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Female Engineers Offer Change of Pace to Regional Rails

The career paths for women in the transportation industry are becoming more diverse. From the office to the field, women are finding their place along side their male counterparts demanding yet fulfilling. Such is the case for two SEPTA Regional Rail train engineers.

West Philadelphia native and mother of two, Jacqueline "Jackie" Pettyjohn is highly respected in her field. Her youthful appearance does not suggest she has just celebrated 25 years with SEPTA, or holds the distinction of being one of the first females employed as a Regional Rail train operator. "I wasn't trying to make some grand statement; I just knew I wanted to get my foot in the door and I was willing to work hard," said Pettyjohn. "I thought I might have some desk job but that changed quickly!"

Without a transportation background, Jackie applied for a job as an engineer trainee, and flew through her mandatory education on equipment, signals, routes, rules, and protocol before being promoted to Engineer in 1985. "I've gotten some pretty surprised looks from passengers when they realize a woman was operating their train, but for the most part they have gotten used to me," said Jackie. Stationed at Powelton Yard, she prefers to work the third shift from 11 p.m. until 9 a.m, in order to be available for her family during the day. "I generally work in the yard, but regularly operate rail trains in revenue service. My family is very supportive and they are just happy that I'm happy."

Female engineers are a rare breed. Currently approximately 4% of SEPTA Regional Rail engineers are female. However, interest in the position is growing.

Tanesha Moody is one of the newer rail engineers. The veteran of five years first cut her teeth as an assistant train conductor during her first two years on the job. "I never even saw anything but a freight train growing up in South Philly, so this was totally new to me. I originally wanted to be a nurse!" Tanesha soon became attracted to engineering and after the requisite training, she was promoted and now operates all lines. Although she doesn't have a set schedule, Tanesha enjoys the job. "I don't have family concerns right now, so I have the flexibility to work all dayparts."

Jackie and Tanesha both echo how they love the challenge, the freedom, the great co-workers and meeting new people. They especially enjoy experiencing the extraordinary scenery they get to view as they operate trains. "It's really a nice change of pace everyday," said Tanesha.

Jacqueline Pettyjohn peers out of the window as she stands at the controls of a Regional Rail train

Tanesha (front) and Jacqueline make up a very elite group of female Regional Rail train engineers