ABOUT THIS SERIES: At Remote Equipment, we make gear that enables people to unplug from a hardwired world. In this series, we take a deeper look at those who are creatively redefining what it means to work remotely. 

In classic Western movies, train tracks play an important role. Bandits hide beside them. Bridges are routinely blown up with dynamite. Somebody gets tied down to them as the smoke from an approaching locomotive appears on the distant horizon.

Marcus Salazar is here to ensure that none of that on-screen drama happens in real life.

Salazar, 33, is a railroad bridge inspector for BNSF, operator of one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America. He's responsible for inspecting some 450 miles of track, from Palmer Lake, Colorado southward to the New Mexico/Texas border. It's a desolate, rugged stretch, home to wide-open skies and unforgiving grasslands. Routine inspections of that lonely stretch of track are vital to ensure that the freight trains playing a key part in the economic vitality of the West can travel through without interruption.

A typical day will see Salazar pulling his truck off the highway at a railroad intersection and hiking in – sometimes two or three miles – to visually inspect a bridge or culvert.

"It's a lot easier than an office job," Salazar said. " I don't mind being out there by myself. I get to see a lot of cool stuff."

He's not worried – yet anyway – about technology replacing him. While drones are used occasionally to assess track conditions, the federal government and various oversight organizations insist inspections be conducted by an actual human being.

While the expectations of a railroad bridge inspector are pretty straightforward, it requires a highly specific skill set. In addition to understanding structural engineering principles and bridge design, it requires knowledge of bridge inspection regulations, strong written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to safely work at heights, around moving trains, and in potentially hazardous environments. 

That doesn't account for what's required physically, like the stamina for long hikes over uneven surfaces and the ability to climb bridges.

"There is," said Salazar, "a lot of up-and-down hiking."

While BNSF carefully adheres to a schedule for routine inspections, Salazar knows that wildfires and flood events are likely to influence his "to-do" list, sometimes in a matter of hours.

"I do like the sense of accomplishment, that my work prevented a disastrous event," Salazar said. "It makes you feel better about the job you're doing."

Salazar has been at this job for about five years. His home base is his truck, but the backpack he brings along on the solo hikes acts essentially like his office.

"I've got my Panasonic Toughbook, some notebooks for writing down my observations, water, gloves, rope, camera or cell phone, and fall gear if I'm going to climb up or down to a bridge," he said.

Over about a year, Salazar said he'll burn through at least one backpack, a victim to the daily abuse heaped on it that includes pouring rain and tossing it down on rocks.

"Durability is a key component to every piece of gear I use," Salazar said. "My office conditions can be a little more demanding than that of most people."

Water resistance is another important factor, too, so when the chance to use a CHARLIE 25 came up, Salazar jumped at the opportunity.

"What it boils to is I carry a lot of equipment in harsh conditions," he said. "I'm glad to have a bag that can meet those demands."

Do you or somebody you know work in an intriguing job that requires or allows you to work remotely? Would you like to be spotlighted on this website? Add suggestions in the comment field below – we'll keep your replies private.