Railroads still play a role in the transportation industry, although that
role has changed somewhat. And they still need trained professionals to help
them run smoothly -- which is why railroad operations programs are available.
You don't need a formal education to work in the railroad industry. But
it can give you an advantage.
Doug Traff, a locomotive engineer, is an instructor at Carl Sandburg Community
College in Illinois. He says the course at his school gives students a solid
foundation. "The railroad operations program is designed so that people
who have never worked in the industry can enter the field with a good understanding
of the operations," says Traff.
There are two routes students can follow at his college. "The railroad
operations program is offered as a one-year certificate and a two-year associate
in applied science degree," says Traff.
"Including the four basic courses in railroad operations -- the history
of railroading, railroad technical careers, railroad operations, and railroad
safety, quality and environment -- there are 14 required courses with
four electives to choose," he adds.
Students also take a number of general classes, including business communication,
business mathematics and business supervisory principles.
Tom Golden is a conductor and certified operation lifesaver presenter for
the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. He also teaches at Carl Sandburg
Community College. He says the college tries to get students out in the field
as much as possible, to give them a first-hand view of the industry.
"We take field trips to the railroad whenever possible," says Golden.
"It is important to see first-hand the operations of the railroad and the
responsibilities of the yardmaster, switchmen, engineers and others."
Gilles Halle is one of the founders of a training center run by the Brotherhood
of Locomotive Engineers. The center offers two-week intensive upgrading programs
for railway employees who are hoping to become locomotive engineers.
"There is about 100 hours of technical studies, plus 32 hours on the [full-motion
locomotive] simulator. When they are finished at this school, they go back
on the railroad they came from and do their on-job training." He adds that the
length of the on-the-job training varies, depending on each railway.
There are no specific courses that high school students can take to prepare.
But there are skills they can focus on.
"Students would best be prepared if they had good communication skills,
and an understanding in computer sciences and mathematics," says Traff.
Occupational Outlook HandbookFor more information related to this field of study, see: Rail
Becoming an EngineerFrom the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers
TrainNet.orgTrain-related links from all over the world