Workers in railroad occupations held about 113,300 jobs in 2014.
Nearly all locomotive engineers; conductors and yardmasters; and brake, signal, and switch operators work in the rail transportation industry. Rail yard engineers work in rail transportation and support activities for rail transportation.
Rail yard engineers and brake, signal, and switch operators spend most of their time working outside, regardless of weather conditions.
Conductors on passenger trains generally work in cleaner, more comfortable conditions than conductors on freight trains. However, conductors on passenger trains sometimes must respond to upset or unruly passengers when a train is delayed.
Injuries and Illnesses
Rail yard engineers and conductors and yardmasters have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses than the national average. Rail yard workers must move heavy equipment around and climb up and down equipment, which can be dangerous.
Trains are scheduled to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, meaning that many railroad workers sometimes work nights, weekends, and holidays. Most rail employees work full time. Federal regulations require a minimum number of rest hours for train operators.
Locomotive engineers and conductors whose trains travel long routes can be away from home for long periods of time. Those who work on passenger trains with short routes generally have a more predictable schedule. Workers on some freight trains have irregular schedules.
For engineers, seniority (the number of years on the job) usually dictates who receives the most desired shifts. Some engineers, called extra board, are hired on a temporary basis and get an assignment only when a railroad needs an extra or substitute worker on a certain route.