• Signal Maintainer

  • Discussion relating to the NS operations. Official web site can be found here: NSCORP.COM.
Discussion relating to the NS operations. Official web site can be found here: NSCORP.COM.
  by Forddriverfx4
Good afternoon fellas,

Looking for insight as I am at a crossroads. I'm soon to be 30 and faced with 2 different avenues. Firstly, I am an electrician by trade, industrial specifically. I have one job offer from NS for an apprentice signal maintainer, the other is with a lumber mill down the road from the house. The lumber mill pays the bills, set shift(forced OT), mediocre benefits, etc. Same ol same I've been in for 10 years now. Manufacturing is great for a "right now" life style. Great pay and work life balance, but one day I will not be able to run conduit, pull wire, or be on my knees changing motors as much, and that is what is constantly in the back of my mind. I currently pay 617 a month for a sub par insurance plan, 401k with puny company match has dropped by the thousands in the last few months, and i honestly dont know what is keeping me in the factories. The benefits with NS have me highly leaning towards them recently. I'm looking long term here at doing a quick 30 and be done at 60 with the RR, or praying that SS is still around when Im 67 and hope I can go then. I've heard the horror stories, but assume its just like I tell people with my children, "you don't really understand what hot is until you put your hand on the eye of the stove." I'm looking for ANY feedback from recent hires (late 2021-2022) and what your experience has been like. I have reached out to a few people I have met that were in signal for anywhere from 3-9 years but 4 of the 5 I have talked to have quit within the last 6-12 months. Any and every bit of knowledge is much appreciated.
  by S1f3432
I understand your situation as I was in a similar spot 30 years ago, only headed in the opposite direction. I went
to a two-year tech school to learn the industrial electrical trade, then worked for a contractor until I had the time
in to sit for the state license exam, which I passed. I had friends employed by Maine Central RR in the engineering
department who notified me of an opening I might want to apply for as they knew I wasn't happy with the job
I had at the time. I hired on with MEC as a signal helper in the construction gang, doubling my pay (as a helper!)
and gaining benefits I hadn't previously had. MEC realized the vast majority of signal dept employees were within
a few years of retirement and didn't have time to train future employees. The thought was that hiring tech school
grads would speed up the process and I was the first of a group that they hired. I was allowed to bid openings as they became available and prove I could do the work. In 1976 I had been working as an electrician for $3.10 an hour,
hired on as a signal helper on Aug 9 at $5.76 and by Feb 77 was working as a signal maintainer for $7.07. There
were some rough patches along the way but generally it was a decent job until Guilford Transportation purchased
the railroad in 1981 and over the next 4 years turned it into a truely miserable place to work. After ten years on the
RR I left to return to industrial construction and retired 4 years ago after 30 years in the IBEW. I've often wondered
if I made the right decision but after talking with some of the RR guys I used to work with I'm pretty sure I did
as my former work buddies have turned old, bitter and vindictive. If you decide to hire on you'll likely have to
go through an apprenticeship program, get a CDL, and spend years assigned to locations where you probably
don't want to be. The railroads seem to universally use threats of disciplinary hearings, demotion, and firing to
keep people in line and that includes being on call 27/7/365. When out on trouble calls it got so I couldn't tell
the powers that be what the problems actually were as they were convinced that all problems were caused by
employees not doing their job during the day so they could work trouble calls at night on overtime. When I told
them not to call me out at night I was threatened with a hearing because I was required to make myself available
even though they were too cheap to buy parts to fix the 50 year old junk we trying to maintain. Talking with current employees and reading about the current situation online makes feel the situation is even worse now that it was
at the time of my departure. I found that by returning to heavy construction, while having to travel around some
and having to spend some time away from home at times, I wasn't married to any one job or employer. Any time
I got dissatisfied with the situation I was in at the time, all I had to do was go back to the Locals referral office and
find something different. Good Luck.