How Do I Become a Locomotive Firer?

Explore the career requirements for locomotive firers. Get the facts about training requirements, job duties, salary and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Heavy Equipment degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Locomotive Firer?

As assistants to train engineers, locomotive firers look out for hazards and potential safety risks. For instance, they watch the track ahead to look out for obstacles. In addition, they monitor the train's own equipment to make sure that nothing is malfunctioning or dragging behind the train. When any potential safety risk is encountered, they make sure to signal the information the engineer, as well as to other train crew members whose help may be required to implement a solution.

Additional information on what this career entails can be found in the following table.

Training Required Training completed on the job
Key Skills Time management, listening and decision-making skills
Job Growth (2014-2024) 70% decline*
Median Salary (2015) $48,470*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Locomotive Firer?

You'll work side-by-side with the train engineer, alerting him or her to traffic signals and obstacles. You also monitor the gauges and keep an eye out for issues with the train. In emergency situations, you may be required to operate the train. You may carry out inspections of the train, looking for worn parts or other problems. Your duties may also include signaling to yard workers, checking train fuel and water levels and starting the engines to warm them up.

What Are the Working Conditions?

Working for a rail company as a locomotive firer involves spending most of your time outside or on a train. You may have to lift 10 pounds or more on a regular basis. You should be able to see at long distances in low light situations and have good peripheral vision. Much of your time is spent standing and walking. You must wear safety gear such as boots, safety glasses and hearing protection. You'll be exposed to pollution on the job including fumes, dust and gases. Temperature extremes are normal with work environments ranging from -32 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. You'll also be exposed to hazardous situations where accidents involving electricity, explosives and equipment could occur. Your work hours may include weekends, overnights and frequent travel.

What Education and Skills Do I Need?

No formal education is required for a job as a locomotive firer, but employers do require certain skills. You need to have the ability to:

  • Monitor gauges
  • Listen attentively
  • Use logic and reasoning when confronting problems
  • Make quick decisions
  • Manage time well
  • Convey thoughts and ideas clearly

Employers may provide on-the-job training, which typically includes watching others do the job and then being monitored by a supervisor as you perform your job duties. You may also find apprenticeship programs that offer classroom and hands-on training.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Many locomotive firers use their experience working side-by-side with train engineers to advance their careers and become an engineer. Although a high school diploma is the only formal educational credential required, experience and additional training is needed to become a locomotive engineer. Alternatively, you could get another position on a train's crew, such as a conductor. Conductors supervise the loading and unloading of freight and passengers when the train is in the station, and they make announcements about upcoming stops and scheduling changes when the train is between destinations. Conductors must have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent.

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