The Strasburg Railway had a new engineer this year - she's in the middle picture. Here's her story from the Lancaster Online newspaper:
Posted: Monday, May 4, 2015 6:00 am
PETER TARABORELLI | Correspondent
The repair shop at Strasburg Rail Road is fully stocked.
There are locomotives from the 1800s, antique tools and plenty of spare parts.
But a woman has never graced the shop.
That changed recently when 26-year-old Andrea Biesecker, a computer numeric controlled machinist, became the repair and restoration project coordinator. Her official title is assistant contract administrator, but she wears a lot of hats at the railroad.
Biesecker, who graduated in 2009 from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, said she has loved steam power since she was a child.
She grew up in Parkesburg and said she has fond memories of weekends spent with her father at Gap’s Rough and Tumble Museum, which is all about the power of steam.
When it came time for her to pick a college major, however, she first thought she might pursue accounting.
But that quickly changed when she decided to attend Stevens and pursue a career that had everything to do with steam power. She majored in machine tool and computer aided manufacturing.
Biesecker, who also is a locomotive engineer, sets her sights on a job at the Strasburg Rail Road.
“ .000… I graduated first in a class of only 12, and I was the only girl,” Biesecker said. “I never set out to be a trailblazer; I just knew where I wanted to work.”
A self-described tomboy and “daddy’s little girl,” Biesecker was determined to turn her passion into a career.
“Being a girl in this field is intimidating, and the first few times I applied, people would laugh, and tell me it’s not ‘historically accurate’” Biesecker said. “But I was going to prove them all wrong.”
That’s exactly what she did when the Strasburg Rail Road hired her in 2010 as a fireman, which required her to feed coal to the train’s engine during a run.
She then became a student engineer and was named assistant contract administrator last year. She oversees repair and restoration projects.
“She’s an extremely reliable and talented young lady,” said Kelly Anderson, Strasburg Rail Road’s vice president of motive power equipment and shops.
“She’s a pleasure to work with and has a very positive attitude about work. It’s pretty obvious she loves what she’s doing.”
Biesecker has proved her skill and said her biggest achievements include restoring all of the precision-made safety valves on the railroad’s locomotives.
Parts that haven’t been made in generations are her specialty. Some of the parts she has manufactured herself have been sent to other railroads here in the United States and around the globe. Knowing that she might be the only person around who can do what she does helps motivate her daily, she said.
“I feel very privileged to know I’ve had a hand in keeping something running that will bring so much joy to generations of kids,” she said.
When asked what advice she might have for other girls who want to follow her example and defy career expectations, Biesecker said it takes determination.
“I’m determined to a fault,” she said. “I don’t like being told ‘no’ or ‘you can’t.’ That’s when I get into the mode of .000… ‘I’m going to show you.’
“People are going to put you down, so you can use that negativity to either shrink into a corner or use it as a force to work harder.”