What Is a Railroad Trainmaster?


Railroad trainmasters are responsible for the trains that pass through terminals under their control. Job tasks also include supervising railroad work staff activities. This is a job that demands physical as well as mental stamina to accomplish the various responsibilities associated with it. Expert knowledge of railroad networks and systems and governmental laws concerning railroad safety is essential. Strong communication and people skills and computer knowledge to handle automated line control systems are important.

Overseeing Train Movements

  • Railroad trainmasters ensure that trains reach and depart safely from the terminal. To ensure safety of passengers or cargo within the trains, trainmasters track the train movements prior to its arrival by constantly seeking information from train crew such as yardmasters and train dispatchers.

    Trains arriving at a terminal either take the preset rail route while departing, or move to an assigned rail track for cargo unloading or joining another train. Trainmasters plan these train movements within the terminal. They work in coordination with the yardmaster to ensure that trains get on the right rail lines. They give essential safety instructions to yardmasters, transport engineers and other train crew. Trainmasters interact with personnel either through phones, radio or other channels to relay and receive information.

Supervisory Role

  • Railroad trainmasters monitor tasks of trainmen within their terminal. They ensure that all personnel adhere to federal and state regulations for railroad safety. Trainmasters prepare daily schedules for terminal workers and ensure that they adhere to the set schedule so that work gets done within deadline. Job function may also include recruiting and terminating employees, and monitoring workmen for adherence to behavioral guidelines.

Other Duties

  • Railroad trainmasters inspect terminals regularly and plan essential maintenance tasks to ensure safety of incoming and outgoing trains. They assist the yardmaster in his tasks whenever needed. Trainmasters also prepare necessary paperwork in case of train accidents. They assist government authorities in investigating train accidents to find out the root cause, and in planning better safety policies.

Job Challenges

  • Railroad trainmaster is not a job that comes with fixed hours of work. Job hours are erratic, and trainmasters usually need to put in extra hours, which can be physically tiring. Since the job involves work outside the office environment as well, trainmasters must be prepared to face any weather condition. This is also a mentally straining job given the enormous responsibility of safety it comes with. It can be particularly stressful in cases where trainmasters make safety mistakes that turn costly. Trainmasters should possess the mental stamina to manage such conditions.

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