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Career and Education Opportunities for Track Layers in Chicago, Illinois

For those living in the Chicago, Illinois area, there are many career and education opportunities for track layers. Currently, 1,390 people work as track layers in Illinois. This is expected to grow 4% to 1,450 people by 2016. This is not quite as good as the nation as a whole, where employment opportunities for track layers are expected to grow by about 14.8%. In general, track layers lay, repair, and maintain track for standard or narrow-gauge railroad equipment used in regular railroad service or in plant yards, quarries, sand and gravel pits, and mines.

A person working as a track layer can expect to earn about $20 per hour or $42,750 annually on average in Illinois and about $21 per hour or $44,220 per year on average in the U.S. as a whole. Incomes for track layers are not quite as good as in the overall category of Paving in Illinois, and better than the overall Paving category nationally.

There are 180 schools of higher education in the Chicago area, including one within twenty-five miles of Chicago where you can get a degree to start your career as a track layer. Given that the most common education level for track layers is a high school diploma or GED, you can expect to spend only a short time training to become a track layer if you already have a high school diploma.


Track Layer video from the State of New Jersey Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development

In general, track layers lay, repair, and maintain track for standard or narrow-gauge railroad equipment used in regular railroad service or in plant yards, quarries, sand and gravel pits, and mines. They also includes ballast cleaning machine operators and road bed tamping machine operators.

Track layers repair and adjust track switches, using wrenches and replacement parts. They also trim rails to specified lengths, using rail saws. Equally important, track layers have to operate track-wrench equipment to tighten or loosen bolts at joints that hold ends of rails together. They are often called upon to lubricate machines and fill hydraulic reservoirs to specified levels. They are expected to clean and make minor repairs to machines and equipment. Finally, track layers engage mechanisms that lay tracks or rails to specified gauges.

Every day, track layers are expected to be able to maintain precise control of objects and devices through a range of movements. They need to judge how far and close objects are from one another and themselves. It is also important that they lift, push and move large and heavy objects.

It is important for track layers to grind ends of new or worn rails to attain smooth joints, using portable grinders. They are often called upon to patrol assigned track sections so that damaged or broken track can be located and reported. They also operate single- or multiple-head spike driving equipment to drive spikes into ties and secure rails. They are sometimes expected to dress and reshape worn or damaged railroad switch points and frogs, using portable power grinders. Somewhat less frequently, track layers are also expected to turn wheels of machines, using lever controls, to modify guidelines for track alignments and grades, following specifications.

and string and attach wire-guidelines machine to rails so that tracks or rails can be aligned or leveled. And finally, they sometimes have to drive graders and ballast cleaning/spreading equipment to redistribute gravel and ballast between rails.

Like many other jobs, track layers must be reliable and be thorough and dependable.

Similar jobs with educational opportunities in Chicago include:

  • Black Top Paver Operator. Operate equipment used for applying concrete, asphalt, or other materials to road beds, parking lots, or airport runways and taxiways, or equipment used for tamping gravel, dirt, or other materials. Includes concrete and asphalt paving machine operators, form tampers, tamping machine operators, and stone spreader operators.
  • Highway Maintenance Worker. Maintain highways, municipal and rural roads, airport runways, and rights-of-way. Duties include patching broken or eroded pavement, repairing guard rails, highway markers, and snow fences. May also mow or clear brush from along road or plow snow from roadway.


Joliet Junior College - Joliet, IL

Joliet Junior College, 1215 Houbolt Rd, Joliet, IL 60431-8938. Joliet Junior College is a large college located in Joliet, Illinois. It is a public school with primarily 2-year programs and has 14,088 students. Joliet Junior College has a one to two year program in Construction/Heavy Equipment/Earthmoving Equipment Operation which graduated two students in 2008.


Chicago, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois photo by Dschwen

Chicago is situated in Cook County, Illinois. It has a population of over 2,853,114, which has shrunk by 1.5% in the past ten years. The cost of living index in Chicago, 114, is well above the national average. New single-family homes in Chicago are valued at $200,500 on average, which is far less than the state average. In 2008, three hundred eighty-one new homes were built in Chicago, down from eight hundred seventy the previous year.

The three big industries for women in Chicago are health care, educational services, and professional, scientific, and technical services. For men, it is construction, professional, scientific, and technical services, and accommodation and food services. The average commute to work is about 35 minutes. More than 25.5% of Chicago residents have a bachelor's degree, which is lower than the state average. The percentage of residents with a graduate degree, 10.0%, is higher than the state average.

The unemployment rate in Chicago is 11.6%, which is greater than Illinois's average of 10.5%.

The percentage of Chicago residents that are affiliated with a religious congregation, 57.6%, is more than both the national and state average. Southlawn United Methodist Church, Southern Missionary Baptist Church and Lakeside Evangelical Church are all churches located in Chicago. The most common religious groups are the Catholic Church, the Muslim Estimate and the Lutheran Church.

Chicago is home to the Five Crossings and the Wrigley Field as well as Monticello Park and Wilson Playground. Shopping centers in the area include Lincoln Village Shopping Center, Market Place at Six Corners Shopping Center and Kimbark Plaza Shopping Center. Visitors to Chicago can choose from Extended Stay America, Embassy Suites Lakefront and Cottage Inn for temporary stays in the area.