Do you yearn to throw on a train driver's hat and pull the whistle as you roll down the tracks? Although there are few places you can drive a classic steam engine in the 2000s, opportunities for female train operators are growing as train companies increase their gender diversity. Various private organizations, as well as government-run train systems, are investing in female power.
You Need Skills
To work as a train driver, you have to keep an eye on operations -- including mechanical gauges and environmental conditions -- while looking out for potential safety problems. Engineers also need sharp ears, to follow the instructions and advisement of conductors and train yard managers. Problem-solving and decision-making skills are vital, as your passengers and co-workers place their safety in your hands on every trip. When problems occur, you'll have to take care of them quickly and correctly, to prevent injuries and damage.
Operating the Train
Train drivers manage and control the train. It's your responsibility to get your passengers -- and freight -- from one spot to the next safely. You have to be alert, to monitor track signals and always be in touch with instructions from conductors. You'll keep your eye on the gauges and ensure that every aspect of the train is in working order. You also must look far ahead for obstructions on the tracks, and pay attention at switching points -- you really don't want to find yourself on the wrong track.
Maintaining the Train
Train engineers also have some responsibility for the mechanical safety of their locomotives. You'll regularly check the train for correct fuel and liquid amounts. You'll monitor the train's braking system and pay attention to the train's movement. When you encounter problems, you must speedily notify the company's mechanical engineers. Problems can occur while the train is in operation, so be prepared to make quick decisions to keep your passengers safe.
Where to Work
There are numerous rail transportation employers in the U.S. Amtrak is the federally run passenger train service, utilizing above-ground train tracks. Working as an Amtrak operator can take you across the entire country. Many metropolitan areas also operate public transportation railway systems, moving above and underground. According to a 2013 CNN article, the Washington, D.C., metro system services 5 million passengers a day. While working as a subway train driver will not take you on a sightseeing adventure, you'll provide a valuable service to the public. You can also work for numerous private rail companies, like Union Pacific and Chessie Seaboard Multiplier Railroad, carrying vital freight across the country. You may even try for a tour train driver job, soaking up the sun on the Conch Tour Train in Key West, Florida, or enjoying the mountain views on the Last Chance Tour Train in Helena, Montana.
Becoming a Driver
Train engineers have at least a high school education or GED. Most rail transportation companies give extensive on-the-job training programs for newly hired operators. The employment site Railroadjobs.com states that engineers generally start in entry-level positions within the company. But women can get places -- in fact, according to "Long Island Newsday," Victoria Trepicione was the most senior engineer on New York's Long Island Railroad in 2011. Contact companies to inquire about any gender diversity programs, which may help your advancement. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary for train drivers at $46,630 per year. The job outlook is slow, at 4 percent growth between 2010 and 2020, which is partly because of limited track building.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Train Engineers and Operators Do
- Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority: Female Engineers Offer Change of Pace to Regional Rails
- Union Pacific: Past and Present Railroad Job Descriptions
- Union Pacific: Union Pacific Railroad Named 2013 Best Diversity Company
- Railroad Jobs: Railroad Engineer Jobs
- CNN: DC Metro System Fast Facts
- Conch Tour Train: The World Famous Conch Tour Train in Key West
- Last Chance Tours: It’s the Fun Way to See Beautiful and Historic Helena, Montana!
- Long Island Newsday: Woman Tops Engineer's Seniority List at LIRR
- Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority: Who We Are
- Zedcor Wholly Owned/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images