Train Engineers and Operators: Career, Courses, Training, Jobs & Growth Prospects

Dream to drive many cars in a series chained together? Become a Train Engineer / Loco Pilot. Trains are considered as best, safest and efficient mode of transport for humans as well as cargo. Follow your love for trains/transit and work towards a career/career path as Train Engineers and Operators. Education requirements are relatively less for the locomotive engineer positions on the railroad and job prospects are favorable. You will be working outdoors most of the time. This is a position best suited to people who enjoy the outdoors.

The following are types of train engineers and operators:
  • Locomotive engineers drive freight or passenger trains between stations.
  • Rail yard engineers operate train engines within the rail yard. They move locomotives between tracks to keep the trains organized and on schedule.
  • Locomotive firers are part of a train crew and typically monitor tracks and train instruments.
  • Railroad brake, signal, or switch operators control equipment that keeps the trains running safely.

Role of Train Engineers and Operators

  • Check the mechanical condition of locomotives and make adjustments when necessary
  • Document issues with a train that require further inspection
  • Operate locomotive engines within or between stations

Skills of Train Engineers and Operators

Communication skills: All rail employees have to be able to communicate effectively with each other to avoid accidents and keep the trains on schedule.

Decision making skills: When operating a locomotive, engineers must be able to make fast decisions to avoid accidents.

Hand-eye coordination: Locomotive engineers have to operate various controls while staying aware of their surroundings.

Hearing ability:To show that they can hear warning signals and communicate with other employees, locomotive engineers have to pass a hearing test conducted by their rail company.

Mechanical skills: All rail employees work with complex machines. Most have to be able to adjust equipment when it does not work properly. Some rail yard engineers spend most of their time fixing broken equipment.

Physical strength: Some rail yard engineers have to lift heavy equipment.

Visual ability: To drive a train, locomotive engineers have to pass a vision test conducted by their rail company. Eyesight, peripheral vision, and color vision may be tested.

Work Schedules

Trains are scheduled to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, meaning that many train engineers and operators sometimes work nights, weekends, and holidays. Most rail employees work full time. Locomotive engineers whose trains travel long routes can be away from home for long spans of time. Those who work on passenger trains with short routes generally have a more predictable schedule. Workers on some freight trains have irregular schedules.

Some Job Titles

Engineer, Conductor, Railcar Switcher, Railroad Engineer, Switchman, Equipment Operator, Car Repairman, Switch Crew Supervisor, Transportation Specialist, Yard Engineer 

Where to study

A diploma or degree in Railway Engineering or a related field like BS in Mechanical Engineering / Electrical Engineering / Physics etc is preferred. Prospective candidates must require to obtain training and certification from a railway school to work as Train Engineer / Train Operator / Loco Pilot. To find a suitable study programme go to University Hub

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