Railroad Brake, Signal, & Switch Operators & Locomotive Firers
Also called: Brakeman, Locomotive Switch Operator, Railroad Switchman, Trainman
Produced by CareerOneStop
Video transcript: skip transcript
A variety of railroad workers help ensure that passenger and freight trains are in the right place at the right time, operating safely. Rail yard engineers —also called hostlers— move locomotives between tracks to keep the trains organized and on schedule. They drive locomotives to and from maintenance shops or prepare them for the locomotive engineer. Some operate small locomotives called dinkeys. Other railroad workers focus on train safety. Brake operators help couple and uncouple train cars. Signal operators install and maintain the communication signals along tracks and in the rail yard. Switch operators control the track switches in rail yards to ensure trains move safely between tracks. Locomotive firers monitor train instruments and watch out for hazards on the track. Most rail employees work full time. Since trains operate 24/7, many railroad workers work nights, weekends, and holidays. Rail companies typically require a high school diploma or equivalent, and provide on-the-job training lasting from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the employer and the complexity of the job. Rail yard engineers, and switch or signal operators may advance to become conductors or yardmasters.
What they do:Operate or monitor railroad track switches or locomotive instruments. May couple or uncouple rolling stock to make up or break up trains. Watch for and relay traffic signals. May inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and hand brakes. May watch for dragging equipment or obstacles on rights-of-way.
On the job, you would:
- Observe train signals along routes and verify their meanings for engineers.
- Signal locomotive engineers to start or stop trains when coupling or uncoupling cars, using hand signals, lanterns, or radio communication.
- Pull or push track switches to reroute cars.
- movement of people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road
Safety and Government
- public safety and security
Engineering and Technology
Arts and Humanities
- English language
- keeping track of how well people and/or groups are doing in order to make improvements
- listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions
- noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it
- quickly change the controls of a machine, car, truck or boat
- use your arms and/or legs together while sitting, standing, or lying down
- pay attention to something without being distracted
Hand and Finger Use
- keep your arm or hand steady
- hold or move items with your hands
- listen and understand what people say
People interested in this work like activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions.
They do well at jobs that need:
- Attention to Detail
- Stress Tolerance
- Self Control
You might use software like this on the job:
Data base user interface and query software
- Data entry software
- Electronic train management system software
Expert system software
- Electronic train management systems ETMS
Route navigation software
- Route mapping software