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Railroad Conductor Job Description

The Railroad Conductor supervises train crews and is responsible for the safety of the passengers and crew.

Primary Objective:

  • Road Service Railroad Conductors work on the train that carries passengers and/or freight.

  • Other conductors work in the yard and are known as Yard Conductors or Yardmasters.

  • The Road Service Conductors receive their orders via telephone, fax or computer from the dispatcher at the railroad’s central office before the train leaves the yard.

The Road Service Conductor receives listings of the cargo and their routes with the scheduled stops. The Railroad Conductor must make sure that the crews of their trains understand these orders. The Railroad Conductors conducts inspections of each car of their trains, to make sure the operating mechanisms have been properly monitored and are working. The Railroad Conductor must inform the engineers to remove any defective cars if repairs cannot be made during the run. The Railroad Conductor is the one that is in charge of seeing which cars should be added or removed at the proper points for picking up or unloading cargo.

The Railroad Conductor signals to the engineers when they want their trains to leave stations or yards. The Railroad Conductor is the one on passenger trains that comes and collects the passenger’s tickets or cash fares. The passenger who needs information about their trip usually gets the information from the Railroad Conductor. The Railroad Conductor normally goes between cars during route when there are passengers aboard the train. The Railroad Conductor is the one that makes sure that all passengers are comfortable and would administer first aid in case of an emergency. The Railroad Conductor makes a report at the end of each trip to company officials. Normally he would report the number of customers carried, and the time their trains departed and arrived. The Railroad Conductor must make a report on the condition of the cargo at the end of each run.

Yard Railroad Conductors supervise all the workers and activities in the rail yard. The Yard Railroad Conductors are in charge of some of the cars that are sent to special tracks to be unloaded of their cargo, and other cars must be prepared to leave at scheduled times. The Yard Railroad Conductors give engineers instructions to assemble, disassemble, and move cars. Usually, the engineer’s direct cars by computer, but some cars may need to be moved manually by yard workers.

It takes several years for Railroad Conductors to get their positions because they must be promoted from other railroad jobs. The Railroad Conductor must be at least high school graduate and it is very helpful if you take courses in electronics and manual arts, such as wood and metal shop. It is recommended that a person work part-time on railroads during the summer and holidays for the experience. This is one way to secure a full time position after graduation. Many of the employers require Railroad Conductors to be to complete training courses that are offered by the railroad companies. You must also pass a physical examination, drug and alcohol screening, and a criminal background check. In order to become a Railroad Conductor you must pass a test that will show your knowledge on signals, timetables, operating rules, and other subjects. You need to study all the required things in order to pass the test and become a Railroad Conductor. When you have passed these tests then you can become temporary conductors until full-time positions are available. The temporary conductors, also called “extra-board conductors,” fill in for regular conductors who are sick or on vacation.

Usually railroads keep separate seniority lists for road service and yard conductors. Some Yard Conductors may advance to freight work and eventually to passenger trains. The Railroad Conductor is already at the top of their field. In some cases Railroad Conductors do strive to become masters or passenger agents. The employment outlook for Railroad Conductors is poor because we have a limited amount of trains that run and many of the Railroad Conductors stay in their position for years before they retire. The new rules allow the Road Service Conductors and other workers to make more runs per day and the trains may make runs with fewer employees.

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