Inspiring Young Women

12 February 2020

We talk a lot about how diversity in the train driving grade can improve our workplaces and also help to inspire the next generation of train drivers. Particularly those from under-represented groups.


That's why we loved this heartwarming tale shared on Twitter by Alexandra Keating yesterday.


Alexandra posted this tweet about her daughter's experience seeing a woman driving a freight train and being inspired to aim high in her own life:



The text of her message reads:


I would love it if you could share my letter in thanks to a train driver who has, quite literally, changed my little girl's outlook on life!


Despite living in an age where women are prime minsiter, first ministers, fire fighters, surgeons, professional football players, scientists and so much more, my children still seem to live in a society that teaches them doctors are men and nurses are women. My Son even told a lady courier that she couldn't drive a lorry cos only men do that. Both myself and my husband do all that we can to highlight the man women in public roles, or traditionally male industries, but nothing seems to get in. 


My daughter, Sophie, has just turned 9 and my son, Adam, is 7. I will support them both in whatever they choose to do in the future, but it infuriates me that my daughter has already vastly limited her ambitions and dreams because of an assumption that certain roles or industries are only for men. No one will be prouder than me if she does become a nurse, or a waitress, o whatever she chooses to be. So long as it IS her choice and not simple her expectation. 


But an amazing lady train driver changed all that last year and I dearly want her to kno!


My children and I were visiting friends in Lanarkshire at the end of the last summer. As we stood at Carluke Train Station a freight train approached. My son's jaw nearly hit the ground in awe as this train was the biggest and longest we have ever seen! As it curved around the bend towards us it seemed never ending. Container after container appeared like a long winding caterpillar (to quote Adam)!


Sophie isn't as interested in trains as Adam but even she was struck by the size of the train coming towards us! People were talking photos as it approached, and I told them to give the driver a wave when 'he' passed. It must be stressed I made them stand well back fro mthe edge of the platform, and the train wasn't going too fast. 


And then it happened. One ofthe people filming the train said, "wow it's a woman" and my son and daughter looked like the children from Mary Poppins as toys are magickly tidied away!


Even better, this lovely lady driver had her window open as she passed and when Sophie, still in shock, blurted out "are you the driver" she calmly answered - with a massive smile - "Of course I am. You can be anything you want to be".


We then stood and watched this incredible train pass us by, driven by a lady. We tried to count the containers but lost track after 50. I told my son that the lady was driving over 50 lorries at the one time! At the very moment that they realised a lady was driving the train they finally got it. Every misconception they had was blown away and a massive light bulb turned on.


Since that day, the yBOTH still tell the story of a lady driving the biggest train in the whole of Scotland! Adam told a female GP that she could be a "big train" driver if she wanted! And Sophie has woken up to the endless possibilities around her.


Last week her class had to write about what they wanted to "be" when they are older. No, she didn't say she wanted to be a train driver! It was better than that. She wrote that she could be "anything I want to be"!


Sometimes 'teaching' or 'telling' children about something isn't enough. They need to see it. With their own eyes. If the lady who drove that train that day ever get to read this, I just want to say thank you.


We're already inspired but it gets better! Thanks to the power of the internet, ASLEF member and Freightliner driver Heather Waugh was able to respond to the tweet and confirm that she was, indeed, the woman driver who Alexandra and her children saw that day. 




We know from the hard work of our members and our representative committees that the diversity of train drivers continues to be an inspiration to the next generation. Here's just a few of our women driver members representing:



We're really proud of our members, in all their diversity. Here's to Sophie's future being anything she wants to be!


If you want to find out more about how to become a train driver, visit the Train Driver Academy website.


Read more about equality and diversity in the train driving grade in our recent report On Track With Diversity 2019.

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