How Much Does A Locomotive Engineer Make?

Locomotive Engineers are one the most needed jobs, even with the ability to move product by truck and plane. While your average transportation works in most places, long trips, rough weather conditions, and remote places tend to have better access to railways over anything else. 

On average, given the number of years of experience, most Locomotive engineers make around $72,000/year. Now, this includes the bottom and top 10% of salary and experience, so starting out you should expect to make around $47,000/year before any experience or bonuses. 

Now, wanting to become a Locomotive Engineer isn’t a long or complicated path as long as you make your intention known to your company. Most of the time, companies help push people through the process of becoming a Locomotive Engineer due to the necessity and fear of a shortage. 

locomotive engineer salary
Bill Johnson

Becoming A Locomotive Engineer

Now, every job has its tiers where you can learn more and make more, and being an engineer is no different. While you have to start out at the bottom of the totem pole doing jobs such as:

  • Railyard engineers
  • Switch operators 
  • Signal operators
  • Railroad brake operators

You can usually always advance in your career and career path given good work, willingness to learn, and dedication to your job. However, you have to first become a railyard engineer, signal operator, or switch operator to move up and become a locomotive engineer. 

Usually, you will start out as one of the three main jobs and then you can advance to become a conductor or yardmaster. Only after you are proficient in being a conductor or yardmaster can you advance to becoming a locomotive engineer after training and testing. 

Most places have a training process or a class that lasts anywhere from 6-18 weeks depending on how in-depth they prefer you to be. It is required that you pass this test before being able to become a Locomotive Engineer. 

Now, most people think this is where the growth stops, however, most places have higher levels of engineers once becoming Locomotive Engineer. You can work your way up to a senior engineer and even an engineer leader, both of which have significantly higher salaries topping out at $120,000/year. 

locomotive engineer
Jeff Hampton

In the grand scheme of things, your job duties won’t change significantly except the higher up you go the more training or new engineers you will be in charge of. Depending on where you work and their expectations you may even lead an entire team of new locomotive engineers from time to time so they can be trained from multiple years of experience and know-how. 

Now, the salary of a Locomotive Engineer seems extremely desirable, however, you have to be careful to not fall into the lower 10% and it depends on the place you live as to how high your salary would be. To view average salaries by State you can visit this website. 

(Source: Zippa, Work)

Locomotive Engineer Responsibilities

The main job of a Locomotive Engineer is to operate trains on railways, however, there are a few other things that come with the job that you are required to do for the safety and well-being of the persons and good on the train. 

In some cases, you may be asked to supervise the coupling and uncoupling of train cars while trains in the railway are being moved around or maintained. You may be in charge of the movement and upkeep of the trains in your area. 

Other responsibilities are things such as:

  • Reporting issues with debris on the track
  • Reporting issues with the train on its exterior, interior, or ability to function
  • Keeping track of the train’s upkeep and maintenance needs
  • Communicating with control centers about possible issues with the track or route

It’s really your job, as well as every other engineer out on the railways, to ensure the safe travel of other rail cars to and from any location. Any issue, minor or major, that goes without being reported can become a large problem down the road. 

locomotive engineer
Jeff Hampton

Final Thoughts

Locomotive Engineers are highly needed and get compensated rather well at an average of $72,000/year. Depending on where you live, this could be higher or lower but a good company will adjust pay when needed based on a national average. 

Working through the training process can be a tedious process if you don’t love studying and testing, however, taking notes and really focusing on the information can allow you to breeze through and become a Locomotive Engineer in no time. 



Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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