Train conductor jobs are on the decline as the use of rail is on the wane, but there is still a need for skilled conductors, and people who are interested in railway careers can find a number of types of train conductor jobs available. Commonly, people get work as train conductors by starting out in lower ranking positions for the railroad and working their way up, which provides them with on the job training and familiarity with the companies they work for. No special training or certifications are required for conductors, although a high school degree helps.
Much like an orchestra conductor, a train conductor is responsible for coordinating the efforts of a large group of people. Yard service conductors work in train yards, supervising activities in the yard which can include loading and unloading freight, moving train cars, supervising repairs, and monitoring yard safety. Road service conductors actually ride with the train, making sure that the crew stays safe and dealing with passengers if there are any on the train.
One of the areas of growth in the otherwise shrinking railway industry is urban rail, which includes streetcars, subway, and light trail. Train conductor jobs in urban rail can involve collecting funds from passengers on the train and issuing tickets, inspecting tickets to confirm that passengers have paid, and answering passenger inquiries. The conductor may also make announcements, allowing the driver to focus on driving the train.
On passenger trains, train conductors assist passengers with questions, inspect travel documents and tickets, confirm that trains are clean and sanitary, and perform routine safety checks. Before the train sets out, it is inspected by a conductor, and train conductors may also check doors and windows while the train is in motion, direct the addition or removal of cars, and watch out for safety hazards. For train conductor jobs on passenger trains, it helps to have customer service experience and to enjoy working with the public, and to be willing to spend time away from home if the train has long haul routes.
Freight train conductor jobs do not involve as much public interaction. Like the conductors of passenger trains, these train conductors are responsible for keeping the train safe, and they are likewise concerned with keeping trains on time, communicating with dispatchers along the way, and coordinating the movement of freight.
Someone who wants to be a train conductor should look at job listings with railroad authorities. Being willing to relocate can be helpful, as local railways may not have openings, but other companies around the country may be hiring.