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December 7, 2021

Four generations of working on the railroad

John McCulloch’s new career begins the fourth generation in an ironclad line of family railroaders. At 19, his first stop on his career journey was accepting a BNSF scholarship to study at Johnson County Community College. With money to pay a good portion of his tuition, he was on track to gain a high-paying, high-demand place in America’s supply chain and freight train industry.

His second stop was becoming a proud 2021 graduate of JCCC’s National Academy of Railroad Sciences (NARS). For five weeks, John followed the Railroad Conductor certificate curriculum online from his home in Galesburg, Illinois, a historic railroad town outside of Chicago. He spent one week of in-person field training in the railroad yard on JCCC’s campus.

Stop three happened within two weeks of earning his certificate — he secured a job with BNSF as a conductor trainee. His frustrating two-year job search came to a screeching halt. He now had the necessary credentials to land the position he wanted.

John’s spike in interest started by recognizing his family’s lifestyle was one he wanted to replicate. He also listened to advice from his father and grandfather and took to heart the lore and photos from the 1930s that chronicled his great-grandfather’s adventures with the railroad. These ties gave him the confidence that he, too, could make a gainful living that would support himself and a family someday if he chooses.

1 Week on Campus, 5 Weeks Online

John’s week in the railyard was rewarding, personally and professionally.

“It was a welcoming family atmosphere,” he said. “My classmates were fun and super cool.”

He also noticed JCCC’s friendly staff and thought the campus was beautiful and well organized.

During the online coursework, John said he was impressed about how easy it was to get help with academic questions and stay in touch with his instructors.

Thankful Beyond Words

Scholarship money and the confidence BNSF showed in John was just the ticket he needed to stay focused on earning his certificate.

“I want to extend the greatest amount of thanks,” he said. “I’m undoubtedly almost beyond words to express my gratitude for BNSF’s generosity in helping me achieve my goal. It alleviated a lot of financial stress so I could concentrate on my studies.”

Fun Facts About NARS

The National Academy of Railroad Sciences is a partnership between BNSF Railway and Johnson County Community College.

  • NARS offers face-to-face classes and an online six-month Railroad Conductor Certificate.
  • Around 52% of NARS students are from states other than Kansas and Missouri.
  • Workplace Skills coursework offers soft skills for interviewing, preparing a résumé, completing job applications and professional communication skills.

Climb Aboard for Online Training

The next fast-track online session begins March 7, 2022. Get your railroad career rolling.