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Montana Rail Link worker hopes for same job with BNSF

Rail Link worker.jpg
Posted at 10:32 PM, Jan 12, 2022

One day after learningMontana Rail Link will be no more, some employees say they're concerned about what the change will mean to their careers.

Montana Rail Link has leased track between Huntley and Sandpoint, Idaho, from Burlington Northern Santa Fe since 1987.

The two companies announced the end of that agreement, and have stated that Montana Rail Link workers will keep their jobs.

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KTVQ photo

"I come from three generations of railroaders," said Jared Doty, a locomotive engineer from Charlo. "My granddad worked out here. He retired and then my uncle Kenny is a locomotive engineer."

Montana Rail Link is part of Doty's identity. It's in his blood.

But he's just one of 1,200 Montana Rail Link workers now worried about the future after learning about the end of the Missoula-based railway company.

"Yeah, it's crazy," he said. "I mean, we all got the news at the same time. It kind of blindsided all of us. So everybody's just kind of lost."

Montana Rail Link is terminating the lease of its 900-plus miles of track through southern Montana and Idaho and returning them to the owner, BNSF Railway.

The lease dates all the way back to 1987.

Montana Rail Link and BNSF are promising no employees will lose their jobs. But employees like Doty are nervous.

"Does that mean that we're going to be employed in Montana or we got to go to Texas or Florida or wherever?" Doty asked. "It is kind of sad just because, you know, it is a smaller railroad and it's been here since way before I was born."

The end of an era, but also a new beginning for Doty and the hundreds of other railroaders who say this isn't just a job, it's a way of life.

"I like the job," Doty said. "The hours can be crazy. Sometimes your schedule can be crazy, but a lot of the people that I work with, I like a lot of them. I like the actual physical work of it. It's something that I enjoy doing. I like going to work, hoping that it stays somewhat the same."