The Railroad Life · The Wife Life

What I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Railroad Wife – Part One

I honestly didn’t know what it was going to be like to be a railroad wife. I’m not sure any of us knew, right ladies? I’m not sure we would have been okay with becoming railroad wives had we known.

My railroader and I were married for almost 6 year before he was hired on with the railroad. We were used to a regular schedule of working Monday to Friday from 8:00 am – 5:30 pm. He was home every night and we were used to weekends together. He never worked a statutory holiday and we had a life. We planned camping trips with friends every summer, regular weekend visits to my parents and we enjoyed our weekly Bible study night. Now we live the railroad lifeIf you are a railroader or a railroad wife you know what I’m talking about.

One thing I wish I knew before I became a railroad wife was that there is no schedule. And by no schedule I mean NO schedule.

When my railroader started we were clueless. And I mean clueless about anything and everything about the railroad. The only thing we knew was that the engineer drives, I mean, operates the train and the conductor does other stuff. No clue what that other stuff was but we were about to find out. We really just knew that trains transported large amounts of freight.

We didn’t know anyone who worked for the railroad so we had no one to ask what it was going to be like. We found out very quickly that our week didn’t look like most people’s week. Our family life changed dramatically when my railroader became a qualified conductor. My railroader can work up to 11 hours a day, book 12-24 hours rest and will get a 2-hour call telling him he needs to be back at work. He never knows when he’s going to get that call. He might get it right off his rest but he might get it 12 hours after his rest is up. It’s always a guessing game. The problem with never knowing when you are going to get called is this, how do you adequately rest when you don’t know when you’re going to be heading back to work? Having no schedule really take a toll on a person mentally and physically.

Another thing about having no schedule which is hard is trying to make plans. How do you plan a night out when you don’t know if your railroader will be home? Making plans with family or friends has become almost impossible. Unless people are willing to hang out last minute we often don’t make plans. Also, planning birthday parties or celebrating holidays on the actual holiday is almost impossible. You know you’re a railroad family when you celebrate Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or any holiday, really, a few days late.

Now not working Monday to Friday from 9:00 am – 5:oo pm isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, my son took skating lessons Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:30 am to 11:30 am and quite often my railroader was able to take him. Something most working dad’s wouldn’t be able to do. My son’s leader day at Kindergarten happened to fall on a day where my railroader was home so he went to school with him that day. It sometimes doesn’t work in our favour, don’t get me wrong…it’s not all bad but it does take some getting used to.

For all the new railroad wives out there, it’s not an easy adjustment and you won’t get used to it overnight. Most of your friends and family won’t get it (unless they work for the railroad as well) and some friends may drift away because trying to make plans with them will become increasingly harder. It will be okay and you will survive. Many of us railroad wives are a testament to it.

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