Railroad Employee Roundhouse

This page is for various Railroad-related character types, until they have enough examples to split off into pages of their own.

Railroad Brakeman: Notably remembered for having to walk along the top of the cars and stopping the train by manually turning the braking wheels. The brakeman also handled car couplings and track switches. This was a dangerous job in terms of life and limb, eventually made somewhat safer with the invention of air brakes and automatic couplings. The Railroad Brakeman is the train employee most likely to get into a Traintop Battle.

Railroad Conductor: Also known as a Guard in British-English speaking countries. The manager of a train and its crew, responsible for all areas other than the engine, which is the responsibility of the engineer. He makes sure all the freight is secure, and the train is cleared to move down the track. He signals the engineer when to start and stop the train. On passenger trains, the conductor also announces the route of the train, gives the "all aboard" and collects the passengers' tickets. (On large trains, the collection may be done by an assistant conductor.) While railroads were in their prime in the United States, the conductor traditionally rode in the last car of a train, the caboose. Modern trains have largely made the caboose obsolete, and the conductor is based near the front of the train. For some unfathomable reason, British railways have retired the title in favour of calling them a "train manager" instead. Some countries have one conductor per passenger car and one senior conductor (called "master of the train" in Russia) in charge of the whole train.

Railroad Engineer: The "driver" of a train. He's responsible for the maintenance of the engine, controls its speed, and requires an intimate knowledge of the route and its peculiarities.

  • Perhaps the most famous Real Life engineer is John Luther "Casey" Jones, who was immortalized in song for his death in a crash (but having used his final moments to brake the train, preventing any other fatalities.)
    • And later immortalized in a different song which complained that the train would never have crashed if the railroad had hired union employees instead of that dirty scab Casey Jones. Ironically, the real Casey Jones was a supporter of labor unions; his death was the result of a combination of low visibility, tricky track, confusion about signaling, the train having left Memphis late, and Jones wanting to make a record-breaking run (he'd gone from 85 minutes late to just two minutes short of schedule by the time of the crash).
  • Another famous railroad engineer is the Mexican Jesús García, the Hero of Nacozari. A train full of explosives was on fire, so he drove it away from the town, saving it from impending doom. Of course, he was vaporized.
  • Two famous drivers in Britain are Benjamin Gimbert, who was severely injured in World War II when a wagonload of depth charges caught fire on a freight train as it approached Soham. He uncoupled the wagon (directly behind the engine) from the rest of the train and drove the engine into a cutting. Amazingly, he survived. The other is John Axon, who, on realising his freight train was running away towards a station, stayed on the footplate, trying to stop his train and sounding the whistle in order to clear the station.
  • Dick Simnel, inventor of the steam engine and driver of the Super Prototype Iron Girder in Raising Steam.
  • In Paper Mario, the train is basically just an engine, and the engineer is the only one aboard aside from the passengers.
    • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Mario talks to the engineer of the Excess Express twice: once for his autograph for Bub, and once to find out why the train is so empty on the third day...

Railroad Fireman: Also known as a stoker, he is responsible for keeping the engine fire going properly and regulating the boiler. With the end of the steam era, this position has shifted to duties similar to the co-pilot of a plane, assisting the engineer and observing what's going on outside the train on the opposite side.
  • Stoker Blake, the legendary master of shovel-dueling in Raising Steam. ( Who is actually Lord Vetinari taking a holiday.)

Station Master: Charged with managing train stations. They would manage other station employees like porters and ticket clerks and would be responsible for the safe and efficient running of the station. During the 19th Century they would live in a house near to the station, and in rural communities they would be considered fairly well-to-do. Station masters are increasingly less common with the advent of ticket machines, but "station managers" still exist at large and important stations.
  • Inspector Gustave from both the film and book versions of Hugo is a good fictional example.

Signalman: A fairly important position, because they regulated the movement of trains so they wouldn't crash into each other. In olden days, they would work in a signalbox alongside the tracks, moving levers to operate points and signals. Today, railway signals are mostly automatic and computer-controlled, but rail traffic controllers are still very important.
  • Charles Dickens wrote a short ghost story entitled The Signal-Man which is about the eponymous signalman, his lonely signal box located in an isolated railway cutting, and the supernatural occurrences that happen nearby.

Railroad Laborer: One of the many, many people responsible for building and maintaining the rails of the railroad. The most famous of these is John Henry of man vs. machine contest notoriety. An important subset of these workers were "gandy dancers", groups of men who would realign the rails using metal rods known as "gandys". A substantial number of laborers in The Wild West were from China, and they have their own page at Chinese Laborer. In the United Kingdom, the workers who built the railways were known as "navvies" or navigators. The term comes from the days of canals, which were known as "eternal navigations". The guys who did the maintenance were called "platelayers" after a type of rail used in the very early days of railways.
  • There is a very good description of what the builders did in one of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  • Gordon Lightfoot's Canadian Railroad Trilogy is about building the Trans-Canada Line.
    We are the navvies who work upon the railway
    Swinging our hammers in the bright blazing sun
    Laying down track and building the bridges
    Bending our backs til the railway is done.
  • The hero and his friends are railroad laborers in Blazing Saddles.
  • Various trolls, humans, goblins and at one point gnomes in Raising Steam. The practicalities of building a railroad from scratch are largely glossed over in the novel; the principle seems to be "throw enough labour at the problem and a railway appears", a hundred times faster than comparable construction methods could achieve on Roundworld and with almost none of the unexpected engineering difficulties, financial problems, or gang wars between the labour forces of rival contractors that beset Roundworld railway construction.

Western Union Man: While the WU man does not derive his paycheck from and is not employed by the railroad, in rural areas, his office was often located inside the local railroad depot.
  • Notably, The Station Master and the Signalman often shared the WU man's skillset since some railroads continued to use morse code to communicate with minor outlying checkpoint/signal stations even after WWII.