Who was the first British woman British Rail driver?

KAREN HARRISON 1960 – 2011

Hostility to women working in certain industries was huge and it took Glaswegian, Karen Harrison, to challenge the working practices of the rail industry.

When I was researching “Jam for Tea” I read a copy of the British Trades Alphabet for 1958 which had an advert for British Railways on the back cover. It included several colour images of trains and the heading “The Future is Bright for Careers on British Railways”.

The text explained that there were lots of opportunities for careers in the railway industry for boys and girls but it omitted to point out that the careers for girls were largely secretarial.

This is what Karen Harrison found when, as a school leaver, she applied to become an apprentice train driver.

The recruitment officer reluctantly took her on and for many years Karen confronted hostility from both her co-workers and management.

She was an active member of the ASLEF trades union eventually chairing the annual conference and judging by the tributes on an internet railway forum she’d become well liked and highly respected.

Photo credit: ASLEF, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons