Skills Railway Carman/woman in Canada

Find out what skills you typically need to work as a railway carman/woman in Canada. These skills are applicable to all Railway carmen/women (NOC 7314).


People working in this occupation usually apply the following skill set.

  • Perform and document routine maintenance
  • Repair and maintain electrical and electronic controls for propulsion and braking systems
  • Test and adjust parts
  • Replace damaged windows and repair upholstery
  • Repair and repaint wooden fixtures
  • Repair and install railway car parts
  • Repair defective or damaged metal and wood components
  • Inspect interior and exterior components of freight, passenger and urban transit rail cars to determine defects and extent of wear and damage

Skills and knowledge

The following skills and knowledge are usually required in this occupation.

Essential skills

See how the 9 essential skills apply to this occupation. This section will be updated soon.

  • Read short memos, circulars and bulletins informing them of upcoming events, safety updates and job announcements. (1)
  • Read safety precautions, first aid procedures and instructions for use on the labels of products such as cleaners and lubricants. (2)
  • Review descriptions of damage on inspection sheets and work orders before starting repair jobs. They read to determine what is not working properly and what repair and service operations they have to complete. (2)
  • Read reports of railway accidents which caused injuries or fatalities to workers. They read the reports to learn the causes of accidents and to remind themselves about the importance of preventative safety measures. (2)
  • Read warnings, instructions and emergency procedures on Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System labels and Material Safety Data Sheets prior to handling chemicals. (2)
  • Read troubleshooting, operating, maintenance and repair instructions in technical manuals. For example, they may refer to manuals to review the sequential procedures for repairing airbrakes and the Association of American Railroads manuals for standard repairs and codes. (3)
Document use
  • Scan labels and repair tags to identify part numbers, sizes and repairs needed. For example, they scan labels on boxes of brake shoes to verify the sizes. They examine bad order tags to identify which cars need immediate repairs. (1)
  • Extract data from lists and tables. For example, they consult lists of damaged items to be repaired. They scan parts lists to confirm that replacement parts are available. They locate specifications, substitute part numbers and repair codes published in catalogues. (2)
  • Consult manuals to locate information about replacing defective parts and the alternatives when exact parts are not available. For example, they may search for information on alternative braking systems for Renaissance rail cars. They refer to parts' specifications, substitute part numbers and repair codes in tables published in regulation manuals such as the Association of American Railroads manual. (2)
  • Complete reporting forms such as inspection sign-offs, wheel reporting forms, time sheets and general work orders. They mark checklists, record model numbers and measurements, and list replaced parts and completed tasks. They may mark diagrams of railway cars by circling areas in need of repairs. (2)
  • Interpret assembly diagrams when maintaining and repairing structural and mechanical components of rail cars. For example, they may examine assembly diagrams to verify the positioning of cross supports on the bottom of foreign rail cars. (2)
  • Examine complex electrical, air and hydraulic schematics to identify circuits, flows and devices. For example they may study schematics in the Air Brake manual illustrating the steps required for installing air brakes. (3)
  • May use a variety of drawings when repairing and reconstructing railcars. For example, they use assembly diagrams to identify component parts in brake and coupling systems when completing repairs. They check scale drawings to ensure rebuilt components are the correct sizes. They refer to schematic drawings of air brakes and water distribution systems when working on unfamiliar railcars. Occasionally, they integrate information from all of the drawings when planning repairs. (3)
  • Write brief comments about defects in logbooks and on work tickets and equipment tags. (1)
  • Write short descriptions and explanations on forms such as work orders and inspection sheets. (1)
  • May write memos to supervisors. For example, they may request additional supplies or describe mechanical failures and actions taken to repair equipment. (2)
  • May write accident or incident reports which describe the details of incidents, identify the people involved, outline the damages that resulted and corrective actions taken. They may make recommendations for preventative actions. (3)
NumeracyMoney Math
  • May prepare travel expense claims for work carried out at remote sites. They include car expenses, accommodations and meals. (2)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • Track the amount of time spent on different tasks during their shifts to ensure they conform to general timeframes established by supervisors. (1)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Measure railcar parts for rebuilding or manufacturing purposes. For example, they may use tape measures to measure the lengths and widths of grab irons. (1)
  • Take precise measurements using micrometers and callipers when assembling and fitting prefabricated parts and performing inspections on rail cars. For example, they use callipers to measure the length and diameter of drawbars. They use micrometers when close tolerance measurements of the outer and inner diameters of shafts are required. (3)
  • Calculate material and supply quantities. For example, they calculate the specific volume of paint required to produce a particular thickness of coating on refurbished railcars. They use a specified mixing ratio of paint to reducer to hardener to determine the required quantity of each component. A railway car mechanic calculates the quantity of metal required to rebuild a railcar shell by calculating the total area and dividing by the size of prefabricated sheets. (3)
  • Use trigonometry to calculate angles when installing vertical handbrakes, calculating slopes on ramps and determining angles for folded sheet metal. (4)
Data Analysis Math
  • Compare measurements of two parts to each other and to specifications. For example they compare wheel measurements on both the right and left sides of rail cars to ensure the cars are balanced. They compare air pressure measurements of air brakes over time to ensure that these systems are functioning properly and meeting operating standards. (1)
  • Collect and analyze maintenance and repair data to identify recurring faults in rail cars. For example, they examine how frequently mechanical failures occur, such as doors not closing properly, in order to identify patterns. (2)
Numerical Estimation
  • May estimate quantities of materials to order. They consider how many rail cars will require maintenance and how much inventory is currently in stock. (1)
  • Estimate time required to complete repair and maintenance tasks. Time estimates depend upon the complexity of the maintenance or repair, whether parts are in stock and availability of additional staff to assist with the task. (2)
Oral communication
  • Exchange information and opinions about repair tasks on rail cars with co-workers. They may discuss detailed technical information on braking system installation and operation. (2)
  • Discuss work assignments with their supervisors. They advise them about difficulties in obtaining specific rail car parts and discuss the best course of action for obtaining substitute parts. (2)
  • May interact with suppliers to discuss detailed technical information on equipment modifications and manufacturing methods. They may discuss how to modify or fabricate new parts for older rail cars or how to repair an unfamiliar rail car braking system. (2)
  • Instruct trainees in procedures for the maintenance and repairs of rail cars. They describe how to detect damaged areas, structural defects and assemble parts. Their instructions must be clear, precise and easily understood by the trainees because all repairs must meet industry standards as set by the Railway Association of Canada. (2)
  • Discuss safety procedures and requirements with co-workers. For example, before entering tank cars that may contain hazardous gases they review communication and rescue signals with spotters and discuss what actions to take in the event of emergencies. (3)
ThinkingProblem Solving
  • Find that replacement parts are not in stock. They attempt to modify parts on site to use as replacements if they can verify that the parts meet safety standards. If safety may be compromised, they send the parts to machine shops for modifications or order new ones. (2)
  • Find that bad weather is causing unsafe working conditions. For example, they discover that snow and ice create unstable bases for the placement of the hydraulic jacks they use to lift rail cars. They shovel away the snow and use salt to melt the ice in order to properly install the jacks. (2)
  • Face unexpected equipment failures. For example, trains with a large number of cars may fail their final brake tests prior to departure for the main station. Carmen and carwomen work in tandem with the engineers to close the air valves to groups of cars to determine which rail cars have faulty brakes. Once rail cars have been isolated, they use diagnostic techniques such as soap tests to find the faulty valves or poorly coupled hoses. Because of the potential delay to passengers, they are pressured to carry out diagnostic and repair procedures quickly. (3)
Decision Making
  • Determine the tools, equipment and materials required to repair or replace damaged areas of railcars. (2)
  • May decide which tasks to assign to workers whom they supervise. They consider the workers' experience and job skills. They assign small, safe jobs such as changing pod hoses and welding cracks to new, inexperienced workers and assign more dangerous tasks such as jacking up rail cars to more experienced workers. (2)
  • Decide which tasks to complete first when maintaining, inspecting and repairing rail cars. Typically, they start with the structural elements and then work on brakes. When determining the order of repairs for the structural elements, they consider whether the parts are in stock or will need to be manufactured, the impact on other mechanical systems, and the availability of assistance. (2)
  • Determine if railcars can be returned to service. They examine the information in the maintenance and repair records and visually inspect the railcars using procedures established by the Railway Association of Canada. (2)
Critical Thinking
  • Evaluate the health and safety risks posed by job tasks and work conditions. They consider structural defects and damages to rail cars and the potential for environmental hazards such as noxious gases before entering rail cars. They take into account the availability of tools required to safely perform repairs and procedures for entering confined spaces. (2)
  • Evaluate the condition of rail car components such as bearings, couplings, braking systems and wheels. They examine components to ensure they are attached and functioning properly. They look for signs of damage and consider whether the damage will compromise safety standards. They check the stress on rail car parts such as brakes and analyze test results. (3)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Railway carmen and women take directions from supervisors who assign their workloads and schedules. They may prioritize their workload and sequence tasks for efficiency, subject to their supervisors' approval. Railway carmen and women work independently on some tasks and they may be assigned to work with partners on other tasks. Some tasks, such as train inspections and wheel changes, are repetitive while repairs to railcar exteriors, bottom gates or modification of parts are less frequent. Occasionally they have to rearrange job tasks to accommodate railway emergencies. (2)

Planning and Organizing for Others

Railway carmen and women may occasionally plan and schedule the work of employees they supervise, such as trainees. (2)

Significant Use of Memory
  • Remember car numbers and other details of jobs until they can enter this information on work orders.
  • Remember frequently used standards and tolerance parameters for tests. For example, they remember the minimum air pressure reading that must be maintained in the braking system during emergency brake tests.
  • Remember the meaning of repair codes used on forms.
  • Remember the order for assembling parts they previously disassembled. They cannot rely on obtaining this information from diagrams in manuals as the information for cars that are over fifty years old is often unavailable.
Finding Information
  • Consult schedules, work orders and co-workers to find information about daily assignments. (2)
  • Locate safety information on hazard labels on tank cars to ensure that the cars do not contain noxious substances such as sulphur dioxide gas. (2)
  • Seek the advice and opinions of their co-workers and supervisors when maintaining, repairing, or replacing railcar parts. (2)
Digital technology
  • Use database software. For example, they may access database programs to enter information about rail cars inspections, maintenance and repairs. (2)
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, they may use spreadsheets to print copies of timesheets to be completed by hand. (2)
  • Use communications software. For example, they may receive e-mail with memo attachments from supervisors and administration personnel. (2)
  • Use Internet. For example, they may browse the Internet to research workplace safety procedures that apply to railway workers. (2)
  • Use other computer and software applications. For example, they may use custom software to make labels for wires. (2)
Additional informationOther Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Railway carmen and women work independently to conduct minor repairs and complete administrative tasks. They work with partners who are assigned to the same repair tracks when carrying out major repairs. They co-ordinate their work to ensure efficiency and productivity. (2)

Continuous Learning

Railway carmen and women are responsible for identifying their own learning goals. The majority of their learning occurs through regular work activities as they address a variety of repair and modification tasks. They acquire new learning by discussing their work with co-workers. They also learn through self-study by reading manuals to learn about equipment operations, verify parts specifications, codes and repair procedures. They are continually learning about new technology and the operating procedures for new equipment. Additional training, such as computer skills or welding training is self-directed. If the training is related to their work the employer covers the costs. Railway carmen and women are responsible for renewing their certifications and licenses for welding, operating fork trucks and track mobiles and performing rail car inspections. They need to stay current with regulatory changes to the Railway Safety Act and are required to attend in house training courses on Workplace Hazardous Material Information Systems, Safety and First Aid. (2)

Labour Market Information Survey
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