Driver or Engineer?

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by musicman, 18 May 2015.

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  1. musicman

    musicman Member

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    The BBC article

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-32758223

    poses the question why do the USA insist on calling the person operating the engine of a train and "engineer" and not a "driver". Turns out that this was also true in the UK back in the day - hence the acronym ASLEF where the "E" stands for engineer!

    Are there names/suggestions these days that better reflect what it is like in charge of the beast that hurtles along at 125mph?

    Answers please?
     
  2. ComUtoR

    ComUtoR Established Member

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    What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet;
    -William Shakespeare​
     
  3. DaleCooper

    DaleCooper Established Member

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  4. ComUtoR

    ComUtoR Established Member

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    Can't use pilot. It already has a specific meaning on the railway (at least uk)
     
  5. TDK

    TDK Established Member

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    Button presser and lever puller maybe?
     
  6. OneOffDave

    OneOffDave Member

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  7. Taunton

    Taunton Established Member

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    There are a large number of technical terms where US rail usage differs from UK (Australia, South Africa etc often provide further options), so that the term for driver has diverged as well is fairly standard. Conductor was unknown on UK trains until recent times, and brakeman was never used in Britain.

    In the earliest days of UK railways the loco driver was expected to be much more of an all-round engineer than nowadays. There were fewer fitters etc, and the driver was expected to handle (or arrange, and pay for) minor repairs and such like. They were also more responsible for the operation, on the Liverpool & Manchester, although they were supplied with a locomotive (which nobody else drove, some actually padlocked them to a rail at the end of the day), they had to buy their own coal/coke and employ their own fireman. They were paid a rate per mile, or ton-mile, for all this. In time it became too difficult to find enough entrepreneurial and knowledgeable men for this, and the job was divided up between different employees. Later in the 19th century the term for the crew became Enginemen, another expression that has come and gone.

    Even within the UK, for track maintenance employees we have used in the past, in different parts of the country, Gangers, Platelayers, Surfacemen, Trackmen, Lengthmen, and doubtless other terms as well.

    As it does, but for something quite different, in the USA, where it is what is often incorrectly referred to as the "cowcatcher" in front of the loco front wheels, still more substantial in the US, where it looks like a small snowplough, than in Britain.
     
    Last edited: 18 May 2015
  8. musicman

    musicman Member

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    Thanks Taunton - that covers all the bases!

    For a new title, what about Traction-maestro?
     
  9. DaleCooper

    DaleCooper Established Member

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  10. scott118

    scott118 Member

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    machine operative
     
  11. Jonny

    Jonny Established Member

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    Train Operator (LU term for train driver), perhaps more relevant there given the high levels of automation on some Underground lines.
     
  12. LateThanNever

    LateThanNever Established Member

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    Very interesting history.
    To which can be added that it is also why a French train driver is still called an ingénieur. The French railways were originally British built which is why they still 'drive' on the left* and employed initially only British drivers (engineers), who remained numerous, particularly on Paris Normandy routes, I believe, until well into the 20th century!
    *Though I'm unsure if the definitely not British built TGV lines are still on the left? If not it must cause difficulties when they switch to classic lines - but they will have experience of that I suppose on German built Alsace rails.
     
  13. Domeyhead

    Domeyhead Member

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    In the formative days of my career my old and cynical manager told me that the purpose of an engineer was to "deskill other people's jobs". As I grew into my profession I disagreed with his definition as being out of date, and produced my own that defines an engineer as someone tasked to to create or change system(s) to deliver some beneficial outcome(s). This distinguishes an engineer from (eg) an operator (who performs a defined set of processes in response to (mostly) predictable conditions) or a technician (who maintains or returns a system to a predefined state). I would suggest that a train driver is an operator. An airline pilot by the same token is more than an operator because of the added skills of navigation, linguistics and communications, as well as having staff authority.
     
  14. notadriver

    notadriver Established Member

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    I'm not sure of the operator title. That probably better applies to urban metro systems that travel at a relatively low speed. I'm not sure that title would apply to a Eurostar driver who must be able to communicate fairly fluently in English and French, can have knowledge of the rule books of English, French and Belgium rail systems as well as the high speed lines which have a separate rule book, is responsible for the overall safety of the train including all communications with the Signaller and dealing with emergencies which may include evacuation.
     
  15. OpsWeb

    OpsWeb Member

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    The job title "Engineer" is protected in the United Kingdom. That is to say, you can't just call yourself an engineer - you have to be qualified to be one!

    For example, a recognised time-served apprentice or an engineering degree will allow you to use the title legally.

    That is why the railway have "fitters" or "rolling stock technicians", legally they cannot be called engineers because of there qualification type.
     
  16. HLE

    HLE Member

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    Because engineer is an overused word nowadays !
     
  17. DaleCooper

    DaleCooper Established Member

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    I think only the titles "Chartered Engineer" and "Incorporated Engineer" are protected by law.
     
  18. hulabaloo

    hulabaloo Member

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  19. Nean

    Nean Member

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    Correct - There was a petition that gathered quite a bit of steam to change it so that "Engineer" is protected as well a few months back, but nothing came of it. Anyone can still call themselves an engineer, much to the dismay of quite a few people I go to uni with.
     
    Last edited: 18 May 2015
  20. Bishopstone

    Bishopstone Member

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    Definitely driver.

    An engineer is someone who fixes your washing machine.
     
  21. alex17595

    alex17595 Member

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    A driver is something that runs my computer hardware!
     
  22. LNW-GW Joint

    LNW-GW Joint Established Member

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    Engines are inventions that turn force into motion, and people that work with engines are engineers.
    Engineer/ingénieur also means inventor, ie a creative mind (eg software engineer).

    A surprisingly large group of countries drive their trains on the left, after imported British practice and initial technology.
    Dresden-Leipzig was originally LH running, as was the Austrian Nordbahn (only recently fully converted to RH running).
    TGV lines are LH running, except where they enter Alsace where they switch over.
    Italy is LH and so was the Norte of Spain (classic lines out of Chamartin).
    On a run from Paris via Hendaye to Madrid you change over to RH at Valladolid at the start of the Spanish AVE line.
     
  23. OpsWeb

    OpsWeb Member

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    I stand corrected, there is a piece on the Engineering Council website:

    "The professional titles of Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer IEng), Chartered Engineer (CEng) and ICT Technician (ICTTech) may only be used by those who have been granted these titles through registration with the Engineering Council.

    The words engineer and engineering have both been in common use for centuries in the UK. Neither is legally defined and in everyday language the term engineer is very often taken to mean anyone who is in some way associated with engineering, including the design, manufacture, maintenance or operation of a technical product or system.

    Successive examinations of the subject by the profession and by Parliament have concluded that any attempt to restrict use of the term would have little prospect of success. Indeed, such an approach might be seen as simply meddling with language usage and could thus have a negative effect and alienate people for no good purpose. However, the specific titles that denote professional engineering competence are quite different; these are protected by law and their use is restricted."

    How about Chartered Driver?
     
  24. DaleCooper

    DaleCooper Established Member

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    Tell that to Charles Babbage.
     
  25. Class 172 Fan

    Class 172 Fan Member

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    Why not call them Railway Locomotion Operatives :) :)
     
  26. LNW-GW Joint

    LNW-GW Joint Established Member

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    What's the "difference"? ;)
    (That's engine as invention).
     
  27. Pigeon

    Pigeon Member

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    The word is from the same roots as "ingenuity"; an engine is an ingenious device. "Steam engine" does not mean "motive power source that uses steam", it means "ingenious device that uses steam". So we have difference engines and search engines and print engines and feersum endjinns, and only one of those provides motive power.
     
  28. 507 001

    507 001 Member

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    Erm, brakeman WAS used in Britain on the Ffestiniog railway, referring to a person in charge of a braked wagon within a gravity train (admittedly not on he main line railway but still a British railway).
     
  29. BestWestern

    BestWestern Established Member

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    Yet endless battered Transit vans owned by bus companies, running about jump starting sh*gged batteries and gaffer taping leaking radiator hoses, have the word 'Engineering' proudly emblazoned down the sides!

    An acquaintence was once pulled up by a slightly stroppy member of his bus company's maintenance staff for using the term 'Fitter', which apparently was considered somewhat derogatory since the preferred term was indeed 'Engineer'. My chum rather bluntly suggested that said chap, had he been an engineer, would have designed a Dennis Dart, rather than being called out to the roadside to bodge up the starter switch on one!
     
  30. Mojo

    Mojo Administrator Staff Member Administrator

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    Indeed, although in the not so distant past they were known as a "Motorman."

    I wonder how much the use of the term "Train Operator" is influenced by the American roots of the Tube; many Metro systems in the USA call their staff on the front of the train a "Train Operator."
     
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