What does a Rail Yard Engineer, Dinkey Operator, and Hostler do?

Drive switching or other locomotive or dinkey engines within railroad yard, industrial plant, quarry, construction project, or similar location.

Jobs Roles

  • Confer with conductors and other workers via radiotelephones or computers to exchange switching information.
  • Signal crew members for movement of engines or trains, using lanterns, hand signals, radios, or telephones.
  • Observe and respond to wayside and cab signals, including color light signals, position signals, torpedoes, flags, and hot box detectors.
  • Drive engines within railroad yards or other establishments to couple, uncouple, or switch railroad cars.
  • Inspect engines before and after use to ensure proper operation.
  • Apply and release hand brakes.
  • Read switching instructions and daily car schedules to determine work to be performed, or receive orders from yard conductors.
  • Inspect the condition of stationary trains, rolling stock, and equipment.
  • Observe water levels and oil, air, and steam pressure gauges to ensure proper operation of equipment.
  • Spot cars for loading and unloading at customer locations.
  • Inspect track for defects such as broken rails and switch malfunctions.
  • Ride on moving cars by holding onto grab irons and standing on ladder steps.
  • Operate track switches, derails, automatic switches, and retarders to change routing of train or cars.
  • Receive, relay, and act upon instructions and inquiries from train operations and customer service center personnel.
  • Couple and uncouple air hoses and electrical connections between cars.
  • Report arrival and departure times, train delays, work order completion, and time on duty.
  • Pull knuckles to open them for coupling.
  • Provide assistance in aligning drawbars, using available equipment to lift, pull, or push on the drawbars.
  • Drive locomotives to and from various stations in roundhouses to have locomotives cleaned, serviced, repaired, or supplied.
  • Record numbers of cars available, numbers of cars sent to repair stations, and types of service needed.
  • Perform routine repair and maintenance duties.
  • Operate and control dinkey engines to transport and shunt cars at industrial or mine sites.
  • Operate flatcars equipped with derricks or railcars to transport personnel or equipment.
  • Provide assistance in the installation or repair of rails and ties.
  • Operate switching diesel engines to switch railroad cars, using remote controls.
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