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On the 8th March 2024, to celebrate International Women’s Day, the Talyllyn Railway has once again made history by crewing a steam locomotive with a mother & daughter team. This is believed to be the first instance of such in Railway Preservation history!

Sarah Freeman & Ffion Freeman

Sarah Freeman got involved with the Talyllyn Railway in 1993 starting as a Trainee Guard. She later met her husband, Mark, while volunteering on the Railway. In 2017 she was passed to drive steam locomotives and has done so ever since, alongside various other roles including sign writing and painting.

“The Talyllyn is such a real family, it’s always been accepting of ladies and it’s great that the number of women in the locomotive, engineering and outdoor departments has been going up over the past few years. It’s been such an honor that my daughter is able to fire to me today – and maybe one day my second daughter will join her!” Sarah said.

Her eldest daughter Ffion has been around the Talyllyn since her birth, helping Sarah in the Booking Office at 6 months old! Naturally this has led to an interest in the Railway and in 2018 she started as a cleaner in the locomotive department and has now worked her way up the ranks. Ffion also currently sits on the Committee of the Railway’s Young Members Group, looking after the organisation of working parties.

“I’ve been a volunteer since I was a baby so I’ve never really known a time without the Railway. It’s great that the place is so accepting of people from all backgrounds, I’ve made so many friends my age. It’s been so nice to be the first ever Mother & Daughter crew, we’ve been out on the footplate before but always with Dad as the driver or fireman – so to be the Fireman to my Mum has been really special.”

Ffion puts on a round of coal

With Ffion having recently been passed out to fire, the opportunity to have the first Mother & Daughter footplate crew on International Women’s Day wasn’t lost – with the free train taking over 90 women and children from the local communities to Abergynolwyn Station to attend a “Platform Pilates” event, followed by cream teas for all!

General Manager Commercial Lorraine Simkiss said “The 2024 International Women’s Day Campaign is to inspire inclusion. When we come together as a Community we are included. We forge a better World, this in turn gives us a sense of belonging and empowerment. Women of all ages & all abilities are the epitome of strength and resilience. From the Women who run the home & bring up their children to those that are Doctors, Lawyers, Surgeons and more. We are all brave, determined, strong women. Here at The Talyllyn Railway we are inclusive, not exclusive.”

The Talyllyn Railway has had a long history of women volunteers dating back to the 1950s when the line was first preserved, with many of the member’s wives taking up the slack and helping out where needed including Guarding trains. The glass ceiling of the locomotive department was well and truly shattered in 1957 when Anne Hatherill was passed out as the first qualified women fireman in the UK, which started a great legacy of inclusion and diversity at the Railway for all volunteering roles.

Together Sarah and Ffion have formed our first Mother & Daughter footplate crew, but we’re sure they won’t be the last!

The Platform Pilates Party