Railroad Track Worker
Railroad Track Worker
Education and Training None
Salary Median—$19.03 per hour
Employment Outlook Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Railroad track workers build, inspect, maintain, and repair more than three hundred thousand miles of railroad track across the country. Working in crews called road gangs, they inspect the rails, railroad ties, and roadbeds for signs of wear. Other crew members then rebuild washed-out roadbeds, replace railroad ties, and lay new sections of rail. They use power equipment, such as spikedriving machines and bulldozers, as well as picks and shovels.
Regular crews maintain the tracks, also called the right-of-way, throughout the year. Extra crews are needed to repair large sections of track at certain times of the year, especially in the northern part of the country. The railroads in the Chicago area employ the greatest number of railroad track workers.
Education and Training Requirements
Applicants should be in good physical condition and know how to read and write. High school diplomas are not required. Track workers learn their skills through on-the-job training programs. Experienced crew members teach trainees proper repair methods and explain the use of such portable equipment as tie-tamping machines.
Getting the Job
Job seekers can apply directly to personnel offices of railroad companies. Job listings and application procedures can be found on railroad and labor union Web sites.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Experienced track workers can advance by becoming skilled in operating the machines used to repair the railroad right-of-way. The most qualified track workers with the highest seniority may become track supervisors who oversee road gangs. High school diplomas or the equivalent may be required for supervisory positions.
Employment of railroad track workers is expected to decline through 2014. More and more repair work can be done by machines, reducing demand for track workers. Openings do occur when experienced crew members retire or leave the field.
Railroad track workers spend most of their days outdoors, exposed to the elements. Some work time may be lost because of poor weather. Occasionally, workers are hurt on the job by power tools and machines, despite safety equipment and stringent safety procedures. The work is physically demanding and requires much stooping and standing.
Some track workers travel to job sites and live in trailers provided by the railroads. They belong to "floating crews." Whether they live at home or in railroad camps, most regular crew members work forty-hour weeks. Some overtime work may be available. Extra crews, on the other hand, work seasonally and may live on unemployment insurance the rest of the year. Many railroad track workers are members of unions.
Where to Go for More Information
Association of American Railroads
50 F St. NW
Washington, DC 20001-1564
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees
20300 Civic Center Dr., Ste. 320
Southfield, MI 48076-4169
United Transportation Union
14600 Detroit Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44107-4250
Earnings and Benefits
In 2004 the median wage of railroad track workers was $19.03 per hour. Workers were paid higher wages for over-time work. Benefits include paid vacations and sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans.