From bustling cities to the mountain majesty to the seas’ splendor, train conductors see it all. They’re on the train with you when you’re going through the city or out in the wilderness and they make sure everything runs smoothly. They also deal with a lot of stress.
When a train wreck occurs, it can have catastrophic consequences for the people and natural resources on or near the tracks. Often, a crash is caused by a person or vehicle trying to beat the train, though it can be attributed to many other factors as well.
In general, trains are a much safer mode of transportation than cars or trucks, but the rail system still deals with some dangerous materials like ethanol, chlorine, oil and gas and radioactive waste. Wurst says train conductors are trained to be alert at all times for safety issues and he and other union members are concerned about a potential crash caused by someone trying to beat the train.
On passenger trains, the conductor and engineer make up the operating crew, which stays awake for a single trip before it’s time to exit the train and rest. The rest of the staff is service crew and they sleep in either a sleeping car or crew dorm car on overnight trips, depending on the railroad.
On freight trains, a conductor rides in the caboose with a rear flagman and a rear brakeman and performs their duties from there. But advances in technology and pressure to reduce costs eventually made the cabooses obsolete on most freight trains, and now most long-distance freight train operations feature a two-person crew.