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:
Drive switching or other locomotive or dinkey engines within railroad yard, industrial plant, quarry, construction project, or similar location.
On the job, you would:
Confer with conductors and other workers via radiotelephones or computers to exchange switching information.
Signal crew members for movement of engines or trains, using lanterns, hand signals, radios, or telephones.
Observe and respond to wayside and cab signals, including color light signals, position signals, torpedoes, flags, and hot box detectors.
movement of people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road
Safety and Government
public safety and security
Arts and Humanities
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
change when and how fast you move based on how something else is moving
listen and understand what people say
communicate by speaking
Hand and Finger Use
keep your arm or hand steady
hold or move items with your hands
Hearing and Speech
recognize spoken words
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
You might use software like this on the job:
Facilities management software
Railcar inspection management software
Internet browser software
Web browser software
Data base user interface and query software
Railyard management software RMS
high school diploma/GED or some college usually needed
Get started on your career:
New job opportunities are less likely in the future.