Career Profile: Railway Yardmaster
Moving anything from one place to another requires organization. Imagine what the roads would be like with no traffic lights or signs to tell people what to do. When people travel or ship goods by train, the yardmaster is a lot like traffic lights for the railway. If you like to organize schedules and keep things moving, the job of railway yardmaster might be right for you.
Railways yardmasters can work with all kinds of rail transportation, such as long-distance trains, subways, and light rail transit. Most of the jobs are in cities and large towns, but almost every part of Canada except the far north has train yards where people can find jobs in this field. Generally, salaries are between $92,000 and $100,000, or about $44-48 per hour.
A high school education is normally all that people in this job need, but getting more education is always useful. Studies in engineering, physics, or even business administration can be helpful. Most of the training happens on the job, and it is good to know as much as possible about how trains work. Often, people in this field start with another job on the trains and then work their way up to being yardmaster.
Basically, railway yardmasters are supervisors for people working with trains. Organizing trains can be very complicated, especially in larger cities or towns where there might be five or ten rail lines, or even more, for the yardmaster to look after.
Often, workers have to take one or two cars off of a train if they have arrived at their destination and maybe put others on the end. A railway yardmaster supervises this work and helps out if necessary. The work can be difficult and dirty, and it can be unpleasant in bad weather. Sometimes the job requires physical strength, but mostly it requires an ability to organize.
For passenger trains, a yardmaster might have a very public role, greeting passengers and making sure that they get to the right places with their luggage. At other times, yardmasters work only with a few colleagues or maybe with businesspeople or farmers at the beginning and end of the line. An ability to keep good records is also important, especially when several trains are coming in from different directions and all need unloading.
Railway yardmasters need to be able to keep good records and be aware of any changes to train schedules. Sometimes this job includes working late into the evening. If a shipment of grain is a few hours late, for example, the yardmaster will have to be there to supervise. Another yardmaster might be available in larger centres, but anyone working at a small train station might have to be ready to work at odd hours, even during the night.
Checking for cars or parts of the track that need repair is also part of the railway yardmaster’s work. Often, this involves calling technicians to repair the problem, although some yardmasters might be able to fix the problems themselves.
Job prospects for railway yardmasters depend very much on the economy and what other types of transportation are available. In some parts of North America, jobs in this area are decreasing. Still, the job of railway yardmaster is a good choice of career.
Glassdoor. “CN Yardmaster Hourly Pay.” https://www.glassdoor.ca/Hourly-Pay/CN-Yardmaster-Hourly-Pay-E4455_D_KO3,13.htm.
Job Monkey.com. “The Job of a Railway Yardmaster.” https://www.jobmonkey.com/railroadjobs/yardmaster/.
Study.com. “Railroad Yardmaster: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Work BC. Supervisors, Railway Transport Operations (NOC 7304). https://www.workbc.ca/careers/7304.