What Do Railroad Brake and Switch Operators Do (including Their Typical Day At Work)

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Job Description, Daily Responsibilities, and Work Life.

Job Description

Railroad Brake and Switch Operators 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. They also signal locomotive engineers to start or stop trains when coupling or uncoupling cars, using hand signals, lanterns, or radio communication.

Other tasks include:

  • Operate and drive locomotives, diesel switch engines, dinkey engines, flatcars, and railcars in train yards and at industrial sites.
  • Pull or push track switches to reroute cars.
  • Observe signals from other crew members 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.

We asked Railroad Brake and Switch Operators how satisfied they are with their job. Here is what they said.

Job satisfaction

61%

How meaningful is this job

47%


61% of them said they were satisfied with their job and 47% said they find that their job makes the world a better place or helps to make someone else’s life better.



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Typical Day At Work

On a daily basis, Railroad Brake and Switch Operators signal locomotive engineers to start or stop trains when coupling or uncoupling cars, using hand signals, lanterns, or radio communication. They raise levers to couple and uncouple cars for makeup and breakup of trains.

A typical day for a Railroad Brake, Signal and Switch Operator will also include:

  • Pull or push track switches to reroute cars.
  • Operate and drive locomotives, diesel switch engines, dinkey engines, flatcars, and railcars in train yards and at industrial sites.
  • Inspect tracks, cars, and engines for defects and to determine service needs, sending engines and cars for repairs as necessary.
  • Observe signals from other crew members 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.

We asked some Railroad Brake and Switch Operators a few questions to find out what else does their work day look like. Here is what we found.

Do you have telephone conversations everyday in this job?54% said yes
How important is it to work in a team in this job?73% said very important
Do you have group discussions everyday in this job?75% said yes
Do you talk or work with customers everyday in this job?19% said yes
Do you have to deal with angry customers everyday in this job?14% said yes
Do you have to make decisions everyday in this job?57% said yes

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Railroad Brake and Switch Operators also answer questions from passengers concerning train rules, stations, and timetable information. They may also ride atop cars that have been shunted, and turn handwheels to control speeds or stop cars at specified positions.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Railroad Brake and Switch Operators Make minor repairs to couplings, air hoses, and journal boxes, using hand tools. They might also Adjust controls to regulate air-conditioning, heating, and lighting on trains for comfort of passengers.

In addition, they Refuel and lubricate engines.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them Monitor oil, air, and steam pressure gauges, and make sure water levels are adequate.

To some Railroad Brake and Switch Operators, it is also their responsibility to Connect air hoses to cars, using wrenches.


Working life

Working hours

More than 40 hours per week

Working schedule

Regular schedule like a 9 to 5

In a typical work week as a Railroad Brake, Signal and Switch Operator, you can expect to work more than 40 hours per week.

Do Railroad Brake and Switch Operators work in an office-style work environment?

Never
98%


Once a year
1%


Do Railroad Brake and Switch Operators work outdoors?

Every day
100%


Never
0%



Is this right for me

Best personality for this career

The Builders and The Organizers

People who are suitable for this job tends to like work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They like working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery..

They also like following set procedures and routines. They like working with data and details more than with ideas.

You can read more about these career personality types here.




Learn more about Railroad Brake and Switch Operators

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Related to Railroad Brake, Signal and Switch Operators Job Description

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Additional resources

http://www.bls.gov/OOH/transportation-and-material-moving/railroad-occupations.htm
http://www.amtrak.com/
https://www.aar.org/


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