Railroad Conductors: Not Just the Guy in the Caboose

Railroad Conductors: Not Just the Guy in the Caboose
By Nikola Marshall

When you think of a railroad conductor, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Usually, itís the guy riding in the caboose of a train. Even though the caboose has been left behind, the important job of a conductor hasnít. The position is alive and well and both men and women are working hard at it.

What exactly does a conductor do? Well, they coordinate the movements of the train crews. They also review schedules, switching orders, waybills and shipping records in order to obtain loading and unloading information. They may move engines using radio command devices for their switching duties. Those assigned to passenger trains ensure that passengers are safe and comfortable. They will also collect tickets, make any announcement and provide passenger services.

Before a train leaves the yard, the conductor and engineer get together to discuss things such as instructions from dispatch concerning route, times and cargo. When the train is in motion, conductors utilize radios and mobile phones to communicate to engineers and dispatch any problems with the train or the rails. In the event of problems, they may arrange for removal of a problem car at the next station or work out alternative routes if rails are defective.

What kinds of schedules and physical and mental requirements must a conductor meet? Trains run around the clock every day of the year, therefore personnel are expected to be available holidays, weekends and any day and time that the yardmaster calls. Jobs are assigned on short noticed and often at odd hours resulting in irregular working hours. Seniority often dictates who receives the better shifts. On local runs, when trains frequently stop to pick up or drop off cars, the work is physically demanding. Getting on and off moving cars can be dangerous.

Applicants for a conductorís job are required to have a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent. They must have good hearing, eyesight and color vision. Also conductors are required to have good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity and mechanical aptitude. They must also possess physical stamina.Employees are required, at time of application to pass a physical, alcohol and drug screening and a criminal background check.

What is the outlook for the field? Due to large numbers of employees expected to retire in the next ten years, opportunities look good. Most workers are members of unions and their earnings are relatively high.

There is much more to the job of railroad conductor than just sitting in that bygone caboose. The work they perform is important in order to keep trains running smoothly.

Nikola lives and writes in Oklahoma. She is active in her local Citizen's Poice Academy Alumni and Volunteers in Policing. She enjoys reading, scrapbooking and spending time with her two dogs. This article has been submitted in affiliation with http://www.Facsimile.Com/ which is a site for Fax Machines.

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