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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Signal and Train Control Inspector

A Signals and Train Control Inspector is concerned with signal and train control and highway-rail crossing warning systems within an assigned territory. Significant duties include: 

  • Plan and carry out an itinerary of periodic inspections of all signal and train control and highway-rail crossing warning systems in the territory to ensure that they are properly installed, operated, tested, and maintained.
  • Investigate complaints from railroad employees, union officials, and the general public regarding unsafe or hazardous signal and train control or highway-rail crossing conditions; e.g. "false proceeds", "activation failures."
  • Determine the need for and conduct safety meetings and training sessions for railroad employees regarding proper signal installation and maintenance and safe operating practices.
  • Investigate independently, or as part of a team, reportable collisions, derailments, and other accidents (especially those involving possible signal or train control failure); includes highway crossing warning equipment when the accident involves rail and vehicle collision.
  • Evaluate railroads' request to install, modify, or remove limited portions of a signal or train control system; e.g., redesign of several miles of automatic block signal; assists the Regional Signal Specialist in evaluating more complex requests by analyzing portions of the plan and making preliminary recommendations.


To be qualified for a Signals and Train Control Inspector position you MUST have demonstrated knowledge in the following areas:

  • Design, installation, maintenance, testing or inspection of signal and train control systems and their capabilities and limitation. 
  • Applicable Federal laws and regulations pertaining to railroad signal systems and highway-rail grade crossing warning systems. 
  • Locomotive braking systems and their relationship to and interface with train control or automatic train stop systems and braking distances. 

To qualify for this position at the GS-12 , you must have at least one full year of specialized railroad related experience equivalent to the work performed at the next lower grade level for this occupation.  Your experience must include at least a year:

  • Inspecting, reporting and presenting on signal and train control systems and/or highway-rail grade crossing active warning systems. 
  • Performing investigations and developing investigation reports on railroad related collisions, derailments, and other accidents. 

Physical Demands and Work Environment:

Conducting accident investigations or on-site inspections relative to a proposed signal modification plan requires long periods of walking on rocky and uneven surfaces around railroad tracks, occasional bending and crouching to inspect signals, switches, and wreckage, and some climbing of embankments around track roadbeds.  Requires the climbing of high signal ladders to inspect signal mechanisms.  Many interlocked movable bridges over rivers and waterways require climbing above and below the bridge structure to inspect bridge wedges, locks, and operating mechanisms.  Many of these bridges are vertical lift-type which are at heights to permit ocean-going vessels to pass.

Most inspection work takes place along railroad tracks, where the employee must be alert for trains and avoid getting in switches and other moving parts.  A hardhat and safety shoes are usually worn.  While conducting inspections and accident investigations, the employee is exposed to a variety of weather conditions and other environmental discomforts (mountainous or swampy locations).  Inspections and tests are made on signal power lines and protective apparatus energized at voltages up to 6600 volts.  Where third rail propulsion is used, voltages at 600 volts DC are located adjacent to the running rails.  In AC electrified territory, the catenary system is 11,000 volts.  Inspectors are required to inspect signals and cables in the close vicinity of the catenary system.  Within yards and along the right of ways, hazardous materials are transported via a variety of conveyances.  At derailments, the inspector is frequently exposed to poisonous, explosive, and highly, flammable commodities that could leak or suddenly ignite.