Life outside the railways for a train driver?

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Jaybird90

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Hello all, apologies for the long post. I was wondering if any of you train drivers on here (or anyone in the know) could shed some light on the subject of work/life balance and what train drivers can look forward to in terms of a life outside of work?

I've read various posts on forums where anything outside of work (time to pursue hobbies and interests or even enjoy a meal and a late-ish night with friends) is almost a taboo subject! I'm in my very late 20s so my late night party days and drinking until I'm very drunk periods are long gone, but as any normal guy I do like the odd beer now and then and I enjoy spending time with both my partner, my friends and having an active social life outside of work.

I'm hoping to one day work in the rail industry, hopefully as a driver, but surely things can't be that bad for drivers outside of work? I read one post on a forum which basically said "your kids will forget you, your wife will consider leaving you and your mates won't even bother asking you do anything anymore?"

I realise train driving is a safety critical role and all drivers will need to use common sense (no drinking the night before, getting enough sleep to be fully refreshed for your shift) but come on guys, surely these grumblings of being 'married to the railway' are just old timers wanting to make the job seem even more unattainable for people looking for a foot in the door?

Or is it really the case that if one ever does manage to get a job as a driver you give up everything else to do it?
 
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GB

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I think the issue is relevant to pretty much all safety critical shift working personnel, not just the driving grade.

A lot of it is going to depend on the individual as well as what sort of roster you work to.

If your used to not having any sort of restriction on your social life (ie being able to go out every friday or saturday night, or not having to worry about getting up at 4am) then its probably fair to say your social life will take some sort of impact.

The real problems start when you begin to work a lot of overtime. The sorts of shift work traincrew do can also affect your partner so just be aware of that.
 

Beveridges

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It's the same for most jobs on the railway with shifts. I find that on the days (or nights) that your working, due to the shifts, you can't really do much else that day. But you get more days off than the average job, which surely makes up for it.
 
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SkinnyDave

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I am also trying to get into the railway and shift work will have an impact there is no doubt of that however my current job requires that I have to stay away from home 2-3 nights a week which im looking forward to curtailing.
If you have a look at an example of a rota that others that have posted or on traindriver.org there is a lot of time off and therefore down to you to manage your time.
If its a 4 day week with your five rest days off in a row then thats up to you whether you want to work overtime or not if its available on those days. I am not sure how it works with every TOC depot but I know a couple of drivers who work perm earlies or perm lates as much as possible.

Shift work will have an impact on your personal life and you need to consider if the benefits outweigh the negatives of shifts.
 

GB

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I think mutual swapping takes place at a lot of depots but obviously can't be relied upon. While I am not a driver I can't quite believe how much time we have off. Ive just started my row of 9 consecutive rest days (of which I'm working 2) which come around every 8 weeks and in a 9 week period only booked to work 3 saturdays and two sundays.

Spread across the 9 week period we have 27 rest days and 36 working days.
 

Dieseldriver

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I'm in my early 20s and have been in the driving grade since 18. It has definitely had negative effects on my social life ('nope can't go out on Saturday night,' 'no I'm not working tonight but I've got work tomorrow' etc). But it still allows me to have a social life, just with a few sacrifices. It's all down to being sensible and having responsibility for your actions, a massive part of the train driving job in general anyway.
 

reapz

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I'm in my early 20s and have been in the driving grade since 18. It has definitely had negative effects on my social life ('nope can't go out on Saturday night,' 'no I'm not working tonight but I've got work tomorrow' etc). But it still allows me to have a social life, just with a few sacrifices. It's all down to being sensible and having responsibility for your actions, a massive part of the train driving job in general anyway.

21 to drive in the uk
 

Dieseldriver

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Drove diesel and electric locos on the Underground and now drive diesel units on the mainline. So in that case it was the Underground trains that were the proper ones all along... ;)
 

E&W Lucas

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Compare the amount of time off a train driver gets, with any other professional person earning 40 - 60 k per annum. It's a "no brainer"!

Yes, you have to say off the beer during your working week, and sometimes you find yourself going to bed before a primary school age child, but you do actually have a "work - life balance". You actually get some time off, and you aren't obliged to be in contact with work during that time.

If you hear whinges about the shifts, they tend to come from people who have never had to earn their living in the world outside of the railway!
 

Cherry_Picker

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Some people just arent cut out for shifts. Yes, there are times when you will have to miss a party everybody else is going to or you will be unable to watch the football because you are stuck on a train somewhere, but every job has negative sides and the anti social hours that come with driving trains is definitely a negative.

To suggest that you have to live like a hermit is just plain wrong though.
Drivers get plenty of time of and by and large the unions make sure it is "quality" time too.
 

Eros

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Well I spent 30 years driving trains and the shifts are something you have to except. Things are better now for time off as a lot of companies have a 4 day week. But of course if you have something on the day when you are booked to work then you have to start looking for a swop of turns or use a day in lieu. Basically there is going to be times when you are going to work while the wife and kids have to go out without you.

Your wife has to be a diamond though to put up with it. The kids have to put up with being told to keep quite as dad's in bed and you are always going to be tired. And I mean tired!

Most blokes tend to build friends within the job. Golf, fishing etc are popular and there is normally a social club going.

Money is good now but the stress to perform is higher. One mistake and a Manager will come calling. I know I was that Manager for 10 years.

If you can take the shift work it's a good job.
 

Greenback

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I've had experience of shift work both on and outside the railway. Shift work has it's
good points and bad points, and as has been said, not everyone can put up with it.

I used to enjoy having days off in the week, long weekends, and lie in's when on late turn. I didn't enjoy getting up at stupid o'clock, working every other Sunday or having eleven days of work on the trot!

It is true that you need a very understanding partner, but that goes of many careers outside the railway too. When I worked shifts with Royal Mail, many of my colleagues had difficulties with their relationships due to unsocial hours.
 

Beveridges

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The downside is the fatigue. I have never experienced fatigue on such an extreme level until I started working shifts on the railway. It's about 3 times worse than jet lag as you do several "undesirable" shifts in a row that eat into your sleeping time and has a build up effect
 

Jaybird90

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Most blokes tend to build friends within the job. Golf, fishing etc are popular and there is normally a social club going.

If you can take the shift work it's a good job.

Thanks for all the responses guys, very interesting reading. After working 9-5 mon to fri for most of my working life i think I'd enjoy any future move to shift work, especially when any early shifts and unsociable hours are compensated with some decent time off.

Can I also ask - obviously most of a train driver's day is spent working alone for long periods, so when do drivers get a chance to mix with other members of staff? Presumably before shifts start or during a break? I presume the actual job of a train driver quite a solitary one, but do drivers have the ability to mingle with other colleagues and build decent friendships at work?
 

Philip

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I've been working on the railway (or more correctly in a booking office) for about 4 years but this one does have a 5.30am start (so up an hour earlier) and a 9pm finish. It's not at the extreme end either way but still very early to be up nearly every day of the the week, every 3 weeks. In terms of tiredness I'm definitely now more tired after an early shift compared to 3 years ago in the early days - probably a bit of both lack of sleep and a progression, although I am in my early 20s and I guess that's the age when people hate getting up early!
Social life is affected because they're very stringent on alcohol so nights out when on any morning shift the next day are a no-go. However, I find I'm not that tired when I work afternoons and the late shift finishes early enough to still have time for a few pints after work, or a night out. Also if any of the males on this forum thinking of joining the railway are hoping to meet a woman through work, I would advise not to join Northern - there's a distinct lack of female Northern workers in our area!

Train drivers do still have the opportunity to chat to and socialise with colleagues while at work, while in the mess room at their depot.
 

Beveridges

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I have a regular 07:00 finish (night shift) and occasionally on Sundays have to start at 07:00 in the morning just 2 days after finish nights which is a killer. How can you get up earlier than the time you went to bed just 2 days ago, its impossible. Some of the shift patterns are unreasonable and are not doable, some of the changearounds are rediculous, rosters containing changes from nights to earlies such as that above are extremely common on the railway and its common for rosters to only give you 1 or 2 days to change from nights to earlys. If these rosters were made reasonable you'd never go from a very late finish to an early start in one go, its obvious the people who write these rosters make them so bad because they are not the ones who have to work to them.
A roster I used to work to had a week of nights with 07:00 finishes followed by 2 days off then early's, some of them starting at 06:00! Such turnarounds are guaranteed to cause nights of no sleep whatsoever as the bodyclock cant go from night mode to early mode in just 1 or 2 days, it actually takes weeks to change.
 

tlionhart

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I don't work on the railways, yet. But I currently work as aircrew and you learn to fit life around your job. Work is more important than a social life, but you can balance your social life out. If your friends don't like it, tough. I have had to give up other social clubs, like martial arts. But I do find plenty of time for fishing, which I love. This is where your true friends stay by your side and the weaker ones drift away. My job is 365 days a year and you can start or finish work any time. (obviously you plan your life around your roster) I prefer shift work to 9-5 any time! I've noticed a lot of those who do 9-5 seem to take their work home with them. Not all, but most. At least when I clock off, my day is done and I can forget about work. A few things I love about shift work is; days off during the week. Car parks for shopping are empty, attraction parks are quite, you get a lot done. Sometimes I work 4am-12.30. So it's nice to come home and chill out or do something. We do get weekends off, but it's varied. You can swap, etc
If I have earlies the next day I don't drink. Unless I finish at lunchtime then I could have a beer or 2 in the afternoon. I tend not to though, I leave it till days off or when I'm going from earlies to lates. But still in moderation.
 

387star

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Where I work drivers often talk to one another as it is the start of the day and they have all signed on together and I advise them where their trains are etc
 

TDK

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Hello all, apologies for the long post. I was wondering if any of you train drivers on here (or anyone in the know) could shed some light on the subject of work/life balance and what train drivers can look forward to in terms of a life outside of work?

I've read various posts on forums where anything outside of work (time to pursue hobbies and interests or even enjoy a meal and a late-ish night with friends) is almost a taboo subject! I'm in my very late 20s so my late night party days and drinking until I'm very drunk periods are long gone, but as any normal guy I do like the odd beer now and then and I enjoy spending time with both my partner, my friends and having an active social life outside of work.

I'm hoping to one day work in the rail industry, hopefully as a driver, but surely things can't be that bad for drivers outside of work? I read one post on a forum which basically said "your kids will forget you, your wife will consider leaving you and your mates won't even bother asking you do anything anymore?"

I realise train driving is a safety critical role and all drivers will need to use common sense (no drinking the night before, getting enough sleep to be fully refreshed for your shift) but come on guys, surely these grumblings of being 'married to the railway' are just old timers wanting to make the job seem even more unattainable for people looking for a foot in the door?

Or is it really the case that if one ever does manage to get a job as a driver you give up everything else to do it?

Welcome to the World of the binge drinker - seriously though what you are saying is not correct, I have been driving for 12 years and have had a great social life, if you have good friends and family they would hopefully arrange things like parties and get togethers around your shifts, I get 5 days off every 3 weeks and a couple mid week and not had any problems.

Answering your post further down you always get the chance to build frienships at work as a driver if you want to and I have many friends outside work I have worked with, the only thing is you will not see many people off the opposite shift for example if you are early shift you wont get to meet much with the others on lates. You do get what is called cover and spare turns and this is a good oportunity to converse with fellow colleagues as you are at depot when the others are booking on. So you are worrying about nothing really!
 

RPM

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You certainly have to make a few sacrifices to be a driver but I don't think thay are as onerous as you are anticipating. Work has to come first and you need to be very diciplined regarding alcohol and adequate rest, but you get plenty of days off in order to enjoy a fulfilling life outside work.

In terms of family contact there are pros and cons. Sometimes the job makes things awkward but at other times you have an advantage over 9 to 5 workers - for example rest days in the week can allow you to attend school sports days and that sort of thing. Your shift patterns also make it possible to either take or fetch your children from school which most "normals" miss out on.

One major disadvantage of shift work is that you can't easily join any activity or organisation that requires regular weekly attendance. There have been one of two evening classes I really wanted to do but the job got in the way of that. As a driver though, you are more than compensated financially for that sort of inconvenience.

My advice is to go into it with your eyes open and expect to have to take the rough with the smooth. I suspect on balance you will find it perfectly tolerable.
 
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