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Details for Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators


Lay, repair, and maintain track for standard or narrow-gauge railroad equipment used in regular railroad service or in plant yards, quarries, sand and gravel pits, and mines. Includes ballast cleaning machine operators and road bed tamping machine operators.


  • Repair and adjust track switches, using wrenches and replacement parts.
  • Clean and make minor repairs to machines and equipment.
  • Spray ties, fishplates, and joints with oil to protect them from weathering.
  • String and attach wire-guidelines machine to rails so that tracks or rails can be aligned or leveled.
  • Turn wheels of machines, using lever controls, to adjust guidelines for track alignments and grades, following specifications.
  • Clean tracks, and clear ice and snow from tracks and switch boxes.
  • Lubricate machines, change oil, and fill hydraulic reservoirs to specified levels.
  • Paint railroad signs, such as speed limits and gate-crossing warnings.
  • Patrol assigned track sections so that damaged or broken track can be located and reported.
  • Adjust controls of machines that spread, shape, raise, level, and align track, according to specifications.
  • Clean, grade, and level ballast on railroad tracks.
  • Cut rails to specified lengths, using rail saws.
  • Dress and reshape worn or damaged railroad switch points and frogs, using portable power grinders.
  • Drill holes through rails, tie plates, and fishplates for insertion of bolts and spikes, using power drills.
  • Drive graders, tamping machines, brooms, and ballast cleaning/spreading machines to redistribute gravel and ballast between rails.
  • Drive vehicles that automatically move and lay tracks or rails over sections of track to be constructed, repaired, or maintained.
  • Engage mechanisms that lay tracks or rails to specified gauges.
  • Grind ends of new or worn rails to attain smooth joints, using portable grinders.
  • Observe leveling indicator arms to verify levelness and alignment of tracks.
  • Operate single- or multiple-head spike driving machines to drive spikes into ties and secure rails.
  • Operate single- or multiple-head spike pullers to pull old spikes from ties.
  • Operate tie-adzing machines to cut ties and permit insertion of fishplates that hold rails.
  • Operate track-wrench machines to tighten or loosen bolts at joints that hold ends of rails together.
  • Push controls to close grasping devices on track or rail sections so that they can be raised or moved.
  • Raise rails, using hydraulic jacks, to allow for tie removal and replacement.


  • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Education, Training, Experience

  • Education - These occupations usually require a high school diploma.
  • Training - Employees in these occupations need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
  • Experience - Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is usually needed. For example, a teller would benefit from experience working directly with the public.


  • Mechanical - Knowledge of machines and tools, including their designs, uses, repair, and maintenance.
  • Building and Construction - Knowledge of materials, methods, and the tools involved in the construction or repair of houses, buildings, or other structures such as highways and roads.


Related Careers

  • Excavating and Loading Machine and Dragline Operators
  • Highway Maintenance Workers
  • Logging Equipment Operators
  • Operating Engineers and Other Construction Equipment Operators
  • Paving, Surfacing, and Tamping Equipment Operators
  • Pile-Driver Operators
  • Shuttle Car Operators
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