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Author Topic: Amtrak Locomotive Engineer
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Would the job of Engineer be too hard for someone with no railroad experience? I actually think I'm intelligent enough to do the job once trained(don't mean to brag lol). What is the job actually like? I know the hours in the beginning are rough with being on-call and working overnight a lot.
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I am guessing that an engineer job would require some kind of engineer certification/training program and experience at a lower level at first. I forgot its name, but every month in Trains magazine, there is an ad for some locomotive engineer training program, I believe, somewhere in California. Not sure what the training involves, but I know it is more than a 6-week "easy refresher" course.......

Of course you will DEFINITELY have to join the Brotherhood of Railway Engineers Union, or whatever it's called.

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mlb9553 ---

I am not a locomotive engineer, nor have I ever been one. That having been said, I can share what I have learned from reading what locomotive engineers have written on various forums.

You are required to work up to 12 hours on duty. If you run commute trains for Amtrak, you should at least have a predictable schedule, but you might also end up working a "split shift", where you go on duty early in the morning, and are off duty for a minimum of 4 hours (probably not longer than that) in the middle of the day, and then you work the rest of your 12 hours on duty -- which makes for a very long day -- easily 16 hours or more from the time you show up at work until the time you go off duty.

Oh -- and if your part of the Amtrak run is scheduled to take 6 hours or less, you will be running the locomotive alone, with no one else in the cab with you -- the "lonely cab" rule.

And also if you work the commutes, you will also have to spend half your time in a cab car.

If you work only long-distance trains, you will not work in a cab car. But you may be in the "lonely cab" situation.

Another huge drawback to being a locomotive engineer for Amtrak on the commutes is that you will inevitably hit and kill people with your locomotive -- and there will be nothing you can do to prevent that. I know of no other job where being unable to prevent your machine from hitting and killing people is an almost inevitable part of the job.

Other than that, I have heard that most folks love being locomotive engineers. There is nothing like it in the world. Really!

Also -- as a railroad operating employee, you will be covered under the Railroad Retirement Board, which currently pays pretty good retirement benefits, all of which are paid for by the railroad and the employees, not the taxpayers.

Just please go into it with your eyes open about the realities of the job.


The union is either the UTU, the United Transportation Union, or the BLET, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainman.

That RR training facility you are referring to used to be in in northern California. It is the Modoc Railroad, and is now in Marion, Illinois. It is very expensive: the full 20-week training course for a locomotive engineer costs $21,000 -- and you must be a conductor, either by taking and passing their own conductor class ($8,000 for an 8-week class) or already a conductor for a railroad. And Modoc Railroad no longer accepts state or federal employment or re-training grants.

I have no knowledge of what Amtrak's current minimum hiring requirements are for prospective locomotive engineers. I wonder if going to the Modoc RR would be worth the time and money.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Of interest, the Agreement position on Amtrak property with a job description of operating railroad locomotives is titled Passenger Engineer:


Why; I know not.

Finally, regarding the several railroad academies out there, their value has been questionable at several railroad employment forums even before the "bang for the buck" of any higher education program/institution has been publicly questioned as is the case today. All Class I properties and passenger rail agencies have their own "Chu-Chu U's".

Posts: 9390 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Amtrak tends to "hire from the ranks." Which means it might be helpful to you to take ANY Amtrak job you can work your way into, where once you have established a good work record; coming to work on time, no discipline, etc. you can apply for the Operating Dept positions if and when they are posted. Many Amtk engineers have worked various other crafts before moving up. Such as On Board Service or assistant conductor. There have been times when they have hired engineers "off the street." But that scenario is fairly rare. Good luck - hope this helps. If you can get in, it will probably be the best job you ever have. Not everyone passes the course, by the way. Generally, if that happens, you are permitted to return to your original position, if you had one with the Company. Another option is look at the freight railroad job postings. Expect odd hours and working on call, on major holidays, etc. Amtrak frequently will hire engrs with this background. Consider the commuter agencies as well and be prepared to relocate.
Posts: 588 | From: East San Diego County, CA | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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