep thinking I was married to a man for fifteen years and he came home every night and I was lonely as hell.

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  11. Hello all,
    I recently started dating a guy that works for the railroad. I am really feeling him and vice versa. He is an awesome guy. I can see and feel myself falling for him hard. I am experiencing his not being available. I'm 40 years old, I was married for 15 years and divorced two years ago. The dating experience for me has been like water boarding. I finally meet a guy that I can get lost in and he isn't available. I am a teacher and I have two teenage children. He told me to Google the life of a railroad engineer. He told me that it was more than a notion being with him and the difficulties that could present. I really like to travel and was looking forward to being able to travel with my mate in the next phase of my life. Ladies, tell me is it worth it to sign onto something that may provide me with limited contact. I keep thinking I was married to a man for fifteen years and he came home every night and I was lonely as hell.

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    1. I have to say, if you had someone always available to you and felt lonely, you could very well have someone not always available to you but still feel like the luckiest woman in the world. Its all about the give and take, and the butterflies in your tummy. I think any one in any situation has what it takes to make it as long as they have communication and it feels worth it. Does it feel like its worth a shot? If so, go for it! =D

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  12. I would say run the other direction while you can. I have been a engineers wife for 5 years an I wonder everyday why I continue with this marriage...I feel like I am wasting my life away always waiting for him to come home just so he turns around an leaves again in 10 to 12 hours. This is not a life!

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    1. I have thought hard about how I would reply to your comment. All I can say is, every relationship is different. Some can make it through a lifestyle such as this and some can't. Either way, things work out the way they are supposed to and sometimes certain situations show you that you aren't living the life you want. So in this case, I am so sorry that you feel the way you do and I wish the best for you and your relationship however things end up. I just wish you happiness. I have to say thank you, though, for giving us a glimpse of the other side of this lifestyle. I know that you are not alone and I am sure there are many women (or men) who feel the same way you do.

      But I can't say that I agree with the run the other direction advice because as I said before, some people may be willing to deal with it and some may not. No two relationships are the same and that does not apply to everyone. I would never warn someone away from loving someone who works for the railroad or any for profession. I can only hope that my posts help someone understand the lifestyle and get a glimpse of what it could be like for them. It takes work, that's for sure, but I will never say it isn't worth it. It is because my husband and I love each other so much that it makes it easier.

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  13. Thanks to you all for sharing & the insights it provides to a concerned man soon interviewing for a freight conductor job. This blog will help me to better understand her sacrifices. I deeply respect how you can & do not only stay positive but grow stronger, together.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. :) I wish you the best of luck on your interview, please if you see this, let me know how it goes! =D

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  14. I have no idea if you still look at this. But I am a 17 year old boy looking into becoming a train engineer. How often is your husband home? I would love to become one but I hate the thought of being gone for days at a time just to be back for 10 hours. I plan on having kids of course when I grow up and I want to be a part of their lives in other forms than just money. I really hope you can respond to this because I am seriously worried that when I do have kids it will be like i'm never there for them. So what I am asking is in a week. How much do you think your husband is home?And is this a job for someone who is very family oriented and wants to see their kids and wife a lot.

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    1. When you first start out, you will be gone a lot. But the longer you work there the more seniority you gain. And with that seniority, a more predictable and steady schedule. I have no doubt that you will be a part of your future children's and wife's lives. It is great that you are concerned and you are thinking ahead. I will say that I don't feel like my husband misses any more than any normal working father would. He has a great relationship with our son and they get lots of quality time together. This lifestyle looks scary from the outside looking in, but it is truly a blessing and it allows me to stay home and raise our son and so many other things. We are a little over 4 years into his career with the train company and we are more in love now than we have ever been. We appreciate our time together, miss each other, have date nights, and if anything - this job has made us a closer, stronger couple. I know you mentioned becoming an engineer, but as far as I know, you have to be a conductor first. Knowing that job is vital to becoming an engineer. So if you don't see openings for engineers in your search, that is why. I hope this helped answer some of your questions and I wish you all the best! If you have any more questions, I always have this set to alert me anytime I get a comment. :)

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  15. Great blog! What has your experience with furloughs been? I am scheduled to attend REDI in November but I am concerned about the frequency and length of furloughs. Thanks.

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    1. When my husband first started, because he had to qualify on every job for the on-call board, he worked a ton. The following winter though, he got furloughed. Starting out you don't have a lot of seniority so it happens. Luckily, he could go to another region to train and worked out of that region until work in his region picked back up. Hopefully that is an option for you, but you also may not experience being furloughed in your area. Alternatively, drawing unemployment in those times is an option. Of course you don't make what the railroad pays but its something at least. He was furloughed the following winter as well but did the same thing and moved back to Pennsylvania (we live in Ohio). We had friends that lived in the area so he was able to stay with them there and it was only 2 1/2 hours away. He was able to come home often and I spent as many weekends as I could there. Since my husband has gained seniority, he hasn't been furloughed since that time.

      Good luck at REDI! It is challenging, but very informative. I think you will like it. Just study, study, study and you will be fine! :) I hope my answer helped a little. Let me know how everything goes!

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  16. I want to say thank you so much for writing this blog. I came across it while looking for some sort of support for railroad wives. So much of what I found was very negative, "single wife" stuff. It had me completely terrified.
    My husband just got a job with NS and is just finishing his first week in Georgia. It seems like every day that he's gone is harder than the day before. I do not do well alone, and our 3 year old son is having a really hard time with daddy being gone. I've had such a hard time this week, it left me thinking that I can't handle this lifestyle. Every day I want to call him and just beg him to come home and find a different job.
    Your post has given me hope that we, too, can adjust. He has wanted a job with the railroad for some time, and I know it's a perfect fit for him. I am just scared that I will not be cut out for this. Do you have any advice for adjusting? I feel like once I get used to this, it will not be as hard. But getting to that point seems so scary and far away to me.
    Thank you again for writing this. It gave me hope on a day when I really, REALLY needed it. <3

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    1. I completely understand how you feel, I felt the same way! I could find no support and knew no one in my area living the same lifestyle. Thats why i decided to write about our life. :)

      Congrats on your husband's new job! It does start out so hard, I remember hating when he got called to work and especially when it was out of town. I was never one to be alone and I hated having to do anything by myself. We didn't have any children when he started at the railroad. I know now that we have our son, he definitely notices when daddy's gone and that is hard but he's so young he doesn't stay sad for long. I had those feelings of not being able to handle the lifestyle, but I can tell you with confidence that you CAN do it. :) As much as you miss him, he misses you too. I know you know that. Just take it a day at a time. One thing that really helps me is focusing on my excitement to see him. When hes been gone a little while and I know he's on his way home, I get butterflies in my stomach and I get so excited. I love getting texts from him telling me how excited he is to come home to me. Its like when we first met and there was all that newness and excitement, we get to have that all of the time. I feel like it makes us communicate more and appreciate each other more. He comes home and our sons gets his undivided attention and he eats it up. This lifestyle can be such a blessing and a wonderful thing if you want it to be. When you find yourself feeling negative, find a positive in it and focus on that. That is what I do and it helped so much when I was feeling overwhelmed.

      I'm so glad my post gave you hope! Your hope gives me hope. :) I look forward to hearing from you again, let me know how things are going! =D

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  17. Hey I just got hired on as a conductor for bnsf. Does your husband use his lay off days a lot and does that help?

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  18. Hey I just got hired on as a conductor to bnsf. Does his lay off days make things easier? Hadnt heard anybody talk about managing those?

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    1. I'm not sure what you mean by lay off days? He does get a day off a week, but it can be affected if he gets called to work the night before, then his day off starts when he gets home. Some jobs have 2 days off a week or every other week. The job he is on right now is off on monday-tuesday every other week. He has the option to turn off his day off which is a whole other explanation haha

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  19. Thanks so much for the positive words about the industry. My hubby just started his conductor job, we have a two and a half year old and one on the way so all the negative talk on other sites I'd been to were making me feel nervous and alone. Your supportive words helped me a lot since he just got a call and of course will be gone for thanksgiving. Thanks again!

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