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Locomotive Engineer

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What Do Locomotive Engineer Do?

Job Description & Duties Drive electric, diesel-electric, steam, or gas-turbine-electric locomotives to transport passengers or freight. Interpret train orders, electronic or manual signals, and railroad rules and regulations.

Life As a Locomotive Engineer: What Do They Do?

  • Inspect locomotives to verify adequate fuel, sand, water, or other supplies before each run or to check for mechanical problems.
  • Monitor gauges or meters that measure speed, amperage, battery charge, or air pressure in brakelines or in main reservoirs.
  • Receive starting signals from conductors and use controls such as throttles or air brakes to drive electric, diesel-electric, steam, or gas turbine-electric locomotives.
  • Inspect locomotives after runs to detect damaged or defective equipment.
  • Check to ensure that documentation, such as procedure manuals or logbooks, are in the driver’s cab and available for staff use.
  • Drive diesel-electric rail-detector cars to transport rail-flaw-detecting machines over tracks.

Qualities of a Locomotive Engineer

These are the skills Locomotive Engineers say are the most useful in their careers:

Operation and Control: Controlling operations of equipment or systems.

Operation Monitoring: Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Monitoring: Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

  • Rail Car Operator
  • Locomotive Engineer
  • Operator Engineer
  • Narrow Gauge Engineer
  • Trainman

Job Outlook for Locomotive Engineers

In the United States, there were 38,800 jobs for Locomotive Engineer in 2016. There is little to no growth in job opportunities for Locomotive Engineer. There will be an estimated 3,000 positions for Locomotive Engineer per year.


The states with the most job growth for Locomotive Engineer are South Carolina, Arizona, and Texas. Watch out if you plan on working in Louisiana, Oregon, or Minnesota. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

What is the Average Salary of a Locomotive Engineer

The typical yearly salary for Locomotive Engineers is somewhere between $46,200 and $97,890.


Locomotive Engineers who work in Washington, Delaware, or New York, make the highest salaries.

How much do Locomotive Engineers make in different U.S. states?

State Annual Mean Salary
Alabama $64,670
Arizona $66,350
Arkansas $66,410
California $80,330
Delaware $75,030
Florida $62,520
Georgia $56,090
Idaho $60,160
Illinois $71,000
Indiana $59,180
Iowa $68,110
Kansas $69,420
Kentucky $58,160
Maryland $75,270
Massachusetts $74,190
Michigan $65,030
Minnesota $66,340
Missouri $71,260
Montana $64,700
Nebraska $66,760
New Hampshire $45,100
New Jersey $61,310
New Mexico $75,490
New York $77,150
North Carolina $58,670
Ohio $65,400
Oklahoma $51,650
Oregon $58,690
Pennsylvania $71,890
South Carolina $60,420
South Dakota $77,640
Tennessee $70,970
Texas $65,660
Utah $57,290
Virginia $69,990
Washington $85,160
West Virginia $60,730
Wisconsin $63,520
Wyoming $80,610

What Tools do Locomotive Engineers Use?

Below is a list of the types of tools and technologies that Locomotive Engineers may use on a daily basis:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Data entry software
  • Route mapping software
  • Time tracking software
  • Electronic train management systems ETMS

How do I Become a Locomotive Engineer?

Individuals working as a Locomotive Engineer have obtained the following education levels:


What work experience do I need to become a Locomotive Engineer?


Where do Locomotive Engineers Work?


The table below shows some of the most common industries where those employed in this career field work.


Those thinking about becoming a Locomotive Engineer might also be interested in the following careers:


Image Credit: Hic85 via Public Domain

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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