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Short Line Railroads

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Short line railroads, which are run for tourists and/or railroad buffs, operate in various parts of the country. Probably the two best known are the Mount Washington and the Pikes Peak cog railways. These are seasonal operations that employ about two dozen men and women each. Many of them are college students interested in learning about railroading and earning money for their education. In addition, there are numerous restored rail lines over which steam or diesel power pulls a wide variety of equipment ranging from antique passenger cars to refurbished commuter coaches.

Most of the miniature roads are staffed by railroad buffs who work for the fun of it, but jobs on such lines provide experience as well as an opportunity to learn whether railroading is for you. If interested, write to your state public utility commission for a list of such railroads and inquire about employment opportunities as early as possible.

What is undoubtedly the nation's most unusual railroad operates through the world's third longest railroad tunnel. The Henderson mine produces molybdenum ore some 5,000 feet and more below the Peak of Red Mountain just east of the Continental Divide in Colorado. A short line railroad takes the ore from the mine.

The double track road starts deep within the mine at 7,500 feet above sea level where the ore cars are loaded. The electric powered trains proceed through the 9.6 mile tunnel to the portal where the tracks extend another 4.8 miles on the surface to the processing plant. Electric locomotives are at each end of a train, and with two more in the middle, they can power thirty ore cars. A round trip requires a little over an hour and a half.

About 1,900 men and women are employed at the mine, which operates on a seven day, around the clock schedule. Although there are numerous job opportunities in a variety of areas, those involved in transportation are quite limited.


Railroads employ about 82 percent of all railroad workers according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The balance works for local transit companies and manufacturing and mining companies that operate their own railroad equipment. According to 1994 estimated figures, employment consisted of the following: brake operators, 19,000; conductors, 26,000; locomotive engineers, 22,000 and yard engineers and dinky operators, 6,000.

Employment of transit (bus, street car, and subway) workers is expected to grow faster than the average as cities expand or build new transit systems. On the other hand all occupations in railroad transportation are expected to decline through the year 2005.

The once familiar sight of a veteran engineer leaning out the cab window, hand on the throttle and eyes straining ahead to see the next signal, inspired many a child to become a locomotive engineer. Then airplane pilots replaced steam locomotive engineers as heroes for young boys. The advent of the diesel locomotive further eroded the romantic appeal of railroading. Nevertheless, the haunting train whistle echoing through the valley to the pounding of the heavy driving wheels is not altogether gone.

Equal employment opportunity means that now you can look up at the cab of a speeding diesel and possibly see a woman at the throttle. Today, railroading is open to everyone, and though the nostalgia of the old steam engine is gone, some young people are attracted to the prospect of running diesel and electric engines.

Many look with equal enthusiasm at the career possibilities that exist elsewhere in railroad companies. Let's see what employment opportunities there may be for you in the three principal divisions of a railroad. Space limitations make it necessary to sketch the positions briefly.


Railroads are no different from other industries that require a wide variety of clerical and other office personnel. Accordingly you will find tire usual secretaries and clerks performing specialized duties. Then there are employees working in the advertising, computer, labor relations, legal, personnel, public relations, purchasing, and sales departments. Other specialists are scattered throughout the entire organization.


Making certain that engines, freight and passenger cars, as well as tracks, signals, and communications equipment are in perfect working order is the responsibility of this division. Because trains operate around the clock, continuous attention must be paid to every part of the operation.

Included among the specialized jobs in this division is that of car repairer. That person may be assigned to check rolling stock as it comes into a terminal or work in the repair shop performing necessary maintenance or major overhauls. Mechanics are assigned to diesel engines and other motorized equipment while electricians repair and service electrical equipment in locomotives and cars. They also work on air conditioners and other electrical apparatuses. A variety of skilled workers make repairs on motors, and engine and car frames; replace parts such as fuel lines, air hoses, valves, and wheels or rebuild engine transmissions.

Out on the right of way, gangs of workers replace rails and ties and tamp down ballast to keep tracks in top condition. Others repair and paint bridges, clean culverts, and dig ditches alongside the roadbed. Much of this work is now performed by intricate machinery, which decreases the need for the large section gangs. Some employees are required to operate the machines, however.
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