Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators

Description

Operate railroad track switches. Couple or uncouple rolling stock to make up or break up trains. Signal engineers by hand or flagging. May inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and hand brakes.

Tasks

  • Signal locomotive engineers to start or stop trains when coupling or uncoupling cars, using hand signals, lanterns, or radio communication.
  • Pull or push track switches to reroute cars.
  • Observe signals from other crewmembers so that work activities can be coordinated.
  • Inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and handbrakes to ensure that they are securely fastened and functioning properly.
  • Raise levers to couple and uncouple cars for makeup and breakup of trains.
  • Receive oral or written instructions from yardmasters or yard conductors indicating track assignments and cars to be switched.
  • Climb ladders to tops of cars to set brakes.
  • Set flares, flags, lanterns, or torpedoes in front and at rear of trains during emergency stops in order to warn oncoming trains.
  • Inspect tracks, cars, and engines for defects and to determine service needs, sending engines and cars for repairs as necessary.
  • Make minor repairs to couplings, air hoses, and journal boxes, using hand tools.
  • Connect air hoses to cars, using wrenches.
  • Operate and drive locomotives, diesel switch engines, dinkey engines, flatcars, and railcars in train yards and at industrial sites.
  • Refuel and lubricate engines.
  • Watch for and relay traffic signals to start and stop cars during shunting.
  • Monitor oil, air, and steam pressure gauges, and make sure water levels are adequate.
  • Ride atop cars that have been shunted, and turn handwheels to control speeds or stop cars at specified positions.
  • Adjust controls to regulate air-conditioning, heating, and lighting on trains for comfort of passengers.
  • Record numbers of cars available, numbers of cars sent to repair stations, and types of service needed.
  • Provide passengers with assistance entering and exiting trains.
  • Answer questions from passengers concerning train rules, stations, and timetable information.

Knowledge

Design
Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production of precision technical plans, blueprints, drawings, and models.
Economics and Accounting
Knowledge of economic and accounting principles and practices, the financial markets, banking and the analysis and reporting of financial data.
Building and Construction
Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.
Biology
Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.

Skills

Science
Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
Installation
Installing equipment, machines, wiring, or programs to meet specifications.
Programming
Writing computer programs for various purposes.

Abilities

Explosive Strength
The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
Dynamic Flexibility
The ability to quickly and repeatedly bend, stretch, twist, or reach out with your body, arms, and/or legs.

Work Activities

Selling or Influencing Others
Convincing others to buy merchandise/goods or to otherwise change their minds or actions.
Staffing Organizational Units
Recruiting, interviewing, selecting, hiring, and promoting employees in an organization.

Interests

Realistic
Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
Conventional
Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.
Enterprising
Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.
Investigative
Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
Social
Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.
Artistic
Artistic occupations frequently involve working with forms, designs and patterns. They often require self-expression and the work can be done without following a clear set of rules.

Work Style

Dependability
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Self Control
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Stress Tolerance
Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
Cooperation
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
Adaptability/Flexibility
Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
Concern for Others
Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
Independence
Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
Initiative
Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
Leadership
Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

Work Values

Support
Occupations that satisfy this work value offer supportive management that stands behind employees. Corresponding needs are Company Policies, Supervision: Human Relations and Supervision: Technical.
Relationships
Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment. Corresponding needs are Co-workers, Moral Values and Social Service.
Working Conditions
Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
Independence
Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions. Corresponding needs are Creativity, Responsibility and Autonomy.
Achievement
Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
Recognition
Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.

Lay Titles

Air Brake Operator
Air Hose Coupler
Brake Holder
Brake Rider
Brakeman
Car Coupler
Car Hopper
Car Rider
Car Runner
Car Shifter
Car Shunter
Carman
Conductor
Coupler
Dinkey Brakeman
Dukey Rider
Engineer
Enginehouse Brakeman
Flagger
Flagman
Freight Brakeman
Freight Conductor
Gang Rider
Headman
Lineman Apprentice
Locomotive Engineer
Locomotive Operator Helper
Locomotive Switch Operator
Motor Brakeman
Narrow Gauge Brakeman
Nipper
Passenger Brakeman
Passenger Train Braker
Patcher
Railcar Brake Operator
Railroad Brake Operator
Railroad Brakeman
Railroad Signal and Switch Operator
Railroad Signal Operator
Railroad Switchman
Railroad Yard Worker
Railway Switch Operator
Railway Switchman
Rider
Road Freight Brake Coupler
Rope Rider
Set Rider
Skates Operator
Skatesman
Snapper
Swamper
Switch Coupler
Switch Foreman
Switch Operator
Switch Tender
Switching Operator
Switchman
Terminal Carman
Track Helper
Track Supervisor
Trailer
Train Brakeman
Train Braker
Train Crew Member
Trainman
Trains Service Conductor
Transportation Specialist
Trip Rider
Tub Rider
Yard Brakeman
Yard Coupler
Yard Person
Yard Switch Operator

National Wages and Employment Info

Median Wages (2008):
$24.68 hourly, $51,340 annual.
Employment (2008):
24,380 employees