There are a couple of things that govern the crews on trains and their operations. There are Federal Laws governing the length of duty of Operating Railway Personnel. First and most important is the "Hours Service Law" This restricts the hours that we may work at any given time.
Dispatchers: 9 1/2 hours max. Minimum rest 15 1/2 hours
Train crews: 12 hours max. Min. rest 8 hrs 11:59 or less, 10 if more 16 hrs if mainline is blocked, to be used only in blocked area with much qualification.
So as you experienced on your trip a crew "going dead on hours of service", this is not a union contract negotiable item, It is Federal Law. Some state have full crew laws, influenced by unions and lobbyists. Our crews are negotiated with the ARRC. When I started we had "full" crews, but that was negotiated down from the much larger crews needed at the turn-of-the century, or as I experienced in Mexico. Air Brakes and Radios have played the largest role in reducing crews. More recently, EOTs and Lineside detectors have been used to reduce the size of crews.
Hostlers: Enginemen assigned to the roundhouse to service and makeup locomotive consists and move them to and from trains in the yard. Usually 2 per 8 hr. shift.
Yard: Engineer, Conductor, Brakeman
Freight: Engineer, Conductor, Brakeman
Unit/TOFC: Engineer, Conductor, if more than 3600 Ft Brakeman
Passenger: Engineer, Conductor, if more than 3 coaches Brakeman
The company can increase the number of crew for
any reason, but can't reduce the size without union agreement/ consent.