Find out what really makes the railroad a success, by learning all about the people involved.
The conductor manages a freight, passenger, streetcar, or other types of train, and directly supervises the train crew, which can include a brakeman, flagman, ticket collector, assistant conductor, and on board service personnel. All crew members work under the conductor. The Conductor, engineer, and additional engine crew members (fireman, head brakeman or apprentices) share responsibility for safe and efficient train operation and for following the rules of the road.
A motorman is the person who operates an electrified trolley car, tram, light rail, or rapid transit train. The term refers to the person who is in charge of the motor (of the electric car) in the same sense as a railroad engineer is in charge of the engine. The term was (and, where still used, is) gender-neutral. Though motormen have historically been male, females in the position (such as in the U.S. during the World Wars) were usually also called motormen as a job title.
A railroad engineer, locomotive engineer, train operator, train driver or engine driver is a person who operates a train on a railroad or railway. The locomotive / railroad engineer is in charge of and responsible for driving the locomotive(s) as well as the mechanical operation of the train, train speed, and all train handling. A good engineer knows his operating territory like the back of his hand – every station, signal, and crossing, every bridge, curve tunnel and tree along the right-of-way.
The fireman and engineer operated a steam locomotive as a team. The fireman managed the output of steam. His boiler had to respond to frequent changes in demand for power, as the train sped up, climbed hills, changed speeds, and stopped at stations. A skilled fireman anticipated changing demand as he fed coal or oil to the firebox and water to the boiler. At the same time, the fireman was the “copilot” of the train who knew the signals, curves, and grade changes as well as the engineer.
The brakeman was a member of a railroad train’s crew responsible for assisting with braking a train when they wanted the train to slow down. A brakeman’s duties also included ensuring that the couplings between cars were properly set, lining track switches, and signaling to the train operators while performing switching operations. The head brakeman rode on the engine, tender or first car, and the rear brakeman rode in the caboose, the last car in the train. In rare cases, such as descending a long, steep grade, brakemen might be assigned to several cars, and be required to operate the brakes while the train was moving from on top of the train! Brakemen were also required to watch the train when it was underway to look for signs of hot box (a dangerous overheating of axle bearings), as well as for people trying to ride the train for free, and cargo shifting or falling off.
The station master was the person in charge of railway stations before the modern age. He would manage the other station employees and, would have responsibility for safety and the efficient running of the station. The term is still sometimes used in large stations, although it has generally been replaced by station manager. The railroad would provide his family with a substantial house and he would be seen as an important person in the community.