Signal maintainers are responsible for testing, maintaining and inspecting railroad equipment, including signals. These workers use advanced mechanical knowledge to troubleshoot problems and adjust railway equipment like electronic code systems or switch machines. Entrance into this field requires you to have education or training in electronics.
Big-Picture Job Responsibilities
Within railroad transportation, transit authority or local government, signal maintainers ensure that electrical circuitry is running correctly to prevent trains from colliding or traffic from crossing tracks in front of an oncoming train. As a signal maintainer, you test circuits and electrical parts at gate crossings or on railway systems, including hotbox detectors, automatic train stops and color light signals. You inspect switch-controlling mechanisms on track beds and inspect and replace batteries.
Within this position, you’re responsible for keeping records of equipment, replacing defective wiring and broken lenses, repairing and tightening bolts and defective electrical connections and lubricating moving parts on crossing gates. These workers record and report information about track inspections and repairs, including equipment replaced, and drive company vehicles to work sites. They use specific railway electrical testers and hand tools to perform repairs.
Signal maintainers must have an extensive knowledge of circuit boards, processors, electronic equipment and machines and tools. You must be able to effectively troubleshoot operating errors and perform routine maintenance, as well as determine when specific maintenance is necessary. Using the appropriate tools to conduct inspections, repair machines and install equipment is a must. Strong critical-thinking skills and an understanding of operation monitoring are also needed to work in this position. A signal maintainer must be able to work near high voltage equipment, climb ladders and work outdoors in inclement weather, as well as carry heavy loads.
Education and Training
According to O*Net Online, 44 percent of signal maintainer jobs require individuals to have an associate degree, while 32 percent require a lesser post-secondary certificate and 13 percent require only a high school diploma. Employers may have their own requirements. For example, the New York City Transit Authority requires signal maintainers to have at least two years of experience as an electronic technician or two years as a mechanic working on railway signals.