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Railroad Switching: A Quick Practice Hiring Test

Cliff is an ex-CN conductor/locomotive engineer for CN in Winnipeg, MB Canada. He also worked for a short-line railroad in Nashville.

This quick practice test will help you get prepared for the railroad switch test.

This quick practice test will help you get prepared for the railroad switch test.

When you apply for a job as a conductor, many railroads' HR departments will give you a test to see if you have an aptitude 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 for learning 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 of 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 number 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.


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Beans on January 15, 2019:

Which end of the track are the brakes on? Lol

Raj on January 03, 2019:

I have been trying 3 to 4 times to be selected but always apply next time, any good tips to be selected?

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Grant on September 26, 2018:

q2 is four moves until u have to move the whole thing back onto track 1 like the question asks.

Manny on September 07, 2018:

Hi for q2 it could be done in 4 moves

Stingray Jane on May 09, 2018:

I'm with PJC on this one, just did it in 11 and felt like a boss. But the real test is yet to come and I cannot BELIEVE that there's no app for this. This also helps probably the same type of brain function...on the higher levels lol

Vik on April 12, 2018:

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

jordan on February 13, 2018:

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

pjc on May 09, 2017:

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

Nicole on March 14, 2017:

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...

Stoff on January 19, 2017:

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

rrufus on February 19, 2016:

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

CnShane on April 10, 2015:

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 :


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"


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).


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

Jon on November 06, 2014:

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.

Cliff Beaver (author) from Murfreesboro, TN USA on October 30, 2014:

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.

Anthony on September 02, 2014:

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.

Ian on August 20, 2014:


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

Derek S on July 10, 2014:

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

MS Train sim is great on November 03, 2013:

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

James on September 07, 2013:

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?

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