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Did you like to play with toy trains and electric models when you were a kid? There’s something so alluring about the power and freedom that they represent, the sheer joy of moving quickly from place to place. The Train Dispatcher takes this love and turns it into a job.
As a Train Dispatcher, you’re in charge of making sure that trains get where they’re going safely and efficiently. Using sophisticated computer systems and communication equipment, you keep the rails running smoothly.
Trains are fast, cost-effective ways to move large numbers of people and goods between points. Unfortunately, the nature of rail travel is such that only one train can occupy a given section of track at any given time. The Train Dispatcher’s primary daily task is to keep trains running safely and on time on unoccupied tracks. It’s like juggling, but with trains.
You have a detailed understanding of your coverage area, knowing where the switches, passes, bridges, and tunnels are. You also know the habits and skills of the various Engineers you work with. Balancing these elements in your head, while always keeping the schedule in mind, forms the basis for how you do your job.
Needless to say, communications skills are the most important thing you need for this job. You’re in constant contact with the trains under your watch, and also work closely with a team of professionals inside the dispatch office. Taking orders from a Supervisor and coordinating your activities with Safety Officers and other personnel are part your daily routine.
There may also be times when you work shifts alone. Most workers in these positions are in a union, meaning wages are usually good and hours are steady. However, overtime during peak traffic seasons or staffing shortages (vacations, etc.) may be necessary.