What do Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators Do?
Railroad operators work with railroad track switches. They couple or uncouple rolling stock to make up or break up trains and signal engineers by hand or flagging. They also inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and hand brakes.This occupation is predicted to show a decline in growth over the next few years, with only 760 new jobs to be created. Nearly all of these jobs will be in rail transportation, with just under 6% working in various support roles for rail transportation.
Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators Skills and Abilities
As a railroad operator you will have knowledge of the principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits. Operators also have in-depth knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance. You will need to be familiar with the policies and procedures of public safety to protect people, data, and property from damage and harm. Operators do interact with the public, and you must know how to provide customer service, to meet quality standards for services and evaluate customer satisfaction. Some of the skills railroad operators possess are:
- Monitoring – Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself or others to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Operation Monitoring – Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
- Critical Thinking – Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions to problems.
- Operation and Control – Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
- Auditory Attention – The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
- Control Precision – The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
- Multi-limb Coordination – The ability to coordinate two or more limbs while sitting, standing, or lying down.
Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators Duties
Railroad operators perform physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials. You also will be involved in inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects. You will spend much of your time monitoring and reviewing information to detect or assess problems.
Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators Tools and Technology
Tools that railroad operators regularly use are diesel freight locomotives, heavy rail turnout switches, pressure indicators such as air and steam pressure gauges, scaffolding, and wheel chocks. Operators also use data entry software and route mapping and time tracking software.
Education and Training for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
You don’t need more than a high school diploma or equivalent to be a railroad operator, although 30% of workers in this occupation have some college experience. You will receive a moderate length of on the job training to prepare you for your work.
Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators Salary
The median salary for railroad operators is just over $52,000 with top earners making just under $70,000. Top salaries are paid in the states of New York and New Jersey. States paying below the median are mostly in the South.
Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators Jobs by Geography
Job growth will be strongest in the Western states of Arizona, Washington, and Texas and in the Midwestern state of Indiana. The Midwest in general will show the slowest growth or even a decline in the number of these jobs.