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Railroad Engineer / Conductor


How to Become a Railroad Engineer
Railroad Engineer Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Railroad Engineer
Railroad Engineer Salaries
Influential Professionals in this Field
Leading Organizations in this Field
Top Cities for Railroad Engineering Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Railroad Engineer

There are three types of railroads employing rail transportation workers: passenger, freight and urban transit, otherwise known as the subway. There are huge numbers of people using the train each year which makes it vital to ensure that trains are in good working order and are running smoothly, to ensure the safety of the public.

The subway operators are in control of trains that take passengers around cities and the suburbs of those cities. These are run underground, on the surface or on tracks elevated above the ground.

Those that work in the rail transportation industry can begin in a wide range of positions and move up the career ladder as experience is gained. They will normally begin training as a conductor prior to being considered for the position of railroad engineer. Federal licensure is required for the position of railroad engineer and there is a formal classroom and training completed by almost all of the employees of rail transportation prior to starting work.

Prior to the hiring of a railroad engineer/conductor applicants must submit to drug testing, a physical exam and pass a background check. This is done to ensure the safety of the passengers and workers on the train.

A minimum of a high school diploma or GED is required for each person applying and training is provided by the majority of rail companies. The training is in the form of both a formal training program and on the job. Even entry level jobs and those in the yard will require the applicant to complete the company's training program before they can start work. Those in entry level conductor positions will be trained by employers or be required to take a formal course in conductor training at a local college. Railroad conductors of subways and streetcars normally get their first experiences by operating the buses that these systems utilize as part of the transportation they provide.

A license unique to the occupation is required for railroad engineers operating locomotives. These are federal licenses for the operation of both freight and passenger trains. The federal regulations governing railroad engineers require those just starting out to have a formal training program in engineering that includes classroom instruction. Simulators and the operation of actual locomotives is included in the instruction provided in the formal training program. The Federal Railroad Administration approves of the programs used in the instruction received from the rail company. There are also periodic exams on the operational rules in order to keep the engineering license.

What does a Railroad Engineer do?

Railroad or locomotive engineers are responsible for the operation of the trains that carry people and materials between stations. These engineers will inspect the locomotives mechanical condition and make any adjustments that are needed while making documentation of the issues which require further attention. The railroad engineer is in complete control of the airbrakes and throttles while the train is moving; they also monitor the instruments that tell them how fast the train is going, amperage, air pressure in the brake lines and the reservoir along with the battery charge. They are responsible for being knowledgeable about their routes and have to be constantly aware of the both the train and rail conditions. Railroad engineers are also required to know how many cars the train has and how many are full in relation to how many are unoccupied in addition to knowing the slack of the train.

The activities of the crews on the train are coordinated by the railroad engineer/conductor. Conductors are assigned to freight trains and review the schedules, switching orders, waybills and records for shipping to get the cargos loading and unloading information. The railroad conductor is also responsible for distributing the weight throughout the train, operating freight cars in the yards and the terminals that utilize the technology of remote control.

When the railroad conductor is assigned to a passenger car they have to ensure the safety of the passengers and make sure that they are comfortable. They also collect the tickets and payment while making announcements about things that affect the passengers and make sure the crew is doing what they are supposed to do ensuring everything stays on schedule.

The railroad engineer and railroad conductor will talk about any concerns they have pertaining to the train before it leaves the station; these concerns include the route, destination times and what the train is carrying. Both the engineer and the conductor will use electronic monitoring equipment, the personnel of the traffic control center, dispatchers and workers on other trains to give and get the information they need regarding the train and its route.

The railroad engineer will interpret the orders, signals, speed limits, rules and regulations regarding the train in order to comply with them. The railroad conductor will send information about problems with equipment on the rails or the train with the use of both electronic monitoring devices and the dispatch. The conductor will make sure any defective cars are taken from the train to be fixed and help to come up with alternative routes in the event the need arises.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Railroad Engineer?

A railroad engineer/conductor must have good eyesight, full color vision and excellent hearing. They must also possess good hand eye coordination, manual dexterity and a mechanical aptitude. There is also a need for physical stamina and the person applying for the job must be at least twenty-one years old. Applicants should be in good health and posses not only adequate skills in communication but have the ability to make judgments fast and accurately.

Those entering into the field of railroad engineer/conductor will also be required to pass both initial screenings for alcohol and drugs as well as random tests while on duty as defined by federally set regulations.

How much does a Railroad Engineers make?

In 2006 the salaries for these railroad engineer/conductors was $47,000 annually. The median hourly wage for a locomotive engineer was at $27.88 in 2006 while railroad conductors and yard masters averaged $26.70.

The majority of workers in the railroad transportation industry are paid by the number of miles they travel or how many hours they work. The determination is made by which figure is higher.


Who are some influential professionals in this field?

William W. Hay was influential in this field as a Professor of Railway Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The Association of American Railroads located in Washington D.C is among the leading organizations in the field of railroad transport. Information regarding the opportunities for careers in the field of railroad engineer can be obtained from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen located in Cleveland, OH while those seeking information about the field of railroad conducting can contact the United Transportation Union in Cleveland, OH.

What are the top cities for Railroad Engineering jobs?

The outlook for jobs in the rail transportation industry is expected to see few changes up until 2016 and there are expected to be ample opportunities for those that are qualified to fill these positions. Due to the large number of railways Rochester, NY appears to be the best place for railroad engineering/conducting jobs followed by Oakbrook, IL and New Orleans, LA.

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