Train enthusiast fulfills life ambition to become UK's youngest female train driver

Rachie Owen, 21, saw off competition from dozens of older men and will drive First Transpennine Express trains from next month.

A 21-year-old rail fanatic who is so obsessed with trains she has one tattooed on her hand, is on track to fulfill a life-long dream to become the UK's youngest train driver.

Despite train driving being a profession usually favoured by older men, Rachie Owen will soon be the youngest woman ever to take control on the tracks.

Miss Owen from Bangor, Wales, has already worked as an on-board catering assistant, but had to wait until she turned 21 before she could apply for a driver's role.

She won the place on the training course - beating dozens of men in their 30s and 40s after a tough assessment.

From next month, she will be driving trains for First Transpennine Express - taking commuters across the country from Liverpool to Hull.

Miss Owen said: "I love the smell of trains, the noise and the excitement you get from being near them. I can’t really describe how I feel when I’m in them or next to them. They’re fantastic.
Rachie Owen has says she loves the smell and excitement of trains - and has since she was a child (Caters)
"I've loved trains every since I first went on one when I was 10.

"My family took me on the train from Bangor to Warrington, to visit theme park Gulliver's World - but I enjoyed the train journey more than the rides at the park.

"Ever since then, I've been obsessed with trains, and travel on them whenever I can.

"My friends have always been really supportive of my career choice - most of them think it's really cool."

The young driver was chosen for the First TransPennine Express 10 month training course after passing five assessments.

She said: "I was truly dedicated to one of the Garratt engines called 87 and even had a tattoo of this engine name on my hand.

"They're beautiful looking trains.

"Everyone at the railway knew me as Rachie7 as it sounds close to 87, so I ended up changing my name from Rachel to Rachie by deed poll to sound more like the engine."

She said her love of trains stems from her father, Malcolm, who always wanted to be a train driver and goes train spotting.

As well as preparing for her new career, starting in February and based at Manchester Piccadilly Station, Rachie is writing a book about her experiences so far called 'My Journey to the Mainline'.

She said: "This is a real dream come true for me because I’m railway mad. I think there were only five people who got through my assessments and the others were all men and the youngest were in their 30s.

"Out of the 5,000 people who applied for the job, I'm one of the few chosen, I'm absolutely amazed and so happy.

"The tests were really difficult, and tested my reaction times and concentration - it was really nerve-wracking and I didn't think I'd passed.

"I was ecstatic when I found out I had got onto the course - it really is my dream job."

A spokesman for the company, which currently has a fleet of 51 trains running across the north of England and Scotland, confirmed she is their youngest female trainee driver - if not the youngest driver in the country.

She will train alongside 27 other drivers as part of a £60m investment in local routes and will specialise in driving the Class 185 and Class 170 trains.

Operations director Paul Watson said: "I am absolutely delighted that Rachie is joining us in February. She is a young talented lady who has excelled in our recruitment process.

"Her enthusiasm to succeed is infectious. She will be a real asset and I look forward to travelling with her when she completes her training."