Alaska Railroad hires Brakemen every spring. This year's job posting should go up very soon if it hasn't already. Check the employment section of http://www.alaskarailroad.com
. You have to start as a Brakeman if you want to work as a Conductor or Engineer here. Usually people work for two years as a Brakeman before being promoted to Conductor, although sometimes it happens faster. I was only with the railroad eight months before getting promoted.
The railroad has several terminals. Anchorage is the biggest and from there trains operate everywhere. Fairbanks, Healy, Whittier, and Seward are also terminals, with crews based at all but Whittier. In the summer a crew is also based in Talkeetna for passenger service.
The railroad does run year round, although there is a pretty significant reduction in service in the winter. The freight stays pretty steady throughout the year, but the passenger trains are where the big drop in traffic occurs. In the summer we run about ten to 12 passenger trains per day, while in the winter that number drops to two to three a week. Express freight trains between Anchorage and Fairbanks run both direction, five days a week, year round. Whittier traffic varies depending on the barge schedules, but can be as little as one train a week and as much as five to eight trains a week, it just depends how many barges are coming in. That is true year round. In the summer we run a couple of coal trains per week between Healy and Seward, which continue year round, except for a maintenance break by the coal mine in the spring. In the winter, if the Port of Anchorage freezes up we run additional freight trains between Anchorage and Seward to handle barge traffic that would normally come to Anchorage. The only real summer freight trains we have are the gravel trains, which run as long as the ground is not frozen. Usually there are two to four of those per day, although it really depends on the construction industry. Whenever the state has a major construction project going on somewhere, we run more gravel trains.
Because of the reduction in service in the winter, most people in train service expect to get laid off for the winter for the first several years of employment at Alaska Railroad. Depending on traffic levels, it could be as many as the first ten years, or as little as the first year. That said, the railroad pays well enough during the summer that people who are responsible with their money can usually make enough in the summer to live all year. When that is the case, the seasonal layoff is more like a nice, free vacation! In fact, I usually sell my paid vacation back to the company and just do all my vacationing during the winter when I am off anyway.