Railroad Brake, Signal, & Switch Operators & Locomotive Firers
Also called: Brakeman, Locomotive Switch Operator, Railroad Switchman, Trainman
In the Army: Cavalry Scout; Railway Specialist (USAR only); Unit Supply Specialist; Wheeled Vehicle Repairer
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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.
Safety and Government
Engineering and Technology
Arts and Humanities
Hand and Finger Use
People interested in this work like activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions.
They do well at jobs that need:
You might use software like this on the job:
Expert system software
Route navigation software
Time accounting software
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