Conductor (Episode 95)
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Conductor (Episode 95)

August 12, 2019


Our next guest plays a crucial role in railway operations and maintaining safety in and around the train at all times. Let’s meet the train conductor. Hi, I am Viviana. Hi. Chantelle. Nice to meet you. Would you like to take a tour? I would. Let’s go. My name is Chantelle Doucet and I’m a conductor and locomotive engineer in Port Coquitlam. The conductor is responsible for the safe operation of trains. They don’t drive the train, but they’re involved with making sure it gets over the road safely. You’re switching out boxcars, aligning switches, putting cars in different tracks, marshalling them into the proper order for trains that will go to various destinations across the country. When you start, you’re going to meet up with your helper and your engineer. So, there’s two conductors and the engineer. And then the tower. Someone in the tower is going to give you a switch list, which tells you which cars need to be moved from what tracks to another track. And then you’ll go and get your locomotive and go start switching the cars out. I got started with the job because my uncle was an engineer and I had three generations previous to me working as railroaders. I knew I wanted a lifelong career. So what’s in that? That’s for transporting automobiles, but we transport all different types of stuff. All across Canada, right?
Yeah. We have three types of shifts—there’s yard shifts, which are set schedules usually eight hours. They stay in the yard. And then there’s Road Switchers, they’re also a set schedule five days a week for two days off. And they can be up to ten hours and you’ll take trains about…within 50 miles of your home terminal and you’re delivering cars to customers or interchanges with other railways. And then there’s freight, which is—you’re on call 24/7 and you could be gone for up to 24 hours. So you take the train 100 miles in one direction, and then you trade off with another crew who takes it another hundred miles and this continues on until the train gets to its destination. There’s short college courses available too, to get you ready for the career. Once you’re hired by the company, you’ll be put through six months of training in the classroom and on job training. The advantage of taking these college courses is to make sure it’s something you’re interested in and give you an idea of what the job is all about. The conductor will be on the ground and sometimes they can be up to a mile away from me. So, that’s why radios come into play, but if you can see your locomotive engineer and he can see you, visibly, then we’d like to switch by hand signals. And what’s the favourite part of the job? My favourite part is probably working with all the great people.
Nice. A lot of conductors, after they’ve been working for a long time, take the promotion of becoming an engineer and then they’ll work as both. To become a locomotive engineer there’s another six months of on job training and classroom work, too. As a conductor, you’re always working with your hands, throwing switches, aligning switches, climbing ladders, applying hand brakes, I have to turn a wheel to tighten up a chain that applies the brakes to the car. When you’re in the train yard, there’s lots of different trains moving around the yard. All the tracks are live. You need to be aware of your surroundings and very alert. So what kind of advice would you give to somebody who’s thinking about becoming a conductor? Well, it’s really great if you like variety— every day is different, but it’s a very different lifestyle— not your average nine to five job, that’s for sure. I can only imagine. Well, thanks so much for showing me around today.
No problem. Anytime. Once again, this is Career Trek and I’m Viviana reminding you that this career could be yours. See you next time.

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