Female Train Engineer "Wows" at the Strasburg Railroad

Ronks, Pa. (WTXF)  All aboard a train that can seemingly take you back in time and it's just a short drive away.

FOX 29 Photojournalist Bill Rohrer found an engineer at the Strasburg Railroad who wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Strasburg Railroad is a traditional operation equipped with many antique steam trains. But beyond the traditional exterior, there is a detail that might be surprising to some—the engineer operating the trains is a woman.

Andrea Biesecker, the Railroad Assistant Contract Administrator, often works in the railroad’s shop as a machinist fixing large steam engines, a job she finds thrilling.

“That is the neat thing about working on the railroad.  You get to do stuff they did one hundred years ago,”Andrea Biesecker said.

Ever since she can remember Andrea loved all things mechanical.

“Growing up we had a lot of mechanical toys like dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, motorcycles, because that is what dad likes,” Biesecker said. “For Christmas you would get a mini bike instead of a Barbie doll because dad thought it would be cool.”

Turning her childhood interest into a career path, after studying Machine Tool Technology in college Biesecker was hired at the Strasburg Railroad.

”Whenever you say you like working in the shop they assume you like fixing cars, and I say rail cars yes,” Biecker says of her experience describing her occupation. “Once I tell them I get to be the engineer here and run the train here then their jaw hits the ground,” Biesecker said.

She also is the engine’s fireman or in her case, “firewoman.”

“Andrea is the very first engineer, fireman that this company has had on this roster and the company was incorporated in 1832.  It’s always been a mans world,” Assistant Chief Mechanical Officer at Strasburg Railroad, Rick Musser, said. “Typically the ladies aren’t into mechanical things especially with something like this when you get really dirty.”

Andrea has no problem getting dirty—it’s just part of the job.

Most parents with a small child know that beloved character Thomas the Train Engine has a friend named Percy.  What they might not know, however, is that Andrea actually built Percy at the Strasburg Railroad.

“The joke was always that I am Percy’s Mom,” Biesecker explained. “I had to make every part from scratch. Everybody pitched in with Percy.  The wood workers were doing welding and the machinists were trying to weld and the welders were trying to machine everybody was just all hands on deck to get it done.”

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