BNSF Railroad Brakeman, Signal and Switch Operator The Brakeman, Signal or Switch operator field requires some of the following skills according to www.mynextmove.org: Mechanical: Must have some knowledge of tools and machines, including their uses, maintenance, design and repairs. Transportation: Being able to move around and take people from place to place as specified. Knowing Public Safety and Security: this is very important to the equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions. Customer and Personal Service: knowing how to communicate with both customers and other co-workers. A general job description for this field is to operate railroad track switches, couple or uncouple rolling stock to make up or break up trains, signal engineers by hand or flagging and inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and hand brakes.This job requires these abilities as well: excellent driving record, common mechanical knowledge and customer/personal service.You must be able to learn quickly, and be good at diagnosing problems, have some electical skills, computer skills and always be eager to learn anything new, have far vision-The ability to see details at a distance and auditory attention -The ability to focus on a single source of sound in the presence of other distracting sounds, as described on www.mymajors.com. Other skills such as: control precision, the ability to quickly and repeatedly adjust the controls of a machine or a vehicle to exact positions and multilimb coordination, The ability to coordinate two or more limbs (an example used on onetonline.org, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while sitting, standing, or lying down. It does not involve performing the activities while the whole body is in motion. Near vision —is also important as you need the ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer). Working this job is usually a 40 hour a week job, but can take overtime if asked to. According to BNSF.com, the job will require an applicant to work all over the BNSF Railway division in the Powder River Division, which is a huge territory extending from Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. There is a lot of travel and away time from home during spring, summer and fall and possible layoff during the winter as for the track repairs are not as much during the winter months when it is cold and snowy. The job requires for safety that you are able to pay attention to detail and to watch your co workers as well making sure that they are clear and not standing between the cars when moving them, that the track is not slippery when on it, that communication is working correctly so you are aware of oncoming trains and they are aware of you, wearing proper safety clothing so that you are protected from different things such as safety glasses, proper clothing and proper shoes, all these items help to decrease your chance of getting hurt on the job. As with any job there is always the risk of hazards each varying on the job. Some of the biggest causes of hazards are, chronic crew fatigue, single employee train crews, excessively long and heavy trains, draconian availability policies, short staffing, and limited time off work, all of which work together to create an unsafe work environment and increase the chance of work injury and in some rare cases killed or injured by collisions, derailments, machinery malfunctions, fires and other accidents. Some other required working conditions for these jobs are: Ride atop cars that have been shunted, and turn handwheels to control speeds or stop cars at specified positions, operate locomotives or other rail vehicles, connect air hoses to cars, using wrenches, connect hoses to equipment or machinery, record numbers of cars available, numbers of cars sent to repair stations, and types of service needed, record operational or production data, record service or repair activities, monitor oil, air, and steam pressure gauges, and make sure water levels are adequate, monitor equipment gauges or displays to ensure proper operation, measure the level or depth of water or other liquids, refuel and lubricate engines and maintain locomotives or other rail equipment in good working condition. Today there is over 110,000 working men and women in the railroad brakeman, signal and switch operator field on the railways, as written by AAR and published on www.freighttrailways.org. These jobs are located throughout the United States in almost every state and up into Canada. Some of the major employers in this field are BNSF, Union Pacific,, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National, CSX, Kansas City Southern and Norfolk Southern are the top Class 1 Railways who do the most hiring, but there are shortline Railways who also make up a small percentage of hiring in these fields as well. New hire RR brakemen are usually trained through in-house training programs. Through coursework and hands-on experience, trainees learn to throw railroad switches and couple and uncouple freight cars in rail yards and on main lines. Training programs also covers train timetables, signals, operating regulations and safety. New railroad brakemen gradually assume more responsibilities while working under the guidance of senior brakemen, conductors and engineers. They study track length and various signal systems knowledge of tracks and how signals work is important to a railroad brakeman or switchman, so one should pay attention to those things during training. While the on job training is the best place to get training, others can get a jump start on training for a railroad career according to study.com by attending a railroad school in Overland Park Kansas, the school is specifically designed to help in the training for future railroaders and is where the Class 1 Railways send their employees for additional training as needed. If you are hired on by the railway the training is free, but if you are looking to attend the school to get some training before hiring then Overland Park offers Fast Track courses range from $3,628 to $6,240 and last from four to eight weeks, depending on the training course which is better described on www.railroadjobs.com. Some other qualifications needed include being in good physical condition, the job has a lot of climbing on ladders that are on train cars and operating the hand brakes and must have a high school diploma or a GED. Experience is preferred however will be trained and must be able to pass a background test and a drug test, workers must have good eye site including having colored vision, hearing, manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and mechanical aptitude as described in detail at www.careers.org/occupations . An aptitude test is sent to you by a link to your email once you apply on BNSF.com. When you are hired on with a railway you start at the basics as of any job and learn, you will do the same jobs as any other person who was hired in that craft will be doing, seniority is everything on the railways, so while you may perform the same tasks as the older employers, you will take more of a chance of being laid off first if that was to happen, this happens until you gain enough seniority. There are a few ways to advance in the railway system, the first is to hire on in your field and gain knowledge as you go along, if a position opens up for a upper management you can apply for it then using all the knowledge you gained working the job hands on, the other is to come in as a college graduate in a certain area like mechanical engineering, you would start out at supervisor level with a degree like that behind you according to www.owlguru.com. Once you are hired on as upper management you will go to college in Overland Park, Kansas to train in their management courses, the courses run around eight weeks to complete and are paid for by the railways. Overall railroad employment is expected to decrease by three percent from 2016 to 2026. Decreasing demand for the transportation of bulk commodities, such as oil and coal, this might cause some railroads to have to reduce their employment in an ongoing effort to become better efficient. As more pipelines open up in the oil and natural gas-producing areas, the need for rail transportation in these areas may decline. Furthermore, there are more power plants that are starting to increase their use of natural gas instead of using coal for the production of electricity, which in return is the biggest reason on why the demand for coal has reduced. However, there is to be an expected increase in freight—which is shipping of commodities through multiple transportation modes— which in return may possibly increase the demand for some railway workers. Some big factor on the increase/decrease of work are: weather plays a crucial role within the train system, if areas suffer from fires, floods, huge blizzards then the amount of transportation is down and will affect the work force with less work and layoffs, coal is the railroads biggest export providing more work for more people, when the coal exports are down then the work is down leading to layoffs, freight is important to the railways; however, freight is unpredictable and can lead to variable layoffs due to its inconsistency according to BNSF terminal managers and workers. The starting pay for an entry level worker is listed on www.bls.gov and starts at $45,500 advancing to $54,500 within the first five years. The median pay is $56,570 or $27.20 per hour. Conductor and Engineer are closely related to these jobs and would easily allow a job transfer to these crafts if the position was opening for it. The work learned in these other fields would easily be applied to the Conductor/ Engineer field. The only downfall about transferring your craft is having to start over in seniority. There is a online aptitude test that once you send in your application they send you over a four part aptitude test to take after applying on www.bnsf.com. Once you are hired the pay level will advance the more knowledge one gains on the job. Along with the ability to advance up the ladder to management as you go along, the pay in management is better, but the benefits such as health insurance is not as good. The work conditions are not always favorable in these crafts, the weather is uncertain and you are working outside during this. Rain or snow, you are working out in the elements of the weather which can come in handy when you are trying to job transfer as for the qualifications you learn on these jobs are most generally a requirement in other areas of the railroad and will come in handy when applying for other jobs within the railroad, most of which is needed to work in other areas of the railroad. Such as navigating the trains, throwing switches and hand brakes all while working in different climate changes.