The position of a signal helper is usually an entry level assistantship position at a railroad company. A signal helper is expected to install, repair and maintain railroad signals. Once hired, they will also be responsible for installing grade-crossing warning devices and troubleshooting common problems associated with signals under the supervision of a signal maintainer.
The job of a signal helper requires a lot from an individual in terms of understanding electrical drawings and some knowledge of Programmable Logic Computers (PLC). There are many other duties that a signal helper is expected to perform which may include cleaning, lubricating and inspecting signal equipment and excavating and backfilling trenches.
During inclement weather like snow or rain, signal helpers are expected to remove snow and excess water in order to make a safe way for the trains on a particular route. On a broader level, signal helpers trim trees and cut brush in order to make a clear way for trains. They also paint various types of signal equipment and remove graffiti on a regular basis. Signal helpers install cables, air lines and foundation where necessary and are responsible for both routine and preventive maintenance in order to ward of any accidents or major problems.
Signal helpers need to be very agile as this work is extremely physical. Strong mechanical and troubleshooting skills are a given in this work along with the ability to lift heavy objects as signal helpers may be expected to load or unload heavy equipment and tools to and from vehicles carrying them.