1945 or 2015?...the difference is lipstick and bandanas! This simple scene of female railroad yard workers was intended to re-enact a time during World War II when women filled many blue-collar workforce jobs that were vacated by men serving in the military overseas. But wipe away the lipstick and ditch the bandanas, and if you pick the right day of the week, you could shoot this same scene without a photo charter. That's because two of the ladies pictured here are fully qualified engine crew members on Pennsylvania's Strasburg Rail Road.
In the foreground, the lady washing down the running gear is Andrea...but her colleagues at the SRC call her "Sparkee." Sparkee is a trained machinist, who spends most of her days making one-of-a-kind locomotive parts to support not only the Strasburg's engines, but engines at numerous tourist railroads across the country. And yes, Sparkee is a fully qualified Engineer and you will see her in the cab out on the line. The lady up in the cab is Shelley. Her area of expertise is welding, which is a critical skill required for the many boiler repairs that the Strasburg does. She also knows her way around the engine cab.
So the next time you're at Strasburg, take a good look around. The face of heritage railroading looks a little different these days. Better yet, take the daily shop tour. If you're lucky, one of these ladies just might be the tour guide that day!