Our airbrake book, TRO-4, contains a checklist for things to check when taking control of a locomotive. I replicate the list here, with my own additions, in order of convenience and relevance, following the engineer from the ground to the cab:
While still on the ground, check to see that:
No ground connections are still attached.
There are no blue flags on the ground.
There is enough fuel in the tank, if a diesel.
The trucks are not cut out and the brakes have pads on them (if visible).
The air hoses are properly attached and held safely off the ground (especially for ALP-44s).
As you get onto the engine, check that the handbrake is released (on older diesels).
While in the cab, check to see that:
Handbrake is released (on electrics, in the machine room).
All windows and doors are closed.
All blue flags are removed from the cab (control stand, front window, outside side window).
For those of us who have trouble remembering things, they recommed creating a far-fetched image to represent the things we need to remember. The idea is that a far-fetched image is much easier to recall than a plain list of unrelated things. (For example, if you have to go to the store to buy eggs, milk and bread, picture in your head a few eggs shipwrecked, on a bread slice for a raft, drifting on a sea of milk.) In order to remember all the items on the official checklist, while in LETP, I created a similar outlandish picture which is now engraved in my brain:
OK, so I'm no Michaelangelo. The items in the image represent the items on the checklist:
The blue ground represents checking for blue flags and ground connections.
The truck, of course, represents checking for truck cutouts and dangling airhoses.
The hand holding the oil rig represents checking for handbrakes and fuel level. (Believe it or not, that's a hand on the left. So much for clip art.)
The open door represents checking for doors and windows.
The picture includes an interesting visual effect: If you stare at the windshield for a full 60 seconds, a tiny truckdriver will appear waving at you. Or maybe, it's the long hours of LETP studying that caused this. Anyway, at least, you will be able to remember the picture forever, which is more than I can say for the checklist itself.