I decided to make this post because a lot of people often ask, what does a conductor do? How do I become a conductor? How much do conductors make?
Well, here it is. I’ll just dive right in.
What does a conductor do?
Most people think a conductor “drives trains”. That’s not true at all. The locomotive engineer “drives trains”. The conductor is the employee that is responsible for the entire train.
They make sure the paperwork (such as hazardous waybills) is correct. They are responsible for making sure that the train is in the proper order.
They are also the one that is “on the ground” doing the physical work such as operating switches, coupling and uncoupling cars, connecting air hoses etc.
The conductor is the boss. He’s the one that answers the radio when the train dispatcher calls, and he’s the one that comes up with a plan to switch cars.
In the old days, the conductor’s leadership role was more prominent. Nowadays, though a conductor is the “ranking crewmember” of a train, they are almost always a younger, less experienced railroader than the engineer.
This is because in modern times, you hire out as a conductor first. After a few years (depending on your company and location) the railroad sends you to engineer school to become an engineer.
There are also some unwritten rules that are sort of strange, but widely practiced. For example:
The conductor sits in the front seat when riding in a motor vehicle.
The conductor arranges for transportation when called out of the hotel at the away from home terminal.
There are a few others, but they’ve become so natural I can’t remember them. I’ll have to update this later.