Work the switches that guide trains to their final destinations.
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Quick Stats

Salary Range
$30,000 – $69,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Switchmen do?

A railroad switch is used at a train intersection. Here, the train can continue going forward, or a switch can be thrown so the train can go on a different set of tracks and move in a different direction. A Switchman is responsible for throwing those switches, and typically works in a railyard, where several lines of track interconnect.

If you worked as a Switchman in the 1850s, you would throw these switches by hand, and they could be quite heavy. Now, you use computers and hydraulic engines to move the switches from one position to another. You may be dealing with several trains and several switches at one time, so you must remember what switches you’ve thrown, and determine where the trains are going.

You get instructions from the Freight Operator, and you must follow those instructions to the letter. Trains are large and difficult to stop, so there’s no margin for error here. You won’t be able to stop and think, or else you might be in for an exciting afternoon full of incident reports and paperwork.

As a Switchman, you may also be required to help set brakes on the train, or help the train’s crew add or remove cars. Your job involves some paperwork as well. You keep track of the trains as they come and go, and provide reports of the switches you’ve thrown and whether or not the trains stayed on schedule as a result of your work. You may also be required to attend safety meetings.

Should I be a Switchman?

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

  • Also known as: Headman, Railroad Switchman, Railway Switchman, Skatesman, Switch Foreman, Switch Tender

    How to become a Switchman

    Most Switchmen 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:9daaaa&chl=no+college+%2894%25%29|certificate+%286%25%29||||&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,94,94
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