On 8th March 2023 – (International Women’s Day) a very special event took place on the East Lancashire Railway. The iconic Flying Scotsman locomotive was crewed by an all-female crew.
Organised by the National Railway Museum and East Lancashire Railway, the team wanted to involve local school-children and sought advice from Nina Lockwood – founded and director of Intuitive Interim and Executive Search Ltd.
Nina suggested the team bring on the skills and talent of Community Rail Lancashire Education Team Lead, Karen Bennett to co-ordinate the education programme on the day. Karen was approached in Summer 2022 and plans came together since.
Karen designed the programme for the day and co-ordinated with staff from East Lancs and the Science Museum Group. She was determined that the attending pupils would also be able to bring a female carer along to celeb International Women’s Day. After several visits to the Heritage Railway, Karen contacted several local schools in Bury to invite them to participate.
During February, Karen, along with colleague Dave Savage, visited three primary schools in Bury to deliver rail safety and careers education – with a bit of information of what would happen on the day. The pupils also had the opportunity to take part in Backtrack Competition, but their entries had to deter trainspotters from trespassing when taking photographs of the iconic loco.
On the 8th March, 120 year 5 pupils from Holy Trinity C of E, St Maries RC and Woodbank primary schools walked to Bury Transport Museum with their teachers, parents and carers and were met by the team from Community Rail Lancashire. Supporting Karen on the day were Dave Savage, Caroline Holden, Shahiesta Raja and Catherine Kingdom who all took responsibility for each of the classes. They were joined by volunteers from Intuitive.
After a grand welcome in the museum, two groups went to ride on the first trip of the day. The other two groups remained at the museum. There, they had the opportunity to explore the exhibits – including dressing up and standing on the footplate of Union of South Africa. A class at a time also went to the top deck of a double decker bus where they had a careers talk from inspirational women in rail. Karen reached out to industry friends to support her on the day and representatives from Northern, Community Rail, Network Rail, Freightliner, X Rail and Railway Children joined – including Daisy Chapman -Chamberlain from East West Rail who used to work at Community Rail Lancashire.
Parents had the opportunity to talk to STEM ambassadors and have a hot drink whilst this activity took place. Arlo’s Adventures author Bessie Matthews was in attendance and answered questions about her book after Karen read it out to the visitors. Prizes were also handed out to one Backtrack winner from each of the classes.
After lunch the groups swapped around, and the other classes had the opportunity to travel behind the world-famous engine!
In the evening, a “Lasses Train” departed from Bury Bolton Street Station and Karen had the opportunity to invite guests along too. Representatives from Community Rail Lancashire, Community Rail Network, station adopters, Northern, Avanti and Cross Country attended along with other industry guests. It felt like a big family party – a railway family party. Cream teas and prosecco were consumed as the group made their way up to Rawtenstall and back.
Karen says, ““I am so honoured to have been asked to work on this programme for International Women’s Day, because it’s given me an opportunity to use an icon from railway past to inspire young people to work in railway future.”