Traction and Rolling Stock Engineer

The Job and What's Involved

train repair shopTraction and rolling stock engineers work with a variety of rail vehicles, including multiple units, locomotives, carriages and wagons. They play key roles in the design, building and maintenance of vehicles, including:

- Designing new trains and mechanical or electrical parts
- Overseeing modifications to parts and equipment
- Finding solutions to problems or faults

They also carry out routine electronic, electrical and mechanical maintenance, ensuring that trains are prepared for service on time, are operating efficiently and safely, and meet quality standards and regulations.

Traction and rolling stock engineers specify which activities should take place when, and manage the processes to ensure that they meet health and safety and industry regulations.

Traction and rolling stock engineers manage and take responsibility for the work of teams who undertake tasks, including routine services, fault finding, repairs and alterations. The teams that they manage usually include technicians, fitters and semi-skilled fitters, and they also work alongside other engineers, operators and craftspeople. Engineers also have to maintain records of work done, and may also take responsibility for project and budget management.

Many engineers work shifts, which can include night and weekend working. Extra hours may be required, including some opportunities for paid overtime.

Some of the work is carried out in engineering workshops or outside at the trackside, but engineers also spend time in an office. In cases where the working environment is potentially hazardous, engineers must wear safety clothing, such as protective boots, hats and safety glasses. If they are working at the trackside, they must also wear high-visibility clothing.

Newly recruited engineers may earn about £25,000 a year. With some experience, engineers may earn about £35,000 a year.

Senior engineers may earn over £50,000 a year, some earning considerably more.

Some rail operating companies offer discounts on travel for their employees.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Traction and rolling stock engineers work for engineering companies that build and own trains, and for the train operating companies and freight companies that run the passenger carriages, locomotives and freight fleets across the UK.

Jobs may be advertised through company websites, trade magazines and specialist engineering recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

The most usual way to become a traction or rolling stock engineer is with a degree in a mechanical or electrical engineering subject.

Entry requirements for a degree course are usually a minimum of two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C). A levels in maths and physics are usually required for engineering subjects. Candidates should check with colleges and universities for entry requirements.

The Diploma in engineering may be relevant. It offers an introduction to basic engineering principles, such as design, materials, electronic systems, maintenance and manufacturing. Students have the chance to use their skills in a work experience placement.

Some railway companies take on undergraduates for work placements and many operate graduate recruitment schemes.

Another route into the role is to find employment as a trainee and then develop the skills required to move to an engineer's position. This can take time and employees may have to study for a degree or for another professional qualification that is recognised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE).

An alternative route into this type of role is through an Apprenticeship. This can lead to qualifications such as NVQ Level 2 or 3 in railway engineering and to further employment within the industry.

Many railway companies offer Apprenticeships or Advanced Apprenticeships.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Traction and rolling stock engineers can work towards becoming professional engineers at either incorporated or chartered level (IEng or CEng). To achieve this, they have to undergo recognised professional development and training, and apply to one of the recognised professional engineering institutions for a professional review.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) offers a Professional Engineering Development Scheme (APEDS), accredited by IMechE and IET, which is open to engineers with a suitable degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. This is a structured route to becoming a chartered or incorporated engineer.

Other companies have a graduate development scheme, accredited by the engineering institutions and designed to lead to a career as a chartered or incorporated engineer. Engineers can follow the training elements of such schemes whilst employed in their full-time jobs.

Engineers have to keep up to date with the latest technology and developments in their industry through continuing professional development (CPD).

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A traction and rolling stock engineer should have:

  • A high level of engineering and technical knowledge.
  • Skills in maths and computing.
  • The ability to work with technical diagrams and schemes.
  • Good attention to detail.
  • An ability to think through problems and come up with solutions.
  • A responsible attitude and an awareness of safety issues.The ability to work well with others
  • Management skills, including dealing with conflict and task allocation.
  • Good communication skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Traction and rolling stock engineers can become senior engineers or take on positions such as head of engineering.

Engineers can also move into other areas of the rail industry, such as general management or directorships, although they may need to develop further skills if they move into another discipline, such as signalling or permanent way engineering.

Get Further Information

Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC),
3rd Floor, 40 Bernard Street,
London WC1N 1BY
Tel: 020 7841 8000

Engineering Council UK (ECUK),
246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0500

Engineering UK, 2nd Floor, Weston House,
246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX
Tel: 020 3206 0400

GoSkills, Concorde House,
Trinity Park, Solihull,
West Midlands B37 7UQ
Tel: 0121 635 5520

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Michael Faraday House, Stevenage,
Hertfordshire SG1 2AY
Tel: 01438 313311

Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE),
1 Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London SW1H 9JJ
Tel: 020 7222 7899

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