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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Railway Track Maintenance Workers(7531)

Railway track maintenance workers operate machines and equipment to lay, maintain and repair railway tracks. They are employed by railway transport companies.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read health and safety posters that are posted at the workplace or handed out. (1)
  • May read memos from supervisors concerning changes in procedures. (2)
  • May read bulletins outlining rules, regulations and procedures for track maintenance. (2)
  • Read specification sheets from the engineering department showing the required elevation of tracks on curves. (2)
  • Read Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) regarding transporting hazardous goods. (3)
  • Read manuals to locate information on track geometry and curve easements and on equipment inspection processes. (3)
Document use Help - Document use
  • May read computer printouts showing the actual and the required grade levels for various tracks. (1)
  • Complete a daily log and time sheets. (1)
  • Read train timetables which show the arrival and departure times of all trains in the area. (2)
  • Read Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) labels. (2)
  • Read code books which describe the types of flags which must be set up to provide various types of warnings to railway engineers. (2)
  • Read work orders. (2)
  • Refer to track locator maps to identify repair sites. (2)
  • Fill in inspection forms and permits such as the Track Occupancy Permit (TOP) to register when crane trucks or other equipment will be on the tracks. (2)
  • Enter information in the rail replacement chart which includes information about the weight, length and mile number where replacement rails were laid. (2)
  • May read load charts to calculate load capacities on a crane truck. (3)
  • Read assembly drawings for tools and equipment and consult schematic drawings for electrical circuits. (3)
  • Refer to sketches of switch construction to plan a repair. (3)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Fill in coding sheets to designate the use of old and new rails and the location of work which has been completed. Numeric codes are provided in a schedule. (1)
  • Write notes to themselves to record information received from the rail traffic controller. (1)
  • Write a daily log to record weather conditions and details of repairs and maintenance carried out. (2)
  • Complete inspection and welding reports. (2)
  • May write draft procedures for maintenance operations. (2)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Record the number of rails used in a shift and the number rejected. (1)
  • Measure rails in order to cut them into appropriate lengths. (1)
  • Calculate the weight of loads of rails to be lifted by a crane truck and calculate the number of spikes required to secure ties over a certain distance. (2)
  • Take precise measures using a measurement gauge to show in millimeters how much of the rail surface is worn. (3)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate the number of planks which should be carried to a site to repair a road crossing. (1)
  • Estimate the time required to replace ties to schedule train delays for the time needed to complete the job. (2)
  • May estimate the weight of a load, staying well within the safe capacity of the crane truck. The effect of rust and water logging of ties must be taken into account. (3)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Listen to radio reports from yard traffic control personnel to note movement of trains in the area. (1)
  • Talk to children near the tracks and other members of the public about the importance of staying clear of the tracks. (1)
  • Inform farmers with property along the track of the procedure to follow to have the fencing repaired by the railroad. (1)
  • Communicate with suppliers about purchasing requirements. (1)
  • Call co-workers on the radio to advise that a train is approaching on the other track. (1)
  • Communicate with supervisors and co-workers to discuss how repair and maintenance operations are to be carried out. (2)
  • Interact with contract operators of track laying machines or other machine operators to co-ordinate activities. (2)
  • Discuss safety procedures with co-workers. (2)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • May find rails frozen into the ground when they are carrying out winter repairs. They use picks or small heaters to budge frozen rails out of position. (1)
  • May find that supplies kept in the main depot are insufficient for upcoming repair requirements. They notify the yard master that supplies are running dangerously low. (1)
  • May arrive at a work site without all the materials necessary to effect a specific repair. They may have to halt rail traffic or carry out a temporary repair until they can get back to the site with the required materials. (2)
  • May encounter difficulties when adjusting switches. If one piece is too long, it will create the need for adjustments further along the track. They use trial and error and past experience to adjust switches carefully so that the likelihood of track damage or derailment is minimized. (3)
Decision Making
  • Decide whether to lift materials manually or to use rail-lifting machines. They take into account the strength of the work crew and the location of the machinery when making this decision. (1)
  • Decide how long it will be necessary to stop train traffic for the carrying out of a repair. (2)
  • Decide whether to close down a defective machine immediately or whether to use it at reduced capacity for the rest of the shift. They balance the urgency of completing the job quickly with the likelihood of damaging the machine when making this decision. (2)
  • Decide which tools to take for specific jobs. (2)
  • Judge whether a section of rail or a switch is faulty and needs adjustment. They follow routine procedures and specifications and judge with a well-trained, experienced eye. A wrong decision could cause serious damage or injury. (3)
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Railway track maintenance workers plan their work by blocking a period of time in which rail traffic will be halted or rerouted while they carry out their tasks on the tracks. In order to minimize disruption to rail traffic, they need to clearly identify the tasks which will be performed and the time frames necessary to carry them out. They integrate their work plan with co-workers who are part of the work crew to make sure that all aspects of the job are completed within the time allotted. Since railway track maintenance workers may cover an extended area, they plan their workday carefully, making sure that they bring all necessary supplies and tools to the work site and that necessary machinery is at close range. (2)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember how much track time is left on the Track Occupancy Permit (TOP).
  • Memorize a variety of flag signals and codes.
  • Remember the weights of commonly lifted materials such as spikes and various lengths of rails.
Finding Information
  • Consult supervisors to clarify rules pertaining to a specific region. (1)
  • May consult an engineer to determine whether to install a culvert. (1)
  • Refer to manuals and rule books to find weights of materials or to review flag set ups. (2)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • Use computer-operated machinery. For example, they program machines to lift and align the track to the required standards. (1)
  • They use specialized computer programs. For example, they may use a computer program to determine the required grade standard and the actual grade and elevation of a track on a curve. They can then program the machine to lift and align the track to the required standards. (1)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Railway track maintenance workers work mainly as a three or four-member team. When they are not working as part of a team, they often work in pairs. The ballast machine operator, for instance, works right behind the tamper machine and the two operators keep in close contact about production goals.

Continuous Learning

Railway track maintenance workers learn on the job, receiving periodic upgrade training on track repair and maintenance methods. Review of the code books and rules of the railroad takes place regularly. Safety training also takes place on a regular basis. Some railway track maintenance workers take welding courses and training on boom truck operation.

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