What Do Locomotive Firers Do?
While engineers are responsible for driving a train engine, a locomotive firer acts as an assistant engineer, watching out for problems both with the train and engine and on the track. To make sure the train travels smoothly and safely, you’ll keep an eye out for obstacles and rights of way issues, and will relay traffic signals to the engineer as well as help maintain the engines and the train’s condition between runs.The American railroad industry is on the rise, but locomotive firer jobs are slowly being phased out, with firers being promoted to full engineers or the work otherwise being reapportioned. About 50 new positions are expected to open annually across the country, which with turnover will result in a 42% drop in the number of jobs from 2012 to 2022.
Locomotive Firers Skills and Abilities
Like engineers, locomotive firers need a good understanding of transportation and public safety rules, laws and codes, to keep your train running according to regulation. Knowledge of machinery operation and maintenance is required to operate an engine and keep it in good working order. Good vision and reaction time is a necessity, and you have to be able to focus on a task over time without being distracted, so that you can continuously be watching for trouble when the train is running.
Locomotive Firers Duties
As a locomotive firer, your primary duty will be to watch out for problems and signals while the engineer drives the train. One aspect of this is observing the train itself, looking when it goes around curves for issues such as dragging equipment or a smoking journal box, which could indicate friction causing heat buildup that might potentially lead to derailment. You’ll watch the engine’s dashboard for any unexpected changes in engine pressure or temperature. You’ll also keep an eye on the track itself for any obstructions, particularly from the left side which can be a blind spot for the engineer. In emergency situations you may be called upon to operate the train in place of the engineer.Additionally you’ll be responsible for observing signals and other alerts both on the tracks and from workers in the back of the train. All of this information you’ll convey to the engineer and verify as needed. Between runs, you’ll coordinate with railyard workers to set brakes and track switches in order to change cars. Before a trip, you’ll verify that the locomotive is equipped with necessary supplies, and may be called upon to start diesel engines to warm them up.
Locomotive Firers Tools and Technology
Locomotive firers may work on any type of train engine, including electric, diesel and steam, for both passenger and freight trains. You’ll use train brakes and rail switches, and must read temperature and pressure gauges along with speedometers and accelerometers. To communicate with engineers, train workers and station personnel, you’ll employ two-way radios as well as specialized computer software on some trains.
Education and Training for Locomotive Firers
Locomotive firers are generally considered entry-level positions, asking for no previous work experience, though a high school diploma or equivalent is usually required. Certification or other education in engines and train transport can help you to get hired, and most jobs will also provide several months of training on the job.
Locomotive Firers Salary
Due to the rigorous nature of the job and workers unions, salaries for locomotive firers are quite reasonable. While the lowest paid positions offer $36,000 a year or less, the highest paid can make over $88,000. On average you can expect to make about $46,000 a year.
Locomotive Firers Jobs by Geography
Locomotive firers are not in high demand anywhere, but positions can potentially open up wherever trains operate. Jobs may be found across the nation, particularly in Texas and the Northeast such as New York and Pennsylvania.