The Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) yesterday confirmed that the first female engineer in its 125 years of operation was ready to take control of a train after two years of training.
Twenty-nine-year-old Chiu Chien-fang (邱千芳), who joined the railway after passing a government examination in 2009, has obtained her license and will begin operating her own train in August, the TRA said.
However, Chiu won’t be the only woman train driver for long, as Chen Shu-ying (陳淑盈) is scheduled to assume her official position in December, the railway said.
The TRA said anyone interested in becoming a locomotive driver must first pass a physical examination as well as an adaptive test.
Both Chiu and Chen have completed all their necessary education and will now assist other aspiring drivers until they are ready to take control of their own train, it said.
With a master’s degree in electrical engineering from National Changhua University of Education, Chiu grew up in a “railway family” — both her grandfather and her uncle worked for the TRA.
Chiu said she remembers sitting beside her grandfather and watching him operate trains along the South Link Railway and since then she always dreamed of becoming a train driver.
When she heard that the railway had begun to recruit female railroad engineer, she was so excited that she registered for the exam immediately.
However, Chiu said the training process was not easy.
“You have to learn to operate both cargo trains and passenger trains,” she said. “You usually don’t get off work until very late at night, but you have to show up early the next day, which is a major test of strength.”
Chiu said her family asked her to give up, but she did not quit because she did not want people to look down on her.
She said she eventually became very confident in operating the train by herself.
When asked for a word of advice to women interested in becoming train drivers, Chiu said they have to be prepared physically as well as mentally.
“When I first came in, I thought I could do it as long as I was determined, but now I would tell them [women interested in becoming train operators] to think twice about the job,” she said.
“For example, you have to deal with problems like using the bathroom. Now I have to drink less water when I am on board or just don’t drink water at all,” she added.
The railway said it had made a new uniform for Chiu to welcome its first female train driver, adding that she would carry an alarm and a whistle in case of emergency.
Meanwhile, the railway said her dorm room would be equipped with a surveillance system and it would be separate from her male colleagues.