Train Conductors are in charge of driving and operating trains and other forms of fixed-railing vehicles in order to transport passengers and cargo from one location to another. The trains they operate can run on fuel oil, diesel, steam, or electricity; and the distances covered can vary from within a city’s limits to interstate and international routes.
Trains running inside cities or metropolitan areas are usually part of the city’s urban transportation systems and are widely known as subways. The Conductors operating them are hired by the city’s municipal government. Trains running from one city to another, whether on different provinces or countries, are usually managed by private transportation companies with their own Conductors. Furthermore, trains covering long distances usually have more than one conductor, so they can switch tasks in order to avoid fatigue and provide assistance to each other. In these cases, one of the Train Conductors is referred to as the Chief, while the other one takes up the Assistant or Second Conductor position.
Operating a train requires the Conductor to follow certain signs, orders, and follow strict laws and regulations designed to ensure time and energy efficiency and, above all, passenger safety. All train activities must be thoroughly calculated and coordinated in order to prevent accidents which could lead to disastrous consequences.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Train Conductors are required to complete.
- Operating train engines:
- Transporting passengers and cargo between stations;
- receiving and interpreting information from headquarters, acting according to signals and orders;
- starting the engine when signaled;
- following procedures to stop at a station;
- operating train doors to let passengers in and out;
- following tight time schedules; and
- switching tasks with the Second Conductor to avoid fatigue.
- Inspecting locomotive and systems prior to departure:
- Checking all systems are functioning;
- verifying fuel, air, and water levels;
- testing break systems; and
- reporting any malfunction.
- Supervising the loading and unloading of cargo and boarding and unboarding of passengers.
- Good physical condition and stamina:
- Being able to endure long routes;
- enduring different types of climate and weather conditions; and
- having the necessary physical strength to operate a vehicle, as well as to load and unload packages.
- Being aware of train systems and following security measures during journeys:
- Monitoring lights indicating systems’ condition;
- monitoring gauges to check temperature, amperage, fuel, air, and water;
- observing railways to identify possible obstructions;
- checking vehicle speed and location; and
- watching out for dashboard and railway signals.
- Responding accordingly to emergency situations and breakdowns:
- Reporting incidents to headquarters;
- assisting passengers with evacuation procedures when necessary;
- following procedures and instructions in case of emergencies; and
- performing minor repairs on the train, if possible.
- Checking train condition prior to departure and monitoring all systems during journeys.
- Liaising with station and headquarters personnel to check schedules and cargo list.
- Making announcements to passengers regarding stops and schedules.
- Observing tracks for possible obstructions and looking out for route signals.
- Relaying information to stations and headquarters.
- Monitoring train speed and location to adhere to schedules.
- Following procedure and adhering to laws and regulations at all times.
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- Excellent interpersonal and communication skills:
- Interacting and making announcements to passengers;
- liaising with station personnel and headquarters;
- relaying information, as well as receiving and following instructions; and
- working in tandem with an assistant.
- Exceptional mechanical and operating skills:
- Displaying outstanding levels of alertness so as to be aware of their surroundings, as well as to be able to identify and prevent risks and avoid accidents;
- monitoring the status of the train and conducting regular check-ups; and
- being able to perform minor mechanical maintenance or repair tasks, as needed.
- Possessing high levels of self-reliance and resourcefulness:
- Working alone most of the time; and
- responding to problems in a timely and efficient manner.
- Strong observational and problem-solving skills:
- Understanding and interpreting signs; and
- following procedures to avoid emergencies.
- Excellent physical condition and stamina:
- Being able to endure long journeys;
- staying alert and awake during late hours while operating a train; and
- having the necessary physical strength to operate a train.
- Great stress and time management skills:
- Working according to pre-established schedules; and
- arriving at stations in a timely manner.
- Good interpersonal and communication skills:
- Interacting with passengers;
- liaising with employers and customers; and
- being able to provide passengers with accurate information.
- Good mathematical skills:
- Calculating hours of departure and arrival; and
- monitoring train location and speed.
- High levels of honesty, integrity, and reliability.
Train Conductors are hired mainly by municipal transportation systems within cities and private transportation companies between different cities, provinces, or countries. When applying for this job, the basic educational requirements may vary depending on the employer. Urban transportation systems ran by the municipal government usually require applicants to have completed their secondary school education, whereas private companies may prefer to hire Train Conductors with a college or university degree in Mechanical or Train Engineering. Previous experience is also important for any applicant. At least 2 years of working in a train station as part of ground traffic control personnel can be a great asset during an application process.
Railway Train Conductors in Canada also need a special certification when working for a private transportation company. The Canadian Rail Operating Rules Certificate is issued by the Railway Association of Canada. In order to obtain said certificate, applicants must undertake special courses and trainings available in several schools and colleges throughout the country. The duration of the courses and practices varies greatly depending on each school, but the standard is at least one (1) year of preparation before obtaining the certificate. 
Railway Train Conductors in Canada also need a special certification when working for a private transportation company. The Canadian Rail Operating Rules Certificate is issued by the Railway Association of Canada. In order to obtain said certificate, applicants must undertake special courses and trainings available in several schools and colleges throughout the country. The duration of the courses and practices varies greatly depending on each school, but the standard is at least one (1) year of preparation before obtaining the certificate.