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How do I Become a Train Driver?

Train engineers who work for passenger railroads are often assigned a regular schedule and station from which they work.
Train engineers are responsible for the mechanical operations of the train.
Train engineers need to be physically fit and have no substance-abuse problems.
Engineers control locomotives, and the trains they pull, from a cab that is usually at the front of the engine.
A train driver must know the physical characteristics of the track and train stations along his route.
Locomotive engineers must understand the breaking and signalling systems that are used to prevent rail accidents.
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  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 December 2014
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A train driver, or engineer, is responsible for the operation of a locomotive and the safety of the train’s passengers. He is also in charge of all of the mechanical operations of the train, including speed and handling. A college education is not necessary to become a train driver, although it may help you get chosen over other applicants for a competitive position. Courses in engineering are usually recommended, because of the amount of equipment that train drivers need to be familiar with, and most railroads prefer applicants with mechanical experience as well.

Train drivers should be responsible and well-organized, with quick reflexes. They also need excellent vision and hearing. Leadership skills and initiative are a necessity, as is the ability to speak clearly and coherently.

The first step to becoming a train driver is to search for jobs. Most of the main railroads in the United States have employment opportunities listed on their websites, or a phone number that interested applicants can call. Once you're hired, most railroads have a training program that you will be required to attend. These programs generally last about two months, and will teach you what you will need to know to drive a train.

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After your training, you will be able to work on a train. Most drivers start off as assistant conductors, or brakemen, and their job is to collect payment or tickets from passengers, make announcements, and help to operate the opening and closing of doors. After some time as a brakeman, you will be moved to the position of conductor, where your job will be to manage the rest of the workers on a train. The conductor also assists the train driver in testing pieces of equipment, like the brakes, before the trip is underway, as well as attending to the needs of passengers.

Once you have spent time as both a brakeman and conductor, you will get to become a train driver. Engineers do more than just drive the train; they must be able to check any equipment on the train to assure that it is working properly and are in charge of making sure that all paperwork is filled out correctly. An engineer must know the physical characteristics of the track, and any train stations, along his route.

Train drivers do a lot of traveling, often being away for home for days or weeks at a time. This is a great job for someone who dreams of seeing the country, and loves to visit new places. It is often possible to move from the position of driver to an upper management position in the railroad, providing a good opportunity for advancement if you ever decide that you are interested in a position with less travel later on in your career.

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Discuss this Article

anon350514
Post 13

Would civil engineering increase my chance of becoming a train engineer at all?

anon329955
Post 11

I'd say Class A CDL for 18 wheeler is good enough. To drive a train though, you have to have a certificate.

anon266671
Post 8

I am a freight locomotive engineer. In order to be an engineer, you must first be hired on as a conductor. After conductor training, you will be put into brakeman/conductor service in seniority order. When seniority allows, or when the carrier needs engineers due to retirements and turnover rates, you will be sent to LET school (Locomotive Engineer Training).

You will typically be in school for about a month wherever the carrier has their training facilities. It will be the same facility where you go for conductor. After this, you will typically train on your territory for six months to one year. You will then be qualified by your supervision, if they see you are fit to be qualified. Then you are given your Locomotive Engineers Certification license. Shoeshopper is wrong about paying for school. Some railroads, like CSX, make you pay around $5,000 to go to Conductor School. Some do, some don't. But the ones that do not make you pay will have you sign a contract stating if you quit within so many years after being certified, you will have to pay back that railroad for the money they've invested into your school. That way you don't just go to school to get certified and go to another railroad. Makes sense.

Just be 100 percent sure this is what you want to do. I would advise you to get hired onto a Class I Railroad (BNSF, CSX, UP, and Norfolk Southern are your top 4). Depends on where you live to what railroads are around. It is a 24/7 operation, so be prepared to work because this job is a totally different world than what you would expect. I have only touched on the basics. Hope it helped!

anon192749
Post 5

Where do I get training?

anon140455
Post 4

No you just have to get a high school diploma or a GED.

anon125008
Post 3

i want the details of application.

shoeshopper
Post 2

beachgirl05- No, you typically do not need a special license or certification in order to become a train driver.

However, as it said in the article, you will likely need to attend a training program. This training will be provided by the company that is hiring you. Training programs can last anywhere from four to sixteen weeks. Programs are typically paid.

Never pay an employer to attend a train driver training program. It is likely a scam and you will be out a good deal of money.

beachgirl05
Post 1

Do you have to have a special license in order to become a train driver?

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