47-Railway brake, signal and switch operators

Job Title: 

Railway brake, signal and switch operators

Job Description: 

Operate rail network track switches and signals. Couple or uncouple rolling stock to make up or break up trains. May inspect couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and hand brakes.


Railway brakers, signallers and shunters take charge of and safeguard railway freight trains during runs, control the movement of railway traffic by operating signals, switch rolling stock and make up trains in railway yards/facilities, make up trains for hauling in yards or facilities and control their movement. Signal engineers by hand or flagging. Rail network facilities include main tracks, sidings, towers, signals, buildings, fuel/lube, sanding, and water points, workshops, engine houses, communications and information management systems.


Job activities and tasks include:

  • taking charge of and safeguarding freight train during run
  • controlling flow of railway traffic over section of line by operating signals and switches from control panel or signal box
  • switching and coupling rolling stock in railway yards and sidings in accordance with orders about loading, unloading and make-up of trains
  • making up trains for hauling by locomotive or cable and directing their movement along haulage ways in a mine or quarry
  • checking train systems and equipment such as air conditioning and heating systems, brakes and brake hoses prior to train run
  • inspecting couplings, air hoses, journal boxes, and handbrakes to ensure that they are securely fastened and functioning properly
  • raising levers to couple and uncouple cars for makeup and breakup of trains and setting brakes on cars including connecting air hoses to cars
  • receiving oral or written instructions from yardmasters or yard conductors indicating track assignments and cars to be switched
  • setting flares, flags, lanterns, torpedoes or visual warning devices in front and at rear of trains during emergency stops in order to warn oncoming trains
  • inspecting tracks, cars, and engines for defects and to determine service needs, sendingengines and cars for repairs as necessary
  • making minor repairs to couplings, air hoses, and journal boxes, using hand tools
  • operate and drive locomotives, diesel switch engines, dinkey engines, flatcars, and railcars in train yards and at industrial sites includes refuelling and lubricating engines
  • watching for and relay traffic signals to start and stop cars during shunting
  • providing customer assistance and information, such as giving directions and handling unusually sized items and/or equipment

Knowledge of railroad switches, couplings and devices used with rolling stock/freight cars in rail yards and on main rail networks

  • Knowledge of timetabling and scheduling systems, signalling systems, operating regulations and safety
  • Knowledge of railway communications systems types, uses and actions in emergency situations
  • Knowledge of relevant laws, policies, procedures, regulations, standards, codes and strategies pertaining to the rail transport systems and networks
  • Knowledge of principles and concepts of locomotives and their drive and braking systems
  • Knowledge of principles and concepts of handling trains, traction and routes to avoid train partings, derailments and track speed
  • Knowledge of principles and concepts of rail track systems and networks
  • Knowledge of principles, concepts and techniques of rail signalling systems including incline and decline of the right-of-way and speed limits
  • Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and their applications
  • Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology to rail systems, networks, tracks, locomotives, plant and equipment
  • Knowledge of materials, construction processes, quality control, costs, and other techniques for maximizing the effective and timely transportation of products and goods to destination
  • Knowledge of design techniques, tools, and principles involved in production and uses of maps, sketches, drawings including layout and multi-dimensional layouts, schematics, plans, models
  • Knowledge of hazard material transportation, emergency response and national security requirements
  • Deploying designated response procedures in emergency or national security situations
  • Using communication and IT information systems to report unusual incidents,malfunctioning equipment, or maintenance being performed on rail network
  • Obtaining and seeing to the appropriate use of equipment, facilities, and materials needed to do certain work
  • Identifying problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions. Including troubleshooting and determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/assessing performance of oneself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action
  • Quality Control Analysis - Conducting tests and inspections of locomotive performance to evaluate quality or effectiveness of on-time delivery
  • Science - Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems
  • Physics - Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub-atomic structures and processes
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences
  • Active Learning - Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems
  • Time Management - Managing one?s own time and the time of others
  • Control Precision - The ability to quickly and repeatedly measure and estimate exact positions
  • English (Technical) Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the rail system and network related technical English terminologies
  • Information Communications Technology ? Knowledge and use of relevant rail systems and network management information systems, applications and programs
  • Team work or individual ? job may require him/her to work alone or in conjunction with engineers, train crews, contractors, regulators, and logistics and transport personnel
  • Work Context: 

    The rail industry is typically, a highly regulated sector and drivers may require additional annual re-certification by a regulatory body, and may be required to undertake regular health checks. Rail networks deliver billions of tons of freight and millions of travellers per year to an array of destinations, while subways and light-rail systems transport millions of passengers around metropolitan areas. Typically, work irregular hours, including weekends and evenings.


    Secondary School Certificate, Certificate in rail network braking signalling and switch operations or related field of work, higher qualification or equivalent.

    Required Work Experience: 

    2 - 3 year and above

    Probable Employers: 

    Etihad Rail, Dubai Metro, RTA

    Occupational Size: 
    Less than 5,000
    Expected Earnings: 

    Above the industry average

    Projected Growth: 
    Very good
    Alternate Titles: 

    Examples of job titles:
    Braker (railway) - Shunter (railway) - Signaller (railway)
    Examples of some related occupations:
    Railway switch operator - Switch coupler

    UAE Industry Groups: 
    International Careers(ISCO): 
    Source Of Info: 
    Occupations and Careers Handbook for UAE Nationals(Copyright NQA ). Referenced from New York University, Abu Dhabhi