• Engineers: In your opinion, what makes a good conductor??

  • General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.
General discussion about railroad operations, related facilities, maps, and other resources.

Moderator: Robert Paniagua

  by Blackjack
OK fellas, here's a question for you engineers out there (and veteran conductors too...)

I'm a rather new cndr on a shortline. I'm the type of guy that wants to eventually be really good (and safe) at what I do. So I'm very interested in hearing your advice on what makes an excellent conductor. Some things I know are automatic...like clear hand/radio signals, and not insulting your intelligence by counting you down for a hitch when it's the cab end of a light unit :wink:

Picked up some interesting pointers from other threads...like always turning the radio down or off when coming back in the cab etc. I'm hoping that heeding good advice like this will help me make freinds and slowly gain the respect of the veterans.

  by DutchRailnut
any awake one ;-)

  by Jtgshu
Ironcially, tomorrow will be the last day I Conduct before I enter Loco engineer school, ill remember this post in 17 months when I get out of ChooChooU and on my own!

Ive been told im a very good conductor, and although I work in passenger service, there are some similarities. First is, lower your radio when enternig his cab. (unless you are trying to get the attention of a sleeping/lazy/wandering dispatcher) I think of it this way, "my train, the engineer's cab" - remember that, and respect it (if you smoke, ask him if he does, and if he minds if you light up, etc)

Don't try to screw the engineer all the time, spread out the "screwing." Sometimes the engineer will have it tough, sometimes the rearbrake will have it tough, sometimes the conductor will have it tough - it will earn the respect of your whole crew.

DON'T start the "im the Conductor, thats why" Talk out moves, ask his (or her's of course) opinion adn what he thinks - include him, but that doesn't mean you always have to do what he says or recommends, but at least listen to his ideas, if he offers any.

Be a little pro-active - anticipicate what MIGHT happen, and when it does, you won't be surprised and you will be prepared already and not surprised. Listen to the radio, and what is going on with other trains in the area - if other trians are copying Form D's (or train orders, or whatever your railroad calls them) and you are approaching that area, get out your Form D book and be prepared. And NEVER forget instances you have encountered in teh past, and remember them ad what you did right and wrong, then.

last, but not least, IMO, ask the engineer questions - intelligent quesitons, about moves, operations, equipment, etc. Show that you are eager to learn and understand and he will help you out and at times, ask YOU questions, if he knows that you know something he doesn't.

Of course, this all depends on the individual engineer's personalities, and some won't wanna talk to you, some, no matter how hard you try, what you do, won't like you for the simple fact you are a Conductor. Some will make you decide EVERYTHING - "because YOU'RE the conductor" - just go with the flow, thats the best thing you can do.

  by jg greenwood
I'm speaking strictly from freight experience only.
1. Make every attempt to stay awake.
2. Whenever you set-out, pick-up, give him the new totals, length especially.
3. Don't "shy away" from using the radio. By that I mean it's your job, when you're on the engine that is, to do the radio work.
4. Be considerate with your over-head light. Use it only when you need it and remember to turn it off when you exit the engine. If you need to keep it on for an extended period, make a shade out of a sheet of paper and tape it in place. Band-aids in crew-packs are perfect for this if you have no tape.
5. Try to ensure the door is closed when you exit the engine. Yes, I know, we're a bunch of pansies! :wink:
6. Carry his grip to/from the engine. :-D Nah, just joking on this one.

The fact that you care enough to ask tells me you'll do well.

  by Chris_S68
And don't forget to set the handbrake on the engine when going to beans or tying up. :wink:

  by BlackDog
Try to stay awake and aware of where you are and what's going on around you. most engineers hate having to recap recent events ("We're stopped here because 340 got a knuckle on the hill and that sulfur train behind him is going to give him a shove.") when every thing you need to know was just spelled out over the radio 5 minutes ago.

Don't whine when you do have to do some work like set out a bad order (this especially applies if you're working raod trains and unit trains.)

After about 2 years you ar going to start thinking that you know what you are doing. YOu don't. That is the most dangerous time, 2 to 4 years IMHO. After 4 years you have made the mistakes and have learned form them.

You have 2 ears but only 1 mouth. Don't try to compensate. BUT...do not be shy when you don't know something, DO ask questions.

The fact that you are asking here and now shows me that you indeed want to learn and that is a good thing. Good luck, and ask away.

  by blippo
Show up to work on time
About using the radio, when giving car counts make sure you press the transmitt button for the whole conversation. Sometimes what you'll hear when making a coupling is, "20 cars to go", "cars to go", "cars to go", "far enough"
1. Big ears and thick skin, esp. since MOST new hires don't get nearly enough training or experience before getting thrown to the wolves.

2. If you can see me, I can most likely see you.....USE HAND SIGNALS and tell me when you're changing from radio to hand signals or vice versa.

3. If you screw up, WE screw up. And vice versa. I'll swing off the other end of the rope with a good Conductor if we're gonna get hung for something.

4. Remember how I like my coffee....and that I bought yesterday!!

5. Stop using the back door of the cab to get out unless you have to. I don't come over and push on the back of your seat trying to get behind it, do I??

  by buddy5050
Be conversational on the radio, i.e, Bring em back 20, does'nt tell me much, where, back 20, lined for the siding, 25 to a bumper and they are all loads, helps me make a much better move.
Excellent point, 5050. A lot of new hires don't realize (or want to realize) that when they are controlling a movement, particularly when shoving, they are in essence running the locomotive via radio or hand signals. I know that's kind of a bad analogy with all the RCO issues these days.....but you get the idea.

  by Blackjack

Many thanks for all the good information. 5050: I see your point regarding shove moves and will certainly heed that advice!

  by GN 599
I had a fairly new conductor last trip, he knew all of the places his cell phone worked but didnt know where the signal overlaps are or how they worked (its an ABS thing). I understand being new is tough but when you dont try its B.S. I think as engineers we are sometimes getting paid to babysit these people. Always try your best, and ask alot of questions and if are you are ever unsure of something make sure you ask someone who knows.

All good stuff, up there. Here's my list of "peeves"

* leaving the door/window open when leaving the cab (unless it's summertime, and we had the door open all along)
*guys who think I don't see the hand signals at night, unless the light is shining into my face. (your lantern has 2 bulbs, for a reason. figure it out, already)
*Guys who say "come on back, 3". 3 what, cars, feet, inches??? What happens after 3, a hitch, falling off the end of a stub track, bouncing over a derail? A little info goes a long way.
*Working on the "blind side". It amazes me, the number of guys who work over there. Why do they thing the angle cocks are on the engineers side, as well as the cut levers? Asking for three step, to make every cut, while you climb over, to my side, to do it, is time consuming, frustrating and potentially dangerous.
*Guys who feel the need, to explain every single move they intend to make, over the next hour or so, complete with car numbers, cut locations, etc. All I'm going to do, is go ahead, back up or stop. I'm not even pretending to listen to your infomercial, on how you intend to do your switching. A very brief chat, about the fact we will be building the train, will suffice. I don't really care WHAT the 41st car in the consist will be.
*YOU are the CNDR, so why do you keep looking at me, to take the track warrants, form-D's, or whatever. By law, I CAN"T do that while running. Sorry to cut short, your phone call to your gal, but we are here to work, after all. While you're at it, an idea of what is in the train (loads/emptys, length and weight) would be helpful, as well as legal.

If you manage these things, as well as what has already been said, you are on your way to greatness. In return for those things, I won't freeze you out, while you are sleeping, by keeping the windows wide open. I will kill the ditch lights, and dim the headlights, when you are out front, so I don't blind you. I will not travel further than your car counts, and I won't crash you into the hitches, or fling you off the side, with uncontrolled slack action. I won't play "cab conductor" all night, second guessing your every move, or telling you how I would do it. I will look out for your safety, and life, as long as you are looking out for mine. We have a saying, that goes "we fly together, we die together". When you mess up, WE mess up, and vice-versa. I won't get you fired, and I would appreciate the same, from you. Last, and certainly most important, WHEN YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT WHAT TO DO, OR ABOUT WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND YOU, <<<STOP>>>, AND ASK. I would rather have 10 job briefings, regarding the same move, than to have 1 investigation, because you "THOUGHT" you knew what was happening. You are already on the right path, by taking the time to ask about such things. Keep it up, and you will be one of the "good" ones, which sadly, seem to be in rather short supply in these "shake and bake" times. Regards :wink:

  by ACLfan
I was listening to dispatcher - train radio communications in Folkston, GA not too long ago, and I heard a conductor get on the radio and ask the CSX dispatcher to please tell the engineer do do what he told him to do.

In response to the very surprised dispatcher's question about what was going on, the conductor responded that the engineer would not listen to him, and he was frustated with the engineer continually ignoring him, and would the dispatcher please tell the engineer to behave himself!

Now that was one burned-out relationship!


  by blippo
A good conductor is one that isn't lazy.