Railroad Jobs in Washington State - Seattle, Yakima, Tacoma

Washington State is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States with quite an impressive railroad infrastructure. The state railroad history begins with the construction of Cascade Portage Railway back in the 1850s.

Today, Washington State is home to 23 freight railroads, employing 3,500 railroad workers on over 3,000 railroad lines,resulting in a great potential for finding railroad jobs in Washington State.

Before we look into the potential employers, let’s take a look at Washington State’s economy and climate. Why climate? Working on the railroad will require you to be outdoors, especially working as a yardmaster or freight conductor, so the outdoor environment is very important, and is something to consider.

Washington State has a diverse and robust economy, with different strong economic sectors, the state economy is ranked the 10th in the nation. The state is well known for sectors such as agriculture, software development (Microsoft, Amazon), aircraft manufacturing (Boeing), aluminum production, lumber and wood products, mining, beverages (Starbucks), real estate, retail (Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer), and tourism (Alaska Airlines).[source]

Washington’s climate varies between East and West quite significantly. The east climate is relatively dry, in distinct contrast to the west side, with large areas of semi arid terrain. On the other hand, the west side of the state has a Mediterranean Climate, with mild temperatures and wet winters, autumns and springs, and relatively dry summers.

Now that we have a better picture of the state, let’s dive into the real question which is, where can I find a railroad job in Washington State?

As mentioned above, the state has a great railroad infrastructure which translates into a greater chance of securing employment.

Class I railroads that might offer railroad jobs in Washington State.

Washington State is served by two (2) Class Is railroads, which are BNSF Railway and Union Pacific, both might offer job opportunities. Working for a Class Is is not as easy as people think, of course it comes with great advantages, like amazing pay and retirement plans, but you need to be aware that it will require you to be gone for days, to work long shifts, over the weekends and holidays.
I strongly suggest you check with the railroad what your requirements will be as well as your pay package.

If you are not considering Class I as an employer, or perhaps they’re not hiring at this moment, rest assured, Washington State has 23 shortlines operating throughout the state and few passenger carriers.

Class II or Regional Railroad operating and potentially offering railroad jobs in Washington State is Montana Rail Link (MRL), the railroad is headquartered in Montana, but operates between Spokane, Washington and Huntley, Montana. If you are located in the Northeastern side of the state this might be a good choice.

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Class III or Shortine & Terminal Railroads are the smallest railroad companies, they are classified as the 3rd Class under their revenue. These railroads might offer railroad jobs, so I strongly suggest you contact them directly.

The Ballard Terminal Railroad Company LLC (BDTL) operates three short line terminal railroads in western Washington, United States, a three mile railroad in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, Eastside Freight Railroad (EFRX) from Snohomish to Woodinville, Washington, and Meeker Southern Railroad (MSN), a 5 mile long rail, from East Puyallup to McMillin, Washington.

The Cascade and Columbia River Railroad (CSCD) is a Class III shortline railroad that runs to Oroville and interchanges with BNSF Railway in Wenatchee, Washington.

The Central Washington Railroad (CWRR) is a shortline freight carrier that operates in the Yakima, Washington area on 80 miles of track.

The Columbia Basin Railroad (CBRR) operates between Ephrata and Connell in the state of Washington, USA.

The Columbia and Cowlitz Railway (CLC) is headquartered in Longview, Washington. The railroad serves an 8.5 miles route from the Weyerhaeuser Company mill in Longview to the junction just outside the city limits of Kelso. The railroad employs thirteen people and hauls around 12,000 carloads a year.

The Great Northwest Railroad (GRNW) is located in north central Idaho but it runs to Riparia, Washington. The Mount Vernon Terminal Railway (MVT) is a terminal railroad located in Mt. Vernon, Washington. The Olympia and Belmore Railroad (OYLO) is headquartered in Centralia, and operates a line leased from the BNSF Railway which runs between Olympia and Belmore. OYLO it’s a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming.

The Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad (PCC) operates on 237 miles of track, traffic mostly consists of wheat, lentils and barley. PCC has three segments, the Hooper line running between Hooper Junction and Colfax, WA. The Pleasant Valley, running from Winona Junction to Thornton, WA and the South Subdivision, running from Wallula to Walla Walla to Dayton Washington, and Walla Walla to Weston, Oregon. The railroad hauls about 4,000 carloads per year.

The Pend Oreille Valley Railroad (rPOVA) is a shortline railroad located in Usk, in northeast Washington serving the communities of Usk, Dalkena, Newport, Oldtown, Priest River, Laclede.

The Lewis and Clark Railway ( LINC) is a county-owned railroad located in Clark County, Washington operating on 33 miles of track, beginning at the BNSF interchange at Rye Junction in Vancouver, Washington and going northeast, passing through Brush Prairie and Battle Ground to the line's northern end past Yacolt.

The Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad (PSAP) operates over 150 miles of track, headquartered in Centralia, Washington. The general traffic consists of timber products, garbage, as well as chemicals.

The Tri-City Railroad (TCRY) is a privately owned Class III railroad located in Richland, Washington.

Tacoma Rail (TMBL, TRMW) is a shortline railroad owned by the city of Tacoma, Washington and operated as a public utility, the railroad is self-supported and generates revenue for the City of Tacoma and Washington state. It operates 16 diesel locomotives, more than 100 employees and about 140 miles of track.

The Washington Eastern Railroad is located in Eastern Washington and it operates on 114 miles of track. The Washington and Idaho Railway ( WIR) was a shortline railroad that operated in the area south of Spokane, Washington, connecting the BNSF Railway at Marshall to Palouse, Washington. A new operator took over in August 2019 and is called the Spokane, Spangle & Palouse Railway (SSP).

These are all the shortline and terminal railroads I found operating throughout the state of Washington. Please contact them directly for employment inquiries.

There are few passenger carriers, vacation trains and heritage railroads, operating in the state, these as well might offer railroad jobs.

Amtrak (AMTK) - the largest passenger carrier operating in the state.

Battle Ground, Yacolt and Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association

Chehalis–Centralia Railroad (CHTX) is a heritage railroad based in Chehalis, Washington. CHTX operates No. 15, a 2-8-2 steam locomotive built by Baldwin in 1916, over a 10-mile section of former Milwaukee Road track.

Chelatchie Prairie Railroad is a heritage railroad in Yacolt, Washington, owned by Clark County, Washington.

Lake Whatcom Railway

Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad (MRRR) is a steam-powered heritage railroad operating in the U.S. state of Washington between Elbe and Mineral. The MRRR runs its collection of vintage rail equipment over seven miles of track, part of Tacoma Rail's Mountain Division. Most of the MRRR’s engines are geared steam locomotives.

Northwest Railway Museum

Sound Transit (Sounder, Tacoma Link, and Central Link)(ST) is a public transit agency serving the Seattle area, operating light rail service (Link light rail) in Seattle and Tacoma, regional Sounder commuter rail, and Sound Transit Express bus service.

Yakima Electric Railway Museum

Yakima Valley Rail and Steam Museum Association

Yakima Valley Transportation (YVT)

Seattle Streetcar

In Conclusion..

Finding a railroad job in Washington State shouldn’t be a problem due to the extensive railroad activity throughout the state. According to BLS.gov there are between 330-550 locomotive engineers actively employed in the state, with 90% of them earning around $108,350/year. There are also between 360-660 train conductors and yardmasters, where 90% of them earn $89,970/year.

These salaries are accompanied by great benefits like medical, paid vacation etc. and very good retirement plans.

I hope this was helpful,

Good luck!

Looking for a railroad job in a different state? Check out the map below!