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If you have dreamed of working on the railroad, a career as a railroad conductor may be for you.
What is a train conductor?
A railroad conductor is second-in-command to the locomotive engineer. The railroad conductor is responsible for the train itself, the crew and the freight, including passengers. The conductor ensures safe operation of the train, following the rules and procedures of the employer and the .
Conductor Job Description
There are two types of railroad conductors: road conductors and yard conductors. The road conductor travels on the locomotive with the engineer. Road conductors typically do not work a regular 9 to 5, 40 hour schedule. Nights away from home may be required, depending on the scheduled route of the assigned train. Road conductors may work on either passenger or freight trains. Yard conductors work in rail yards. Yard conductors may have a more stable schedule than road conductors, but keep in mind that working for a railroad in any capacity is not a 9 to 5 job.
The job duties are similar for both types of conductors:
- Receive train orders from dispatcher, which includes listing of cargo or passengers, routes and scheduled stops
- Inform train crew of orders, communicate with engineer
- Inspect train cars to make sure they are safe and operational
- Make sure proper cars are loaded and ready to roll
- Relay information about any safety issues or repairs needed
- Arrange for removal of defective cars
- Make sure freight is distributed evenly along the length of the train
- Complete all necessary paperwork, including arrival and departure times of scheduled stops, and report on any problems incurred during shift
- Collecting tickets and/or fares of passengers
- Assuring safety and comfort of passengers
- Making general announcements to train passengers
Train Conductor Education and Training
Many railroads like to promote from within. Conductors generally begin their railroad careers in entry-level positions such as brakemen/switchmen before becoming conductors. Conductors are required to have a working knowledge of train operations.
Most railroads require conductors to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Good high school course to take are anything electronics-related; and shops classes such as wood and/or metal shop. Potential conductors will also have to pass a training program.
Larger railroads such as and have conductor training programs. Smaller, regional railroads may have their own training programs or they may send you to a community college or other facility for training.
Train Conductor Salary
Railroad worker salaries are competitive. The starting wage for conductors is generally around $15 to $18 per hour. The wage may vary depending on the type of railroad you work for and years of service on the railroad in other capacities.