There are several career paths available for someone who wants to become a signal maintainer. These railroad personnel are responsible for keeping the signaling systems used to control traffic working effectively. They handle routine maintenance and repair, troubleshooting, and emergencies where signals aren’t working. The job can require long shifts and hours during weekends and holidays, as crises need to be dealt with immediately and cannot wait for personnel to come back on the job.
One option to become a signal maintainer is to train with the railroad. It may be possible to start working under supervision. Supervisors can provide direct instruction in signal maintenance as well as training in regulations and rules. Sometimes people start as signaling personnel or in jobs around a rail yard and work their way into maintenance positions. It may take several years to learn enough to apply for senior positions that involve working independently and supervising other rail employees.
Another path to pursue is formal education to acquire job skills. Courses to prepare someone to become a signal maintainer can include training in electronics, circuits, and computer systems. Colleges and technical schools may offer the training necessary, and some specifically focus on working with train signals. It is also possible to take an electrical apprenticeship and become a journeyman after stepping through the stages of training. With this qualification, it may be possible to apply for maintenance positions.
Some railroads may require that applicants pass a physical and drug test to become a signal maintainer. They need to prove that they are in good physical condition and have adequate color vision, because this can be a safety concern. In addition, an examination may test knowledge of basic safety, electrical topics, and regulations. Study guides are available to help people prepare, including detailed overviews of standards and practices used in the railroad industry.
Once hired, it is advisable to keep up with advancements and changes within the industry. Technology behind railroad signaling periodically changes and people need to be ready to change with it. After someone has become a signal maintainer, systems may need to be retrofitted or modified to comply with new regulations and standards, and it is helpful to be familiar with them ahead of time. A person who is ready for these changes can start planning them out and discussing them with other personnel, instead of needing to race to get acquainted with them before they’re required.