Railroad freight and transportation companies hire thousands of rail car repair and maintenance personnel. Although no specific training is required, it is advantageous to have some formal training in mechanics and repair specialties.
Companies sometimes hire new workers for apprenticeships. An example of an apprenticeship opportunity is the one offered by BNSF Railway Company. New apprentices obtain on-the-job training, so no specific educational requirements exist except the basic aptitude to perform the job and a high school education. BNSF has a 122-day probationary period for rail-car-repair apprentices. During that time, the company assesses your potential for success on the job and enthusiasm. You do not have to be knowledgeable from the first day but must show the ability to learn on a fairly quick basis.
Note that you may also have to take a drug screening and undergo a background check to get a job in rail car repair (carman job). Applicants and workers should stay clean and sober on the job to avoid accidents.
The work can be dangerous, and you have to be willing to drive off-road vehicles like forklifts, as well. Make sure you have a positive attitude about these sorts of things when you go on a job interview. If an applicant seems unenthusiastic about working outdoors with potentially dangerous equipment, he is probably not going to get the job.
Getting selected for apprenticeships for rail car repair jobs is not easy, as there are only so many positions available. It would be helpful to have a background in maintenance. Although there are not many trade schools for rail car repair, there are a number of schools that teach maintenance for heavy machinery. If you complete one of these training schools, then you can consider adding rail car repair and maintenance to your job search, as you will be more likely to be accepted for the job even if the actual work is different than repairing bulldozers and other large vehicles.
Once you have training, then you will be more competitive for getting one of the 20,000 or so jobs for rail car repair and maintenance. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 19,280 of these jobs in the United States in May of 2010. The average median salary of these repairers was a respectable $47,410.
BNSF Railway Company: Rail Car Repair Jobs for Journeymen and Apprentices
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Jobs and Salary for Rail Car Repairers