Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators

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Also known as:
Ballast Cleaning Machine Operator, Rail Maintenance Worker, Railroad Track Mechanic, Track Layer, Track Machine Operator, Track Maintainer, Track Moving Machine Operator, Track Repair Worker, Track Repairer, Track Service Worker

ABOUT TRACK LAYING OR RAIL MAINTENANCE EQUIPMENT OPERATOR CAREERS
Video transcript

No matter how sophisticated modern rail travel can be, the trains still run on rails, so there continue to be jobs for rail track layers. Just as there were in the early days when the railroads opened up America's west. They go wherever on the system they're needed, from the rail yard to an underground tunnel down the line. The rails may also be in plant yards, quarries, sand and gravel pits, and mines. This is an entry-level job in the railroad system, with no previous work-related skill required.

Usually, a high school diploma, physical strength and coordination, and a good sense of responsibility will get you started. Workers with low seniority can expect night and weekend shifts. Sometimes, you're exposed to rain, wind and snow, and overtime might be required, especially during emergencies. After all, you're a part of the nation's rail system. The safety of passengers and the transport of good rely on your careful, constant work.

SNAPSHOT
Lay, repair, and maintain track for standard or narrow-gauge railroad equipment used in regular railroad service or in plant yards, quarries, sand and gravel pits, and mines. Includes ballast cleaning machine operators and railroad bed tamping machine operators.
Leadership
HIGH
Critical decision making
HIGH
Level of responsibilities
HIGH
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
MED
Dealing and handling conflict
LOW
Competition for this position
MED
Communication with others
HIGH
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
HIGH
Comfort of the work setting
LOW
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
HIGH
Exposure to job hazards
LOW
Physical demands
MED
Daily tasks

Grind ends of new or worn rails to attain smooth joints, using portable grinders.

Dress and reshape worn or damaged railroad switch points or frogs, using portable power grinders.

Operate single- or multiple-head spike pullers to pull old spikes from ties.

Clean tracks or clear ice or snow from tracks or switch boxes.

Drill holes through rails, tie plates, or fishplates for insertion of bolts or spikes, using power drills.

Clean, grade, or level ballast on railroad tracks.

Raise rails, using hydraulic jacks, to allow for tie removal and replacement.

Patrol assigned track sections so that damaged or broken track can be located and reported.

Operate track wrenches to tighten or loosen bolts at joints that hold ends of rails together.

Adjust controls of machines that spread, shape, raise, level, or align track, according to specifications.

Repair or adjust track switches, using wrenches and replacement parts.

MAIN ACTIVITIES
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Operating Vehicles, Mechanized Devices, or Equipment Running, maneuvering, navigating, or driving vehicles or mechanized equipment, such as forklifts, passenger vehicles, aircraft, or water craft.
Handling and Moving Objects Using hands and arms in handling, installing, positioning, and moving materials, and manipulating things.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Performing General Physical Activities Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE
Transportation Knowledge of principles and methods for moving people or goods by air, rail, sea, or road, including the relative costs and benefits.
Mechanical Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
Building and Construction Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.
Public Safety and Security Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
Administration and Management Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Engineering and Technology Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
Mathematics Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
TOP SKILLS
Operation and Control Controlling operations of equipment or systems.
Operation Monitoring Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Equipment Maintenance Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
Troubleshooting Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
Monitoring Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Coordination Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
Quality Control Analysis Conducting tests and inspections of products, services, or processes to evaluate quality or performance.