Which Class One Railroad Pays the Most?

Working in transportation and logistics is a rewarding field. Not only do you get to help people across the country get the supplies they need for construction or a new medicine that can help older people improve their energy, but you get a decent paycheck to boot! So which class one railroad pays its employees the most?

The railroad companies that pay the most are:

  • BNSF
  • Amtrak
  • Canadian National Railway

While these companies are some of the highest paying, there are other companies out there that could pay more for specific jobs. For example, the railroads are great for long-term employees and specialized jobs that could suffer by changing companies. So read on and learn which class one railroad pays the most!

The Different Classes of Railroad

People who are not familiar with logistics could have trouble understanding that there are different classes of railroads and what these classes mean to regular folks. The different types provide services and handle freights all the same way, but it all boils down to how much money they make.

The different classes of railroad are:

  • Class One – The companies that make the most in the railroad logistical market are class one railroads. They have a monetary threshold of more than $275 million or more. These railroads are the ones that pay the most but also have sprawling empires with thousands of workers.
  • Class Two – These railroad companies make less than $275 million annually. While the class two companies don’t have as large routes or service platforms, they have a thriving business that can be good for small lines or deliveries.
  • Class Three – These are the smallest logistical railroads with a combined profit of under $20 million. The railroads are usually local and have no large contracts with major corporations. Class three railroads are often small-time jobs and will not bring significant pay unless you are working as an Engineer or Conductor.

The classes of railroads are divided by how much money they make. Their connections to large companies or specific areas of the country heavily influence their pay. You can better understand what the company can pay by ranking the companies.

bnsf intermodal
Jeff Hampton

Class One Railroads Have High Paying Jobs and Services

The class one railroads often pay the most money for their employees. This is because they have gigantic payrolls and enough money to go after any talent they want. Therefore, when negotiating wages, it is always good to know what they offer for hourly positions.

Class one railroads are enormous companies with claws in everything from real estate to steel. They offer numerous jobs and provide different salaries for different lengths served in the position. A good idea is to take an entry-level job and ‘ride out’ your years working your way up the company’s ladder.

Some occupations that class one railroads offer and their average wages are:

  • Transportation and Material Moving – One of the jobs that people usually start with in logistics is transportation and materials. These jobs pay an average of $52k a year, and there are many positions to move up the ladder.
  • IMR – Repairs and maintenance are combined with installation to create another arm of railroad companies. IMR jobs involve working on parts of the engines and cars and clearing land for a new rail. These jobs average $51k/year and is an excellent place for a mechanic to land a position.
  • Construction – Construction crews make $48k per year working for the railroad. The sites might be different than commercial building, but the jobs, like general laborers, are the same as any other construction company.
  • Administration – Admin jobs in the railroad are about $45,000 per year and cover everything from procurement specialists to secretarial work. The jobs are often at branches and don’t have to travel as often as construction crews or mechanics.
  • Production – You might not realize it, but railroad companies often employ large segments of machinists and welders to create parts they need or with help fusing a rail. These jobs are primarily travel-related and pay $43k per year.
  • Management – Management jobs in the railroad industry pay well. They average $90k annually and employ people in management and architectural positions. You must climb the ladder to get them, but the rewards are well worth it.
  • Finance – A finance job in the railroad game is about acquiring land and making sure that engineers’ tracts of land are secured. Finance jobs pay an average of $69k annually and employ accountants and auditors.

The leading positions at class one railroads are paid in separate arms than others. Routine jobs, like accountants and transportation, are vital to the business, but other jobs involved in the railroad, like legal and art, pay more and are segregated from train operations.

The Railroad Offers Many Different Types of Employment

Class one railroad companies are some of the largest corporations out there. They have internal needs, and going out of house could cost them more than keeping things in-house. These other jobs could be for subsidiaries, but they are still assets needed by the rail company. Applying requires that you meet specific standards. Don’t waste their time if you are unqualified.

A few other jobs that class one railroads might offer are:

  • Legal – Being a lawyer is never a bad career choice. Being a lawyer for a rail company pays $112k per year. They handle cases against the company and iron out deals with land or materials.
  • Healthcare – Another big way rail companies save money is by having a nurse on staff. Nurses make around $65k a year. They concentrate on wellness for their co-workers and handle problems while riding on the train.
  • Design – Design work is another job that is always in need. Graphics and art designers work in offices to create copy for pamphlets or artwork for brochures. Design jobs on the railroad make about $65k per year, which is well above what designers make freelance.

When it comes to having jacks of all trades, the railroad has them in spades. They require so many jobs that the best practice is often having someone on payroll handle the extra work. Jobs like nurses and artists aren’t usually associated with railroad companies, but their impact is enormous.

scenic amtrak trip
Drew Jacksich

The Highest Paying Jobs on the Railroad

Some people don’t want to settle for second place. Jobs with the railroad are some of the most sought-after and searched jobs on the internet. However, these jobs require years of training and experience with the railroad. You can’t just walk in off the street and drop an application for these jobs unless you have a proven track record of success in the field.

Director of Engineering is an Important and High-Paying Job

Being an engineer for a rail company can mean a couple of different things. Engineers are the people who drive the trains, as well as the people who work with construction crews to ensure safe building practices. Directors of Engineering can bring over $130k annually and must meet several qualifications before employment.

Some qualifications for Director of Engineering are:

  • Experience – Knowing the ins and outs of how engineers work in the industry is essential for this job. There are things that only a seasoned veteran knows about how trains and logistics function. Being well qualified means having more than ten years of experience working for the rails.
  • Team Leader – There isn’t just one engineer on a train. There can be up to 20 on a single train, and it is the Director’s job to ensure that all aboard are doing their jobs. Therefore, a team leader must be able to handle any number of extra hands on deck from one to twenty.
  • Education – You must have college degrees to attain the job as Director of Engineering. A bachelor’s in Engineering is required, and having a Master’s to go along with years of experience could make you a shoo-in for this top-tier job.
  • References – Getting a job like Director of Engineering requires you to be at the top of your game. On the way up, you must have met and worked with people who saw your future and knew being Director was your destiny. Having good references is essential for railroad jobs because the job pool is much smaller than for normal jobs.

Being a Director of Engineering is a time-consuming and important job. You not only have to worry about what happens during the train ride but also how well the train’s mechanics operate. It is an important job that not many are qualified to accept. Make sure you are fit and ready to take a position as Director of Engineering.

The Train Conductor is the Glamor Job of Working for the Railroad

The person who makes the train go where it needs to go is the Conductor. They have a job that is not only time-consuming but makes them responsible for the safety of everyone on the train and every one the train comes into contact with. With all the responsibility, some showmanship and fame are applied to the Conductor job.

Some duties of the Train Conductor are:

  • Public Relations – If they are the conductor on a passenger train, they could have a bit of handshaking and baby-kissing. Being the face of the train gives the passengers a feeling of safety.
  • Moving the Train – One of the people who can get the train underway is the Conductor. He ensures that all the checklists are marked, and everything is secure before he gives the all-clear. Once ready, the train makes its way to the destination. Their job ensures that the train and passengers all move safely. 
  • Safety Sweeps – If there is an incident on the train, the Conductor is the one who will make the decisions and disarm any conflicts. Some railroads often have police and EMS for such things, but the Conductor is the ultimate authority on the train, just like a Captain on a sea-going vessel.

The Conductor is one of the highest paying jobs in the railroad industry. It is a mish-mash of duties all combined into a singular position. Being able to run the locomotive while still ensuring the passengers are safe and secure requires a person with knowledge of railroads and hospitality.

intermodal trains
Bill Hooper

The Director of Engineering Runs a Critical Railroad Department

Director of Engineering is an essential job for every railroad company. They are responsible for all the engineers working on the rail line. In addition, when parts need work, the Director is the final authority on projects and how they should be repaired. This job will bring over $70k annually, and the hiring will be competitive.

Some responsibilities of the Director of Engineering are:

  • Safety – The biggest thing that Engineering folks worry about is the safety of the train and the rails. If parts need to be repaired or a section of the track has been damaged, they often visit the sites and choose a course of action for repair.
  • Parts – Sourcing parts is up to another department, but creating new pieces that could be specialized or one-offs falls under the Director of Engineering’s purview. Making parts is an intense job that could take several attempts to get things right. Having a Director who has the experience and know-how is imperative for railroads.

Director of Engineering is another job that brings home lots of money. $130k per year is the salary for qualified people, but some companies could pay much for the right employee. Some companies will go above average for those people who are perfect fits for the engine or the team.

A Locomotive Engineer is a High-Paying Job with Critical Responsibilities

While the Director of Engineering and Train Conductor is responsible for safety on the rails and of the cars, the Locomotive Engineer is responsible for the prime mover of the train. Taking care of the enormous machine takes time and experience most people don’t have. Therefore, you must have a degree in Engineering to apply for this job, and some expertise wouldn’t hurt.

A few of the duties that the Locomotive Engineer could handle are:

  • Instruments – One of the Locomotive Engineer’s main jobs is monitoring the instruments in the engine. There are meters for speed and dials that show the direction of the train. Watching these screens takes time to decipher the outputs, and being up on your knowledge is a great way to get a job.
  • Inspections – Engineers are responsible for another big job: inspecting the motor that drives the train and the bits that keep it attached to the track. These inspections are crucial to all the other bits of the train. They could uncover critical faults and stop trains before a disaster happens.

The Locomotive Engineer is as essential as the Train Conductor. They make sure that everything is running to speed; if it isn’t, they know the first steps to keep the train going and safe for passengers. Safety is their number one mandate, and they will not allow a train to depart unless it is in tip-top shape.

The Top Three Highest-Paying Railroad Companies

Choosing the highest-paying companies is an excellent way to ensure your wages are high. These companies have some of the biggest payrolls in the railroad industry and are always looking for talent to improve their companies. Make sure your resume is in order before applying for these jobs; these companies are fantastic to work for.

BNSF Railway is a Thriving Company and Great to its Employees

One of the highest-paying railroad companies is BNSF. They trace their roots back to the late 1840s in Illinois. It is a conglomerate of several freight companies up and down the West Coast. They have lots of tracks and are always looking for qualified individuals to help them man the length of track.

Some facts about the BNSF railway are:

  • Headquarters – BNSF has its base in Fort Worth, TX. They chose Fort Worth because it plays a massive part in their South railway and acts as the southern barrier for their operations. In addition, they are an enormous part of shipping in the Southwest, and Texas is the perfect home for a significant railway. 
  • Miles of Track – BNSF has over 50,000 miles of track spanning the West Coast and Mid-West up into Canada. In addition, they are charged with providing maintenance to over 13,000 bridges and over 28,000 road crossings. People are needed across the country to service these crossings, and the jobs pay very well. 
  • Payloads – The most exciting fact about BNSF is how much merchandise and goods they transport each year. There were 5.6 million train cars packed with products headed to homes around the country. In addition, they haul so much coal it can power a neighborhood for an entire year.

BNSF is one of the most important railroad companies in the Northern Hemisphere. Their jobs are numerous and some of the highest-paying in the market. They pay a premium for longevity, and it is well known that they could pay over 30% higher wages for people who have worked in the company for several years.

Amtrak is a Well-Known Passenger Train with Amazing Jobs

Chances are you live near an Amtrak station. They are one of the largest trains in the United States and haul passengers and cargo daily. Their jobs range from real estate to careers working with customers on the train.

Some of the jobs that Amtrak offers are:

  • Baggage Handler – A tremendous entry-level job for the railroad is to be a baggage handler. These people help load and unload freight and ensure shipments are secured for transportation. These jobs start at around $16 an hour and top out around the $30 mark.
  • Trackman – The Trackman is responsible for working on pieces of track that could be faulty or need replacing. It is a tough job that requires you to live near a central hub and have some experience working with metal and construction. This is a tough job, but after a few years, you can move up to supervisor or take another job with the railway.

Amtrak is a company that consistently has quality jobs for potential employees. They have tracks that criss-cross the United States and have large coffers to pay the people who fit their standard.

Canadian National Railway is a Fantastic Place to Work

Canadian National Railway is one of the largest class one railroads in Canada. It pays its people a nive wage that reinforces the company’s goals of having a balanced home life with productive and active work life.

Some benefits of working for the Canadian National Railway are:

  • Pay – The most significant thing about CNR is that they pay their employees a wage that keeps them with the company forever. Most people’s pay is based on their time in service, and as your years pile up, so does your hourly pay.
  • Retirement – CNR also matches the retirement money that you invest. They often have thresholds for more pay and higher percentages of payouts depending on your job and the years in service.
  • Flexibility – You have a flexible schedule to increase your pay if needed. They have a schedule that allows you to pick up hours or work around your home life to maximize your time with your family and your paycheck.

Canadian National Railway is very good with employees, and it starts with their philosophy on pay. By having high wages, they attract serious people about their jobs and value the opportunity to work for such a good company.


The highest paying railroads are Amtrak, BNSF, and Canadian National Railway. These three companies are powerhouses in the rail industry and attract some of the hardest workers on the rail line. The pay is fantastic, and the companies offer different jobs for varying compensation levels.

Working for high-wages demands that you know as much about your job as possible and strive to get better every day. However, the most significant part of working on the railroad is consistency, and staying with one of these companies means you have a bright future on the horizon.



Lifelong Rail Enthusiast and Owner of Worldwide Rails

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