Skip to content

Working the Rails

Getting Rest, Working the Rails (6:07)

Mark Kramer, locomotive engineer, and his wife, Paula

"You have to stay safe - your family depends on it."
-Mark Kramer, locomotive engineer

If you work an on-call, unpredictable schedule, you frequently go to bed and get up at different times. Even if you work a fixed schedule, you may be on the job in non-daylight hours. Your work schedule may be out of sync with the daily activities of family and friends. 

Many railroaders get different amounts of sleep from day to day. Their work schedules or family responsibilities sometimes limit their opportunities to sleep as long as they wish or need. Railroaders often face additional demands on their time that include overtime, emergency work, and training.

If you have a railroader in your life, you may share these experiences. You sometimes may find it hard to adjust times for meals and other activities to your railroader’s schedule. This website aims to help you and your railroader thrive on and off the job. 

Managing sleep while working unpredictable hours requires strategy

Career railroaders, or "old heads," consider themselves survivors. They strive to get the sleep they need to perform their jobs well, take part in family and community life, see friends, and squeeze in sports or other leisure activities. 

They have adopted tactics to help with sleep in daylight hours, when sunlight, noise, and other factors make sleep shorter or less restful than it would be at night. They have learned how to manage their sleep at railroad sleeping quarters or hotels that lack the comforts of home. They have developed strategies to help them stay awake and alert when they must work at night. Their families, too, have found ways to help them do their job, and stay involved in what’s happening at home. 

You will find information on this site about all of these topics and more. We hope you will enjoy exploring its pages, and learn more about the best ways to stay alert and obtain the sleep you need to feel and function at your best.