I hope this blog will be interactive, so we can learn what we mommies out there do for a job. Who is a WAHM? Work at home counts, too, of course! For example, who is a blogger, earning money through affiliate marketing? Who works a 9-5 job? Who is a freelancer? Who is homeschooling and doing housework? Let’s tell each other what we do for a living. I’ll start. Those who know me might be surprised that, after 15 years as a college professor of English Education, I chose a job in the industrial/service sector.
The pandemic made teaching impossible for me. As a widow, I had to keep my own toddler at home, schooling him with his Montessori kindergarten through Zoom while at the same time teaching my college classes from the laptop. Since I had no physical childcare and couldn’t clone myself, I made a hard decision and moved back home to Germany, where I have free childcare (and emergency childcare during the lockdowns and kindergarten closures, which teachers, medical professionals, other essential workers, and single moms get).
Well, here’s my 9-5. It’s all about this: This is a tamping machine.
My first question in my new job was exactly that:
What the heck is a tamping machine???
A tamping machine or ballast tamper, informally simply a tamper, is a self-propelled, rail-mounted machine used to pack the track ballast under railway tracks to make the tracks and roadbed more durable and level. Wikipedia
This mommy is working for a training company for railroad track workers. Thus, one can say I am still involved in education. Specifically, we are training personnel that is fixing and maintaining tracks. They are almost exclusively young guys (willing to work weekends, holidays, and nights on the tracks when there is little traffic), and they learn from us how to drive and operate tamping machines, which reorder the gravel between the tracks, so those stay well aligned. They get instructed on simulators, meaning they sit in a kind of cabin that looks like an aluminum cage in our academy, surrounded by three big monitors, on a chair with lots of buttons and levers and functions in the arm rest. Here, you can see such a simulator:
It looks like the cockpit of a tamping machine, and the driver can see the tracks below to “work on them.” Try it yourself on your cell phone: there is a cool Tamping Game! I’ve tried it several times already. The first time, I was rather destructive and broke more than I fixed, heehee. The second time, I even made some points! By the way, I’m just the assistant to the training area, meaning I prepare the training materials, the academy rooms, the course booking software, the catering, the customer correspondence, but I don’t drive those things!!!
Our students also learn how to maintain the hydraulic system, to change brake pads, to behave safely on the tracks, and to give first aid. They practice on the tracks right outside, around the corner, so to say. One can “rent” those tracks for training purposes. Our guys have to wear safety shoes and put on their white safety helmets and orange warn vests. Some of our students become service technicians. Here’s a hydraulic rack they use to practice pressures on (there’s real hydraulic fluid in it):
We have an academy each in Germany, Austria, and the U.S., where the lessons take place (both practical ones on the tracks and face-to-face classroom lessons / blended learning / online training). We offer lessons in German, English, and Italian (the latter with an interpreter), soon to add instruction for our Polish and Turkish customers. This is what I see right out of our big glass windows:
Not only I am fascinated by the bright, yellow machines, my son is, too. One day this summer, one of the railroad magazines that we exhibit in our booths contained a foldable paper tamping machine, which I took home for Lyons Cub. Once it was glued together, he loved playing with it (although I have to admit, he used it as his shoe; face palm) 😉
Let’s look at the most important component of a tamping machine, its tamping unit:
Tamping units are the components of a levelling, lining and tamping machine that are subjected to the highest stress. Therefore, the operating reliability of the tamping units is a major factor for cost-efficient maintenance of the track. (Trackopedia)
We also teach onboarding courses, which come in two modules. Module 1 is for lay people who work for railroad companies or in the service sector catering to those (e.g., software businesses developing software for railroad use). It conveys basic knowledge, so people get a rough idea about the history of railway maintenance and tamping, the technology behind it, the safety rules, and the business/finance aspects. Module 2 is for people who already have the foundational knowledge of module 1 and goes more into detail. For beginners who would like to know what a tamping machine does in its lifetime, I can recommend this interesting, humorous article, “16 Jahre und kein bisschen müde: Aus dem Leben einer Weichenstopfmaschine,” (“16 Years and Not a Tad Tired: From the Life of a Tamping Machine”).
It talks about the life cycle of a specific tamping machine from its own point of view, from its “birth” in Austria and its “birth fathers” (the technicians involved in its construction) to its retirement in the sunny south. It even contains its “illnesses” for which it got repairs. Furthermore, it talks about the young apprentices and how they evolved professionally in their work on the tamping machine. In addition, there are fun cartoons!
So what does this mommy do for work exactly? Besides office management, catering, and travel organization, I prepare the training sessions for the German academy. That starts with an inquiry by a customer, for example Speno in Switzerland. Let’s say Speno wants to book a brake course that contains brake pad change and Br0. They contact me by email (we correspond in English, since I don’t speak Italian and they don’t speak German), tell me how many people will come, and which day they wish for their training. I recruit one of our trainers and our Italian interpreter, and when the day works out, I confirm the training. Now, it’s time for me to book the hotel room for the trainer, if he is external and has a long trip to our academy (our internal trainers live nearby).
Then, I get the paper stuff ready:
Each course participant receives a script (we have printed scripts / memory sticks / tablets, depending on the course). I make sure the script has a nice font, suitable pictures, a great layout, and no grammar mistakes. I print it for each participant and put it in a folder (if it’s the paper version). I arrange name tags for all involved. I print out the safety instructions they have to sign, the attendance list, the Corona checklist (we have the “3-G rule,” “geimpft/genesen/getestet,” which means all visitors have to be either vaccinated, recovered, or tested). I arrange for the Corona tests (we test all involved with an antigen rapid test).
I print their Certificates of Attendance in advance, so they are ready when I need them. Then, I prepare the training room with the seating arrangement wished for, put their training materials and writing blocks in it, have a ball pen engraved with each participant’s name as an advertisement gift, and put helmets and warn vests on their tables, so they can check them out for their exercises on the tracks.
I contact the caterer and order food (packaged, warm lunches) for as many days as the course lasts. I order little bottles of water and soda from our deliverer and arrange them on the tables. On the day of the training, I let in the participants, trainer, and interpreter, make them coffee, and cater to their wishes if they need anything. When there’s time, we have a little small talk and get to know one another during the coffee breaks. I contact the company that lets us use their practice tracks and tell them how many people will come over and when. I clean up when the participants have eaten, make more coffee, hand out the certificates, and email them to my contact in our customer’s personnel office for their files.
When the course is over, I make sure everything is cleaned up, all the helmets and vests got checked in, and our janitor puts the chair and table arrangement back to normal. Our cleaning service will go through all rooms and sanitize, including the kitchen. At the end, I file the paper work, make sure the invoices of the trainer and interpreter went to our bookkeeping email address, check my emails, and hopefully find the next course inquiry. Then, it starts over again.
About once a year, there’s a railway construction fair, and I was able to attend one with my team. What I do there consists of being present at the booth, talking to people who visit the booth or those whom I meet at other booths, writing a short protocol about those conversations and stapling the business cards to those papers, and collecting lots of freebies to bring home to my kid 😉
By the way, here is my cute, miniature model tamping machines from https://modellbahnshop-baumann.de/:
So what do you mommies do for work? I’m thrilled to read your replies!Model Train Scenery Ideas & Model Train Club For Model Railroaders
Click on this link to a virtual reality tamping machine (Unimat 09-2X-4×4/4S Dynamic) that you can enter to look around and see things in motion!