Concepts and aims:
Since 2018, Community Rail Lancashire (CRL) has devised various projects to address the gender imbalance of the workforce in the rail industry. When COVID-19 struck in March 2020, CRL’s education team adapted to develop a new initiative that could be delivered under lockdown restrictions. Instead of taking groups out by train, women were encouraged to write about a memorable rail journey they had taken.
The aim was to collect one hundred stories from one hundred women to compile into a book sharing their recollections and experiences. CRL wanted to use the stories to support rail recovery by reminding readers of the romance of train travel, as well as promoting rail as a viable career option for young women. The team also wanted to raise funds for Women’s Aid to support the Rail to Refuge campaign.
Women were invited to take part in the project via social media, with the team particularly keen to hear from women of different generations, industry employees, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The target of 100 stories was achieved, with pieces submitted by women from a host of different countries and backgrounds.
The book was launched online on International Women’s Day in March 2021, with over 30 of the contributors in attendance. Audiograms of eight writers had been created to promote the project on social media, and several of these were also played at the event. Diane Rimmer, who read her story on the day, said it had been a “privilege to be part of such a wonderful, worthwhile project”, and many participants said their involvement had given them something to focus on during the pandemic and ignited a new-found passion for writing.
A total of 1,400 books have been printed and handed out at stations to inspire women to pursue careers in the rail industry and to tempt passengers back to rail as travel restrictions have eased. They have also been distributed in secondary schools, accompanied by posters featuring a selection of the stories.
Information boards showcasing four of the stories are also in the process of going up at selected stations across the Northern network. The displays feature a QR code to allow passengers to find the book online and read it during their journey. Those whose stories were featured have spoken of their pride at being included in the project, and the stories have been described as “inspirational”, “heart-warming”, and “thought-provoking.”