Despite the deficit finances and often antiquated equipment of their industry, Railway workers are distinguished by their solidarity and esprit de corps. Woman in a ‘man’s’ job, H. W. works in a signal-box. She describes the reactions of her mates to her entry into their world, and the feelings which railway-workers share about the machines with which they work: ‘the management of the railway must be left to the railwayman’. H. W. is 43 and lives in Manchester.

As usual I arrived at the station out of breath to find the train I had hoped to catch disappearing into the distance. It was ridiculous. I lived almost next door to our local station, and providing I could dash across the city from my place of work to the main line railway station, the journey home took me exactly four minutes; but now that I had missed the train there was half an hour to wait. As I thought about it, I realized I must find somewhere to work near the station. Then it dawned on me that the best answer of all would be to work on the station itself.

Not being the type to waste time I immediately inquired and discovered that the Female Welfare Officer was the person I must first approach, and that her office was in a large block next to the station. I went off straight away to find the lady.

Thinking back now, I don’t suppose my dishevelled appearance created a very good impression, which maybe accounted for the cool reception I received. As I was employed in a mail-order company it was assumed that I wanted a clerical job, and I was informed that I had to pass an examination.

The following Saturday morning found me in a large room, sombrely if sparsely furnished and smelling strongly of paraffin and furniture polish. The exam was to take three hours. First an English paper. Not too difficult. A short piece of dictation read in clipped tones by the Welfare Officer giving the impression that she hadn’t a great deal of hope for my chances, and an essay with the choice of four given subjects, none of which appeared very inspiring. The current-affairs questions didn’t prove much trouble. Local geography could be faked by choosing to answer the questions you knew something about.

The arithmetic was hopeless. I realized how long it was since I had sorted out problems about men digging fields of such an area in such a time, and as often happens I finished up with half a man. Well! How many pounds are there in a quarter? I tried to think back to my schooldays but I couldn’t get further than fourteen pounds equal one stone. Then it was time. Not a very creditable performance, I felt.