27th November 2019 · Women on the Railway

Presenter: Liam Kenchenken

In 2015 the Mid Hants Railway was awarded almost £900,000 towards the £1.5 million cost of therestoration of Merchant Navy Class 35005 Canadian Pacific, built at Eastleighin 1941. Part of the award included outreach and interpretation projects and in particular research into the role of women on the railway and their largely unsung efforts in the heavy construction and maintenance of locomotives, particularly at Eastleigh. Although the researcher, Dr Becky Peacock, had already left the project, we were fortunate that Liam Kenchenken, Interim General Manager, was able to bring the fruits of her research to our November meeting. Liam took us through the history of women’s ever-expanding roles, though always paid less than men for doing the same job, to their vital contribution to the railway during World War 2. Doing the same heavy jobs as men, women were found not only to be equally capable but also quicker on the up-take and needing less time to train in the particular skills necessary. His presentation included a very rare Imperial War Museum film, made by the Southern Railway during World War 2 for the USA, complete with American accented commentator, showing the range of heavy work that women were doing. Liam brought us up to date with the restoration of Canadian Pacific herself and two Bullied coaches and gave us the good news that the complete route of the Watercress Line will be re-opening in February 2020.