Labour market information Explore careers by essential skills

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).

You can use this profile to:
Find a job
Write your resume and prepare for job interviews
Plan your career
Determine which career may best suit you based on your skill set
Manage your workforce
Write job postings, assess employee performance and develop training

Find out more about this occupation

For more information on this occupation, look at the related job profile. It provides information on prevailing wages, job prospects and other skill requirements.

Look up job profile

Railway Yard Workers(7531)

Railway yard workers regulate yard traffic, couple and uncouple trains and perform related yard activities. They are employed by railway transport companies.

Reading Help - Reading
  • May read memos from rail traffic control about switching rail cars from one train to another or sending cars back that were switched accidentally in another city. (1)
  • Read memos regarding policy and procedure changes. (2)
  • Read operating bulletins, containing information about crew changes, unsafe conditions in the yard, tracks taken out of service or changes in equipment. (2)
  • Use loading manuals to look up rules for loading open cars and to check if cars meet company and regulatory agency requirements. (3)
  • Read railroad operating manuals to find procedures and rules about task performance and changes in operations, particularly before taking re-qualification exams. (3)
Document use Help - Document use
  • May read Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) labels and dangerous goods commodity lists. (1)
  • May read directional and warning signs in the yard and signs on cars which indicate their ownership and number. (1)
  • May read traffic projection sheets from rail users, detailing the number of cars they expect to use and the kinds of commodities the cars will carry. (2)
  • May read and update rail yard scans on computer, showing which tracks are occupied, and the length and type of train. (2)
  • May refer to master train schedules, giving times and other details about trains coming into the yards. (2)
  • May read repair forms giving car identification, defects and repairs by code. (2)
  • May refer to yard schematics showing the number of rail yards and the number of tracks per yard. (2)
  • May fill out forms to receive authorization for unusual procedures, for example, going through a red light. (2)
  • May initial operating bulletins presented in table format. (2)
  • May read and co-ordinate switch lists showing the location of all railcars that need to be switched from one train to another. (3)
  • May read drawings showing how switches work and how handbrakes function. (3)
  • May fill out clearance forms when taking trains on a track, stating the time the train will be on the track and recording radio dispatch information. (3)
Writing Help - Writing
  • May fill out safety forms to request changes and make complaints. (1)
  • May write notes to dispatchers, for example, to obtain authorization to bring wide loads onto tracks or into yards. (1)
  • May record car numbers beside track numbers to show the location of railway cars. (1)
  • May write entries in transfer books to inform the next shift's co-ordinator about yard status and problems. (1)
  • May write 'strange occurrence' memos to inform yard managers about unusual events. (2)
  • May complete clearance forms to take trains onto tracks. (2)
  • May fill in forms restricting a car's travel pending prescribed repairs. (2)
  • May record the main details of safety talks conducted with crews. (2)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Measure the thickness of a car's wheel flange to see if it falls within specified requirements. (1)
  • Calculate how many cars a track will hold before blocking crossings and how much tonnage an engine can handle. (2)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate by eye whether a loaded car meets line clearances. (1)
  • Estimate the number of cars that can be added to a train before it will extend from the yard to a crossing. (2)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • May listen to orders from the head of their crew when beginning a job. (1)
  • May inform dispatchers by two-way radio of the arrival of trains at the station. (1)
  • May contact track users regarding when to switch cars at their site and the location on the track where rail cars should be unhooked. (1)
  • May discuss with helpers or engineers the best way to arrange the cars in a train. (2)
  • May exchange information with other yard crew as they inspect and repair cars. (2)
  • May talk with yard co-ordinators to exchange information about yard status and personnel needed. (2)
  • May communicate with supervisors about unusual occurrences, work schedules and changes in the switching of rail cars. (2)
  • May talk with companies to arrange delivery times and clarify car unloading details. (2)
  • May interact with dispatchers to get clearance for a train to use a track outside the yard. A mistake can result in two trains on the same track and possible accidents. (2)
  • May participate in group meetings before making up and moving trains to discuss sequences of switching to ensure that each crew member understands. (3)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • May arrive at a switching point with a switch list and find that the expected railway car is not there. They phone the yardmaster to inform the yard that it is missing and may then walk further to find it. (1)
  • May have to deal with a train stranded on a track because of engine failure. They call locomotive shops to find out if and how the train can be fixed and to assess how it can be moved. (2)
  • May be informed of a train derailment. They contact other crews to tell them not to bring their trains in and call for assistance in clearing the tracks. (2)
  • May witness an accident at a railway crossing. They administer first aid, set up signals and radio for help. (3)
Decision Making
  • When inspecting a train with a partner, decide who will do what function such as who will drive and who will connect the airbrake hoses. (1)
  • Decide how to switch out cars when there is not enough clear track to place them on. They may switch individual cars to side tracks, remembering where the cars were put when it comes time to switch them back to their proper location. (2)
  • Decide which cars to move first and what tracks to put trains on. Decisions may be subject to the approval of the yardmaster. (2)
  • May decide whether cars should be closer to customer facilities or vehicles at loading stations and what tonnage to put on the trains. (2)
  • Decide whether to do repairs themselves or to send damaged cars to the shop. They base the decision on the extent of the damage and whether they have the time, tools and expertise to complete the job themselves. (2)
  • Decide how to set up and take trains from one location to another, taking into consideration what loads have to be let off first and that cars with hazardous loads cannot be next to cars with certain other kinds of loads, such as livestock. (3)
Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Railway yard workers receive work assignments from yard co-ordinators and lead hands. They follow established routines, such as visually inspecting train cars. Work is dependent on the schedule of arriving and departing trains and on orders from customers for the delivery of loaded cars or empty cars to be loaded. Factors such as congestion, track restrictions, faxes from customers and calls from train crews and supervisors may require workers to reorganize their work. Railway yard workers plan and organize their own tasks within the constraints of an established work schedule, for example, determining the priorities for switching. (2)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember which trains are in the yard, their destinations and their times of departure.
  • Remember where cars were put when switching cars to side tracks to clear congestion.
  • Remember the number of cars that will fit on different tracks in rail yards.
  • Memorize codes used on switch lists, such as the codes for destinations and for empty and loaded cars.
Finding Information
  • Get information regarding switch lists from yard masters. (1)
  • Refer to operating bulletins for restrictions to switching on certain tracks. (1)
  • Consult operating manuals to find rules and procedures or computer manuals to find information on how to use particular software packages. (2)
  • Call other railroad yards to get information about their traffic projections in order to plan their own yard's work. (2)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • They may use computerized consoles to enter employee numbers and job numbers. (1)
  • They may enter data in yard inventory systems consisting of columns for track numbers, car numbers and the work to be completed on each car. (2)
  • Use other computer applications. For example, they may use computers to read scans of all trains in the rail yards. (2)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Railway yard workers work closely with partners, for instance, when operating switches or when each partner inspects one side of a train. They may also work independently, co-ordinating their work with co-workers as needed. They operate as members of a team.

Continuous Learning

Railway yard workers upgrade their knowledge of railway rules and regulations on a regular basis when preparing for recertification exams. They also take courses on transportation of dangerous goods (TDG) and may take computer training.

Date modified: