Anonymous asked in Cars & TransportationRail · 1 decade ago

what is the training, pay, and demand for locomotive engineers?

If a person with a college degree but zero rail experience decides today he wants to drive trains, about how long would it take a motivated individual to get there? Does anyone know what a typical pay scale for years-in-service might look like? Demand for engineers? Job security? Freight vs. Amtrack? Blah blah blah blah?


O.K. so let's take a freight carrier like BNF. I get promoted to engineer. What does my income look like? (Assuming low seniority, then mid-level, then high)? What's the union, IBT ot is there a specific one for railroad engineers?

3 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Motivation and a degree and a couple dollars can you get a cup of coffee.

    "Locomotive engineer" is a promoted position and they do not hire them "off the street."

    Getting a position, any position (but preferably in the operating department as a brakeman/conductor/switchman), with a railroad is the imperative. There a degree will help open the door. Beyond that, possessed of a degree means you can function at college level academically, which will be a huge help in fathoming the unfathomable on the rails.

    You'll find plenty of "motivation" once working for a railroad; trust me on this one...

    If working for a carrier where a collective bargaining agreement is in place, you'll be afforded union pay scales and benefits. Needless to say, depending on that "motivation," you can expect to earn enough that in time you'll need a good CPA at tax time. A person making his first trip as an engineer makes the same pay scale as one who has been working 30 years or more. But, seniority will dictate which jobs you can work, at first, with the high seniority usually found on the best paying runs.

    The demand is there for now, and for the foreseeable future, by virtue of the fact that there is a (roughly) 30 year cycle in employment needs. 30 years is the magic number to retire with full Railroad Retirement benefits, which are themselves lucrative. This cycle exists due mainly to the need for more manpower in both WWI and WWII, with seniority rosters turning over every 30 to 35 years, or so. The last real frenzy of hiring was in the late 60's to mid 70's. It has come 'round again.

    Freight pays much more than passenger service, but passenger service is a relatively easy assignment, as a rule. Comparing a passenger train to a freight train is about the same as a jet fighter compared to a big C5 Galaxy transport plane, and the service demands commensurate responses from the engineer.

    As you can imagine, things happen very quickly on a passenger train and one must stay on top of it. "Text-messaging" or other diversion can be deadly. The freight train is a plodding beast and, as with a huge transport, it is squeezing it into a small place, with presicion, that is the trick.

    Job security is directly dependent on seniority to be working and your good personal performance to keep working.

    I think that's about it...

    Oh. Wait.

    As for "Blah, blah, blah and blah" I can respond with authority when I say, yak, yak, yak and yak.

    Addendum: Most engineers and many conductors are members of the BLET (Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen). This entity came into being recently, as craft lines became blurred. The BLE (Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers) was the first organized labor union in the US, having been chartered in 1863.

    Pay scale is difficult to explain as there are many components to figure one's earnings for any given trip, which includes a mileage component, overtime, HAHT pay, guarantees, initial or final terminal delay, meal and/or lodging allowances, weight of locomotives, class of service, any 'vest-pocket' local agreements... the list goes on. But for yard service and some short local freight assignments, no two trips will usually pay the same. Ya need to be a Philadelphia lawyer to figure it out some times... which is why all maintain a trip record. Then, on payday, you need to check your figures against what your check is, looking for shortages. It really is quite complicated.

    Pay is also dependent on the length of the run, when considering mileage components, so if hiring out with a home terminal from which long mileage runs are in place, or one that has minimal mileage runs (130 miles or less), one would be able to have greater lifetime earnings. But, a young engineer would expect to make $70k I would guess, if properly motivated...

    I hung up the reverser some time ago, but there'll be someone along soon to give a more realistic outlook for anticipated earnings, as I may be out of touch here and there.

    And when they get here, I'd like to remind them that there's no layin' off... I want 'em retirement checks to keep a'commin'.

  • 4 years ago

    Andy is right, start with any position they have open. Typically this is in the track department as a seasonal laborer, those people have the first shot at transferring into trin service when they need to hire. Train service entry level jobs are brakeman/switchman, then it is a promotion to conductor and then apromotion to engineer. ONce you get on the operating department (train serivce) is is usually 3 to 5 years but than can vary depending on the requirements of the RR. When you are interviewing and if they ask if you are willing to relocate say yes or your chances of getting hired are almost none. Good luck and dont get discouraged if you dont get hired immediatly, it took my son 3 years and some people longer so be patient but persistent. Keep trying and if you are willing to relocate, try for as many railroads as you can think of, they are are mostly the same as far as pay and benefits and basic operations.

  • 1 decade ago

    To add to above (good answer by the way) Job security is good as there is a shortage of drivers and companies are poaching from each other

    good luck

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