Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
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About BRS Local 18The BRS was founded in 1901 as a trade union representing railroad employees working in what was then the new craft of signaling. As railroads increasingly turned to the new technology of signal systems to improve the safety and efficiency of their operations, the BRS expanded and eventually grew into a national organization representing the men and women who install and maintain signal systems for most of the nation's railroads. The BRS represents nearly 9,500 members working for railroads across the United States and into Canada. Signalmen install, repair and maintain the signal systems which railroads utilize to direct train movements. Automatic signals and switches installed and maintained by Signalmen allow railroads to move large numbers of freight and passenger trains at higher speeds and with greater safety. Signalmen also install and maintain the warning systems used at railroad-highway crossings, which play a vital role in ensuring the safety of highway travelers. Some Signalmen work constructing, installing or upgrading signal systems or making major repairs. After signal systems are installed, other Signalmen perform maintenance and inspection of the equipment. Many signal employees are assigned to a particular section of railroad and are responsible for keeping the signals, switches and crossing devices in their section in safe operating condition. Signalmen inspect and maintain the equipment on a regular schedule, using special test equipment to check mechanical devices and the sophisticated electrical and electronic devices used in modern signal systems. If there is a problem with the signal system, trains can be delayed and safety of the railroad operation will be affected. When that happens, Signalmen are called on to make repairs and restore safe operation of the railroad. Railroads operate 24 hours every day, so Signalmen are called on to work at all hours of the day and night, in all kinds of weather. Signalmen learn their craft through on-the-job experience and formal apprentice training programs. They are schooled in the stringent federal regulations which govern railroad signal systems, and in railroad operations, electricity, electronics, and mechanics. After serving an apprenticeship of up to four years, employees attain journeyman status. Many employees also receive advanced training in computer technology and the increasingly sophisticated electronic circuitry used in today's signal systems.