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Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators

Operate railroad track switches. Couple or uncouple rolling stock to make up or break up trains. Signal engineers by hand or flagging. May inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and hand brakes.   (O'Net 53-4021.00)

 
Reported job titles:   Air Brake Operator, Air Hose Coupler, Brake Holder, Brake Rider, Brakeman, Car Coupler   (view all job titles)
 
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    Career Video
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    Wages
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    No wage data for this occupation.
     


    Employment Trends
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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    No trend data for this occupation.
     


    Industries of Employment
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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    Industry Percent of Total
    2014
    Rail transportation 91.5%
    Support activities for transportation 6.5%
    Local government, excluding education and hospitals 0.6%
    source: Employment Projections, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Employment Matrix, released July 2016.
     


    Tasks
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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  • Signal locomotive engineers to start or stop trains when coupling or uncoupling cars, using hand signals, lanterns, or radio communication.
     
  • Pull or push track switches to reroute cars.
     
  • Observe signals from other crewmembers so that work activities can be coordinated.
     
  • Inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and handbrakes to ensure that they are securely fastened and functioning properly.
     
  • Raise levers to couple and uncouple cars for makeup and breakup of trains.
     
  • Receive oral or written instructions from yardmasters or yard conductors indicating track assignments and cars to be switched.
     
  • Climb ladders to tops of cars to set brakes.
     
  • Set flares, flags, lanterns, or torpedoes in front and at rear of trains during emergency stops in order to warn oncoming trains.
     
  • Inspect tracks, cars, and engines for defects and to determine service needs, sending engines and cars for repairs as necessary.
     
  • Make minor repairs to couplings, air hoses, and journal boxes, using hand tools.
     
    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators  updated June 2007
     


    Knowledge
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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  • Transportation - Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
     
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
     
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
     
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
     
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
     
  • Law and Government - Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
     
  • Mechanical - Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
     
  • Public Safety and Security - Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
     
    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators  updated June 2007
     


    Skills
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
     
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
     
  • Operation Monitoring - Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
     
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
     
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
     
  • Operation and Control - Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
     
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
     
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
     
  • Time Management - Managing one's own time and the time of others.
     
    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators  updated June 2010
     


    Abilities
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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  • Far Vision - The ability to see details at a distance.
     
  • Auditory Attention - The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds.
     
  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions.
     
  • Multilimb Coordination - The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion.
     
  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
     
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
     
  • Gross Body Coordination - The ability to coordinate the movement of your arms, legs, and torso together when the whole body is in motion.
     
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
     
  • Perceptual Speed - The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
     
  • Reaction Time - The ability to quickly respond (with the hand, finger, or foot) to a signal (sound, light, picture) when it appears.
     
    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators  updated June 2007
     


    Work Activities
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material - Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
     
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events - Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
     
  • Performing General Physical Activities - Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials.
     
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings - Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
     
  • Getting Information - Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
     
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards - Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
     
  • Documenting/Recording Information - Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
     
  • Handling and Moving Objects - Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
     
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates - Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
     
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge - Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
     
    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators  updated June 2007
     


    Interests
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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  • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
     
    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators  updated June 2008
     


    Work Styles
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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  • Dependability - Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
     
  • Attention to Detail - Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
     
  • Self Control - Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
     
  • Stress Tolerance - Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
     
  • Cooperation - Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
     
  • Adaptability/Flexibility - Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
     
  • Concern for Others - Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
     
  • Independence - Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
     
  • Initiative - Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
     
  • Leadership - Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
     
    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators  updated June 2007
     


    State of Vermont License Information
    that may be required for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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    No state licenses listed for this occupation.
     


    Education and Training Requirements
    for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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  • Job Zone Two: Some Preparation Needed
  •  
  • Education: These occupations usually require a high school diploma.
  •  
  • Training: Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
  •  
  • Experience: Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is usually needed. For example, a teller would benefit from experience working directly with the public.
  •  
    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators  updated June 2007
     


    Schools
    offering instructional programs related to Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
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      Related Instructional Programs
     
    • Railroad and Railway Transportation. (NEW)
     
     Search for schools offering these programs at
     
     
     
    source: National Center for Education Statistics 2000 Classification of Instructional Programs .
     


    Other Resources
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  • Labor Exchange Information
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  • Look for statewide information over the latest 12 months for Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators.
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  • Occupational Outlook Handbook
  • The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a nationally recognized source of career information, designed to provide valuable assistance to individuals making decisions about their future work lives. Revised every two years, the Handbook describes what workers do on the job, working conditions, the training and education needed, earnings, and expected job prospects in a wide range of occupations.
    Go to Occupational Outlook Handbook
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    Related Occupations
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  • Tree Trimmers and Pruners
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    source: Occupational Information Network: Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators 
     

     
     
     
    Vermont.gov State of Vermont Department of Labor