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Train Engineers and Operators Pay Salary

The median annual wage of train engineers and operators was $46,100 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,000 and the top 10 percent earned more than $71,350.

Median wages for train engineer and operator occupations in May 2010 were as follows:

Trains are scheduled to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, meaning that many train engineers and operators sometimes work nights, weekends, and holidays. Most rail employees work full time. In 2010, nearly one-third worked at least 50 hours a week, although federal regulations require a minimum number of rest hours for operators.

Locomotive engineers whose trains travel long routes can be away from home for long spans of time. Those who work on passenger trains with short routes generally have a more predictable schedule. Workers on some freight trains have irregular schedules.

For engineers, seniority (number of years on the job) usually dictates who receives the most desired shifts. Some engineers are hired on a temporary basis, called "extra board," and get an assignment only when a railroad needs substitutes for workers who are absent.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition