Profiles: Kirstin Campbell

Unlike so many of her collegues, Kirstin Campbell didn’t come from a family who worked on the rail. But after being with CP Rail for ten years she now describes herself as a railroader. 

She first got hooked while was working as a server in a Merrickville, Ontario pub. She got to know many retired trainmen, conductors and engineers. One of Campbell’s regulars mentioned that CP was hiring new crew in Smiths Falls and suggested she try it out.

Campbell says, “I heard their stories all the time. I’ve always been a bit of a gypsy, so packing a bag and hopping on a train sounded great.”
She applied, was hired and spent six months in a training program that is much like apprenticeship, with classroom time followed by hands-on experience, then back to class. She is now a trainman, conductor and is qualified as an engineer.

Her biggest concern is children near tracks. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids playing on the tracks,” she says. But even worse are adult drivers who don’t seem to understand that 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes can take three kilometres to stop. “So many people take risks at crossings—driving around the gate when it’s down with lights flashing.” One of her scariest moments was caused by a woman in a minivan. “She had five or six kids in her van and she drove around the gates as we were approaching. I was sure we would hit them.”

In spite of the strange hours, lack of rest, disruptive schedule and the dangers out on the main line she loves her job. “It’s hard to explain, but it’s fascinating.”