For the first time since the Second World War, a signal box on the British railway network is staffed entirely by women.
The three-woman team at Sellafield signal box on the Cumbrian Coast line was formed in May 2021 after newly qualified trainee Amy Byrne, a former helicopter engineer in the Royal Navy, joined Rebecca Rennoldson and Holly William. The three women now work solo shifts in the Victorian-engineered signal box, controlling trains on the picturesque Cumbrian rail route.
With International Women in Engineering Day being on Wednesday 23 June, the three signallers want to encourage other women to consider jobs in the rail industry.
Amy said: “It’s amazing that just starting work at Sellafield means I’ve made history! Becoming a signaller has been really hard work and involved three months of intensive training in Preston. But now I’m doing it for real I really enjoy that each day is different, and I couldn’t recommend it more as a career.”
Rebecca, who started at Network Rail in 2015, added: “I decided I wanted a career change so I saw that Network Rail was advertising for signallers and I saw that it was a role where you have to use your logic and problem solve with trains and regulations and I thought that sounded really interesting.”
Holly has been working on the railway for just over three years. She commented: “I think the best thing about signalling is that you get to sort of be your own boss. You know, you’re in charge of your day, and there’s always nice people on the other end of the phone, even though you’re working on your own, you’re surrounded by a really good team of people. Compared to being at home it’s nice and quiet!”
Wendy Potter, Network Rail operations manager for Lancashire and Cumbria, said: “The fact that all three signalling positions at Sellafield are now held by women did not happen by design – it was down to the fact that they were the best people who applied for the job.
“I’ve worked in the rail industry for over 25 years, and I’m really encouraged this shows that more women are applying for roles in rail. My message is simple, forget the old-fashioned stereotypes because whoever you are, you could have just the skills to work on the railway.”