Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Lays, repairs, and maintains 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 railroad bed tamping machine operators.

This career is part of the Transportation, Distribution and Logistics cluster Facility and Mobile Equipment Maintenance pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Patrols assigned track sections so that damaged or broken track can be located and reported.
  • Repairs or adjusts track switches, using wrenches and replacement parts.
  • Welds sections of track together, such as switch points and frogs.
  • Observes leveling indicator arms to verify levelness and alignment of tracks.
  • Operates single- or multiple-head spike driving machines to drive spikes into ties and secure rails.
  • Operates track wrenches to tighten or loosen bolts at joints that hold ends of rails together.
  • Cuts rails to specified lengths, using rail saws.
  • Lubricates machines, changes oil, or fills hydraulic reservoirs to specified levels.
  • Drills holes through rails, tie plates, or fishplates for insertion of bolts or spikes, using power drills.
  • Cleans tracks or clears ice or snow from tracks or switch boxes.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves bending or twisting your body more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Conditions are very hot (above 90 F) or very cold (under 32 F)
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Exposed to hazardous equipment such as saws, machinery, or vehicular traffic more than once a month
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation requires being outside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Whole body vibrations, such as when operating a jackhammer
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Moving the arms, legs and torso together when the whole body is in motion
  • Judging how far away an object is, or which of several objects is closer or farther away
  • Using muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring
  • Bending, stretching, twisting, or reaching
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Exerting oneself physically over long periods of time without getting out of breath
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Regular working hours and limited travel

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Machine Operator --
  • Rail Maintenance Worker --
  • Track Equipment Operator (TEO) --
  • Track Inspector --
  • Track Laborer --
  • Track Maintainer --
  • Track Repairer --
  • Track Supervisor --
  • Track Walker --
  • Trackman --