Volunteer Stephanie Tadlock recently joined an exclusive club, she was promoted to the position of Steam Locomotive Engineer at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, the park’s first female to hold this position.
Engineer is the most advanced position on the train crew. Commonly confused with conductor (who directs the movement of the train), the engineer is charge of operating the locomotive. To qualify for the position, Stephanie put in years training in every position on the train crew, including brakeman, conductor, hostler and fireman, before qualifying as an engineer earlier this summer. Railtown 1897 State Historic Park’s railroad operations are regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration. The park currently employs 20 volunteer train crew members who adhere to the training, testing and operating requirements administered by the FRA, and operate steam and diesel excursion trains from April-December.
A resident of Merced, Stephanie grew up on a small farm outside of Madera, CA. In her day job, she works as a program analyst in Fresno, with a 2-hour round trip commute. One wouldn’t imagine that would lend much free time, but somehow between cross country motorcycle trips, helping her dad with antique shows, and spoiling her granddaughter, Stephanie has shown the drive, energy, and aptitude to become Railtown 1897’s first female engineer.
Stephanie began volunteering at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park after her husband, Dave, transitioned from volunteer tour guide to volunteer train crew member in 2007. After realizing that Dave was at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park every weekend, Stephanie and her son began volunteering on the fire patrol crew during Dave’s second year in order to be able to see Dave once in a while! After spending a year learning and becoming immersed in the camaraderie of Railtown’s volunteer crew, in 2008 Stephanie volunteered for train crew and, as she says “that’s about the time I got bit by the steam bug.”
Though excited about her new position as engineer, Stephanie still enjoys hostling and firing. “There’s just something indescribable about bringing a cold mechanical hunk of metal to life with your own two hands,” she says.
Thanks, Stephanie, for your dedication to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, and here’s to many more years to come!