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Railroad Yardmaster: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Railroad yardmasters require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A railroad yardmaster must have a high school diploma or GED, and may be required to have a commercial driver's license. Mechanical aptitude, strong communication skills, and good hand-eye coordination are all essential skills for these professionals. The ability to pass a background check, drug test and physical fitness exam may also be a requirement for employment.

Essential Information

Railroad yardmasters direct the activities of those who work in rail yards and help commuters and cargo arrive at destinations across the country. Career opportunities may be available with passenger, freight, subway or light rail systems. A high school diploma is sufficient, and yardmasters learn their duties through intensive training programs after they are hired. They need good communication skills, mechanical aptitude and the physical ability to perform what can be a demanding job.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements Formal on-the-job training program; commercial driver's license may be needed
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 2% decline for all conductors and yardmasters
Median Salary (2015)* $55,930 for all conductors and yardmasters

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Railroad Yardmaster Job Description

Railroad yardmasters are responsible for overseeing the operations of a rail yard and assigning duties to workers. These duties may include placing and pulling cars, switching inbound or outbound traffic, reviewing train schedules, moving cars, performing inspections and making repairs. Yardmasters make sure that all cargo and railcars safely reach their intended destinations in a timely fashion. They must be aware of any train or rail problems, and plan alternate routes as necessary.

Railroad Yardmaster Duties

The main duties of a railroad yardmaster are to delegate work, provide directions, and keep records regarding schedules, routes, destinations and cargo content. Communication is conducted using special equipment or hand signals. They also keep engineers informed of route changes, cargo content and schedules, and let them know when to start and stop trains, or change speeds. Railroad yardmasters inform workers when to add or remove railcars, switch tracks or reroute traffic.

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Railroad Yardmaster Requirements

The highest education credential for most railroad yardmasters is a high school diploma or its equivalent, according to O*NET OnLine. Most of the skills can be learned through on-the-job training, and companies may offer formal training programs that can be completed before employment as a railroad yardmaster commences. Training programs consist of both classroom and on-site instruction, and may cover signals, operating rules and timetables.

Railroad yardmasters must have strong communication skills, the ability to make quick and sound judgments, manual dexterity, good hand-eye coordination and mechanical aptitude. They should also have good hearing and vision. Employers may require a drug and alcohol screening, physical examination and background check prior to employment. Since yard workers must sometimes operate heavy vehicles, a commercial driver's license may also be required by employers.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that railroad conductors and yardmasters can expect a two percent decline in jobs from 2014-2024. The site also reports that the median salary for these workers was $55,930 in 2015.

Railroad yardmasters direct the staff working in a rail yard and assign them tasks. Tasks include moving train cars, checking schedules and conducting inspections. It's a railroad yardmaster's job to ensure things run smoothly, that trains depart when they're supposed to, and to communicate relevant information with the engineers and other rail yard staff.

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