Discussion: Railway enthusiast

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DriverEight

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Does being a railway enthusiast diminish your chances of gaining employment on the railway? Maybe a recruiter might feel that you're more focused on having fun playing with big boys toys than you are customer service, or perhaps they'll take the view that a train enthusiast would never be happy because the job would never live up to expectations. Is an understanding of operating rules and procedures a good thing? It shows you've done some homework before applying, but could equally be seen as jumping the gun, and getting information from the wrong source

Opinions please
 
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tiptoptaff

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I'm an enthusiast. Many of my colleagues are enthusiasts.

It's how you come across. If you make a big thing about it, and put across that being an enthusiast is why you should get the job, you won't. You need to just show why you're suitable for the role. Mention it during your interview during the why do you want to work here bit. But don't play on it or rely on it too much much, unless it provides some relevant experience eg you're applying for a guards role and you volunteered in a shop on a heritage line and the shop work gave you cash handling experience
 

zwk500

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Does being a railway enthusiast diminish your chances of gaining employment on the railway?
Its neither here nor there, in my experience.
Maybe a recruiter might feel that you're more focused on having fun playing with big boys toys than you are customer service, or perhaps they'll take the view that a train enthusiast would never be happy because the job would never live up to expectations.
I've never encountered any enthusiasts with this problem. In contrast they are often the people who will challenge bad practice the most because they want to see the railway work as it could. It also means you've got a higher chance of being engaged and going the extra mile to make the job good. It's the old proverb about getting a job you love and never having to work again. The vast majority of enthusiasts I've worked with have always been clear about the division between work and play, and are aware of the consequences should they put personal preferences above the needs of the job.
Is an understanding of operating rules and procedures a good thing? It shows you've done some homework before applying, but could equally be seen as jumping the gun, and getting information from the wrong source
I would say an understanding of general railway concepts is useful but any specific rules and procedures are not, for the reason you highlight.
 

alxndr

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I've never encountered any enthusiasts with this problem. In contrast they are often the people who will challenge bad practice the most because they want to see the railway work as it could. It also means you've got a higher chance of being engaged and going the extra mile to make the job good. It's the old proverb about getting a job you love and never having to work again.
I've met enthusiasts who have no real interest in the job itself and just wanted to be around trains. They don't enjoy it that much because they don't actually like the work they're doing.
 

357

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I've had a Driver Manager say to me that in his opinion 80% of enthusiasts who become drivers should never have been given their keys.

Personally, work is work and I do not have a huge interest in the trains I drive or the route I work on.

However, there are certain parts of management who do not like enthusiasts purely because they may or may not have more or wider knowledge than some other staff, or experience working on other lines.

Where I work it is known that I am an enthusiast and I had been told a couple of weeks into the drivers course that the thoughts of management were that as soon as I pass out I will be leaving the company for a job elsewhere.

For me, I am honest and do not hide that I have an interest in my work. There are some managers and staff who don't like that, and will make fun of you in front of other colleagues, but take it on the chin and have a laugh. At the end of the day, at least you are doing a job you find interesting - that's more than many of them can say.

I don't think it has affected my chances of getting a job in the industry at all - in fact I was told that as an unemployed teenager my volunteer work on a heritage railway is what got me my first job in the industry.
 

Zontar

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There's a clear line between someone who wants to play trains and those who are or want to be rail professionals.

It's how you conduct yourself. No one likes a smart ar£3 know it all, living in fantasy land. If you can engage to get the job done safely, most effectively and professionally, who could complain about that?
 

YingYing

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As has been stated above I'd say it's all about how you conduct yourself. If you come in with an air of 'knowing it' you're unlikely to be successful. If being a rail enthusiast has given you relevant experience in the field you're applying for, then obviously that's a good thing. I get my enjoyment out of operating a railway rather than standing on the platform taking down numbers, so if you can specify WHY you like railways and want to do the job in a sensible fashion, then I don't see what's wrong with that.
 

Intermodal

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It's completely irrelevant in my opinion. Whether someone is a railway enthusiast or not is not an indicator of whether they are suitable for any particular role.

I would not mention it at an interview. Not because I think it would have a particularly detrimental effect - I just think it won't be of any interest to the manager interviewing you. Better to spend your time talking about things that show you are suitable for the job, instead.

Having an encyclopaedic knowledge of different TOCs, or different types of train, or the history of services/routes is actually not required in the slightest to be a driver, guard, signaller, or most other operational railway grades. The knowledge required to perform an operational role safely is very different from the knowledge possessed by a typical enthusiast/basher/etc.

I would suggest that just being a regular peak time commuter would probably be more help than being a full on enthusiast. Knowing why delays happen, how tickets work, how stations are laid out, etc would be far more useful than knowing all about irrelevant types of trains and sections of route you will never drive on.

If you are an enthusiast, and also possess the right skillset to work on the railway, then great! You will enjoy your work for sure, but just being an enthusiast does not mean anything. At the end of the day, there are countless drivers/guards/etc who had only travelled on a train a handful of times before they started on the railway, and they are excellent at their jobs. They receive the same training as everyone else.
 
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driver9000

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In my experience being an enthusiast has not hindered my career in that I have achieved what I set out to achieve and you would be amazed how many enthusiasts there are on the books of the railway industry.

What they don't want is know it all spotters who would be distracted from their (potentially safety critical) work by their favourite locomotive coming through or trying to collect numbers instead of working. You need to compartmentalise your hobby from your work so that you don't become distracted. Truth be told it'll probably dampen your spirits anyway after a while of being around trains all day every day anyway.
 

2392

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Having over the years tried to join the railways and failed. I tend to take the view, these days.- "Don't mix business and pleasure." in so much as at the end of the day I can just walk away until tomorrow. Granted I know several fellow/other members of the North Yorkshire Moors who are or were railway personnel in their "day job." By the same token there are those where I work who are enthusiast like me.
 

Horizon22

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I've met enthusiasts who have no real interest in the job itself and just wanted to be around trains. They don't enjoy it that much because they don't actually like the work they're doing.

This is an issue I've seen in some too.

However ultimately it depends on your personality, work commitment and how you apply yourself. I've known many enthusiasts in key railway roles who have excelled and actually hardly discuss it, whilst others seem to have been distracted by the experience on seemingly every shift and can annoy fellow colleagues.
 

Grannyjoans

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I used to be a regular trainspotter before starting work on the railway. Now I never go trainspotting, as the novelty has worn off. I have never gone on any sort of railway day out for leisure since 2015 and even that was a one-off. That includes all forms of spotting, whether its photting, preserved lines, railtours, freight observation, bashing, you name it. My last regular railway spotting trips pre date 2013. What started off as pleasure is now business.
 

Journeyman

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I've always been an enthusiast. I was advised early on to tone that down in interviews, and I'd say it's good advice. A lot of rail managers do have quite negative views of "spotters", and there's a danger you'll be pigeonholed and viewed with suspicion if you lay your enthusiasm on too thick.

I think the concern is that some enthusiasts assume they know everything already, and will therefore be difficult to train. There can be a danger of this happening, and you see it in these forums all the time. Enthusiasts assume things and get info from unofficial sources. You do need to be careful with that.

I'm the sort of person with an ability to soak up huge amounts of knowledge, and it's helped me throughout my career, but I have been wrong on a few occasions, and it's worth bearing in mind that excessive enthusiasm isn't always very professional, and can land you in deep doo-doo if it leads you to making a serious mistake or error of judgement.
 

Gloster

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When I joined BR in 1978 the feeling amongst many was probably, “Oh, not another one”. However, I pretty quickly realised that enthusiasm must come second - a very distant second - to doing my job properly. You could get away with a bit of enthusiasm as long as you did not in anyway neglect your job. You should, as mentioned above, avoid the attitude that as you are an enthusiast you know it all. Very little of what you have found out through your enthusiasm is likely to be of use, particularly at a starting level. (Knowing that the set in the platform is a 987/6, which differs from the 987/5 by having a different type of guard’s microphone, is a lot less useful than knowing how to shut an ‘on the catch’ door on an accelerating EMU without dislocating a joint. (That shows my age.)) Do your job properly and take the perks and priv(ileges). Admittedly my experience comes from when railway work was not so sought after and so it was easier to get in, but I would say that at an interview you should be keen to work on the railway, but wear your enthusiasm lightly.
 

zwk500

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However, I pretty quickly realised that enthusiasm must come second - a very distant second - to doing my job properly. You could get away with a bit of enthusiasm as long as you did not in anyway neglect your job. You should, as mentioned above, avoid the attitude that as you are an enthusiast you know it all. Very little of what you have found out through your enthusiasm is likely to be of use, particularly at a starting level.
Do your job properly and take the perks and priv(ileges). Admittedly my experience comes from when railway work was not so sought after and so it was easier to get in, but I would say that at an interview you should be keen to work on the railway, but wear your enthusiasm lightly.
This, 100% this.
 

Grannyjoans

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Mixing railway enthusiasm with working on the Rails?

The main thing to consider is that enthusiasm for the railway may wear off when or if you get the job.

Any novelty of being around railways and trains wears off and it all starts to feel more mundane than it used to.

Yes I still feel satisfied if I happen to see an interesting locomotive-hauled train while on the job. But there's no way I go out on my days off trying to observe / photograph / record them anymore.
 
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LowLevel

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Depends how people see their hobby really. If it is particularly important to you then be aware work may affect it.

Personally after nearly 10 years I don't go out for random days out on trains very often anymore. Once every couple of years I treat myself to an all line rover and go to wherever takes my fancy. I scratch the itch by going out with friends on the train to interesting towns or cities for a few beers a couple of times a month which gives me a train ride without it being *just* a train ride. I also like visiting heritage railway with friends, provided I'm not glued to a train seat all day long and can see the whole railway, as well as having a break for a nice lunch.

I still volunteer regularly on a heritage railway though which is hugely different to my day job.

I was never a spotter anyway though I do like to take the odd picture of day to day scenes. My main interest is the operational side of the railway, particularly signalling, and how it all works together and if anything working in a frontline role has stoked that.

I've known awful enthusiasts (we had a guard, now retired, who was notorious for being several platforms away snapping when he should have been dispatching his train) and very good ones. Often they tend to be more oriented to being good at sorting out the operational side of things and less customer service, though that is by no means a guarantee. Being able to be self critical and detached is very important.
 

30907

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My railway service was limited to 2 years in a TEB ((Telephone Enquiry Bureau) and to volunteering on a heritage railway, but 3 thoughts:
1. Having a "feel" for how the Railway works is no bad thing - whether from family members/friends or enthusiasm.
2. My school/university friends who went on to have significant railway careers were into railway operating not trainspotting or history.
3. The railway I am involved with has loads of ex and current railway people, plus ones who are just beginning a railway career.
 
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