Brakeman Class


Brakeman James Caestecker couples locomotives together


Since the 1800s, thousands of men and women have participated in the age-old tradition of railroading.  Today, at the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, we preserve the art of vintage railroading with our collection of historic railroad cars and locomotives.  A dedicated team of volunteers labors each weekend to operate our excursion trains for the public.  You, too, can become a member of the San Diego and Arizona Railway’s operating train crews and help preserve America’s railroad history.  Come out to the Museum at Campo, CA for our semi-annual hands-on Brakeman Class.  At the Museum, we consider the term Brakeman to be gender-neutral – don’t let the term scare away any of our female railfans!

Trainee Grace Brown connecting air hoses between passenger cars.

This two-day, hands-on class is your introduction to railroading at the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum.  Our knowledgeable instructor, Stephen Hager, has several years of experience as brakeman, conductor, and locomotive engineer at the San Diego and Arizona Railway and is excited to teach you the skills you need to become brakeman.  Class participants will meet at Campo on two Saturdays to learn railroading’s basic skills including coupling and uncoupling railroad cars, operating and testing of air brakes and air hoses, getting on and detraining from moving locomotives and railroad cars, and proper securement of railroad equipment.

A student lets air from the locomotive into the train

In addition to the hands-on Brakeman Class, an additional sixteen hours of railroad rules classes and examinations are required to hold the title of brakeman for the Museum’s railroad arm, the San Diego and Arizona Railway (SD&A).  These classes include: General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) class – the rulebook used by most North American railroads to govern safe and efficient work on the railroad (8 hours), SD&A Air Brake class (4 hours), and SD&A Safety and Security class (4 hours).  Each of these classes will be offered on various dates listed below.

Those interested in attending the class must hold a current museum membership. Prior to enrolling in the Brakeman Class, brakeman candidates must first complete two ride-along “observation runs” with a qualified brakeman of the SD&A. These observation runs will be documented, and the completed forms must be submitted in order to receive approval to enroll in the class. Participants in the Brakeman Class may begin hands-on on-the-job training after completing the class. Class participants must be over the age of sixteen to enroll. However, brakemen must be eighteen years old and have taken the required rules classes to become qualified to help operate our trains without the direct supervision of a brakeman trainer.  It is not required for class participants to have taken and passed SD&A’s rules classes and examinations to begin training.

Instructor Jim Baker demonstrates signaling the locomotive engineer to release the train’s air brakes

Completing the training process and becoming qualified to work without supervision is a time-consuming process and can be physically demanding at times.  Brakeman trainees should expect to volunteer as a train crew member at least once a month to hone their skills and remain familiar with their job.  All of these things should be taken into consideration before enrolling in the Brakeman Class.

Students practice boarding a moving passenger car

The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum encourages you to try your hand at becoming a brakeman on the San Diego and Arizona Railway. The next two-day Brakeman Class is being held Saturday, September 14, 2024 and Saturday, September 21, 2024.  Attendance at both days of the class is mandatory. For class details and sign-up information, email the Brakeman Class Admins at After reaching out, you will receive instructions on how to sign up for your observation runs. Class size is limited, so please sign up soon as possible.

Rules classes and examinations will be held at La Mesa Police Department Community Room, 8085 University Ave., La Mesa, CA 91942.  Federal law requires that we offer these classes to both new and returning members of our railroad.  Passing the written exams at the end of each class allows crew members to legally work for the railroad.   Class dates and times are as follows and are subject to change.  Attendance at one session of each of the three classes is required in order for you to hold or maintain the title of qualified brakeman.

2024 Rules and Review Dates:


All classes start at 9:00 a.m. unless specified

Safety and Security Class (4 hrs):
  • June 22, 2024
  • September 22, 2024

General Code of Operating Rules (GCOR) Class (8 hrs):

  • April 27, 2024
  • June 23, 2024
  • September 15, 2024

Air Brake Class (4 hrs): Air Brake Class begins at 2:00 p.m.

  • June 22, 2024
  • September 22, 2024

AB&TH Class (8 hrs):

  • May 18, 2024 (location TBD in Spring Valley)
  • June 30, 2024