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Brakeman: Wikis


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A Santa Fe Railroad brakeman atop a train that has paused at Cajon, California, to cool its brakes after descending Cajon Pass in March 1943.

A brakeman is a trainboard rail transport worker in countries like the US and Germany.


Historical employment

In the US, the brakeman was the person who would walk the length of a train atop the cars while the train is in motion and turn the brake wheel on each car to apply the train's brakes. A brakeman's duties also included ensuring that the couplings between cars were properly set, lining switches and signalling to the train operators while performing switching operations.

In Germany, the brakemen occupied brakeman's cabins on several or even all wagons in a train and would operate the wagon brakes when signalled by the engine driver. It was a dangerous and uncomfortable role, especially in winter when it was not uncommon for brakemen to freeze to death in the unheated cabins.

As rail transport technology has improved, a brakeman's duties have been reduced and altered to match the updated technology, and the brakeman's job has become much safer than it was in the early days of railroading. Individually operated car brakes were replaced with automatic air brakes, eliminating the need for the brakeman to walk atop a moving train to set the brakes. Link and pin couplings were replaced with automatic couplings, and hand signals are now supplemented by two-way radio communication.

Duties today

Passenger(?) brakeman (Pa. US) sometime between 1918 and 1920

Freight and yard crews consisting of conductor, engineer and brakeman usually employ the brakeman in throwing hand operated track switches to line up for switching moves and assisting in cuts and hitches as cars are dropped off and picked up.

In passenger service, the brakeman (called trainman or assistant conductor) collects revenue, may operate door "through switches" for specific platforming needs, makes announcements and operates trainline door open and close controls when required to assist the conductor. A passenger service trainman is often required to qualify as a conductor after 1 to 2 years experience. The rear end trainman signals to the conductor when all the train's doors are safely closed, then boards and closes his/her door.

Scenic Railways

Scenic Railways particularly in the form of side friction roller coasters require a brakeman to ride with the train around the track to slow it down at certain points on the layout, particularly bends; as the trains are not mechanically held onto the track. The brakeman is responsible for slowing the train down when necessary and stopping it in the station at the end of the ride. There are only a few examples of such rides now left in existence; the Scenic Railway at Luna Park, Melbourne Australia and the Roller Coaster at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, UK are two of the largest examples.

See also




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