How to become a train conductor for CN

So you want to be a railroad conductor? Becoming a train conductor for the railroad, no matter which one, does have some requirements. Some of the requirements you have complete control over and some you may not.

If you are 100% sure you want to work for the railroad as a conductor, this hub will layout most of the requirements to become a train conductor.

What does becoming a train conductor entail?

First of all, many people always ask me one major question. What are the hours like for a conductor? Well, to make it simple, you are on call. You are on call as a conductor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You will probably work holidays and special events. To elaborate on this a little further, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. For example, the railroad I work for, CN Rail, does give you some time off. If you work a yard, you can book rest. If you work a road trip, you can book rest also. You will have days off, so don't think you are working non-stop with no rest periods or time to see your family. On the contrary, if you are scheduled to work on Christmas day, tough luck. You will be expected to be there. Once you start holding higher seniority, you will be able to be on specific jobs that only run certain times so that gives you a bit of a better schedule. Conductors are also eligible for engineer training. So.... being a conductor does have it's perks despite sometimes crappy work hours.

Aside from hours, another major question is what is the work like. This depends on where your home terminal is located. If you are located at a terminal where there isn't a yard, you will get mostly road work, which includes spotting industries and doing a lot of sitting on the engine. You may also have to do some repairs to cars, like changing a knuckle if it breaks, so that would entail walking the train. That sucks when it is like -40C outside with a wicked wind chill and you have a long train. If you work the yard, your job would entail building trains, pulling pins, getting on and off moving cars, etc... The yard is a bit more physical, but still not at all hard.

Alright, I'm interested. How do I actually become a conductor?

OK. Each railroad has it's own personal hiring process. However, each have one common trait about them that they need to hear. Safety. If you are a safe person and can demonstrate that in your interview and resume, you have a major advantage over those applicants that are not safety oriented.

Basically, it goes like this:

  1. Go to the recruiting website
  2. Apply for the conductor position with the railroad of your choice
  3. Upload your resume
  4. Wait
  5. Wait some more
  6. Wait a little bit longer
  7. Get a reply for a job fair / interview session
  8. Take a switch test
  9. If you pass, get an interview date
  10. Go to your interview (remember.... safety!)
  11. Pass the interview, get a background check done
  12. Get your medical done
  13. Wait some more
  14. Are you still waiting? Good!
  15. If you are selected, you will be notified and given a date to report for training! Congratulations!!!
  16. Pack up all your stuff (could be 1 week to 3 months notice)
  17. Get your butt to training and study your rules and signals!
  18. Pass the tests
  19. Do yard training, belt pack training, and road training
  20. You are now a qualified conductor

So as you probably noticed, I said "wait" a lot. There is a reason for this. Railroads are notoriously slow for the hiring process. Also, if you don't pass your background check and/or medical, you probably will not get hired.

What to wear to a conductor interview?

There are those people who will tell you to "wear the part". This is furthest from the truth however. When you go to an interview for any of the railroads, you need to dress in nice pants and a nice shirt. Never wear jeans to an interview. It speaks that you may not be as serious as another applicant that took the time to dress better.

What did I wear to my interview? I work black dress pants, dress shoes, and a nice matching sweater. You don't have to wear a suit and tie, but you should look like you put at least 80% effort into your interview day.

Just my 2 cents...

What questions do they ask in conductor interviews?

The questions that I was asked, as well as many other applicants were all situation based questions.

Example: What would you do if your train went into emergency and was blocking an intersection where motorist were stopped. You have been stopped for a length of time and some motorist are starting to leave their vehicles and are getting angry. What would you do, as a conductor?

Example: Name a time at a previous job where safety was a concern. What did you do about it?

Example: When it comes to safety, who's responsibility is it?

Safety needs to be incorporated into each of these questions. No matter what the question is, try to incorporate some instance of safety into it. It will do your interview good.

Try not to have a lot of dead air after they ask you the questions. You don't really want to think about the question for to long, and don't be like "uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, can you repeat the question?". Railroads want employees that can think on the fly. Understand that.


I hope you found this article helpful. I am speaking from my own experiences with a very large railroad as a conductor. Understand that even though I am sharing tips and experiences with you, yours might be entirely different. It depends on the railroad you apply to and whether or not your recruiter had his pancakes with whipped cream in the morning or not.

I cannot make you get hired on as a conductor, no matter how awesome I am.

Some things to take note of is that if you have chronic health conditions, you will probably not get hired. You have to pass a vision and hearing test as well as a physical fitness test.

If you have stupid marks on your background check like assault, drugs, animal abuse, crap like that, you will probably get no response from the recruiters as to if you are getting hired or not. In short, you will not get hired. Simple as that. Keep your nose clean fellas and good luck.

And if you do get hired, what your supervisors say goes. Do not argue. That is the fastest way to make enemies and see your way out the door. If they tell you to jump up and down 3 times and sing the birthday song before you couple some cars, do it. Especially if you're new. Good luck and enjoy your new career!


I recently received numerous requests for a practice test for the railroad flat switching test they give to people applying for the conductor position. I thought I would help some people out and make a simple and quick practice test, even though it's nothing elaborate by no means.

You can find the practice test on my profile page or at this link:

Thanks for reading, again!

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Comments 93 comments

leezj17 12 months ago

My husband was recently laid off after he qualified as a conductor about 5 months ago. Wanted to get some feedback since we dont know anyone in the industry... Is this typical? or should he start looking for a new career path. CP is hiring right now but he heard that it is better to stick with CN and wait it out. Thoughts?

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mrpudgy 17 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

You still have a chance. They are in a hiring freeze right now. No hiring until closer to fall/winter from what I've heard. Hang in there.

mo 17 months ago

Hi, I have a question, I applied in Jan 2015, status was open, then placed on hold. When the job status changed to "open" I got a call for a switch test. I passed it and moved on to the interview. They told me the process would take around 6 weeks. Well I have not heard anything back from HR since the interview on April 2015. nothing about a drug test or background test. It is now June. The job status changed from open to on hold and my application status says "under review". You think I still have a chance? Not sure why its on hold right now. I emailed recruiting and they replied with "The hiring for that position is on hold at the moment" What are your thoughts?

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mrpudgy 18 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

They want you. Just not hiring right now. Kinda slow at the moment.

Ryan 19 months ago

Great write-up! I just went through the hiring process for cn out of Melville. I received an email today saying I was successful through the hiring process but was placed in the candidate pool. I've since noticed a new job posting out of Melville for a freight conductor. Do I have a chance at it since they went through the trouble of a medical or am I out of luck? Would a guy be waiting a long time if in a pool for a terminal like Melville where they are forever hiring?


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mrpudgy 20 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

I have no idea what laborer training consists of. If it was conductor I would say study hard every night and don't drink any booze or go out partying. If you are serious about the position, I'd say with any position, pay attention and give it your everything! Good luck and gratz.

Fred 20 months ago

Congrats sralmani! So it was nearly a 4 month period total huh? What position did you get accepted for? And where are you from?

sralmani 20 months ago

Hello there! Got an email from CN ofering me the position, which I accepted without any delay. My three week training will start from 6th April in Winnipeg. Any headsup or advise for Labour training. Thanks

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mrpudgy 21 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

on the job training can take up to 6 months. although, they are trying to push them through quickly, so maybe 3 months. just depends on how fast he learns the job and what kind of work there is out there. first year conductors usually make around 60-70k depending on what job they are holding and how much they work. there are a lot of factors involved.

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leezj17 21 months ago from canada

My husband just finished his 7 week training and starts his orientation on monday. He had to moved to edmonton while the rest of the family is still living in our hometown. Just wondering how long it will take to finish his on the job training? and how much do conductors make the first year approximately? We are trying to budget since he has his own living expenses out there already.

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Dont be on your phone during class, AT ALL. Don't drink any alcohol, give it up for a few weeks while in class. study hard. read the CROR religiously. study signals every night. and pay attention and take lots of notes.

sralmani 22 months ago

Congartes and good luck for your training. BTW, which city did you apply.

Skaol 22 months ago

Would like to thank you for your feed back. I got the call i start training soon any advice for college and to prepare myself for the training?

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Like everything at CN, all unionized jobs are based on seniority. So they need more guys in the winter due to the snow and ice, cleaning switches, etc.. In the summer, things run much smoother so they might not need all the laborers they hired for the winter. Therefore, that would be a layoff. However, I'm not in HR so I don't know 100% if they would lay you off or not. I just know in the past, all the guys they hired was seasonal labor. I applied for the same thing in the very beginning. What is funny is that, just like you, they put me in the candidate pool, chose not to hire me. Then, once I became a conductor, they called me like 7 mo's into my conductor position and offered me the laborer position. I was like, nah I'm already a conductor. You can keep your laborer position. But that took like 1 yr 7 mo's for them to even call me and they hired guys for that position around me. Just like you.

sralmani 22 months ago

thanks for all your feedback.... are you saying that labour job is not permanent or rather most of the time layedoff??

They have denied me for intermodal labour job, i tried again to apply today for the same job as they have posted the vacancy once more, it wont let me apply for this!!

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

OK. First off, 99% of my trainees did NOT take the RRC course. You can take it if you want, but I feel that your chances of hiring on are about the same as if you didn't. There is no tuition for CN to train you. They pay you to train on the job and in classroom.

Yes. Lifting 80 lbs. is required. How often you have to tote around an 80 lb knuckle depends on your engineer and how rough he is with the train. I can tell you that in my 2.5 years, I've changed 0 knuckles. Lucky? Maybe. You are required during training though to carry the knuckle the length of 1 car (50ft) and back for a total of 100 ft and set it down.

No, you aren't required to wear safety glasses over your glasses. They make prescription safety glasses that you can get from an eye doctor and CN reimburses you the money. They are actually quite nice, with clear lenses at night and tinted during the day. I wish I had some even though I don't wear presc. glasses.

You're welcome!

P.S. If you are thinking of becoming a conductor, you will probably be in the yard for quite some time. Minimum 3-5 years with a chance of getting forces away from home to a different terminal until you can hold your home terminal. Just so you know.

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

First of all, they are in negotiations with the engineers at the moment. I'm not sure about steel workers union or any of the other ones. If the only union they are negotiating with at the moment is the teamsters for enginemen, that should have no effect on you getting hired for laborer or equipment operator... Like I said, they have so many trainees right now everywhere, they probably can't handle anymore right now. Winter will be coming to an end here soon and all those laborers will be laid off, as it's more than likely seasonal. It's bad luck that those other guys got hired before you even though they applied after you. Pretty much everything in this job is unfair though to be quite honest lol. Patience, patience, and about a years more patience. That's all I can tell you. It took me about 7 mo's to hear anything for my conductor position.

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

It means CN isn't hiring anyone right this second but may very well hire in the near future. It can take months to a year or more to hear anything. Patience is a must in the railroad hiring game.

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

They can be all over the map as far as hiring, honestly. They pick and choose however they wish, even if you are the absolute best candidate for the job, they may pick someone else just because of the vibe the HR person got off them., even if they aren't the BEST candidate for the job.

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Equipment operator is a way better job in my opinion. The intermodal yard is gravy in terms of a good job. Laborer is often seasonal and may not offer advancement. Equipment operator will allow you to eventually operate the intermodal container crane. Really nice job.

Fred 22 months ago

Hello, I am currently looking into this profession and I am also from Winnipeg. Very helpful and informative page btw! I read everything but I still have some questions I hope you or anyone can answer.

I am thinking about taking the railway conductor course at Red River College. It is a 15-week course and costs more than $10,000. Do you recommend this? Apparently you can just apply to rail companies with no experience or knowledge and they will teach/train you themselves?! Do they have their own tuition fee or is it all taken care of "in-house"?

Unless they prefer applicants with knowledge or give preference to RRC graduates, it seems better to straight out apply directly?

As for the physical test, is the ability to lift 80 lbs a 100% necessity? How often did you lift that much? And for how far/long were you to lift it for? Also, I wear glasses, so would that hurt my chances at all? Would I wear safety glasses over my regular glasses lol?

Thank you!

sralmani 22 months ago

Hi SKoal, I think we are sailing in the same boat,,,So confusing for the time being..... I called HR yesterday, they had no satisfactory answer regarding people hired who did their interview and medical after me, however they said that right now CN and union are in negotiation phase therfore there is a freeze on hiring!!!...Who knows what's going on. May be Mr.mrpudgy has better clue.... I will wait for his comments.

SKoal 22 months ago

Hello i went for my interview for conductor in December, went for my medical shortly after. Currently in candidate pool. never received email or call. so i finally call HR, they said they have to await approvals before hiring so many people, it was a good thing to be in candidate pool they said. But someone i knew who took the interview and medical at same time was hired. does this mean ?

sralmani 22 months ago

Hi there, today I met some folks at CN yard, just arrived from Winnipeg after their training, they applied for the same "Labour" position for the same yard, had medical after I got my medical done. They said, they were sent for training within couple of days after their medical.

I am just little disappointed with my result as I am still on their "pool candidate list". Is this normal too at CN, "last gets first and first gets last"

sralmani 22 months ago

I did apply for the position of "Labourer/Equipment operator/HEO-Intermodal Yard" and did passed online test/questionnaire. Now my job submission status shows like "On line testing completed-Passed". I havn't received any thing from CN for this particular job and its still open position, however they have again advertised the same position today.

How you compare both like "Labour- Specialized Trades" and "Labourer/Equipment operator/HEO-Intermodal Yard", If I get a call for the later one too, which one I should accept. Your kind advice will be much appreciated.

sralmani 22 months ago

Thanks a lot for your kind response....I think "Accepting in to the class", you mean to say, next available training session for labours in Winnipeg, isn't it. BTW, the position "Labour" was in specialized trades, so iam assuming sort of typical workshop work... along with all sorts of rough tough jobs as you mentioned, what's your take on this, as my goal is to move forward in to mechanical trades at CN. I just wanted to get in to CN and make my way forward for a long term better position.

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Candidate pool means that when they do actually start accepting the guys into the class, you WILL be called. They want you when they start taking guys in. Realistically, you could wait 6 mo's or more. I had to wait about that time for the conductor position. I will tell you a saying that EVERYONE in the railway knows. It's called "Hurry up and wait". That saying is well known around here. For the labor position, they normally hire the guys on for the winter blowing switches and chipping ice. Stuff like that. It's almost like a seasonal position at times. They don't always need laborers. Good luck in your endeavors.

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mrpudgy 22 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

So you did go to the Winnipeg campus or you didn't? Or did you just finish the switch test, medical, interview, etc etc... If you are interested in rules instructor, you should look online for openings. I know they were looking a while back. If you are in your 50's, as far as I know, they are looking for guys mid 30's below. You may get in but, realistically, I wouldn't set my hopes banking everything on it. Sorry man, but I don't want to lie to guys. I have to tell it how it is, realistically.

sralmani 22 months ago

Hi there, I had applied on-line for couple of different jobs. I was called for an interview for a "LABOR" position on December 2nd 2014, followed by a medical on 8th December 2014, in Edmonton AB. Doctor told me that,

" every thing is good, and you can work for CN" he was also pleased with my hearing test. After medical, my job status online shows as "Candidate Pool".

I sent an email to HR for followup after christmas holidays, I got the reply as,

" You status has not changed you are still in candidate pool, we are currently not hiring. Once we receive permission to hire we will then review at that time".

I just have no idea what's going on, specially for (Currently Not Hiring) its been now one and half months already!!

As you mentioned in your previous answer that call for medical means "YES", subject to medical goes well.

Is there any idea when they are going to offer me the job and then proceed for training. I will appreciate for your kind response. Thanks

Kay dub 22 months ago

Mr. Pudgy:

I hope you can buck me up a bit. I finished the conductor course in Dec 2014 and was interviewed/med exam, etc., but as of date have not heard anything. Medical went well, no probs, but some of my classmates who were chronically late/no shows got to go to training in Winnipeg, while I sit here. I am in my 50s, but I WANT TO WORK. I finished the course with a GPA of 3.98, yet I linger. Am I realistic in hoping my skills and work ethic will get me a job?

BTW, I love rules and signals and think I could be a great peer teacher in the training classes.

misdemeanor 23 months ago

I'm going in for a switch test/interview in Wisconsin on the 20th. I have a misdemeanor battery on my record. I'm confident in my ability to pass everything but this background check.

Should I just say "screw it"?..... according to your article it's not looking good for me.

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mrpudgy 23 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

A little late on the reply so I hope you had a good turnout on your test. Personally, I don't "think" the beard matter, but then again, I aint HR, so I don't know their deepest darkest secrets. I would say that if they hauled you over from a different state, they must like something you had to offer. Good luck.

Shandy 23 months ago

In one week I am going in for the switch test/interview in Wisconsin, USA. I currently have a beard and have heard mixed results about it when applying for the railroad, I know it seems kinda silly, but would it be advisable to shave it off before hand, or just keep it neet and close? Also, I don't know if you would know the answer to this question or not but I thought I would ask: If they have invited someone to this from another state, does that mean that the HR reps liked something from my resume or that there is a high chance of me getting hired on? Thank you for the article!

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mrpudgy 24 months ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Here in Canada at least, yes. When you work at least 1075 miles in the yard or road (since in the yard hours is converted to miles), you can get what we call an EO. You can choose to take up to 48 hours off. If you get 4300 miles before your month is up, you can take the rest of the month off, which is your mileage date. Hope that helps.

Mike 2 years ago

Is there ever a time that you can book a 48hr rest rather than a 24hr rest? (if you are a road conductor)

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

nah if you are going for a medical they want you. They wouldn't waste the money. as long as you pass the drug test and physical exam. Yes there will be "lifting" etc.

Stephanie 2 years ago

I have my medical this coming Week. Do they usually send ppl for medical if they don't plan to hire them? Is this only going to be a drug and health test or should I expect to lift x amount of weight ..?

Greg K 2 years ago

Sorry for the late reply, I haven't checked back in a bit!

This is in Montreal. My status was upgraded to "under review" about two weeks back. Not much since. Lengthy process!

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Good luck. Where did you apply for if you don't mind me asking.

Greg K 2 years ago

Thanks for the swift replies. I appreciate it! =)

I did re-apply last night. There's a mid-September interview session, that much I know from the HR director. Applications close on the 10th, so I should be hearing something soon, whichever way that something goes.


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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

I would think there should be something there. I'm not sure though, since they like to change things all the time. For me, when I applied 2.5 years ago, all my stuff was on the site and showed me a status. You might want to redo it. If it still doesn't show, then I have no clue. Keep in mind though, it took me between 6-8 months to hear anything. Then when I did, it was like, go for the physical, you start class in 1 week. They don't really give you time to plan ANYTHING.

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

It's not like free hanging there with your feet dangling. Basically, it's as if you were to be riding a car. Can you stand on a step and hold yourself on the car. That's what it is testing you for. Then they do a push/pull test to test you to see if you can line a switch or tie on a handbrake. That is about it. Then, in railroad "bootcamp" they make you carry a knuckle that weighs about 80-100 lbs a car length or two. I can't remember. It's there and back whatever it is.

That's the gist of it.

Greg K 2 years ago

Also, if you could tell me what holding yourself up for 5 minutes means precisely. On a pull-up bar? I've read and heard of widely varying physical tests. I'm fit, with good cardio and decent strength, not overweight at all, but I'd like to know what's potentially coming to better prepare =)

Thanks for any assistance with either matter.

Greg K 2 years ago

I applied to the conductor position online and received email confirmation with a candidate reference number. All seems well, except that when I log onto my CN account, there is no status under Job Submission Status. It simply says: "There is no job submission status to display". Is that the norm, if you remember? Or does it mean I should re-apply? I was referred by a friend, an active conductor, who also emailed the recruiter for me. I haven't heard anything from them in 3 weeks, so I'm wondering if my application somehow triggered the automatic email but still wasn't recorded. Just wanna know if it's normal that there's nothing in my profile. No info. No resume. Nada. I did upload all of that when I applied...

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Unfortunately, yes. most of the reviews are accurate. In my terminal, most management are pretty good. But there are times I almost pack it in.

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Mark Tyson 2 years ago

Are any of these reviews accurate?

I'm really freaking out to apply. If management bears down on you, then why work for CN? I want to, but this discourages me a little.

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Not sure. I didn't have to take that test when i hired on. That is something they have started within the past couple years.

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Probably. I would assume so anyway. That's how it goes for most people. This comment is 2 months old, but did you end up getting a good call?

Doug 2 years ago

I have applied before and got to the big test with math and other questions but didn't make it past that point. Is the point of that test to get as many done as possible or even if you only get a few done, they are done correctly? I assume it is the later of the two, but what is your thought on this?

CanadianPiper 2 years ago

Not sure if you're still seeing these but I have a medical assessment on Tuesday. I understand the next training class starts May 5th. If I've been called in for the medical assessment, is it safe to guess that I'll be offered a job as long as I pass the medical assessment?

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

They won't let you continue. But, if you want to work for the railroad anyway, talk to HR and see if they will take you on with a different department other than transportation. Where was you taking your class? US or Canada? Also, you may be able to reapply for another class, but they may not take you back since you were already let go once. The trick to passing those exams is to note the major points in the rulebook for the rules you have studied thus far and make sure you know where to find them when the question asks you about the rule. The big ones are obviously watching your point, shoving equipment, and anything to do with public safety, well, that's pretty much the whole book lol. Just know where everything is. Page tabs are great for quickly finding a rule like rule 105 for example. But you have to know what the rule is talking about by number alone to be able to quickly apply it to the question at hand. Read the rulebook EVERY night while in rules. It works wonders and hey, it's only 7 weeks of your life that you are reading that boring thing every night =P Good luck!

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Depends on when they are planning on starting the class. Usually they don't tell you until about a couple weeks before the class starts. Good luck.

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

They are looking for "leaders" in the crowd. People who want to work all the time and not ask questions about it are also looked highly upon. Basically, people who have a strong aptitude for working continuously under immense stress, no sleep, and the like. Those qualities are what will get you to pass that questionaire if i'm thinking about the same one. Even if you don't possess those qualities, answer the questions so that it makes you seem like you do. If you go for the interview, they are going to ask you a lot of "what would you do in this situation." Just answer with safety in mind and if you don't know what you would do, ask a supervisor. Take the safe course." When they ask who's responsibility is safety, answer: EVERYONES! It is everyones job to make sure that they are safe and everyone around them is safe while working. To make sure nobody gets hurt or hurts someone else.

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mrpudgy 2 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Could be likely. This past year in 2013 we had a few guys get transferred out of winnipeg. With the new agreement that is coming into effect, I personally don't think it would be good for anyone who likes to be home with their families to hire on though. If you like to do nothing but be at work all the time though, sure, apply right away lol.

Neptune 2 years ago

I passed made it to the end of week 3 of training then ran out of time writing second exam. ended up getting 79 needed 90. I was released from the program. What should I do. I just want to continue the program but I can't.

hello 2 years ago

How long after you finished and passed the physical/medical did it take before you heard if you were hired or not?

Rebecca1978ca 2 years ago from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Please please help. Passed the switch test, and failed the online assesment test. NOT the 206 question test it was about 25 -20 questions asking agree strongly agree etc,, And don't know what happened this time! I am thinking I failed the online test (25-20 question ire) but why?....! Is my concern? How can you fail this opinion test and what are they looking for for the correct answers. Please help if any one could give me advice . I was notified via email the next day after taking the short online assess that I had not passed it . So that's what the problem was. Why?....please help

Ps I wanna reapply in 6 months what should I do to pass. .? Please help

Thanks so much hope someone is out there

3 years ago

How often or what is the chance of a Winnipeg Train Conductor getting transferred out of Winnipeg? Just curious...

Fazelo 3 years ago

Hey I participated in a group interview after completing the online assessments; it was part of an Ontario Go West thing CN rail is doing. They administered the switching test and everyone who passed was told to hand in copies of their government ID, Resume and background screening form. I was wondering how long it will be until another interview is held does anyone know?

fitness 3 years ago

You said hold yourself up for 5 minutes. As in a pull up position? or how so? Just wondering. I'm a former competitive athlete so I should be fine but just wondering what to expect. Ps great site!

reginahoepful 3 years ago

Hello, I just attended the interview/info session. My interview was fairly quick (12 mins approx). Just wondering if this is a good or bad thing? I was quick and emphasized safety so I hope it was cause I was clear with my answers that it didn't take too long.

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Shouldn't as long as they are doctor prescribed. Don't quote me on that though. You never know what HR thinks. Good luck.

saskie 3 years ago

Hey I have had issues of depression in the past and although I no longer experience symptoms, I still take anti-depressants. Will this stop me from passing the medical?

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

To be honest, I don't think the conductor program gives you any better advantage over other applicants. I have seen numerous instructors, managers, and other employees frown upon new hires that brag about taking the course. They seem to prefer training the guys and girls that don't take it from what I've seen. Just my 2 cents.

Yes, the money is good. You work very long hours though to get it... So there are pro's as well as con's. Sometimes it seems the con's outweigh the pro's, but the paycheck is always nice to see in your account after the half. I wouldn't say the work is strenuous. It can be a highly stressful job though. You have a lot of paperwork that has to be done almost flawlessly or you get in a lot of trouble, or you can get in a lot of trouble I should say.

There is A LOT of stuff to learn. Learning the territory, how to switch, how to get along with hundreds of different personalities that you may not exactly like working with. Changing a knuckle isn't "hard" but it is freaking heavy. About 80lbs and sometimes you may have to carry it quite a distance, like quarter mile or more if you aren't able to get it back there a different way. Yes, you will getting on and off moving cars etc. I wouldn't say it is "dangerous" as long as you follow the rules and don't act like a moron lol. But, there are ppl like that everywhere right? Following the rules is a major part of working for the railroad. You can and will get fired if you can't follow the rules and they have no qualm about putting you out the door. It isn't the most slack job I've ever had, I'll just put it that way. BUT, in the end, there are days I abslutely LOVE my job and then there are days I'm ready to just pack it in. You have to be able to adapt to do well at this job and take criticism, good and bad, and not let snarly ppl get you down. Any other questions, let me know. Good luck.

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umbattag 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba CANADA

Hey Pudgy, just wondering how long you've been a conductor and how do you like it? How dangerous it is (you mentioned jumping on and off moving cars)? How strenuous it is (removing/replacing knuckles, etc..). Also, is it interesting?; I see you went to university. Do you like the work or are you bored? I know the money is very good! The reason I ask is that I went to an info session at RRC, about their conductor program, it looks interesting but I'm worried about spending $10,500 and not getting hired on. The instructor (Perry Something) said that everyone will at least get an interview with CN. I'm also 40, do you think my age will be a sticking point with CN HR? Also, good hub; you have a good writing style.

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Sure you stand a chance. They had a big speech when I was in training about how they want to hire employees of different gender and change the old culture of the railway being men only or whatever. There was a female in my class and I worked with 5 different women in my old terminal and there are many more at my new terminal. Good luck with the process =)

Cass 3 years ago

This post is so helpful thank you! Just wondering how many women conductors you work with or know of. I have a session interview at the end of month and really would like to know if I even stand a chance.

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Sure. First off, you want all the cars in order on track 1. Here's how I did it.

1. Take your engine with cars A & B and take it all to track 1 and tie onto cars F, C, and D. Track change #1.

2. Next, take the cars you are tied onto in track 1, which are A, B, F, C, and D, and move it all to track 2. Track change #2.

3. Notice now that all the cars are in order except for car F. Car F needs to be on the very end. So, make a cut between cars F & C in track two and move F into track 1. Cut off F and leave it in track 1. Track change #3.

4. Now go back into track 2 and pick up all your cars. Track change #4.

5. Take all your cars into track 1 and tie onto F. All your cars are in the correct order and in track 1 with the locomotive changing tracks a total of 5 times. Track change #5.

Hope that helped you out. You can also accomplish this by tying onto E first off and then tying onto F in TRK 1 and then just block swapping it out in the correct order as they would be in the correct order in pairs of two's. Cheers!

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

You have to hold yourself up for 5 minutes, do pull and push tests where you pull on a handle thing. They want you to give it your full strength and you have to meet a certain strength goal for a pass. Keep in mind that if you pass the physical abilities test somehow and end up getting hurt on the job and needing time off, they might just let you go. This has happened before to guys in the past. Just a little heads up.

Joseph 3 years ago

For the practice switch test you have posted, can you explain how you did question #2 in just five moves. I can't figure it out and have been working on it forever. I've asked friends and family for help, and nobody can seem to do it in that few of moves. Thank you b

Mark 3 years ago

Anybody know what the physical is like for CN. Iam coming off of shoulder surgery and was wondering how strenuous the physical is. Should I wait till Iam fully healed, 50% etc. I want to get the physical done ASAP, as I have completed every other step (online tests, phone interview, switch test, medical etc).

Thanks for any input. Much appreciated.

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Yes there will be a color blindness test as well as hearing. Reflex test as well as fine motor skills will be tested also, speaking from my experience. Good luck!

Mike 3 years ago

Hey there,

Just curious as to whether or not anyone can tell me what to expect for the medical and physical testing.

For example: during the medical will there be a color blindness test? Hearing test?


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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

It just depends on when they are thinking of starting the next class really. They aren't gonna have you rush out and get that stuff done if they aren't starting another one for 6 or more weeks. Just my assumption. Usually, it takes a couple weeks or more to get anything said about the next steps. But yes, after the interview, the medical/physical and physical aptitude test is next in line. After that, you get the job offer if everything looks peachy. As Guns N Roses said, All it takes is just a little patience. lol good luck!

Daniel 3 years ago

I haven't been hired yet. I successfully passed the phone interview and am waiting further instructions. I think a medical and physical is next up. Do you know the timetable for how long it takes CN to contact you after the phone interview?

If hired it will be out of Regina.

Thanks again!

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Probably training in Winnipeg. The classes happen almost every 7 weeks depending on how many trainees they have hired. Where'd you hire out of?

Daniel 3 years ago

I was told that CN conductor training is 7 weeks. Does anybody know how often these courses take place? I was told I'd be training in either Edmonton or Winnipeg.

Thank you!

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

They will let you know. They may send you an email if you do not get selected or just keep checking your status. The main thing said around the RR is hurry up and wait. You'll get used to it.

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Yea around 85k a year is very realistic. But keep in mind it depends on how much rest you take and if you are a road or yard cndr. Yard make less than road. I'll see about that practice test. I'm in the middle of testing myself for beltpack so I haven't had much time to make one up. I'll make one of about 10 questions.

AllanJ 3 years ago

Hey , great posts!

I'm also look for some information. I passed the switch test, 2 weeks later I had a phone interview. CN contacted me after the interview to schedule my medical test. I had a couple things to get cleared by my GP, which I did and faxed to the CN nurse. A couple days after that they called me to schedule my PAT test (Physical Abilities Test). That was 2 weeks ago and I still haven't heard anything. My CN profile still reads " in progress" . I was just wondering if anyone had any experience in this part of the process? Will they let me know if I got hired or not? Any info would be appreciated!

Thanks again!

NightTrain 3 years ago

Hey guys,

Found this page fooling around on google and just in time! I too have a switch test and interview at an upcoming CN job fair. Reading the experiences of a few other posters on here, I'm a bit nervous about passing this test, given its importance in hetting hired. If mrpudgy could indeed make a practice test with tips on how to do well, that would be truly AWESOME!

On the job ad CN states a salary of around $85,000/year for conductors. Is this realistic for someone to make in their 1st or 2nd year at CN?

Thank you to mrpudgy and the other posters. Cheers

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Depends on the HR people doing the testing if they wanna reschedule you or not. Most of the time, you will have to reapply.

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

I would say if you want to work something other than the yard, I would look into Melville,SK or something. Not necessarily Canora but Melville will offer you that variety of jobs. I wouldn't suggest being a trainmaster personally. They really work loooong hours and have to put up with a lot of negativity from their bosses and it's very stressful. They sometimes work more than running trades do... Plus, you aren't protected by a union. Just my thoughts. And you will work plenty, like 60 hours a week or something like that so no real need for overtime. But just take the minimum rest if you really want to work more than that.

There are a couple places in Alberta that can be decent to work in. If you go to edmonton or something like that, expect to be in the yard for quite a while. Yard spareboard that is. As far as the switch test goes, theres really not to much more I can think of on how to teach you how to complete the switch test. Like I said, that test isn't like real switching. It's just an aptitude test. All I can say is practice and make your own scenarios and make them harder to get you to think. Also, play some little free games on the internet that has to do with train switching. Google train switching games or something. Hope I helped you and good luck. Any more q's just drop me a line.

Oh, btw, N. BC is really pretty country. Good to work too. Nice places. But some of the towns can be really small and boring.

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Usually tell you via email you haven't been selected or they will update your status on your CN job profile thing to not selected or something.

Scott 3 years ago

If you fail the switch test, do you get an opportunity to try again? If so, how long do you have to wait. Or if you fail, is that it? Your dream of working at CN as a conductor is over?


Sam 3 years ago

Hi Mr Pudgy,

Thanks for writing! I'm in Canada. This switch test is stressing me out. I don't know why I can't wrap my head around seemingly simple manipulations, but ANY more tips you can offer (in addition to the ones you did) would be greatly appreciated. I need help wrapping my head around the questions and devising a 'plan of attack' as to how best to solve these types of questions. I'm sure it is a skill that can be learned, but on the day of the test I was caught unprepared and clueless. Yes, the test is just like the question you described in your post, they give you approx 20 minutes to complete it, multiple choice. They are apparently doing a big hiring for Western Canada (Northern BC, Saskatchewan, Alberta) and are holding job fairs. This is odd to me since the main competitor, CP, is cutting positions (coincidentally, just today, CP announced very strong first quarter financial results).

This is a very helpful post, thanks for writing it and responding. How has your experience been so far at CN (if you feel comfortable commenting)? I see you are from Saskatchewan (one of the provinces they are recruiting for). Are they really that hard up for conductors? I don't know if you have roots/family in Saskatchewan, but if you were in our shoes (i.e. not from Western Canada and had to re-locate) and had to pick either Northern BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan for the purposes of being a CN Conductor (and hopefully building a long-term career which is how this opportunity is being sold to prospective candidates), which location would you pick? Which location offers:

-ample overtime opportunities for those who want to work it;

-varied and interesting work assignments (not just working in a yard);

-opportunities to apply/be promoted for other jobs (e.g. engineer, trainmaster, supervisor, etc)?

Would appreciate your feedback. Some of the locations they are recruiting for seem pretty remote/isolated.

Thanks very much for writing back and look forward to your comments!

lilbit26 3 years ago

Medical, background check, phone interview, switch test - Check! Do they tell you if you passed or not? or will I just not get a phone call/email if I failed?

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

Do you guys live in the US or Canada? When I went for mine a while back here in Canada they gave us the whole time and scratch paper etc... Interesting indeed.

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mrpudgy 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba Author

The theory behind the switch test is that in the field you probably will not have the time to stand around and scratch out some switch moves on scratch paper. That's just what I'm thinking is going through managements heads. You just have to think of it in terms of taking it one step at a time. If you can't figure one question out, skip it. If you guess on a question and miss it, it hurts you more than if you just skip it. That being said, you can't only have like 4 or 5 done and expect to pass.

I'm assuming the test they gave you was the one where they ask you something like, "How many times does the locomotive have to move forward to put cars A, D, C, B, X, Y, Z in order A, B, C, D, X, Y, Z. ? They give you like 2 or 3 tracks to work with? The answer is 6 times. Lot's of guys feel rushed because they only give you like 20 mins or something and the q's get progressively harder. Like I said though, Just take your time. They are also looking at guys who are rushing and making mistakes. They feel that you may do the same thing on the job and they don't want that. Just skip the question and go onto one that is easier for you. Also, you can make your own practice tests like the one that i gave you above. Just give yourself different scenarios. Switching is the hardest part of the whole job and it really can't be learned or expected to be learned in that 20 minutes. I'll see if I can put together a practice test and I'll make a hub about it. Stay tuned and thanks for the question.

Mr. X 3 years ago

I also failed and feel the same as Sam. Interesting to mention my switch test experience was exactly the same as Sam's. CN people didn't give us 5 minutes to review the only one 'practice' question, it was a bit rushed indeed. No scrap paper, perhaps we should have used the answer sheet as scrap paper as it's hard to mentally count and doing the backing, forward, coupling, uncoupling or how many times you have to cross the tracks...

Any place we can find practice tests somebody?

Sam 3 years ago

I feel like an idiot for failing, especially considering I am a univ grad.

I am very embarrassed and want to try again, but can't find practice tests.

In my defence, the CN people really didn't take the proper time to explain things very well or to give us 5 minutes to review the one 'practice' question; it was a bit rushed. Nor did they supply scrap paper, and we weren't allowed to write on the booklets either, and this test is hard to pass (in my opinion) without using scratch paper to assist you.

Sam 3 years ago

I failed the CN switch test. Any tips/aids you can provide so I can pass it next time please? Much appreciated....

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cnatraininginfo 4 years ago from California

This is a very interesting hub I always wanted to be a train conductor as a kid but I never ended up getting into it. But I love to learn about different careers who knows maybe I'll think about this for the future.

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