Prospective Conductor Looking for Advice is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.


New Member
Hi all,

Within the next two weeks I will be starting a conductor certification course at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota. It is a two month long program that basically certifies you to be a conductor. Before anything, I don't anyone telling me that these types of courses are a waste of time. The college has formed partnerships with Union Pacific, BNSF, Canadian Pacific, and many regional and short lines in the upper Midwest to create the curriculum for the class, meaning the stuff they teach is exactly what the railroads would teach a hired conductor-trainee. The class has a job-placement rate of over 93%, and the tuition is insanely cheap compared to other classes of the same nature I have heard about. I know that this is the right path I need to take if I want to land my dream job as soon as possible.

The first area I would like advice in is what to wear on the job. I found a thread from years ago talking specifically about boots, which led me to go to L&M yesterday to buy a nice pair of Red Wing Irish Setter aluminum toe, water proof, and shock proof boots. I've been wearing those to my current job at the local feed store to break them in and so far I'm loving them. I even take a few strolls out on the ballast adjacent to the building from when the store used to get grain from the railroad. So for boots I think I'm good, but what about gloves and such? Does anyone recommend a certain brand or type of glove for the job? I figure just any good pair of work gloves will do the trick, but I don't know if there's any specialized types out there that work best for railroading. I plan on getting a pair of Carhart bib overalls for when the wretched Minnesota winter kicks in. I know from experience that those are the best choice for getting work done in -60 degree weather and staying warm. Gloves are really the biggest thing I'm looking for advice on, but if there's anything I might be missing that makes the job safer that won't be provided to me, please let me know.

Next is advice on the job interview. I know that the biggest thing they are looking for is safety, so stressing the hell out of that is important. Then experience with heavy equipment and team work, is what I have gathered from reading around is their next priorities. The college course should be a perfect experience for the job, but the best team work experience I've had is football in high school. I was on a closely knit team and we did well because we worked so well as a team, but I'm afraid that will just sound like I'm bragging and am one of those guys that will forever be trying to relive their high school years by being an immature, mistake prone idiot. I don't think that's the way anyone wants to come across to a potential employer for any serious job. But that is the best, most rewarding, and moral-instilling experience I've had so far in my life. Which leads me to my other concern.

If everything goes well I will be 19 years old when I get an interview. I could see that being a big concern for a railroad. I know personally that I am physically and mentally able to do such a job, but the railroad won't. I'm afraid of them being afraid I haven't had enough overall life experience to do a job as demanding as almost any railroad operations job. Not someone a railroad will want to hire. Has anyone else been hired at a very young age or know someone who has? Or know if the railroads really care?

Lastly, my biggest goal I've ever had was to be a locomotive engineer. That's what I've wanted to do my entire life. And obviously, conductors get promoted to be engineers. Is there any way to get that promotion relatively quickly? Or does it just depend on when an engineer retires and there's an opening?

I'm not looking for one person who has an answer or advice to all of this, but anything is appreciated. Especially anything important I may be missing. Thanks for taking the time to read this far. I look forward to any replies :) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section. - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)