Locomotive Engineer Career: Facts You Need To Know

Becoming a locomotive engineer will require a lot of patience on your part. All hiring by a railroad company is done by human resource personnel. Your task will be to convince a person who has never worked on the railroad other than in an office to hire you.  Believe it or not, they are looking at your resume and deciding if you can throw a switch or run a locomotive.

I trained men to be locomotive engineer for the last 10 years of my career. All of the men sent to me were selected by the HRO officer. I can't speak for other companies but the HRO at my company didn't seem to have a handle on qualifications. One day the word came down that they could not find enough qualified people so they lowered their standards. I'm the one doing the training and I can state with conviction that the men deemed "not as qualified" became better engineers.

So you are going to have to work your way through the HRO system, good luck. One thing I can tell you for sure, if they ask you about trains, DO NOT tell them that you have a huge collection and you love to take pictures of trains on the weekends. They will be thinking that you won't concentrate on the job because you are admiring the equipment.

Entry level railroad work starts as a switchman or brakeman. This is not the way it was way back when but perhaps it is for the better. This allows you to gain valuable experience in knowing what is going on with switchmen and brakemen before you are behind the throttle assisting them.

So you will start out at the very bottom of the totem pole but I'm sure you expected that anyway. You will start out working on the ground as switchman or brakeman. The difference is a switchman works in the yards and industries. A brakeman works on the road trains that might run one or two hundred miles in a shift then lay over.

From there you will graduate to conductor. The conductor is the boss in charge of the entire train. It's his responsibility to pick up and deliver the rail cars enroute. He will handle all the paper work and instruct the entire crew as to how the work will be performed.

From there you can enter the engineer's training program. Getting to the engineer's seat could take some time depending upon the economy and retirements. Engineer's training programs differ all over the country and could take as little as 500 hours or 6 months.

The engineer's job of operating the locomotive is not real easy. I had an instructor explain to me that he could show me how to start up and pull a train in about 5 minutes. Then spend the next year teaching me how to stop it where I wanted it to stop. Turns out he was right.

When applying, expect to take a general knowledge test. It will have nothing to do with railroads or trains. Mine had multiplying and dividing of fractions on it. They want to know if you have enough smarts to learn. A college degree will probably put you ahead of other men applying but it is not necessary. The reason is they do hire management from the ranks quite a bit and that sheepskin is needed for that.

All locomotive engineers must have a federal certification. The last test I took was in three parts. Each part had 100 questions. Along with that they have you operate a train with an examiner. Almost all of the time that will be done in a simulator. Anyone with average intelligence and common sense can become a locomotive engineer.

The easiest of all the engineer jobs would be switching in the yards or industries. Working as a road engineer separates the men from the boys. Pulling an 18,000 ton coal train with 3 two million dollar locomotives can be quite a challenge. Adding up the cost of all the equipment and the coal, you will have approximately 15 million dollars at your fingertips.

In closing I'll talk about the unpleasant side of being a locomotive engineer. Railroads have no respect for clocks or sleeping. You will be working all shifts 24 hours per day 7 days per week until you get enough seniority to work a regular shift. This can be incredibly hard on a marriage.

Public safety at road crossings has improved considerably in the last 10 years but people still try to beat the trains. Most of them make it across but the unlucky few who do not usually are killed. All locomotives working on the road have "black boxes" which record everything the engineer does. If you are following the rules it will protect you. Look at it this way, you are not the gun, you are the bullet and have no choice in the path you are taking. Still, running over a family in a car can be traumatic to an engineer and it will not be your fault. If this kind of accident would be a problem for you then do not become an engineer.   

Tags=> locomotive engineer training, brakeman and conductor training, locomotive engineer certification, career,



Tags=> locomotive engineer training, brakeman and conductor training, locomotive engineer certification, career,

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