Railroad Fireman

Keep trains running smoothly and fuel flowing as a fireman oiler.
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Quick Stats


Salary Range
$24,000 – $76,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor


What do Railroad Firemen do?

The Railroad Fireman’s job is one from a bygone age, but it has maintained its life to this day in the spirit of its devotees. Originally, the term “Railroad Fireman” referred to the train crewman who shoveled coal into the furnace and tended the boiler on an old-fashioned steam locomotive. In some ways more important than the Engineer, the Railroad Fireman was responsible for making sure that the train had the power necessary to negotiate hills and turns, and most of all, didn’t explode.

In this modern era, there are few steam trains left on the tracks, except on “heritage railways.” However, the Railroad Fireman (sometimes called a “Fireman Oiler”) still has a home inside the diesel train. In this role, you’re still responsible for the fuel needs of the train, and maintaining the locomotive and related railroad facilities. You check the locomotive oil, fill sand buckets, and do other tasks as needed to ensure the proper and safe functioning of the locomotive.

An eye for detail, proficiency with mechanical devices, and the ability to follow schedules and directions well are important to this job. A 40-hour workweek is a typical starting point, but when there’s extra work to be done, be prepared to jump in with overtime.

Rail work is challenging and dynamic. Many Railroad Firemen are employed on freight lines, which means that shifts can be unpredictable. However, those employed at regional depots and along commuter lines may have more regular work schedules.

Teamwork is essential in the railroad industry as well. You need to communicate well with your teammates, especially Engineers who are working with the same locomotives. If they notice performance issues, you can work together towards resolving them. The Railroad Fireman is alive and well to this day, keeping the rails running smoothly and efficiently, and you can be a part of it.


Should I be a Railroad Fireman?

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: Fireman Oiler, Railroad Firer/Fireman, Relay Motorman, Road-Freight Firer, Road-Passenger Firer

    How to become a Railroad Fireman

    Most Railroad Firemen 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:9haaaa&chl=no+college+%2865%25%29|certificate+%2835%25%29||||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,65,65
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