Schools For Aspiring Locomotive Engineers: How To Choose

As an aspiring locomotive engineer, you might ponder on schools for aspiring locomotive engineers and how to choose.

A Locomotive Engineer is an engineer that ensures the safe and proper operation of diesel-electric locomotives or trains, in compliance with the latest regulations and protocols. 

In addition, the locomotive engineer interprets train orders or signals and monitors locomotives for proper maintenance.

I will guide you on the various schools for aspiring locomotive engineers and everything that you need to know while making a choice.

Schools For Locomotive Engineers: How To Choose

Locomotive engineers are responsible for operating trains on a regular basis. 

It is their primary duty to ensure that the train is running smoothly and safely at all times.

That means they need to pay close attention to the track ahead of them as well as any signals or other instructions from dispatchers or control towers.

Also, locomotive engineers have to be able to respond quickly in emergency situations incase something goes wrong with the train they’re driving such as if the train runs off the rails or hit another vehicle on the tracks, 

Having said this, you will understand that as a locomotive engineer, you will need to know how to react quickly and effectively to keep passengers safe.

Different Types Of Locomotive Engineer Careers

Below are the different types of locomotive engineer careers such as;

  • Freight Brake Operator

Freight brake operators are responsible for pairing or detaching rolling stock to make up and break up railway lines. 

These types of railroad engineers also show the signal by hand or by flagging engineers. 

They know how to categorize, estimate, recognize differences or similarities and detect changes in situations or events.

They perform physical activities that involve significant use of legs and arms and consider moving their entire body, like walking, lifting, balancing,  stooping, climbing, and material handling etc.

  • Locomotive Firers

Locomotive firers also known as an assistant engineer is part of a train crew, charged with the responsibility of controlling tracks and train equipment. 

A locomotive firer’s primary duty is to evaluate the motor oil, pressure, and temperature gauges.

They are looking for equipment, stumbling blocks on the tracks and other material for safety issues. 

Few trains use firers since locomotive engineers or drivers have automated their work. 

  • Railyard Engineer

Railway yard engineers work inside railway station train engines. To keep trains coordinated and on time they switch locomotives across tracks. 

These types of locomotive engineers often conduct routine maintenance and repair work on locomotives and train cars, support in the fixing of railroad tracks and establish reports on train car quality and train car maintenance status. 

They also deliver and exchange switching information with drivers and other employees.

  • Yardmasters

Yardmasters do similar work, even though they do not travel on trains. 

These types of railroad engineers supervise and coordinate workers’ activities in the rail yard. They inform yard engineers where and how to move cars or load freight to align the planned specification. 

Prior to actually leaving the yard, yardmasters guarantee trains are carrying the appropriate materials.

  • Mechanical Engineer

A mechanical engineer is a technical professional. 

These types of railroad engineers are responsible for supervision of manufacturing processes and other technical staff. 

A mechanical engineer researches, designs and develops equipment, devices and other components of a machine. He or she works with other engineers for successful completion of the project. 

A mechanical engineer is required to travel to manufacturing site or customers’ offices to test the device and improve its efficiency.

Read More: What Is Hydrological Engineering?

Responsibilities Of A Locomotive Engineer

Regardless of what types of a locomotive engineer that you decide to proceed with, you are charged with the utmost responsibility of completing tasks such as:

  • Closely inspect locomotives and undertake regular maintenance services to adjust brakes, change brake shoes, add oil or water, etc.
  • Coordinate with Switchman, Brakeman and Conductor on radiophone, to operate the starting signal and controls like air brakes and throttle.
  • Accurately interpret instructions such as stops, delays, railroad rules and regulations to safely handle the locomotive, on time.
  • Utilize knowledge of the surrounding area such as terrains, curves and grade crossings to provide timely warning signs and ensure the safety of rail cars.
  • Work as the main point of contact for yard workers like Dispatch to issue and receive important information for operating the locomotive.

How To Become A Locomotive Engineer

As an aspiring locomotive engineer, you need at least a minimum of a high school diploma before employment to be a successful locomotive engineer. 

But, getting an associate’s degree or certification is highly recommended in a competitive field, as more employers are expecting specific qualifications. 

Enrolling in such a program involves covering relevant topics like railroad technical skills, history, safety rules and regulations and railroad project planning. 

While other coursework can include business, mathematics, accounting and economics.

In this industry, most employers encourage continuous education and will sometimes pay for any relevant course or educational training as a form of encouragement in order to keep up to date regarding new advances in technology such as high-speed electric trains and to update your skills.

Necessary School Selection Criteria 

Consider the following when looking for locomotive engineer schools:

  • An aspiring Locomotive engineer who wants a comprehensive college education may select a 2-year associate or 4-year bachelor’s degree program in railroad operations that requires general education courses in addition to practical skills training.

Other types of training programs may be much shorter, lasting 1-6 months and providing the minimum training that leads to mandatory licensure by the U.S. 

  • Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

Those interested in becoming locomotive engineers may also seek a program that is affiliated with the industry.

  • Railroad Conductor And Engineer Certificates

Engineer and conductor training certificates can take 1-6 months of part- or full-time study to earn, depending on the program’s academic scope and focus. 

Certificate programs can be found at community colleges or trade schools, or they may be offered in conjunction with professional organizations. 

Curricula are often designed to help the student earn required federal licensure as a locomotive engineer from the FRA. Internships or field experiences are also commonly required.

Schools For Aspiring Locomotive Engineers

Below is a list of the schools for aspiring Locomotive Engineers;

  • Johnson County Community College, overland Park, Kansas

Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS, offers both certificate and associate degree programs in locomotive engineers Careers. 

The duration of the program is 2 years. This is offered in partnership with the National Academy Of Railroad Sciences (NARS).

It consist of more than 50 degree and certificate programs with 

The major courses offered by this college based on this program are railroad history, operations, safety, quality control and conductor service.

  • Bucks County Community College

Founded in 1964 in Newtown, PA. 

Bucks County Community College is a public 2-year educational institution that offers an introductory locomotive training course through its continuing education program. 

This 64-hour program provides you with a basic knowledge so you can seek employment and pursue training opportunities within the industry. 

You’ll study locomotive operations for freight and commuter railroads. It may also allow you to enter a railroad company’s training academy so you can learn how to become a locomotive engineer, conductor or train dispatcher.

  • National Academy Of Railroad Sciences

NARS is an industry leader in providing employee training and certification programs for individuals employed by the U.S. locomotive industry. Programs are available for entry-level and veteran employees. The academy offers on-campus, satellite and online training.

The academy’s locomotive engineering training course covers areas such as general operating skills, locomotive electrical equipment, train handling rules and hazardous material transport. This course provides hands-on simulator training such as block signal simulators, locomotive diesel engines and locomotive air brake racks. This course is open to individuals of all locomotive engineering skill levels.

Other schools that offer locomotive engineers programs includes:

  • Dakota County Technical College, Rosemount, Minnesota

Degree Offered: Certificates

Duration: 2 years

  • Gateway Community College, New Haven Connecticut.

Degree Offered: Associate’s 

Duration: 2 years

  • Penn State Altoona, Altoona Pennsylvania

Degree Offered: Bachelor’s

Duration: 4 years

  • University Of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, illinois.

Degree Offered: Certificate and Masters’

Duration: 4 years

  • Sacramento City College, Sacramento California

Degree Offered: Certificate and Associate’s

Duration: 2 years

  • Michigan Lich Houghton Michigan.

Degree Offered: Minor

Duration: 4 years

  • Carl Sad Bury College, Galesbury, Illinois

Degree Offered: Certificate/Associate’s

Duration: 2 years

Skill Requirements

In order to become a locomotive engineer, there are essential skills which have been looked out for. 

Some of the essential skills are as follows;

  • Attention To Safety

Responding to the case of an emergency like breakdowns by maintaining health and safety protocols and regulations applicable. 

Attention to safety had to do with the step-by-step procedure about how a working operation should really be worked out. 

The safety method is a manual that is built up in the company by individuals. 

Individuals who opt for a career as locomotive engineers follow this guide when they conduct a particular activity.

  • Computer Skills

Computer skills are so essential for everybody in the place of work, starting from manager to an intern. 

Business organizations depend primarily on computer-controlled technology to complete huge quantities of tasks efficiently. 

The electromechanical processes in an electric locomotive with an optimized traction drive, performed using the electric locomotive’s developed computer programme as a regulated electro-mechanical framework. 

Simulations are conducted for the beginning of the locomotive and its motion in segments with decreased conditions of cooperation in the communication.

  • Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is essential as it means that one has to find the right solution to a challenge, and it will eventually save time, money and anxiety. 

Critical thinking is essential because it allows railroad engineers and organizations to analyze issues more effectively and to come up with possible solutions which at first are not entirely apparent.

  • Organizational Skills: 

Organizational skills are those skills  that relate to establishing order and discipline, improving performance, and assigning responsibilities that would need to be accomplished instantly, as compared to something that can be delayed, assigned to some other individual, or removed completely. 

Establishing fundamental organizational professional skills removes needless inefficiency and helps individuals to execute vital job responsibilities efficiently. 

  • Technical Skills

Technical skills are responsible for a variety of purposes. 

Technical skills help railroad engineers perform more efficiently, improve your morale and make you a much more attractive candidate for workplaces. 

Employees with such skill and technique occupying critical and interesting positions often get better at multitasking. 

Technical skills are the required skills and knowledge to perform various functions especially if it relates to mechanical, mathematical, or scientific assignments in information systems. 

  • Physical Strength

Exercise can improve muscular strength and enhance endurance. 

Exercise supplies your muscles with oxygen and nutrients, which makes the blood circulation function more efficiently. And then when you improve your heart and lung wellness, you have far more energy to handle the daily activities. 

Individuals who opt for a career as locomotive engineers need to work for long periods of time in a stretch and they sometimes move heavy equipment so for these reasons candidates need to be physically active and fit.

Read Also: List Of Sound Technician Schools and Colleges

Locomotive Engineers Annual Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Locomotive Engineers can make an average annual salary of $59,360, or $29 per hour. 

On the lower end, they can make $46,650 or $22 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Job Growth Forecast

It is forecasted that by 2024, there will be a change of -900 jobs for a total of 39,500 people employed in this career nationwide. 

This means a -2.2% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate.

Job Opportunities

You can be employed at locomotive engineer roles by private railways businesses and government rail agencies. 

Though, some workers in this industry also find open positions at mining and manufacturing establishments that operate their own locomotives such as Source Energy Services, Canadian Pacific, Trans-Global Solutions, Watco Companies and Amtrak.


Having provided all this information, it is important that you take your time and decide on which locomotive engineer interests you before considering which of the schools listed is good enough for the achievement of your aspirations.

Don’t forget to sign up for more information….

Best of luck!

Leave a Comment