last week, when i was on the train home, i heard three men talking in numbers and signs, and i realized they were off-duty locomotive engineers.
one, an older man, had lived in berkeley all his life and was a 4th generation engineer.
another, 22 years old, had been trained by the first, and was going to start taking online courses to get his a.a. degree. amtrak will pay for his classes as long as they have something to do with transport or engineering. but he can only take his classes online because of his work schedule.
the third didn't talk much.
all of them really love this job.
things i learned:
locomotive engineers were the oldest union in the country. now they are organized by the teamsters.
engineers *drive* the train -- they don't have their heads under the hood. (call me ignorant, but this is how we learn.)
amtrak was invented in the 1970s by the nixon administration after the freight lines stopped providing passenger service. it's budget projected that it would only last 3 years. now it is over 30 years old. (the capital corridor line is about 15 years old.)
you used to be able to get a job on the train *only* if your father/brother/uncle got it for you. that's no longer the case, but it can still be a family biz in some places.