If you're interested in the position of trainmaster on the railroad it
can best be described as hectic and stressful as best. While the
technologies have greatly improved over the years this position has
remained relatively unchanged. As trainmaster your duties generally
include safely seeing the arrival and departure of trains in and out of
your terminal. To achieve this you have to be in constant contact
with personnel such as the train crew, yardmasters, dispatchers, and
others. Because of your responsibility if anything goes wrong within
the terminal (regarding train movements) be prepared to hear about it!
(To search for potential railroad careers directly please use the search box below from Indeed.com, one of the leading online career websites.)
Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac GP35 #131 heads up a trio of Conrail units as they work a freight past the station in Alexandria, Virginia and through Potomac Yard during May of 1991.
While the position of trainmaster means that you will most often be
indoors either answering calls, on the radio, or directing trains this
certainly doesn't mean you will never be outside. Usually when you are
required to head outdoors you will be doing things such as helping yard
personnel or inspecting a train. Keep in mind that this means you will
be exposed to all types of weather so be prepared to dress accordingly.
I remember reading an interesting article in Trains magazine some years ago regarding the trainmaster position.
An individual had hired on as an assistant trainmaster, I believe with
Conrail back in the 1980s, and he described his experiences on the job.
He spoke of the high level of stress the job entails, the long hours
one must work, and how you really must have a thick skin to brush off
the constant criticism (and if you screwed up you always heard about
it). Perhaps more than anything else he said the toughest part of the
work was simply learning everything involved and once you became more
comfortable with it the job became much more manageable. In the end,
however, the position simply was not for him and he moved on to another
career after just a few years.
Buffalo & Pittsburgh SD45R #454 and a mate have a southbound mixed freight near rural Tuna, Pennsylvania on June 5, 2003.
Railroading in general can be a tough if you cannot handle criticism
well, as it's just part of the job. Like the train crew, trainmasters
also work odd, and long hours. When you first hire on as an assistant
trainmaster you almost always are given the most unpleasant hours,
midnights. Fatigue can also become a factor which you must learn to
deal with. Despite this there are plenty of positives with such work. In
general a job in the railroad industry offers excellent pay as well as
benefits and retirement. Trainmasters also normally move up into higher
management positions and how
high you wish to go in the department or company really depends on you.
So, if you enjoy this line of work or have excellent communication and
writing skills then you should really look into it. While formal classes usually aren't required to be a trainmaster the Class I railroads do prefer those with college degrees and at least a year's experience in day-to-day operations. Having said that, I believe railroads to provide on-the-job training.
For instance, here are some of the requirements one railroad expects to be a trainmaster:
* Strong oral and written communications skills. Working knowledge of GCOR
* Strong computer skills; knowledge of Microsoft Office (e.g. Word; Excel)
* Knowledge of operating-focused applications (e.g., LMS)
* Knowledge of train schedules, railroad freight equipment
and locomotives, the national rail network, railroad operating
functions, tracks, bridges, structures, signals, Maintenance of Way
* Ensures safety of terminal in which located
* Coordinates with foreign line railroads
* Plans interchanges
* Coordinates with transportation center regarding calls of trains
Montana Rail Link SD40-2XR #258 leads a parade of other units as they power a westbound freight out of the yard in Laurel, Montana during the late afternoon of August 1, 2003.
To put it bluntly the job
is exhausting as a trainmaster; expect the unexpected and most
definitely be ready to be swore at and chewed out. Again, if you are
not even sure if a career in railroading is right for you but would like
to learn more about what it takes to work in the industry you might
want to consider the book Working on the Railroad from noted author Brian Solomon. Solomon's book details the history of working in the railroad industry and the difficulties and hardship employees faced back then as well as today. After reading this book you should have a good idea bout whether working
in the industry is something you are truly interested in.