Railroad Switching: A Quick Practice Hiring Test

Updated on December 5, 2016

When you apply for a job as a conductor, many railroads' HR departments will give you a test to see if you have an aptitute for railyard flat switching.

Switching takes time to learn and very few people can just go out and switch a yard without having some experience. Most people take a few years to really figure out how to switch efficiently.

But to find out if you have the aptitude to learn this kind of work, many companies will give you a test.

The test asks you to put cars in certain orders in the least amount of moves possible. The questions they ask can include anything from "How many times must the locomotive go forward?" to "How many times must the switch be lined to put the cars in order?"

Practice Railroad Switch Test

Below are two images of a simple and quick practice test I threw together for a couple people who requested it. Anyone can feel free to save these images and print them off to help them figure out a few switching moves.

I included an answer sheet with it so you can see if your answer matched and you can try to figure out how I did it in the amount of moves I did. There are only three questions and they aren't the hardest. If you find a better way to complete the moves, let me know so I can make the test even better.

When I get the time and motivation, I'll make a better one someday. Until then, enjoy this railroad practice switch test.


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      Vik 7 days ago

      Did anyone recently completed Online assessment ? How long it usually takes ?

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      jordan 2 months ago

      this was helpfull but prepare for the test... i was expecting a,b,c,d, but got there at its L,M,N O kinda think with a locomotive

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      pjc 11 months ago

      thanks Cliff very informative, but on # 3. Would the answer be 11 instead of 12? Because when you start out the locomotive goes forward , the first change of direction is the reverse to track 2. I took the switch test before, went on to the interviews after that. A third of the people were hired from the group. I passed the switch test but never new how many I got wrong. Recently applied again and I am sure will have to take again. I would like to do better this time. You work for them, so am I just reading to much into the question ? and should just count the forward and backward directions which is 12

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      Nicole 13 months ago

      For 3, I got 8 moves

      Leave C,D,A,B, get G. - move 1

      Bring G to C,D,A,B, leave G. - move 2

      Go get E,F, bring to G. - move 3

      Take E,F,G up to top track. - move 4

      Come back, get C,D. - move 5

      Take C,D, take up to meet with E,F,G. - move 6

      Leave C,D, go get A,B. - move 7

      Take A, B, to C,D,E,F,G. - move 8

      Now in order...

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      Stoff 15 months ago

      That works great, Thank you. I have interview next week and this is helpful. Thx bunch

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      rrufus 2 years ago

      re CnShane's answers are quite accurate

      though Question 3. says "how many times loco direction"

      so I'd say the answer is 11 changes

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      CnShane 3 years ago

      Answers Explained.

      The picture is of two tracks (assume bottom is track 1 and the top

      is track 2 for the tracks that are not labeled) You're allowed to move forward and backwards between the two tracks. So, for question 1 the answer would be :

      QUESTION 1

      1) Move FORWARD with AND and leave C at the bottom

      2) Reverse to track 2 (top) with AND and drop D at the top

      3) Keep AB attached and move FORWARD to bottom and attach ABC

      4) Move FORWARD and than backwards to lineup ABCD

      Answer = 3 FORWARD moves (the backwards are not counted as per

      the question being asked "how many times must the LOCO move FORWARD"

      QUESTION 2

      1) Reverse with AB and attach E to the LOCO

      2) CHANGE TRACKS (moving to the bottom "1") and attach A.B.E to F

      3) CHANGE TRACKS (moving to the top "2") and drop off EF

      4) CHANGE TRACKS (moving to the bottom) attach AB to CD

      5) CHANGE TRACKS (moving back to the top) attach all A.B.C.D.E.F

      6) CHANGE TRACKS (moving back to bottom as the question asks

      to have ABCDEF on TRACK 1).

      The answer is 5 TRACK CHANGES (4 to attach in order and 5 to bring them to the track specified in the answer).

      QUESTION 3

      1) FORWARD (bottom track) only with CD

      2) BACKWARDS (top track) attach CD to GEF

      3) FORWARDS (top track) with no letters

      4) BACKWARDS (bottom track) grab AB

      5) FORWARDS (bottom track) with AB

      6) BACKWARDS (top track) attach AB to CDG

      7) FORWARD (top track) with ABCDG

      8) BACKWARDS (bottom track) drop G

      9) FORWARDS (bottom track) with ABCD

      10) BACKWARDS (top track) GRAB EF

      11) FORWARD (top track) WITH ABCDEF

      12) BACKWARD (bottom track) ATTACH A.B.C.D.E.F.G

      The answer is (12) directional (forward and backward) moves to make 12

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      Jon 3 years ago

      Rod's method works, but it requires the loco to change directions 18 times instead of the best method which would require it to switch directions only 12 times.

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      Clifford Beaver 3 years ago from Winnipeg, Manitoba

      No idea what your terms are but OK. I've never heard the term slack off or whatever or open hole. Not sure what "GO GET SOLID" is either. I don't really care that much to be honest to disagree as I do this on a daily basis and get tired of mentally switching cars. Glad you found a way to do it with less moves. I'm not going to check it but if other people commenting want to check it, by all means, as long as they know what those terms mean.

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      rod 3 years ago

      3 is wrong


      GRAB G



      GRAB E&F







    • profile image

      Anthony 3 years ago

      I just found out that I have to take this switch test to get an interview next week and I appreciate the post for the practice.

      Question 1 in 3 moves forward:

      Move forward with AND. Leave C. 1st move forward

      Back AND down track 2. Disconnect D.

      Move forward with AB. 2nd move forward.

      Back AB to C.

      Move forward with ABC. 3rd move forward.

      Back ABC to D.

      Total=3 moves forward.

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      Ian 3 years ago


      Can you please explain how you got the first one in 3 moves?

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      Derek S 3 years ago

      you can do question 2 in four moves.

      connect AB to E

      Change tracks - move 1

      connect ABE to F

      Change tracks - move 2

      Disconnect EF from AB

      Change tracks - move 3

      connect AB to CD

      change tracks - move 4

      connect ABCD to EF

      You now have ABCDEF and you are in the assumed siding

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      MS Train sim is great 4 years ago

      Out with CD - 1

      back CD to G -2

      out with loco -3

      back loco to AB -4

      out with AB -5

      back AB to CDG -6

      out with ABCDG -7

      back ABCDG to drop G -8

      out with ABCD -9

      back ABCD to EF -10

      out with ABCDEF -11

      back to G = 12 moves

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      James 4 years ago

      I appreciate all the info you've posted.

      I am having trouble getting the same answer on question 3.

      This is what I got:

      1 out with C, D, leave A & B

      2 in pick up G

      3 out with C, D, & G

      4 in C, D, - G, A & B

      5 out with C, & D

      6 in pick up E & F

      7 out with C, D, E, F

      8 in with C, D, E & F joining G, A & B

      9 out with C, D, E, F & G

      10 in with C, D, E, F & G

      11 out light (loco only)

      12 in to pick up A & B

      13 out with A & B

      14 in with A & B joining C, D, E, F & G

      What is meant by direction change? If it starts out stationary, is the first move forward considered a direction change?