In the late 1980s, Surekha Shankar Yadav became India’s first woman to operate a train. Yadav was born in the city of Satara in India’s state of Maharashtra in 1965. After graduating from St. Paul Convent High School in Satara, she earned a diploma in electrical engineering at Polytechnic Government College in the city of Kalad. For the next stage of her life, Yadav initially planned to pursue graduate degrees in mathematics and education so that she could become a teacher. Ultimately, however, she set aside those academic aspirations so that she could instead seek employment with Indian Railways (IR).
Yadav interviewed for a position with IR in 1987 and was subsequently admitted to the Driver’s Training Centre (DTC) in the city of Kalyan to learn how to operate trains. She formally began her career with IR in 1989 as an assistant train driver (also called an assistant loco pilot). Yadav steadily rose through the ranks, being promoted to a full-fledged railroad engineer (also known as a loco pilot, train driver or motorwoman) in 2000.
As the first woman to operate trains in India, Yadav inspired other women in the country to likewise pursue that type of transportation career. By 2011, there were at least 50 other women operating trains in India.
That same year, a major milestone in Yadav’s own career took place on International Women’s Day (March 8) when she became the first Indian woman to operate the longtime passenger train Deccan Queen. Deccan Queen, which first went into service in 1930, is one of India’s most famous and beloved trains. “It was my dream to drive the Deccan Queen,” said Yadav in an interview with the Times of India on the day before she operated the train between Pune and Mumbai (the two largest cities in Maharashtra). This first-of-a-kind train run received extensive press coverage throughout India.
In her interview with the Times of India at that time, Yadav also talked about her pioneering career. “I don’t find the job difficult – just balancing my responsibilities,” she said. “Women are not incapable . . . I adjusted. The cooperation from my family, seniors, and colleagues was also a huge boost in my 22-yearlong career.”
During her time with IR to date, Yadav has operated everything from suburban local trains to long-distance express trains. She now serves as a senior instructor at DTC in Kaylan.
For more information on Surekha Shankar Yadav, please check out https://yourstory.com/2018/01/surekha-yadav-female-train-driver.