Yardmasters oversee railyard operations to ensure that they run smoothly and safely. This work can sometimes necessitate long, irregular hours, especially if you work at a busy railyard that operates outside of normal business hours. Yardmasters may also be required to travel for work or relocate in order to pursue new opportunities. Although this is not the case in all areas, rail work usually comes with excellent benefits and pay.
The trainmaster is in charge of coordinating train movement in and out of the yard, as well as establishing schedules and making necessary adjustments in the event of accidents, late trains, or other events. Yardmasters are in charge of the yard’s operations. Trains can be turned around, loading and unloading activities are supervised, signal and switching systems are checked, and so on. They are in charge of crews that vary in size depending on how many trains a yard serves in a given day.
Communication is an important aspect of this job. To stay coordinated throughout the shift, yardmasters and trainmasters must maintain constant communication. Yardmasters must be aware of when trains are coming in, and the trainmaster must be aware that the tracks are clear and ready for use. Failure to communicate can lead to problems like blocked tracks and injuries. Injury is a serious risk in railyards, even with careful coordination, because employees work with large, heavy equipment in crowded, sometimes hectic conditions.
Yardmasters must be on duty at all times when trains are running. Because trains from various locations move through the yard, stop, load and unload, or switch tracks, this could be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at a freight or passenger hub. Shifts can happen at odd hours, and the unfavorable shifts at night are usually given to newer, less-experienced employees.
A person with yardmaster experience can apply to work in other yards after receiving sufficient training. This is recommended for those looking to advance their careers and gain access to better jobs, higher-paying positions, and more challenging work environments. Excellent references are usually required, and union membership may be required to work at some yards.
A high school diploma is typically required to work as a yardmaster. In most cases, additional education is not required. Instead, under the supervision of experienced personnel, the yardmaster learns on the job. As he or she gains professional experience and skills, he or she may be able to become more self-sufficient and progress to a supervisory position, eventually working on his or her own. To become fully qualified, especially in a busy hub, it can take several years.