A train driver is operating a train or pushing it. They are sometimes called engineers of the locomotives, engineers of the railroads, or men of the footplate. It’s a job that offers a variety of options, whether you want to stay close to home and work for a local railroad or with a regional railroad, you prefer to travel further afield. This pays well and offers you the benefits of union membership, such as job security and a pension.
Getting the Education and Training You Need
1. Get your Diploma in high school or GED. You must be at least 18 years of age and have a High School diploma or equivalent for most entry-level railroad work. Completing high school will give you the basic educational history and life experience required for railroad work.
- A GED, or a Diploma in General Education, requires a rigorous test. You must be 16 years old or older to take the GED test.
2. Attend a research program in locomotive engineering. All railway entry-level jobs require training in order to know the fundamentals of railway work. Many communities and state colleges offer degrees in railroad operations and locomotive engineering courses and even associates. Online directories can also be found which can help you locate a training center or program near you.
- Look for training programs often run in partnership with local or regional small railroads. This can be helpful in linking you to work opportunities in your field as well as providing you with the training you need.
3. Apply with the railroad for beginner-level roles. Many locomotive engineers begin as drivers, rail yard engineers, switch operators, or yardmasters, where they learn about the railroad policies, operations, and routes before going into driver training. Having your foot in a starter spot in the door would allow you the ability to familiarize yourself with railroad work while making a living.
- Applications are made online via railroad websites by following links for job opportunities and careers.
- Find out a number of online railroad work on sites like RailServe.com ‘s host one.
- If you want to drive commuter trains or subway trains, check with public transit authorities in the area for jobs.
- Job fairs also host railroad firms at community colleges and local universities with railroad training programs.
Working in Entry-Level Positions
1. Work your way up to the rank of the train driver. In addition to age, experience, and physical abilities, railroads are looking for drivers with good leadership, decision-making, and organizational skills including:
- Familiarity with and machine experience is a plus.
- Show basic reading literacy, math, and simple computing.
- Act well with others, and individually.
- Ability to understand and observe instructions and procedures.
2. If you are 21 years of age or older apply for a training position. To apply for a locomotive engineering role (21 years), you must meet the minimum age standards and have the appropriate educational history (high school diploma or equivalent). Search online job posts on railroad websites and job fora. The same places that post locomotive engineering positions post entry-level positions, too.
- Train drivers have to go through a hearing and vision checks, show physical ability, and regular drug testing.
3. Full training needed. You will learn all of the protocols, processes, and route information you will need to run the train during the training process. A combination of classroom and hands-on exercises will be involved in training, including working with train simulators and, eventually, real trains.
- Some railroads may have on-site training or maybe partnering with a local college or university. Others would allow you to go offsite for up to 2 months or more to a centralized training center.
- For example, Amtrak needs trainee locomotive engineers to spend 8-10 weeks at their training center in Wilmington, DE before they start their training on-the-job.
- Education will include training you for certification that involves memorizing all the physical elements of the train routes you will be driving on.
Getting and Staying Certified
1. Take a test on written skills. Through railway company is mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration to oversee its own certification process. The written exam is the first part of the qualification process and is focused on the review of the working standards, equipment inspection procedures, train route information, and Federal safety regulations for each railroad. There are three qualification rates that you can evaluate depending on your experience and work specifications: student engineer, locomotive service engineer, and train service engineer.
- Train service engineers are the most experienced and most qualified. They can drive locomotives with attached vehicles.
- Locomotive servicing engineers can operate trains but are unable to drive them with attached cars.
- Student engineers can operate trains only when under an instructor’s direct supervision.
2. Take a qualifications test. Unlike the written exam, the skills test tests the knowledge of business standards, methods for checking facilities, knowledge of train routes, and Federal safety regulations.
- You must show your ability to put your expertise into action while behind train or train simulator controls.
- The Federal Railroad Administration requires a retest if you fail the skills test.
3. Prove a mastery of your assigned path. In addition to the standard written and qualifications test that all locomotive engineers are expected to take, the Federal Railroad Administration expects applicants to be knowledgeable in the physical aspects of their particular assigned route.
- It is up to each railroad company to determine the details of how they evaluate this knowledge but it is common to use train simulators.
4. Total training and continuing education. Once you are working for a railway company, they are required by the Federal Railroad Administration to periodically retry you.
- Whenever you are assigned to a new train route, additional training periods are also required to ensure that you know the route inside and out.