Locomotive engineers may be employed by passenger lines or freight lines. They may work for one of the major railroads, such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, Norfolk Southern Corporation, or CSX Corporation, or they may work for one of the more than 500 smaller short-line railroads across the country. Many of the passenger lines today are commuter lines located near large metropolitan areas. Locomotive engineers who work for freight lines may work in a rural or an urban area and travel more extensively than the shorter, daily commuter routes that passenger locomotive engineers travel. There are approximately 32,200 locomotive engineers employed in the United States.
The only way to become a locomotive engineer is to start at a lower level and work up to the position. For many railroads, union/railroad agreements dictate the specific steps required to become a locomotive engineer; many locomotive engineers started out as conductors. To find an entry-level job with a railroad, aspiring engineers should apply directly to railroad employment offices, as well as to state employment offices.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen maintains lob listings on its Web site (https://www.ble-t.org/jobbank/).
When engineers first begin their careers, they are placed on the "extra board." Extra board engineers work only when the railroad needs substitutes for regular workers. They often have to work many years in this capacity before they accumulate enough seniority to get a regular assignment. Seniority rules may also allow workers with more years spent on the job to select the type of assignment they desire. It is possible for an experienced engineer to advance into a supervisory position, such as supervisor of engines of the road, but the number of such positions is small.
Tips for Entry
Contact railroads directly to learn about job openings. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen maintains lob listings on its Web site (https://www.ble-t.org/jobbank/).
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Read Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen News (https://www.ble-t.org/pr/journal) to learn more about the field.