Locomotive Fireman

Historically, before a railroad worker would become a fireman, he would have to “pay his dues” by completing various jobs, including:

  • Engine wiper
  • Empties the clinker pit
  • Performs other types of drudgery

If the railroad worker performs these tasks at a satisfactory level, he will eventually be promoted and placed on the “extra fireman” list, and eventually can move up to become a regular fireman.

Fireman’s Duties

A fireman’s primary job is to shovel coal into the firebox and ensure that the boiler maintains sufficient steam pressure. Depending on the railroad, there are two methods to firing:

  • Banking system, which requires that large quantities of coal be placed into the firebox
  • Spreading system, which requires that the coal be broken up into pieces before being placed into the firebox

The locomotive Fireman also served as a “copilot” to the engineer. He was responsible for knowing the signals, curves and grade changes to anticipate the amount of steam needed.

Road Firemen and Switch Engine Firemen

Road firemen typically have work to do to get ready for their trip, including:

  • Gather necessary supplies
  • Fill lubricators, lamps, oil cans and sand boxes
  • Wipe down the cab and its fittings
  • Clean the ash pans

Switch engine firemen have the same responsibilities; however they work in the yard and not in transit.

Railroad Accidents and FELA

As railroad workers, locomotive firemen are protected under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), should they be injured on the job. Congress enacted FELA in 1906 in response to thousands of railroad workers’ deaths. The railroad industry has been a dangerous industry since the beginning. Thousands of railroad workers are maimed, killed or severely injured in accidents each year.

FELA requires railroad employers to ensure a certain level of safety for their employees. Should they be injured while working, railroad employees are guaranteed compensation under FELA law. Recoverable compensation includes emotional trauma, physical pain and medical/treatment costs, among others.

If you or a loved one is injured while working as a locomotive fireman or another railroad employee, contact a railroad attorney to discuss your legal rights. Because FELA is a rather complex body of law, you are best off consulting an experienced FELA attorney as soon as the injury occurs.