The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a railway signalman is also known as a railroad switch, brake and signal operator. Historically, a signalman relayed instructions to the train's engineer with flags or hand signals to help ensure safe operations. According to the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the term includes railroad employees who inspect, maintain and install the signal systems used by most railroads, including warning signals at highway crossings.
National Salary Data
According to the burea, the national average salary was $48,820 annually, as of May 2010. Signal operators in highest-paid 10 percent earned $69,440 or more, but those in the lowest-paid 10 percent earned no more than $29,930 per year.
Salary Data by Industry
The BLS reported that the majority of the nation's signal operators worked for the rail transportation industry, earning an average annual salary of $49,210 as of May 2010. The federal government employed only a handful of signal operators, but paid an average salary of $48,660. Signal operators who worked in rail transportation support earned an average of $35,020 per year.
Salary Data by State
Of the states for which the BLS reported May 2010 salary data for signal operators, Mississippi offered the highest average salary, $60,080. In California, the mean salary was $55,260, and in Wyoming, it was $54,050. Signal operators in Arizona averaged $53,960, and they averaged $52,590 in Minnesota. The lowest average salary, $37,380, was found in South Carolina. In Ohio, the mean annual salary was $37,890, and in Pennsylvania, it was $39,460. Average salaries were a bit higher in Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee, averaging $41,790, $43,580 and $43,630, respectively.
Salary Data by City
Not all metropolitan areas reported salary data for May 2010 to the BLS. Of those that did, the highest wages for signal operators was in the greater Gary, Indiana, area, where the average salary was $44,760 per year. In the Portland-Beaverton-Vancouver metropolitan area of Oregon and Washington, the mean salary was $42,760. Signal operators in the greater Birmingham, Alabama, area averaged $40,890, and they averaged $31,300 in the Houston metropolitan area.