Working on the Railroad
Workers in railroad occupations ensure that passenger and freight trains run on time and travel safely. Some workers drive trains, some coordinate the activities of the trains, and others operate signals and switches in the rail yard.
What kinds of work do railroad workers do?
All workers in railroad occupations work together closely. Locomotive engineers travel with conductors and sometimes brake operators. Locomotive engineers and conductors are in constant contact and keep each other informed of any changes in the condition of the train.
Signal and switch operators communicate with both locomotive and rail yard engineers to make sure that trains end up at the correct destination. All occupations are in contact with dispatchers who give them directions on where to go and what to do.
The following are examples of types of railroad workers:
Monitor speed, air pressure, battery use, and other instruments to ensure that the locomotive runs smoothly
Observe track for obstructions, such as fallen tree branches
Use a variety of controls, such as throttles and airbrakes, to operate the train
Communicate with dispatchers over radios to get information about delays or changes in the schedule
Conductors travel on both freight and passenger trains. They coordinate activities of the train crew. On passenger trains, they ensure safety and comfort and make announcements to keep passengers informed. On freight trains they are responsible for overseeing the loading and unloading of cargo.
Conductors typically do the following:
Yardmasters typically do the following:
Railroad brake, signal, or switch operators control equipment that keeps the trains running safely.
Brake operators help couple and uncouple train cars. Some travel with the train as part of the crew.
Signal operators install and maintain the signals along tracks and in the rail yard. Signals are important in preventing accidents because they allow increased communication between trains and dispatchers.
Switch operators control the track switches in rail yards. These switches allow trains to move between tracks and ensure trains are heading in the right direction.
Locomotive firers are sometimes part of a train crew and typically monitor tracks and train instruments. They look for equipment that is dragging, obstacles on the tracks, and other potential safety problems.
Few trains still use firers, because their work has been automated or is now done by a locomotive engineer or conductor.
Our six-month training program includes a Conductor Certification.
If you are looking for a rewarding career in the railroad industry, Northwest Railroad Institute is your first step:
Northwest Railroad Institute
2901 E Mill Plain Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98661
Village 57 Apartments
2909 NE 57th Ave.
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Northwest Railroad Institute is a division of International Air and Hospitality Academy.