A train driver, or engineer, is responsible for the operation of a locomotive and the safety of the train’s passengers. He is also in charge of all of the mechanical operations of the train, including speed and handling. A college education is not necessary to become a train driver, although it may help you get chosen over other applicants for a competitive position. Courses in engineering are usually recommended, because of the amount of equipment that train drivers need to be familiar with, and most railroads prefer applicants with mechanical experience as well.
Train drivers should be responsible and well-organized, with quick reflexes. They also need excellent vision and hearing. Leadership skills and initiative are a necessity, as is the ability to speak clearly and coherently.
The first step to becoming a train driver is to search for jobs. Most of the main railroads in the United States have employment opportunities listed on their websites, or a phone number that interested applicants can call. Once you're hired, most railroads have a training program that you will be required to attend. These programs generally last about two months, and will teach you what you will need to know to drive a train.
After your training, you will be able to work on a train. Most drivers start off as assistant conductors, or brakemen, and their job is to collect payment or tickets from passengers, make announcements, and help to operate the opening and closing of doors. After some time as a brakeman, you will be moved to the position of conductor, where your job will be to manage the rest of the workers on a train. The conductor also assists the train driver in testing pieces of equipment, like the brakes, before the trip is underway, as well as attending to the needs of passengers.
Once you have spent time as both a brakeman and conductor, you will get to become a train driver. Engineers do more than just drive the train; they must be able to check any equipment on the train to assure that it is working properly and are in charge of making sure that all paperwork is filled out correctly. An engineer must know the physical characteristics of the track, and any train stations, along his route.
Train drivers do a lot of traveling, often being away for home for days or weeks at a time. This is a great job for someone who dreams of seeing the country, and loves to visit new places. It is often possible to move from the position of driver to an upper management position in the railroad, providing a good opportunity for advancement if you ever decide that you are interested in a position with less travel later on in your career.