FRA Trainee Questions Here

Any personal questions about the FRA Trainee expereince? My own opinion, not agency opinion or policy.

31 Replies

  • Are you looking for some input or are you going to give some?

  • In reply to khs2:


    I am an FRA Trainee and I will answer questions about the program, myself or anything else related to the FRA Trainee program. I am also interested in any other Trainees or former Trainees experiences in the program. If you are a railroader, any craft (foamers not included please), I am currious to know what are some of of the things you may have noticed when working around Trainees, good or bad. What are some things you liked or did not like.   

    I am going to put up a Yahoo group for Trainees in the next week or so and I am also putting togther a manual for new Trainees. When I first came to the FRA I wanted to wait a while until I had worked here and got some experience. I have some expereince now (2 yrs). If you come in off of the street with no railroad background it can be a wierd expereince.

    If anyone wants to know about the Trainee program, the FRA says to go here: This doesn't tell you a whole lot, it doesn't really tell you what it is really like day to day. If you are thinking about applying but are unsure about it, even about what the is the FRA, let me know.

    Best, Kid. 

  • In reply to FRAKid:


    Do you have some Agency authority to set up and comment as an AUTHORITY?

    With only two years experience it seems hardly enough expertise/experience in your case.

    What railroad did you serve on prior to your FRA appointment,and how many years of sservice did you have there?

    What position(s) do you fill on your previous railroad?

    And how many military points did you have when you were appointed to the FRA?

    And what age is to old to acquire this position as Trainee or inspector?

  • In reply to James Swidergal:


    "Do you have some Agency authority to set up and comment as an AUTHORITY?"

    I am not offering to comment as an "agency authority," I am offering to comment on my own personal Trainee experience in the FRA Trainee program. I am not authorized to speak for the FRA and it is against our policy to do that unless you have permission or have been designated to do that. My goal is to inform potential Trainees that are interested in working for the FRA but are freaked out by the railroad culture or are clueless about it.  

    "With only two years experience it seems hardly enough expertise/experience in your case."

    Thanks for your opinion, The United States are great as anyone can have an opinion about anything. If I have not learned enough in two years about the railroad than I must be a total retard Sir and I have no business working for or around the FRA in any capacity.  

    "What railroad did you serve on prior to your FRA appointment,and how many years of sservice did you have there?"

    "What position(s) do you fill on your previous railroad?"

    I have no prior railraod experience, that is what the Trainee program is for, I post again:

    "And how many military points did you have when you were appointed to the FRA?"

    That is irrelavent, but know that my record puts Gunny Highway's to shame.

    "And what age is to old to acquire this position as Trainee or inspector?"

    None, as long as you can walk and control your limbs, and are not a danger to yourself or others.

  • In reply to FRAKid:

    Easy Tiger,

    It sounds in your reply as is ya got the tissue paper stuck all the way up there?

    Just some simple basic questions, is all that they were. Now, in light of your own summary of your aptitude (you said it not I) my understanding of the FRA regiment is you must have at least one year of railroad service and be able to demonstrate such utilizing KSA as the FRA does not use a standard testing procedure.

    I am also sure that the FRA trainee program isn't so much to undestand the railroad culture but to advance trainees into the inspector rating.

    As to your claim about Gunny Highway he was a fictional charater played by Clint eastwood therefore you either have no military points or you are an actor!

    But, all and all I like the idea of someone coming forth and disclosing what it's like on the FRA. Are there any books of reference perhaps whether classroom text or otherwise that we could peruse, and welcome to the wonderful world of railroading!

  • In reply to FRAKid:


    As a former FRA Inspector myself (S&TC, you should know by now what that means), I was kind of wondering the same thing about posting this type of info about a gov regulatory agency.  I'm not so sure there is a large number of "trainees" looking to get an FRA inspector trainee position.

    I spent 13 years there (field and HQ) so I know the agency and culture pretty well.  Additionally, I was responsible for training new trainees.  Quite honestly I thought they'd abolished that program since it seemed to be marginally successful back then.  I would be curious to know how many trainees from back then are still with the agency or even in the industry.  When this program began, it caused quite a stir among journeyman inspectors that had "paid their dues" in the industry.  We saw it much like the unions have had to endure these days wheer a lower paid employee is brought in and eventually they don't hire people with knowledge or experience because it's cheaper to bring newbees in at a low rate.  It didn't really turn out that way since most of them quit before they became "certified".

    My colleagues and I decided that we could not make them a "railroader" because they have never actually installed, maintained or repaired the equipment.  We did believe that we could train them to be an inspector.  There would always be that chance that someone that is a shady character would try to get over on them since they tried us like that from time to time. 

    As far as the questions the other poster asked, they are most of them that we get on a regular basis when we would go to railroad properties.  If you haven't found out yet, credibility is everything in the rail industry.  That's why their first question is usually "What railroad did you work for?".

    I still have contacts with FRA folks that I've worked with in the past and am still linked to the rail industry in my current position.  I would just advise that you be careful in what you post and how you post it so people don't think you're posting agency policy.


  • In reply to Challenger09:

    Hi Challenger,

    Nice touch on your responce. So what is the secret to getting through the red tape. I've been in limbo since2005 gone through JOBSUSA.

    Everytime the posting come due it seems I'm being emailed that they're pulling the listing and to re-apply.

    What gives?

  • In reply to Challenger09:

    Hello Challanger09, thanks for the reply. There are three issues that I would like to address in your comment.

    1. In your reply you stated, "When this program began, it caused quite a stir among journeyman inspectors that had "paid their dues" in the industry." That is a common problem among trainees that they are looked at and treated as outsiders and it can be very uncomfortable. We are seen as not having paid our dues by working in whatever craft. That is not our (trainees) problem that is someone else's problem. You do not have to have a railroad background to inspect and regulate the railroad. How many referees in the super bowl have played professional football? Not very many and they do a fine job of refereeing those games. An outsider's perspective can bring a breath of fresh air; I would hope you could appreciate that, especially being a Signal guy. I think things have changed since you were in, I have been told stories about trainees of the past and some of the problems they had, they did not stick around, etc. Why would you stick around if you are being treated like dirt and disrespected all of the time, just because you never worked for a railroad? Isn’t that kind of an ignorant view? I used to be told all of the time "your going to have to learn the railroad way of doing business,"isin't that wrong? Shouldn't I learn the federal regulation way of business? Wouldn't someone rather have an inspector with no connection to the railroad inspecting, so there is not conflict of interest when it comes to safety matters? 

    2. As far as Signal goes, that has been my most difficult training period. I do not have a math, science or engineering background. S&TC Inspectors are not paid enough in my book; they should all be GS-13s.

    3. Thanks for the advice on careful posting. I am not going to post anymore on this website. I think it freaks people out that a trainee has a brain. Because a trainee talks and gives their opinion, people get pissed off because it is expected that we do not know our heads from our ass and we should just shut up and listen. This one person talking about paper up my butt, etc. Would he say that to my face, of course not but this is a message board and I identified myself as a trainee. Many of the people where I work treated me like that at first until they got to know me and got to know my background. Now many inspectors ask for my opinion on certain things that I have expertise in and ask me to write supplemental reports.   

    Good luck to you all and please check Yahoo groups for my message board coming within the next couple of weeks. I will be talking about my great FRA Training experience and how FRA hiring works. The hiring will be good for trainees and railroaders looking to get on board. The system is a pain in the butt, but there is a system to it and if you present yourself right on paper and have the right background, you can do it.

    Stay Safe! 



  • In reply to James Swidergal:

    Hey James:

    There are several factors that could be holding things up for you.  For me, I got to know my signal inspector that came out on my section when I was a signal maintainer and he put in a good word for me once I was being considered.  Also, I put in for a location that had a history of not being able to keep inspectors.  And they were adding more inspectors there due to the work load.

    It used to be that when you were on the list, you stayed on there for a certain time period and then when a job came open and you were one of the high 3 ranking candidates, you would at least get contacted for an interview.  I'm not sure if that's changed or not.  And some disciplines have a lot more people than others, like OP, there are a ton of people that qualify for  that compared to MP&E, Track or Signal.

    I tried for a while too so best I can say is hang in there.


  • In reply to FRAKid:

    Hey Kid:

    I wasn't trying to be disrespectful in my comments.  I wanted to share a bit of my experience with you about FRA and Fed employment.

    I'm quite sure that it is a difficult position to be in when you get into a program like that.  The agency was going through a big culture change and this was just one of many things being thrown at us.  As you know by now, the railroad is a very dangerous environment to be in and we kind of resented the fact that the agency was using us to mentor individuals that had no idea of what to expect or how things worked.  I'm not trying to be mean, it's just a fact.  Like I told you, we obviously couldn't teach them how to do the job on the railroad but we taught them what they needed to know to become a successful inspector.  So not only did I have to look out for myself, I now had to watch out for another employee more vigilantly than I would someone else that had more knowledge of the industry.  It was up to them to be successful at learning what they needed to know.  With your attitude, I think you'll be fine.  Just lighten up and don't think that people like me are out to get you.  I'm getting older now and have either worked or been in the rail industry for nearly 30 years so take advantage of that instead of thinking I'm busting your balls.  It's importatn to know the railroad way of doing business to be successful at the Federal way of enforcing regulations.  And I can tell you that they want someone conducting an inspection that knows what should be done and how it is to be done more than the appearance of impartiality.  It is FRA's and the regional specialist or chief inspector's responsibility to make sure the inspector is doing his job honestly and correctly.

    As for no. 2, I couldn't agree more with that one.  There was talk of changing the grades of the inspector's to better reflect the knowledge required to do the job but that never happened.  Signals even baffle us at times so hang in there and you'll get the knowledge you need.  And you really don't need a lot of math or science to do it, just basic mechanical and electrical knowledge and a little common sense.

    It's not so much it freaks people out.  For me, we never had this kind of access to get and share info so be glad you can do this.  I started in 1990 and our computers had WordPerfect 3.1 on them so things have changed considerably.  I had some good experiences with the trainees I worked with and I truly did try to help them.  And the way I feel now, i would do a much better job of training someone.  In fact, I'm kind of doing that now in my current position where I am taking people with little or no rail knowledge into that area.

    You seem like a good guy and you will be fine if you decide to continue with FRA.  There are a lot of good people there and hopefully, some of them will help you out.  I don't know where you're located (what region?) or what part of the country you'er in but if I can help you in any way, get i touch with me.


  • In reply to Challenger09:

    Challenger09:  Choo-Choo Baby from Vine Grove is that really you?

  • In reply to ntrain1947:

    Nope, don't think so.

  • In reply to FRAKid:

    Hey Kid,

    Noone is chasing you away from this site. That is your perogative. If you we're right here I'd tell you the same thing, I told you online,YOU DON"T SCARE ME.!

    And it's your mentality that everyone is picking on you, YOU opened the door to questions being asked,so I asked. You're the one that responds with an attitude and than when I lamb-baste you you run off at the mouth with innuendoes, as if what you have to say is gospel. You want to be this "breath of fresh air" but you want it your way and therefore you are contrdicting yourself. That's the problem that already exists on the FRA,The Carriers,and Union Level. Too many self proclaimed geniuses and don't know a hill of beans 'bout nothin'.

    So go to Yahoo,go where ever you wish,wish you the best of luck but don't be surprised when you run head long into the same problem, your attitude sucks!

  • In reply to Challenger09:

    Hey Challenger,

    Actually since your post back to me, I've had an epiphany of sorts. Things have come full circle as to my Federal Application as well as other DOT applications,and I can't get into detail but I am in touch with a Labor Lawyer.

    As this episode unravels I'll keep ya' posted and updated so others who are in the same predicament might learn what is available.

    Thanks for your input.

  • In reply to FRAKid:


    One question.

    How do you properly perfrom a route locking test?

    Figure a typical end of siding location.


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