Friday, 27 May 2011

Steamy women....

Readers may remember that I have revealed before that I am a volunteer on Britain’s heritage steam railways.  This is a very male environment.   I volunteer as a signalman.  We have around 80 volunteer signalmen with 4 or 5 signalboxes to ‘man’ every operating day and in the 35 years the heritage railway has been open, we have only had two lady signalmen.  One was some considerable number of years ago, and the other more recently when the manager of our supporters association a (youthfully) retired ex US airforce logistics half-Colonel who decided that for credibility she should have a voluntary qualification.
I am well known amongst our volunteers not least because I am our second-longest qualified signalmen (first passed to work a signal box in 1986) and secondly because I have held a number of posts over the years, including ChairMAN of our supporter’s association.  My transition is, therefore, unlikely to go unnoticed.....
Britain’s railways had a noticeable influx of women into front line roles during the Second World War but they left again when servicemen came back into civilian life as the war ended and significant numbers of women have started to work on the railways only in very recent years.  Fortunately that influx of women in WW2 produced a useful collection of photos and I have a tailor, a milliner and a cobbler working to produce me suitable uniform, headgear and footwear for August on.  This hasn’t been cheap but it is how I spend a good part of my free time and I do want to get the image right.
Coincidentally, a really good friend of mine, from the time I worked for British Railways in the 1980’s before re-inventing myself as a lawyer is a really effective train crew (drivers and guards) manager who has been working part time for a few years whilst her children were young and is just about to go back to full-time work as they are now approaching school age.
It is now only 34 days until my trip to Belgium and I received my new passport last week, so one more hurdle down.  Tomorrow I should pick up the blood test results from my doctor’s surgery to check that all will be well under general anaesthetic.  It is all now starting to feel very real......

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