Freight Conductor

Direct trains in and out of the station.

Quick Stats


Salary Range
$34,000 – $76,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor


What do Freight Conductors do?

If you spent your Saturday mornings playing with toy trains, you’ve begun your training as a Freight Conductor.

A Freight Conductor is responsible for directing traffic on the railyard. As a Freight Conductor, you direct trains as they pull in, showing them where to go to unload. When they’re ready to depart, you direct them to a safe path. You may have written instructions from the Yardmaster, or you may get your orders via cell phone or intercom.

You’re responsible for inspecting trains before they leave the station, making sure that the cars are hooked together properly and that brakes are released. You also fill out paperwork, recording what has come in on the train and what is leaving. Additionally, you help the train crew swap out their cargo and train cars.

Obviously, this isn’t a glamorous position. It’s unlikely that you’ll have pristine coveralls to wear each day. You’ll be standing outside, in all weather conditions, at all times of day. You’ll need to wear protective shoes, safety glasses, and hearing protection. And you can’t go out for drinks after work without changing your clothes first.

But you spend the entire day in the company of trains. You may spend your entire career in one train yard, or you may be asked to fill in at a train yard in another state for a period of time. This can be an exciting way to see the country.

When you begin your career, you’ll likely be working the night shift. This leaves your day free so you can pursue your education, or spend time with your family.


Should I be a Freight Conductor?

You should have a high school degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Logical Thinker: You take a step-by-step approach to analyze information and solve problems.
  • Independent: You enjoy flying solo and doing things your own way.
  • Outside the Box Thinker: Your creative brainpower gets a workout as you come up with innovative ideas.

  • Also known as: Centralized Traffic Control Operator, Conductor, Yard, CTC Operator, Traffic Control Operator

    How to become a Freight Conductor

    Most Freight Conductors have no higher education and get on-the-job training. Think about earning a Certificate to increase your competitiveness in the field. Chart?chd=s:9caaaa&chl=no+college+%2896%25%29|certificate+%284%25%29||||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,96,96
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