Rail Transportation Job Description

The Rail Transportation workers are employed by three types of railroads:

  • Freight Railways
  • Passenger
  • Urban Transportation

Freight railroads transport billions of tons of goods to destination within the United States and to ports to be shipped abroad. The Passenger railroads deliver millions of passengers and long-distance commuters to destinations throughout the country. Subways and light-rail systems move passengers within metropolitan areas and their surrounding suburbs. All of these modes of rail transportation require employees to operate, oversee, and assist in rail operations. The Rail transportation workers not only work on trains, but also can be found working in rail yards where railcars are inspected, repaired, coupled, and uncoupled. There are several categories of rail transportation workers who all have specific job functions. The following are just a few of these different types of Rail Transportation Workers.

Locomotive engineers as Rail Transportation Workers

The Locomotive engineer operates large trains carrying cargo or passengers between stations. Most engineers run diesel-electric locomotives, although a few operate locomotives powered by battery or externally supplied electricity. Before each run, engineers check the mechanical condition of their locomotives, making any necessary minor adjustments and documenting issues that require more thorough inspection. While trains are in motion, engineers move controls such as throttles and airbrakes. They also monitor instruments that measure speed, amperage, battery charge, and air pressure, both in the brake lines and in the main reservoir. Engineers must have thorough knowledge of their routes and must be constantly aware of the condition and makeup of their train, because trains react differently to the grade and condition of the rail, the number of cars, the ratio of empty cars to loaded cars, and the amount of slack in the train.

Railroad conductors as Rail Transportation Workers

The Railroad conductors coordinate all activities of freight or passenger train crews. The Conductor assigned to freight trains review schedules, switching orders, waybills, and shipping records to obtain loading and unloading information regarding their cargo. In addition, they are responsible for the distribution of tonnage in the train and the operation of freight cars within rail yards and terminals that use remote control locomotive technology. The Conductors assigned to passenger trains also ensure passenger safety and comfort as they go about collecting tickets and fares, making announcements for the benefit of passengers, and coordinating the activities of the crew.

Before trains leave a terminal, the conductor and the engineer discuss any concerns regarding the train’s route, timetable, and cargo. During runs and in rail yards, engineers and conductors interface with traffic-control-center personnel, dispatchers, and personnel on other trains to issue or receive information concerning stops, delays, and the locations of trains. While engineers interpret and comply with orders, signals, speed limits, and railroad rules and regulations, conductors use dispatch or electronic monitoring devices to relay information ;about equipment problems on the train or the rails. Conductors may arrange for the removal of defective cars from the train for repairs at the nearest station or stop, and discuss alternative routes with the engineer and dispatcher if there is a defect in, or obstruction on, the rails.

Railroad brake operators as Rail Transportation Workers

The Railroad brake operators assist with the coupling and uncoupling of cars and operate some switches. In an effort to reduce costs, most railroads have phased out brake operators, and many trains use only an engineer and a conductor. Signal operators install, maintain, and repair the signals on tracks and in yards.

Yardmasters as Rail Transportation Workers

The Yardmasters, where present, coordinate the activities of workers engaged in railroad yard operations. These activities, which are also performed by conductors, include making up or breaking up trains and switching inbound or outbound traffic to a specific section of the line. Some cars are sent to unload their cargo on special tracks, while others are moved to different tracks to await assembly into new trains on the basis of their destinations. Yardmasters tell yard engineers or other personnel where to move the cars to fit the planned train configuration. Switches-many of them operated remotely by computer-divert trains or railcars to the proper track for coupling and uncoupling. Also included in Rail Transportation Workers are several less prevalent occupations. Switch operators control the track switches within a rail yard. In rail yards without remote control technology, rail yard engineers operate engines within the rail yard. Similarly, hostlers operate engines-without attached cars-within the yard, and drive them to and from maintenance shops.

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