Train engineers are responsible for operating a variety of locomotive engines: They may drive supplied electric, steam, diesel-electric, magnetic levitation, battery powered, or gas-turbine-powered locomotives. These locomotives might transport anything from passengers to freight.
Safety is an important part of the train engineer' job. Trains generally need to be inspected before each trip to ensure that they are in good condition. The train and the condition of the track will also be monitored during a trip. Any problems on the track are usually communicated to rail dispatchers and rail inspectors.
Train engineers are also responsible for keeping a trip on schedule. They operate the controls while the train is in transit. Train engineers operate the throttle at the appropriate speed for their location and track conditions. They also operate the air brakes and must be familiar with weight to speed ratios to be able stop a train on time.
Train engineers work in a variety of locations. Some engineers go on cross-country or regional trips while other engineers work in rail yards. They position locomotives, transfer rail cars to different tracks, and add and remove cars from other trains. Other engineers do a similar job at manufacturing facilities: These engineers move rail cars that contain the raw materials for production, and cars that contain the finished product. Other engineers operate special engines that grade gravel and repair track. Train engineers might also drive a special engine called a tug that removes broken down engines from the track.
A train engineer needs to be prepared to work in all types of weather conditions. The train and the track will have to be inspected no matter what the conditions are.
Train engineers receive a lot of their training from the company or agency they work for. Most employers prefer to hire engineers with a degree in mechanical or civil engineering.