Discussion related to commuter rail and transit operators in California past and present including Los Angeles Metrolink and Metro Subway and Light Rail, San Diego Coaster, Sprinter and MTS Trolley, Altamont Commuter Express (Stockton), Caltrain and MUNI (San Francisco), Sacramento RTD Light Rail, and others...

Moderator: lensovet

  by Tadman
As far as I'm aware (I'm not a railroader, just have a few in the family and neighbors) a passenger conductor in the United States has the same duties and skills as a freight conductor due to the fact that a passenger train may have the same problems as a freight. Passenger trains may add/drop cars at terminals or busier way points. Our local carrier has a cab-car mid-train so they can make an inbound 8 or 10 car run at rush hour, drop the last five downtown, run a few mid-day runs at 3-5 cars, then pick up the last five again for the outbound rush.

I've also seen a few examples of Amtrak dropping a bad car in a remote siding rather than dragging it X-hundred miles until a car knocker can be located. Amtrak conductors are responsible for the operation of the train (and thus signals and dispatching) just like a freight conductor. The actual division of responsibility between engineer and conductor may be different from day to day, but the conductor is a train service person like the engineer. This is as opposed to certain Amtrak employee types like coach attendant and diner staff, which are not covered by hours of service and not allowed to do any train-handling stuff.

I had an experience a few months ago where a brake hose parted on an Amtrak train, and the conductor put on a visi-vest and went out on the ROW to fix it. He was also wearing steel toe boots, which I think conductors are required to wear on most passenger railroads.

I've heard Via Canada has no conductors, just "train leaders" or something like that. I'm not sure if these people handle adds/drops or just passengers.
  by EM2000
The Engineer and Conductor have joint responsibility over the overall safety of the train and rules compliance. The division of responsibility between the Engineer and Conductor, is split between the Engineer having general charge (responsibility) over the locomotive(s), and train movement. The Conductor has general charge (management) of the train (number of cars open, assigning assistant conductors cars to work, etc). Conductors are Train Service, Engineer's are Engine Service not Train Service. In a nutshell, troubleshooting and air brake related issues, that's Engineer stuff. Yes, the Conductor may assist the Engineer, or actually know what he/she is doing, but anything more complex than door issues the Engineer deals with. Also, most Passenger RR's I know of do not require steel toe boots for Train Service (Conductors).