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Education And Training

Conductors need a high school degree or GED. Most railroads will provide training, offering classes and on-the-job experience. Conductors usually start as brake operators and move up to the position of conductor when there is an opening. When they first start they usually do not have a regular schedule. Instead they fill in for other conductors who are out sick or on vacation. Eventually they get a regular schedule.

You do not need any special skills to be a conductor, although you do need to be in good health and have good eyesight. If you want to be a conductor on a passenger train you will need good people skills, so it helps to have some customer service experience.

Baby on the Board

When a conductor begins working for a railroad, he or she becomes the “baby on the board.” He or she is the person with the least number of years working for the railroad and has to “do every kind of railroad work in every location,” says Cindy Angelos, a Milwaukee Road conductor profiled in Railroad Voices. The baby on the board goes wherever there is a shortage and may have to drive far from home every day. Sometimes they are “loaned” to another railroad for a while. Some railroad workers are called “boomers” and they go anywhere in the country they can find work.

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