This year’s International Women’s Day – March 8th – saw the world’s most famous steam train, the Flying Scotsman, driven by an all-female crew on the East Lancashire Railway (ELR) for only the second time.
The crew consisted of three volunteers from the ELR and driver Beth Furness from Network Rail, all of whom aimed to celebrate the role of women in rail and encourage more women into engineering careers.
The event was a part of the Flying Scotsman’s centenary celebrations, which has a packed programme of events throughout the rest of the year.
This event was a significant moment in railway history, as it was only the second time that the world-famous steam train had an all-female crew.
Tracey Parkinson, the general manager at ELR, explained that traditionally, women did not work on the footplate, and women were very much in engineering roles during the first and second world wars. But they actually came into guards positions much later on. “Traditionally the footwork was a closed shop, but in the last 20 to 30 years there’s been more and more women coming into the heritage industry and taking up jobs in engineering,” she said.
For volunteer Charlotte Instance, who worked on board the train as the locomotive cleaner, it was a real privilege to be on the greatest steam engine of all. Speaking to the BBC she explained that “[she] started about a year and a half ago, and that’s where everyone starts off on the railway as a cleaner. That means not just cleaning the actual engine itself, but getting in underneath, getting the ash out of the pan and smoke pops out, and then learning how to fire. So to be here today, to be on the greatest steam engine of all, it’s such an honour.”
The all-female crew on the Flying Scotsman was a way of showing women a role model “that’s already done it,” said Tracey Parkinson, hoping that this would encourage more women to follow in their footsteps. Traditionally, engineering and railway work have been male-dominated industries, and events like these help to highlight the growing number of women in these fields.
The event was a true celebration of the hard work and dedication of women in the rail industry, as well as an opportunity to inspire future generations to pursue careers in engineering.
- One of the world’s most famous steam trains, the Flying Scotsman, was driven by an all-female crew on the East Lancashire Railway (ELR) to mark International Women’s Day.
- The crew consisted of three volunteers from the ELR and a driver from Network Rail, all of whom were women.
- The event aimed to celebrate the role of women in rail and encourage more women to pursue engineering careers.
- The Flying Scotsman’s centenary celebrations will continue throughout the rest of the year with a programme of events planned.