Career Profile: Train Engineer
Depending on how old you are, you might already be learning how to drive a car. How would you like to drive something much larger? One of the biggest vehicles you might ever drive is a train. With experience and education, train (or locomotive) engineers can have good, fulfilling careers.
Travelling by train is not as common now as it once was, but railways are still very important for carrying grain and other goods and for passenger travel. Every day of the year, trains travel around the country, sometimes for short trips and sometimes for long ones. The kinds of people who work on these trains depends on what the trains are carrying, but one person remains the same. Every train has a person who is called a train engineer or locomotive engineer. These are the people who drive the trains and make sure that they get to the right destinations safely.
Being a locomotive engineer involves much more than just driving a train from one place to another. A lot of the work happens before the train leaves the station, especially in small towns where there are not many staff members to look after everything. In that case, an engineer might check the equipment to make sure that it is working properly and repair anything that is broken or wearing out. This part of the work often requires a lot of mechanical knowledge and the ability to use tools to repair the different parts of the train. Even when other people do the actual repairs to the trains, the engineer should know what changes are necessary.
Another part of work as an engineer is doing paperwork. This job might include checking forms to make sure that the right amount of grain or lumber is on the train or filling in the proper documents for driving the train over the border into the United States. This part of the job takes practice, and it also requires a fairly good reading ability with complicated documents. Knowledge of mathematics is also helpful. Learning to read and understand technical documents, such as government forms, is a good way to get started.
Becoming a train engineer does not usually require any special education, but it requires experience. After completing their high school diplomas, people start by trying to get work as conductors on trains. After about two years, they can transfer to the engineer training program and get a certificate which officially allows them to work as engineers. The training covers topics like how to stop and start the train and how to read the signals which tell engineers which track to take and what dangers to look for.
Locomotive engineers have a lot of responsibility, and they often work long hours with few days to relax between trips. However, experienced engineers can make $95,000 per year, and the average pay is $78,000. For people who enjoy working with machines and who love to travel, a job as a locomotive or train engineer can be ideal.