Where can I find a RR organizational chart showing who reports to who?

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Often you hear about RR positions (especially in the transition era) but I can't seem to find a chart that shows who was at the bottom and who was at the top and what the reporting strcture was.

can someone point me ion the right direction?
Since no one has replied yet, I'll pop in. Somewhere, in all my railroad reference material, I have an organizational chart for the mid-1950's Great Northern. The key there is somewhere. I won't have time this weekend, my son is coming for a visit, but if no one else comes up with one, I'll try to find it.
WOW! I had no idea it would be that complex.
Just trying to find out the general who's boss is who's. As far as I can tell the boss of a given train is the conductor. He is over everyone. Then the Engineer? Where are the Fireman, brakeman, yard master etc RN the hierarchy? In a day in the life of a Railroad worker in 1940's or 50's who's directly involved and who do they report to? Not interested in business people above those that make it happen every day.
In view of that, the dispatcher is GOD. He is the person responsible for all train movements outside of yard limits. Dispatchers issue orders to "Trains" which is railroad speak for the conductor. He, the conductor, then authorizes the engineer to make "movements". The fireman is more or less outside the "operations" hierarchy. The brakemen are pretty much at the bottom of the pile, though the do get to direct the engineers movements when switching.

The Yard Master is the ultimate control within the limits of the yard. He assembles a switchlist (or waybill or whatever the particular railroad calls the form), gives it to an engineer who, along with his brakemen, locate and assemble the train. The train is then placed on a lead track for pickup by a road crew: conductor, engineer, and remaining crew.

The dispatcher gives his orders to an operator where he (the dispatcher) is located. The operator then transmits the train orders to the operator of the nearest station ahead of the train. Depending on the nature of the order, the station may stop the train or pass orders on the fly. As part of their responsibilities, the station operators report when a train in "by" (passed) the station. This way, the dispatcher knows the approximate location of every train in the territory he is responsible for.

On a large road, there is a Head Dispatcher who passes orders on to Division Dispatchers.
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Ok so where does the dispatcher get his information from? And who's his boss?

so Far;
On the main ------- In the Yard
Dispatcher ----------- Yard Master
Conductor ------------ Brakeman
Engineer -------------- Engineer
Brakeman ----------

Pretty much correct, with the proviso that the train's engineer in much like a modern pilot. While air traffic control gives the pilot instructions and expects them to be followed, ultimately, the pilot is responsible for the safety of the aircraft. So with the train, the engineer can question the safety of any movement.

The dispatcher's boss would be a district or regional General Manager - one of those "business" side jobs you said you weren't interested in. The dispatcher gets his information from various sources, again, depending on the operating rules of the railroad, timetables being one form. Understand that most trains on real railroads are point-to-point operations; in essence, moving cars (or people) from one yard (station) to another. The local, or peddler, freight gets its pickup and drop off list from the Traffic Manager, but once out on the mainline, its operation is under the control of the dispatcher.
Ok so where does the dispatcher get his information from? And who's his boss?

so Far;
On the main ------- In the Yard
Dispatcher ----------- Yard Master
Conductor ------------ Brakeman
Engineer -------------- Engineer
Brakeman ----------
Second fireman would be the bottom of the engine craft people while a rear flagman would be the bottom of the train craft. But I'm pretty certain by WWI the duties of the flagman had been moved to the Switchman, and by WWII to the Brakeman.

AND it can also depend on the railroad whether they are called brakemen or switchmen, or both. I'm looking at a class 1 railroad's list of crew members right now and they still have two levels of brakemen BRS and BR1 can't tell which is higher. They appear to only have one level of switchman - SW1. I would assume switchman is the lower of the two. Some railroads have a Foreman instead of a Conductor for yard trains. There can also be an Engineer Foreman depending on how they structure their yards, I don't know if this dates back to the transition era or not.

On a foreign train (BN train on UP tracks) there are Pilots that are "over" the regular crew. Basically they give advice about the road situations and rules. There is a regular Pilot over the Engineer (whether the pilot or the engineer is actually pulling the throttle), and also Foreman Pilots and Conductor Pilots.

And then there are all the trainee positions.

Then there is the issue of who is the boss verse who is answering to whom for operation. Technically the engineer and trainmen's boss is a Line Supervisor not the Dispatcher. The Dispatcher is the "boss" in regard to how and when a train is run, not for personnel issues.

The Train Dispatcher (different from the Crew Dispatcher) usually gets instructions from a Train Master, Train Masters are responsible to Director of Train Operations, and him to Supervisor of Transportation
The Yard Master, to the Manager of Operational Practices, to the Director of Terminal Operations, to the Supervisor of Transportation
The Crew Dispatcher (Crew Caller) reports to a Crew Supervisor, who reports to a Manager of Crew Utilization, and him/her to Director of Crew Operations. to the Supervisor of Transportation.

There are also district and sub-district and station managers and supervisors, so one needs a flow chart to figure out all the real reporting vs. dotted line run a train reporting structures.

Once again these exact titles and positions are going to vary by railroad. I've only used one current class 1 railroads structure as an example. I know that in the end of the Santa Fe many of these positions had been eliminated for the sake of efficiency.
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The dispatcher gets most of his information from the schedule. The dispatcher is responsible for everything that happens within his jurisdiction.

It's his job to keep traffic moving and avoid collisions.

When extra traffic exists he makes new trains with train orders. He can delete freight trains if the traffic less than normal.

I guess the answer to who is boss over the dispatcher depends a lot on the size of the railroad. I am sure the PRR had many managers above the dispatcher. On a smaller railroad the dispatcher would probably report to an operations manager /vice president or something similar.

A railroad is a complex system. Presumably the connecting railroad(s) especially friendly ones would share information on traffic levels.

Modeling the roaring 20's
President of the Lancaster Central Railroad
President of the Western Maryland Railway
When I first started this post I expected to get a typical company org chart. When Willie posted that (well it looked like a 200 year family tree) chart I knew this was not going to be an easy answer. I'm a pilot so that analogy probably provided the best overview of how railroads work. As a pilot, I'm in charge of the aircraft but I can't even move until ground clears me, i can't take off or land until the tower clears me and if I'm flying IFR I have to follow either a published route or the directions of several entities within the ATC system.

Thanks to Kevin, Iron Horseman and RBNM Fan I have learned so much and can see I have aloft more to learn.

THIS is just ONE reason this hobby is so great. There is always something to learn, something to build, fix or improve and there are communities, forums and many other sources of information and people like you guys who are always willing to share knowledge, experience and opinions.



Active Member
think of the yard as your local airport-the yardmaster is in charge of movements, like the tower at an airport. There's ground crew there too, like switchmen, tower men, etc. Hostlers would bring the engines from the 'shop,' to the ramp/gate, where the actual (road) train crew would take over.

once you depart the terminal and are 'on the main,' the dispatcher (ATC/Tracon) is in charge of train spacing, meet locations, etc

Pilot responsibilities are split between the Conductor, and Engineer. Remember, back when cabooses were used, the conductor would usually be located in the caboose, which had a brake valve, which the conductor could use, if he thought the engineer was going to fast, or was being unsafe. The conductor and other train members were also on the lookout for hot boxes, etc, while running

On diesels, fireman is sort of like copilot/flight engineer(pilot in training) keeps eyes out and on some gauges, + trouble shoots engine problems while running

Station agents report progress of train to Dispatcher, called 'OSing,' or 'On (Dispatcher's Train) Sheet,' which is determined by the schedule, assuming there is one, before radios, and such, or modern train detection systems. In the age of CTC, dispatchers transmitted some of their directions to train crews thru signal indications, besides train orders. Depending on what the instructions were, if they were issued as train orders, a crew might have to stop the train and sign for them. Train orders often came in Form 19, or Form 31, one of which could be picked up on the fly, the others needed to be signed for. There were also Form A, which I forget what they were for-maybe where maintenance was going on. Today, Track Warrents are used, mostly or in some cases instead of train orders. Dispatcher reads his instructions to crew, and engineer repeats them verbatim back to the dispatcher. Track warrents are good from point a, to point b, on a certain date, for a certain period of time, which are included in the warrant.

Some trains had a head, and a rear brakeman, or on passenger trains, an assistant trainman, or assistant conductor. It depends some on the period, and rr. Going back further, there were also assistant brakeman, station masters, yardmasters, towermen, etc.

Also, if you wanted to be an engineer, you started out as a fireman. For conductor, you started as a brakeman. Generally, the longer distance runs paid more, than say a local passenger or freight train, and also yard or station switcher engineers. Generally for yard and station masters, you started at a small, remote location, and worked your way up to larger and larger stations/yards, until you worked at the most important station/yard. Everything was based on seniority. Of course, depending on the situation, if you wanted to be home every night, and were in the 'operations department,' you might pass up the long distant assignments for a local, or yard/station job, so you could be home every night, which usually paid less. Sort of like flying the short haul, or commuter/regional airlines. A shortline railroad, was similar to a regional, or commuter airline, as were branch line assignments on the larger systems.

Hope this helps some.

You might look for a book called "Rights of Trains," which explains 'the rules of the road,' in terms of which train(s) have priorities over other trains, in different situations.


Active Member
Additionally, if you were an engineer or fireman, you usually had to pass a 'rules test,' periodically, to prove your familiarity with signal indications, what different signs along the right of way meant, etc. In most of these positions, you learned your job, thru OJT with more senior personnel, after 'hiring on.' Also, you started out on the 'Extra Board,' and worked your way up the seniority list to a regular assignment, be it yard, local, or mainline. Also, you may have started out on the '3rd trick' or third shift, when traffic was less, depending on the location, and probably on the weekend, not weekday, also, depending on the schedule/traffic.

In yards, there were car inspectors, whom inspected the length of a train, to ensure all the equipment, like airbrake hoses, airbrakes(weren't sticking), couplers, hatches, doors, etc were closed/locked on freight trains, and that the cars in the train would make it to their destination (or off the company's property) without any problems. There were also 'car knockers' who might attach the brake lines, as the train was made up in the yard, which still needs to happen today, as couplers or brakelines don't attach themselves together, automatically.

Depending on the situation, the Hostler might leave the locomotive on the 'ready track,' where the engine crew and head brakeman would pick it up. It was usually the responsibility of the fireman, to ensure the hostler had the fire ready to go, or the diesel fueled and sanded, + any water added for steam heat for passenger heat, and alike. Engineer would show up after the fireman to make sure everything was to his liking and 'ready to go,' and proceed to pick up his train also on a different ready track. In a freight yard, it would be most likely in the departure yard, or departure track. The yard crew would have moved the string of cars to the departure yard, when the train had been properly assembled, and probably (or at least sometimes) would add the caboose, prior to departure. That's where the conductor and rear brakeman would be. Prior to 'climbing aboard,' the conductor or brakeman would receive a pack of waybills (on freight trains), one for every car, from the station agent or yardmaster, which would include any instructions for special handing of the ladding (like cattle, or ice reefers) enroute. He'd have to go thru these and have the brakeman check that every car was on the train, prior to departure. The brakeman would be doing this as he checked the brake lines, the length of the train, although the front/head and rear brakeman might start from their respective ends and meet in the middle. Engineer and conductor would usually discuss any slow orders or special movements expected during the trip, prior to departure, usually near the head end or locomotive.

On a passenger train, there might also be a diner, with a head steward, and perhaps if there were sleeping cars, or parlor cars, a Pullman Porter or conductor. The Train conductor would coordinate service with these crew members. A train like the California Zypher also had a 'Nurse/Hostess' on board, sort of like a stewardess-I mean flight attendant. She (typically, prior to Amtrak) would help mothers with any children, or children traveling alone, + perhaps double as a secretary also. Trains like the Broadway Limited also hade a barbershop, with the barber perhaps reporting to the head steward in the diner.
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Stuck in the 1930's
I though of the levels of management within a railroad, and it depended on the railroad. PRR had too many levels of management, N&W not so much.
There are multiple different structures and there are different structures for the different crafts (transportation-mechanical-engineering).

Vice presidents
General managers

Below a superintendent it breaks into four crafts (asterisk indicates union/agreement employee):

Asst or Terminal Supts.
Asst Trainmaster
General Yardmaster
Footboard Yardmaster*

Chief Dispatcher
Asst Chief Dispatcher *

Division Engineer
General Roadmaster
Asst Roadmaster
Track inspector*
Gang member/Sectionman*

Master Mechanic
General Foreman
Asst General Foreman

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