Railroad Jobs in Illinois – The Ultimate Guide

As far as railroad jobs in Illinois go, you’ll be happy to know there are many opportunities for you. The state is at the heart of America’s railway system. It accounts for almost 10,000 miles of rail lines.

More than 7,000 are owned and managed under Class I companies. These include CSX Transportation and Union Pacific Railroad. Moreover, the railroad sector plays a massive part in the state’s economy.

So, if you’re searching for a railroad job around the area, today is your lucky day. We’ll be going in-depth on the different companies you can work for. Moreover, you’ll learn more about the railroad industry and some good tips for job hunting. Let’s begin.

Railroad Jobs in Illinois

How Railroads Impact The Chicago, Illinois Economy

The Great Lakes and Mississippi River waterways played a big role in Chicago’s growth. But, the development of the rail system completed the picture.

Chicago is the nation’s busiest rail and passenger hub. The state connects everything — north, west, east, and south.

While rail’s golden days may be behind (some say, not me), trains remain ingrained in Chicago’s culture. It remained an instrument for its development for years and years.

And if you want to start a career in the railroad industry, you must know this. Plus, it will be much more worthwhile and rewarding. These impacts remind you that you are a part of something very influential to the country.

1848 was the year Chicago established its first railroad — connecting Galena and Illinois. As time passed, new rail connections linked the city to other major cities. These include Detroit, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

There were two significant events that changed Chicago. This was The Great Fire and the emergence of train transport. From then on, a new Chicago rose, with rails being a top consideration.

When passenger trains were at their peak, Chicago was the unchallenged railroad capital. You’ll find no fewer than six intercity rail stations in the state.

During the twentieth century, passenger rail transit plummeted. But, it paved the way for the construction of the Interstate Highway System. The government also kickstarted the expansion of commercial planes.

They additionally prioritized demolishing, reusing, or rebuilding buildings. These include the Great Central Station and Dearborn Station.

Rail transportation provides such a wealth of benefits. So, it’s no surprise that City Hall is pushing plans to expand infrastructure and increase coverage.

passenger train at railroad with railroad ties

Where To Find Railroad Jobs in Illinois

Railroads in Illinois operate more than 7,000 miles of track. The state also has approximately 11,700 railroad workers employed. Opportunities range from train conductors to managerial positions.

These railroads are categorized into classes: Class I, II, and III. Or, some like to call it Class I, regional lines, and shortlines.

This categorization is pretty arbitrary. It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. But, it is primarily dependent on the railroad’s operational earnings. The jobs in each Class also have slight differences in demand & salaries also vary.

In regards to salaries, the average income for a railroad employee in Illinois is $50,000. But, the range spans from $45,000-$54,000.

This is why before you look into jobs, know your goals. What are your capabilities? Ask yourself if you’d prefer in-office work or do fieldwork. Are you willing to spend time away from your family?

From there, you can shortlist your options and find a job that makes you fulfilled.

Now that we’ve covered that, here are all the companies you can work for in Illinois.

illinois passenger train at railway with railway ties

Class I Railroad Jobs in Illinois

The work in Class I railroad jobs in Illinois depends on the role you take. But, we can say that Class I railroad jobs demand more of your time. Some (not all) jobs need you to render at least 12 hours a day. Moreover, some companies assign you to different posts and network locations. This means you will sometimes have no control over where you work.

So, keep this in mind. If you’re willing to spend a lot of time away from your family, then go for it. If not, you can still try to look at the job descriptions and see if they fit your preferences.

Here are the Class I railroad networks in Illinois:

BNSF Railway

The BNSF Railway Co. is one of the seven Class I railways in North America. It operates approximately 30 thousand miles of track. Additionally, the company manages rails throughout 28 states and two provinces in Canada. BNSF is also the country’s second to most extensive freight transportation rail. It transports many goods, including grain, goal, and multimodal cargo.

BSNF has many job openings at the moment. Click here to start your job search.

CSX Transportation

The CSX network is a constantly evolving business. CSX is based in Jacksonville, and its transit system stretches over 21,000 miles.

The company links its clients to ports, distribution hubs, and significant areas of the East of the USA. 

Regarding employment, CSX is known to have a diverse workforce. You can learn more about their working environment by clicking here.

Grand Trunk (Canadian National)

The Grand Trunk Corporation is the Canadian National Railway’s subsidiary conglomerate for its U.S holdings. Additionally, the company gets its name after Grand Trunk Western Railroad. It has been classified as a Class I railroad since 2002.

Currently, there is no information about employment opportunities online. But, you can contact the company and directly reach out to them.

Kansas City Southern Railway

KSSR is the smallest Class I railroad in the United States. Their main office is located in Kansas City.

The Kansas City Southern Railway serves as a primary north-south connection. Central America also connects to Mexico via this railroad. Kansas City Southern de Mexico, a subsidiary of Kansas City Southern, also connects from this location.

KCS de Mexico covers Mexico’s north and core regions. This includes Tampico, port Lazaro Cardenas, and Veracruz.

Furthermore, the company serves ten states in the central regions of the United States and runs over 3,500 route miles.

This railroad company offers excellent benefits. Learn more about their opportunities by clicking here.

Norfolk Southern

These guys are the best at what they do when it comes to transport. In 22 states, Norfolk Southern maintains a total of 19,500 route miles. Service to all major Eastern seaports is available from Washington, D.C., facilitating international commerce. Additionally, it has the most comprehensive multimodal system in the eastern USA.

N.S. has a comprehensive section on its site about employment. Search for jobs by clicking here.

SOO Railroad (Canadian Pacific Railway)

SOO stands for the Soo Line Railroad. It is one of the many Class I railways under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Pacific. It possesses a total of 5,139 miles. The network stretches from Chicago to Milwaukee and Minnesota to Duluth. The route also passes via two Canadian border towns. It has two locations, one in Winnipeg and the other in Saskatchewan.

Search for several job offerings in C.P. by clicking here.

Union Pacific

Last on this list of Class I railroads is no other than Union Pacific. It’s one of the major transportation companies in the United States. It’s also the most prominent network franchise, encompassing 23 states. Union Pacific’s logistics expertise represents a wide range of industries. These include automotive, chemicals, forestry, and more.

Find an opportunity for you by clicking here.

illinois cargo train

Regional Railroad Jobs in Illinois

Class II railroads are also called local, stopping, and regional railroads. In all these cases, the trains carry passengers across cities.

Don’t mistake this with intercity rail, though. These trains conduct plenty more stops and cover fewer miles. Also, they provide a speedier transit than the local train system.

You can search for jobs here if you’re not keen on working long hours. This is also a great stepping stone if you don’t qualify for Class Is.

Indiana Rail Road

This Class II regional started humbly in early 1986. Since then, Indiana Rail Road has evolved into a significant, lucrative business. They bought 155 miles of track from an old International Capital Group land. It operates 500 miles of trail that connects Louisville, Chicago, and Newton.

Try checking out the company’s website for prospective career opportunities.

Iowa Interstate Railroad

This company proved a slow and sure success. It launched in 1982 and is now one of the most successful regional railroads in the nation. For now, it runs links Chicago to Omaha.

Visit their website to see if there are any employment vacancies.

Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad (Canadian Pacific Railway)

This Class II railroad runs through the heart of the north-central region. This company is managed by Canadian Pacific Railway under its network.

Wisconsin & Southern Railroad

This regional railroad revived several subordinate and abandoned railway lines in Wisconsin. The company started in 1980 and has grown ever since. As of today, it runs approximately 700 miles.

Watco has owned the business since 2012. They also want to keep reviving lines as they perceive it as a lucrative investment.

To learn more about Watco’s employment opportunities, visit their website.

Shortline and Terminal Railroad Jobs in Illinois

Smaller settlements in rural North America are served by shortline railways. They are just a short distance across the countryside.

These railways mainly reduce congestion. Freight trains use them as a primary distribution chain for cargo.

But, these do not fall short in job opportunities. In fact, this is one of the best starting points in the railroad industry.

illinois freight train at night

Belt Railway of Chicago

Since its founding in 1882, Belt Railway has served the Chicago region as a switching terminal. Currently, it operates 28 main miles track. Overall, it carries 300 miles combined in Windy City.

The company has its website. They encourage interested parties to check its page for current opportunities.

Bloomer Shippers Connecting Railroad

“The Bloomer Line” is another name for this route. Service on the train commenced in 1985. The company bought Illinois Central Gulf mainline that travels in Colfax. Later on, they purchased a part of a defunct Wabash land in Gibson City.

Burlington Junction Railway

The four lines of this little railroad are all relatively brief and disconnected. These lines are located in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa. As of 2015, it mainly handles agricultural supplies, fertilizers, and chemicals. You can find openings on their website if you’re interested in working with the company.

Chicago, Fort Wayne, and Eastern Railroad

When this short line started operating in 2004, it was one of the largest. RailAmerica was the first company to sponsor it. Then in 2012, Genesee & Wyoming inherited the business. More than three-quarters of its 323-mile route runs on what was formerly the primary route of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Chicago Junction Railway

This short route serves one of the busiest industrial parks in Illinois. But, there was a time when it was the Chicago Terminal Railroad.

Chicago Terminal Railroad

The Iowa Pacific operates this stretch of road. It serves as a changeover point, and automobile storing facility and has been operational since mid-2007.

Chicago Rail Link

OmniTRAX partially owns this shortline. It has a track length of 72 miles and runs across Chicago’s South Side. A wide range of enterprises also relies on the services of this company.

Check their website for extra information about job opportunities.

Start Your Career With These Railroad Opportunities in Illinois

That wraps up our list of the railroad jobs in Illinois. There are a lot of companies, aren’t there?

This list hopefully gives you a starting point on your job search. If you’re still on the lookout, you might want to check our other railroad jobs per state.

Best of luck on your job search and your railroad career!