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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.

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.
  • 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.

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.

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, 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, these workers were known as "navvies" or navigators. The term comes from the days of canals, which were known as "eternal navigations".

  • 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.
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