Skip navigation

Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators - 53-4021.00

O*NET-SOC Description

Operate railroad track switches. Couple or uncouple rolling stock to make up or break up trains. Signal engineers by hand or flagging. May inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and hand brakes.

Sample of Reported Job Titles

  • Brakeman
  • Carman
  • Locomotive Switch Operator
  • Railroad Brakeman
  • Railroad Switchman
  • Switch Foreman
  • Terminal Carman
  • Trainman
  • Trains Service Conductor
  • Transportation Specialist

SOC Occupation Groups

53-0000 Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
53-4000 Rail Transportation Workers
53-4020 Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators
53-4021.00 Railroad Brake, Signal, and Switch Operators

Related Occupations


  • Adjust controls to regulate air-conditioning, heating, and lighting on trains for comfort of passengers.
  • Answer questions from passengers concerning train rules, stations, and timetable information.
  • Climb ladders to tops of cars to set brakes.
  • Connect air hoses to cars, using wrenches.
  • Inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and handbrakes to ensure that they are securely fastened and functioning properly.
  • Inspect tracks, cars, and engines for defects and to determine service needs, sending engines and cars for repairs as necessary.
  • Make minor repairs to couplings, air hoses, and journal boxes, using hand tools.
  • Monitor oil, air, and steam pressure gauges, and make sure water levels are adequate.
  • Observe signals from other crew members so that work activities can be coordinated.
  • Operate and drive locomotives, diesel switch engines, dinkey engines, flatcars, and railcars in train yards and at industrial sites.
  • Provide passengers with assistance entering and exiting trains.
  • Pull or push track switches to reroute cars.
  • Raise levers to couple and uncouple cars for makeup and breakup of trains.
  • Receive oral or written instructions from yardmasters or yard conductors indicating track assignments and cars to be switched.
  • Record numbers of cars available, numbers of cars sent to repair stations, and types of service needed.
  • Refuel and lubricate engines.
  • Ride atop cars that have been shunted, and turn handwheels to control speeds or stop cars at specified positions.
  • Set flares, flags, lanterns, or torpedoes in front and at rear of trains during emergency stops to warn oncoming trains.
  • Signal locomotive engineers to start or stop trains when coupling or uncoupling cars, using hand signals, lanterns, or radio communication.
  • Watch for and relay traffic signals to start and stop cars during shunting.

Detailed Work Activities

  • Arrange maintenance activities.
  • Assist customers to ensure comfort or safety.
  • Assist passengers during vehicle boarding.
  • Climb ladders or vehicles to perform duties.
  • Connect hoses to equipment or machinery.
  • Control equipment that regulates vehicle traffic.
  • Inspect locomotives or other railroad equipment.
  • Install parts, assemblies, or attachments in transportation or material handling equipment.
  • Maintain locomotives or other rail equipment in good working condition.
  • Measure the level or depth of water or other liquids.
  • Monitor equipment gauges or displays to ensure proper operation.
  • Operate locomotives or other rail vehicles.
  • Provide transportation information to passengers or customers.
  • Receive information or instructions for performing work assignments.
  • Record operational or production data.
  • Record service or repair activities.
  • Signal others to coordinate vehicle movement.

Military Crosswalk Titles

  • Cavalry Scout (Army - Enlisted)
  • Railway Specialist (USAR only) (Army - Enlisted)
  • Unit Supply Specialist (Army - Enlisted)
  • Wheeled Vehicle Repairer (Army - Enlisted)

Apprenticeship Crosswalk Titles

No information available.

DOT Crosswalk Titles

  • Brake Coupler, Road Freight
  • Brake Holder
  • Braker, Passenger Train
  • Locomotive Operator Helper
  • Switch Tender
  • Yard Coupler