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Is CN still an awful company to work for?

  • Last Updated:
  • May 10th, 2017 4:37 pm
[OP]
Newbie
Apr 19, 2017
4 posts

Is CN still an awful company to work for?

I recently applied to work for CN as a Signals and Communications Apprentice and after all of the googling I just hear terrible things about the company. ALMOST all of the Indeed reviews are extremely negative. Does anyone currently work for CN and can give insight? I've worked 14 hour days in extreme weathers so that kind of stuff I'm no stranger to. But the other things I'm not too sure about. I always thought becoming a train conductor would be an awesome career, so maybe if I get this gig I can eventually become one.

Thanks!
18 replies
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Jul 17, 2008
7014 posts
1068 upvotes
Don't you need to be an engineer to be a train conductor? Driving a train is the easiest job in the world with only back and forth controls. But I think you are suppose to deal with any breakdown, maintenance, etc. And aren't they always away from home crossing Canada at 30km/h? I alwasy wondered where they sleep. Do they get hotel rooms paid for or they have a sleeper in the loud loco?
Member
User avatar
Mar 12, 2006
466 posts
10 upvotes
Ive got a buddy in it. Pretty much assigned a territory and you are always on call. During fall/winters/rain season, things can be bad with lots of slides.

Up to you really, pay is decent but really you are tied to the phone. And honestly only a handful of days off.

A buddy worked at CP, hated it (because of the on-call life) - He knew about it coming in, but lets be honest, most people just want a career/job. If you need money and a career, go for it. Worst case you don't like it and you leave. Some people love it, some hate it. If you want that lifestyle for your family, go for it. Keep in mind, if you're low in seniority and it's slow season, you might be laid off. (recalled when things pick up)


If you're young and got time to kill, I'd go for it. Worst case you come out with some skills for a different career and a sense of appreciation for the people who work in railways.

Best case, you have a solid career ahead of you.
Member
Apr 7, 2007
225 posts
17 upvotes
Not a railroader, but deal with them at work. Also have quite a few friends who work for CN. I'm not sure you could pay me enough money to be a conductor. The job is essentially best suited for single people with zero interests or hobbies. You really can't plan to do much of anything in advance (holidays aside) because the schedule is so erratic. Buddy checked the lineup yesterday and figured he wouldn't be called out for close to 24 hours so we went fishing, got home in the early evening and he was bumped up to shortly after midnight. Might have been lucky to get 4 hours sleep.

The maintenance side of the industry generally has a better work/life balance than running crews, I'd consider that apprenticeship long before being a conductor.

Messerschmitt: Yes, their hotel rooms are paid. Conductors don't maintain the locomotives. No you don't have to be an engineer to be a conductor. Easiest job in the world? LOL!
Newbie
Apr 5, 2017
48 posts
13 upvotes
Edmonton, AB
I work indirectly for them.

I hate how some of their engines are so poorly maintained they bellow blue/white smoke for DAYS, and I have to breathe that crap in. One I'm sure has (or had, before it blew up today causing a few hours down time) an insane boost leak or problem with generator (I imagine a bunch of giant alternators) but whatever, pretty sweet: diesel electric 4000hp 10k+ lb-ft torque barreling down the rails like war machines, multiply that by 2-4 depending how many engines are strung together.

Driving trains back and forth may be easy (on paper) or the long hauls (which I see them cruising along at well over 50km/h probably going 80km/h), but when it comes to the low speed sorting, moving, organizing etc. I'd imagine it's a bit stressful trying not to bang rail cars together too hard.

Schedule is erratic for me, have to be on their schedule. Which is understandable given the nature of the work e.g. railroad never rests, always going, economy, oil, resources, blah, blah.

Turn-around seems to be high, and the management or "higher ups" at the tower where I am seems to run around like a chicken with its head cut off. One time I came into work and someone on the outside intercom was singing/making weird noises...can be quite a strong gong show lmao, maybe it was a guys last day so decided to screw around.
Newbie
Apr 25, 2017
12 posts
1 upvote
Depends on your lifestyle and what's important to you. If you like consistency or have family obligations may not be the best option for you.

Shifts can be unpredictable in certain roles (I.E conductor) as you work off a shift board not a schedule. As someone already said you can try and "read" the shift board to get an estimate of when you will wrk next but its no garuntee. Also with limited predictably and strict rules about alcohol (for good reason) if you enjoy wobbly pops on your down time you could put your job in jeopardy.

On the plus side with overtime it's pretty easy to hit 80-90k+ which is incredible for a job that does not require post secondary education.
Jr. Member
Dec 10, 2014
175 posts
55 upvotes
Coquitlam, BC
I work for CN as a conductor.

First off, benefits and pay are really good, if you're on road you can easily make 100k+, if yard closer to 85k.
You get discounts from ford,gm,crysler,nissan,hyundai etc. 100% dental coverage, CN share plan (they give you 33% = FREE money literally.) all that good stuff

2nd, Ppl have misconception about having no life for this job because ur on call 24/7. However it really depends on the terminal you work for, because some terminals have designated time for yard shifts, like working 4am-noon mon-fri. and road trains have certain times they start at like 330pm etc. so it's easy to know when you'll be working if you look at the lineup. This is easier to do in smaller terminals, vs big ones.

Also at 1250miles (easily obtainable after 4-5 road trips), you can request for extended day off, which is 48hours. Just because you dont have days off sat/sun doesn't mean it's not a weekend..
or once you achieve 4200miles, you get rest of the month off.

lastly it's a job where there's always money there for you, so if you want $$$ you can decide to work much as possible. If you want more of a life, you can always take 24hr rest after a shift or 48hr once you fufill your miles, or even longer if you fulfill 4200miles/month and still make around 80k. Seniority means everything in this job.
[OP]
Newbie
Apr 19, 2017
4 posts
cjstk90 wrote:
May 9th, 2017 2:34 am
I work for CN as a conductor.

First off, benefits and pay are really good, if you're on road you can easily make 100k+, if yard closer to 85k.
You get discounts from ford,gm,crysler,nissan,hyundai etc. 100% dental coverage, CN share plan (they give you 33% = FREE money literally.) all that good stuff

2nd, Ppl have misconception about having no life for this job because ur on call 24/7. However it really depends on the terminal you work for, because some terminals have designated time for yard shifts, like working 4am-noon mon-fri. and road trains have certain times they start at like 330pm etc. so it's easy to know when you'll be working if you look at the lineup. This is easier to do in smaller terminals, vs big ones.

Also at 1250miles (easily obtainable after 4-5 road trips), you can request for extended day off, which is 48hours. Just because you dont have days off sat/sun doesn't mean it's not a weekend..
or once you achieve 4200miles, you get rest of the month off.

lastly it's a job where there's always money there for you, so if you want $$$ you can decide to work much as possible. If you want more of a life, you can always take 24hr rest after a shift or 48hr once you fufill your miles, or even longer if you fulfill 4200miles/month and still make around 80k. Seniority means everything in this job.
Any advice for a young guy (23) that would be interested in becoming a CN conductor? I feel like posts are misleading a lot of the time with the whole "don't need to go to college" bit. Doesn't seem like they are hiring too often and seems extremely hard to get your foot in the door. Any advice is welcome! I live in Winnipeg by the way.
Jr. Member
Dec 10, 2014
175 posts
55 upvotes
Coquitlam, BC
kimchipotatoes wrote:
May 9th, 2017 2:44 am
Any advice for a young guy (23) that would be interested in becoming a CN conductor? I feel like posts are misleading a lot of the time with the whole "don't need to go to college" bit. Doesn't seem like they are hiring too often and seems extremely hard to get your foot in the door. Any advice is welcome! I live in Winnipeg by the way.
You really do not need any college degree for this job. They value life experience, safety and quick thinking much more and they'll train the basics you need to know at their campus in winnipeg, and more in depth once you go to your home terminal to learn with qualified conductors. It's a bonus for you and CN, since CN doesn't need to buy you plane tickets to fly you there.
They'll interview you asking questions like why you wanna be a conductor, if you ever had a time at work when you or someone else was being unsafe and what u did about it, along those lines.
switch test ( basically asking you how many moves it will take to make a train B-C-D-E-A into A-B-C-D-E etc.) and an online aptitude test for basic grammar/math questions.

They started to hire a lot of people since the beginning of this year, and are still continuing to do so because a lot of people are retiring within the next couple years. So i'd apply if you're really interested.
[OP]
Newbie
Apr 19, 2017
4 posts
cjstk90 wrote:
May 9th, 2017 1:21 pm
You really do not need any college degree for this job. They value life experience, safety and quick thinking much more and they'll train the basics you need to know at their campus in winnipeg, and more in depth once you go to your home terminal to learn with qualified conductors. It's a bonus for you and CN, since CN doesn't need to buy you plane tickets to fly you there.
They'll interview you asking questions like why you wanna be a conductor, if you ever had a time at work when you or someone else was being unsafe and what u did about it, along those lines.
switch test ( basically asking you how many moves it will take to make a train B-C-D-E-A into A-B-C-D-E etc.) and an online aptitude test for basic grammar/math questions.

They started to hire a lot of people since the beginning of this year, and are still continuing to do so because a lot of people are retiring within the next couple years. So i'd apply if you're really interested.
I think I should be fine with basic aptitude tests, I passed the Manitoba Hydro one for Powerline Technicians fairly easily. CN does not seem to be hiring conductors at the moment but a signals and communications apprentice. Is there a seperate website I should be applying? Or should I go in person?

Thanks for the help.
Jr. Member
Dec 10, 2014
175 posts
55 upvotes
Coquitlam, BC
i cant remember, but it wasn't very long. Maybe couple of weeks, i think the CN medicals they booked for took longer
Deal Addict
Nov 2, 2013
4299 posts
676 upvotes
Edmonton, AB
I've worked with them, not for them. It depends on what you're doing. The guys who are out of town and away, on call and long hours, but more money. Depending on where you are though some guys scam hours as they're not supervised. Lots of OT opportunities for hourly people. But the people home every night just maintaining the local terminals get good coin and their work is not bad. They don't seem rushed and take it easy. The labourers here get $30/hour, welders and other tradespeople in the high 30s.

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