Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Railroad Industry Positions & Career Paths

I have a son who works as a train engineer for a major railroad company. As a result, I am interested in his career and how he might work his way up the corporate hierarchy. Strangely, I had a hard time finding clear cut descriptions of the career path for railroad workers.

The following is my best attempt at sifting through the various resources posted on the web by railroad companies, government agencies, and individuals working in the passenger and freight rail transportation industry across the U.S.

Corporate Management

At the top of most railroad companies are the typical range of management, analysts, and administrative support positions one typically associates with most organizations. You have the President of the company and the Board of Directors. Below them are the various Vice-Presidents and/or Directors for Operations, Finance, Human Resources, Labor Relations, Information Technology, Marketing, Public Affairs, Legal Services, and Supply.

Passenger Train - Operations & Personnel

Managers, supervisors, and employees working in positions specifically related to passenger trains and services in the U.S. include:

  • Station Masters and/or Depot Agent
  • Passenger Management Director
  • Locomotive Engineers
  • Conductors
  • Car Attendants - Porters & Stewards
  • Cooks & Pantry Chefs
  • Ticket Clerks
  • Baggage Clerks
  • Railroad Postal Clerks

Freight Train - Operations & Personnel

Rail transportation in the U.S. consists primarily of freight trains and shipments. The managers, supervisors, and employees working in positions specifically related to freight train operations and maintenance include:

Train Crews - Primarily consist of the following positions:

  • Locomotive Engineer
  • Conductor
  • Brakeman

The Conductor is responsible for the train, the freight and the crew. The Locomotive Engineer is responsible for operating the train locomotives. In addition, some trains still carry Brakemen.

The Road Foreman supervises engineers. Trainmasters supervise conductors, brakemen and other train crew. There is some overlap in their responsibilities.

Train Crew employees are usually assigned to a specific hub and this will dictate the geographic region in which they will work. They may be required to travel to or be assigned work at any location within that hub. Assignments within the hub are based on seniority.

Mechanical Department - Responsible for maintaining and repairing the fleet of locomotives and freight cars. Employees in this department include:

  • Diesel Electrician
  • Diesel Mechanic
  • Freight Car Repairer
  • Mechanical Service Operator

Engineering Department - Responsible for building and maintaining railroad infrastructure, e.g. track, roadways, signals, bridges and buildings.

  • Engineering Manager
  • Mechanical & Electrical Systems Manager
  • Signal Installation & Repair Person
  • Bridge & Building Carpenters
  • Work Equipment Mechanic
  • Track Laborer

Railroad Yard Management - Personnel working in this area include:

  • Yardmasters
  • Rail Yard Engineers
  • Railroad Brake, Signal, or Switch Operators

The Yardmaster is in charge of the rail yard. They manage and coordinate all activities in combining rolling stocks into trains, breaking down trains into individual railroad cars, and switching trains from track-to-track within the rail yard.

Dispatching Center Personnel - Personnel working in this area include:

  • Division Superintendent
  • Freight Traffic Manager
  • Train Dispatcher
  • Crew Dispatcher
  • Tower Operators
  • Special Railroad Police Agents

Engineering, Construction & Survey Personnel - These positions may include:

  • Civil Engineer
  • Surveyors & Rodmen
  • Graders & Track Layer
  • Flagman

Rail Inspection & Maintenance-of-Way

  • Section Foreman
  • Road Foreman
  • Bridge Inspector
  • Track Inspector
  • Signal Maintainer
  • Trackman or Platelayer

Telecommunications - Responsible for the railroads state-of-the-art information and communication technology (ICT) systems.

  • Systems Analysts
  • System Technicians

Finally, to further complicate the picture, many traditional railroad job titles are currently in the process of being changed. For example:

  • Some Trainmaster and Road Foreman positions are being changed to Road Managers
  • Dispatchers are now often called Rail Traffic Controllers
  • Roadmasters are becoming Track Maintenance Supervisors
  • Division Superintendents may now be Operations Service Area Managers

Looking over the material I collected about railroad positions, trying to chart a long range personal career path from an entry level position up the ladder to a senior management position is apparently going to be a real challenge for anyone. It would be interesting to see how many conductors have made their way up through the ranks to Vice-President or a similar senior management position. For many hourly wage workers, an alternative career path may lie in working your way up the union hierarchy.

* You might want to do your own Internet search on Railroad Positions & Career Paths.

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