How to Become a Locomotive Engineer
By Ryan Sprout

Job Description:
Locomotive engineers drive and operate trains. They also repair and keep trains running efficiently and effectively. They control the mechanical operations of the engine, speed, handling, and make sure safety laws and plans are followed.

Experience and training:
Most locomotive engineers begin their career path as rail transportation worker. They then receive on-the-job training in order to become a train conductor before they are considered for an engineer position. An engineering position in locomotives requires a federal license in locomotive engineering and the prospective applicant must have graduated from high school or completed their GED.

Locomotive engineers are required to have good hearing, eyesight and color vision. They are also expected to have good hand-eye coordination, manual dexterity, and mechanical knowledge. Prospective applicants must be at least 21 years old. Locomotive engineers generally have unpredictable schedules and the jobs are assigned on short notice and may be at odd hours. You may work hundreds of miles and staying many reoccurring nights away from home.

Average annual salary: $72,000 a year.

For further information, visit the Federal Railroad Association for certification requirements.

What is required
for certification?
The railroad department must evaluate the employee's safety track record. Your employee work records, state and federal motor vehicle operator records, and the employee's compliance with drug and alcohol regulations will be reviewed. You have to meet certain hearing and visual acuity standards and pass a written knowledge test (regulations test) and a skills performance test (to demonstrate skills required to operate a remote control locomotive).

If I was convicted of a DWI four years ago. Will this affect my certification status?

No. The regulation prohibits the railroad from considering information that occurred longer than 36 months from the month in which the certification decision will be made.

If I had my driver's license suspended for speeding. Will this affect my certification status?

No. The railroad is only allowed to consider a conviction or completed state action that resulted in a license suspension for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of or impaired by alcohol or drugs.

This is an ideal job for those who like to travel. As a locomotive engineer, you'll be traveling far away from home and across many states. You'll have to be able to think on your feet and avert disaster if there is a problem with anything on the train. Congratulations for wanting to be apart of America's locomotive backbone!