Railway Conductor/Yardmaster

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Railway Conductor/Yardmaster


"All aboard...all aboard last call for New York City" the train conductor yells, as the train pulls out of the station. Maybe they do not wear overalls or shout from the trains like they used to but conductors are still an integral part of the train crew. Conductors coordinate the activities of train crews and passengers on freight and passenger trains.

Conductors have many responsibilities that must be met in order to keep things running smoothly and on schedule. When working passenger trains they collect fares, announce approaching train stops and answer passenger questions. On freight trains the conductor is responsible for keeping track of records, and making sure the freight arrives in the same condition as it was received.

It is necessary that conductors are skilled in written, verbal and interpersonal communication as they deal with members of the public on a daily basis. Besides good communication skills, conductors must be able to efficiently handle money when collecting fares from passengers.
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Conductors are interested in maintaining a smooth running operation. They enjoy coordinating and conducting the activities of others. People who work as conductors work well on their own, as when making decisions, and as part of the larger team of the train crew. Conductors enjoy interacting with the public and train crew. They must also have good color vision to allow them to interpret color-coded signage.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Supervise and coordinate the activities of passenger and freight train crew members
  • Ensure train operations are in accordance with schedule, train orders and code of operating rules
  • Communicate with train crew members by radio, signals or by other means to give and receive train operation information
  • Receive train orders and explain orders to brakemen/women, locomotive engineer and other crew members
  • Collect fares on board passenger trains, announce approaching train stops and answer passenger enquiries
  • Prepare train run reports
  • Trains run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; this means conductors work shift-work, weekends and evenings. With seniority workers may get on a regular run, but when starting they may get called on short notice, work longer hours and take whatever shifts are assigned. The workday activities for a conductor vary somewhat depending on whether he/she is working on a freight or passenger train. Freight trains can be dirty and smelly but fairly quiet as the conductor will be working in their booth. The environment on a passenger train is comfortable and attractive but noisier and busier as the conductor spends a lot of time interacting with the passengers.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Railway conductors work for railway transport companies and industrial or commercial users of rail transport.

  Long Term Career Potential  
This industry tends to run on a ladder approach to positions. With experience and additional skills conductors can become railway locomotive engineers.

  Educational Paths  
Completion of secondary school is usually required for employment with a railway company. They may have a trade certificate or diploma but most training is done by the employer. Train crew operating occupations are organized in a career ladder so, experience as a brakeman/woman is first required for conductors.

There are educational institutions that offer training in this area; check the information for your particular region for more details.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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