Overhead Line Engineer at Network Rail

Is a career in overhead line engineering right for me?

If you have great problem-solving skills, are able to explain your ideas clearly and want to be part of projects that will improve the public’s transport links then a career in railway engineering could really take you places.

You’ll oversee construction on OLE and liaise with designers, so it’s never too early to get working on building up the confidence to share your views and explain them clearly.

Perks and challenges of being an Overhead Line Engineer


  • There’s a lot of job satisfaction in seeing your work being used by thousands of passengers. You can see the trains running on a site you worked on and say “I did that!”
  • Want to make friends and influence people? You’ll use your interpersonal skills (people skills) to manage less experienced engineers in the OLE discipline, as well as communicating with contractors who are doing work on the railway.


  • Sometimes it’ll be up to you to help guide outside contractors onto a path that works well for everyone involved. Everyone has their own way of doing things, so tact, confidence and technical know-how can get the project moving!

Useful skills

The following skills are very useful:

  • Eye for detail – with eagle eyes you’ll spot any small defects when looking over OLE designs, as well as in real life when you’re on site walkouts.
  • Communication – you’ll be working with designers and contractors, so good communication skills will help you explain your ideas and plans in a way that everyone understands.
  • Time management – all your projects will have deadlines, so you’ll need to be able to prioritise tasks and manage your time well. OLE is usually worked on during times when trains aren’t running, so time management is key.

People who work in this role say that the following skills and qualities are useful:

  • Teamwork – you’ll work with a wide variety of people – not just from your department, but people like outside contractors, too. Your teamwork skills will help you and your projects shine when everyone is collaborating on ideas.
  • Interpreting - you’ll need to be able to make sense of technical drawings and calculations, picking up on any errors so that you can suggest useful improvements to designers and other engineers.

What qualifications do you need to be an Overhead Line Engineer?

There’s more than one route into overhead line engineering. You can take the university route to gain specialised knowledge, but you can also apply for an apprenticeship with Network Rail and start your career through on-the-job training and learning. Network Rail’s apprenticeship scheme is a chance to develop skills that are essential to an engineering career as well as specialise in a section of engineering such as overhead lines. You’ll need to be over 18 and have good passing grades in English, maths and science GCSEs (or their equivalent) as well as another GCSE grade with a good passing grade.

If you study for an engineering degree, you can support that knowledge with experience of working in the railway industry, either through an industrial placement or work experience. Network Rail offer an engineering graduate scheme to get you started on your journey. Once you’ve achieved a graduate position in overhead line engineering, you’ll be able to work your way up to managing overhead line projects on the railway.

What is the workplace of an Overhead Line Engineer like?

You’ll often be office-based. However, you’ll also get the chance to visit construction sites to ensure that work is being carried out correctly and meets health and safety guidelines.

INSIDER TIP: Network Rail overhead line engineer Eliot Clark carries his mobile and laptop around with him so he can stay mobile wherever he goes.

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