What is a Train Conductor? What Do They Do?

train conductor

Train Conductors work aboard trains to coordinate the everyday activities of train crews. On freight trains, they also oversee the loading and unloading of cargo. Conductors work long hours and can choose to cover local and regional trains or work aboard trains that cover national routes.

What Does a Train Conductor Do?

A train conductor’s duties vary depending on whether they are aboard a passenger train or a cargo train.

On passenger trains, a train conductor’s main function is to oversee the safe and orderly transport of passengers from one destination to another. This could be a short regional journey or a cross-country trek. They may also take payments from passengers, check ticket’s, announce stations as they are approached, and assist elderly or disabled passengers on and off the train as necessary.

On cargo trains, a train conductor’s main function is to oversee the loading and unloading of cargo and to ensure all cargo is appropriately loaded and is accounted for upon departure and again upon arrival. They must make sure that the cargo and weight of the train is balanced distributed evenly along the length of the train.

Train conductors also maintain communication between the train’s engineer, all traffic control personnel, and all other crew members aboard the train. They are responsible for monitoring for any equipment issues and mechanical problems and arranging repairs or emergency stops if required.

How To Become a Train Conductor

There is no educational prerequisite for becoming a Train Conductor, but you must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. To get started as a train conductor, you must first gain a position working for a railroad company. These positions include signal or brake operators, train dispatchers, rail car loader, track laborer, and more. After gaining familiarity with the logistics of a railyard and railroad industry, these positions are promoted to train conductor.

Honing your interpersonal skills is key to becoming a train conductor if you plan on focusing your career on passenger trains as you’ll be working with the public every day and may have to manage some unruly passengers in your tenure as a train conductor.

On-the-job training is essential for becoming a train conductor. You will work under the supervision of experienced conductors and may go through a formal training program as well.

For career advancement, you can obtain certification from individual railroad employers. As a conductor, you must pass a background check, vision and hearing tests, performance and knowledge based tests, and must comply with all rules and regulations regarding drugs and alcohol consumption.

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, and many more.

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