Friday the 23rd of June saw Southeastern name a train ‘Verena Holmes', who was the very first female members of the Instituion of Mechanical Engineers as well as the Society of Locomotion Engineers back in 1889.
The honour comes as part of the rail operators International Women in Engineering Day celebrations held annually on the 23rd of June, which coincides with Verena's date of birth.
Verena was a strong supporter of women in engineering and she was renowned for her commitment to developing fellow female engineers.
In 1931, Verena became the President of the Women in Engineering Society and in 1946, following work on naval weaponry for WWII, opened her own all-female engineering firm.
A ceremony which took place at London Cannon Street station saw a Class 375 named ‘Verena Holmes' and will fittingly operate on mainline routes between London, Kent and East Sussex. The special event saw Caroline Yardley, Verena's great niece, attend alongside Steve White, Managing Director of Southeastern.
Steve White, Southeastern's Managing Director, said:
“Verena Holmes was born on our part of the railway, and she blazed a trail through a male-dominated world to deliver innovation, invention and inspiration in equal measure. We at Southeastern want to recognise that legacy and are proud to name a train in her honour.”
“We want to build on Verena's achievements by increasing the number of women we employ. Among our 4,500 or so colleagues, around 900 are women, and we have several programmes, like our apprentice scheme, to increase that number and breaking down misconceptions about careers in engineering. We want women to see rail as an industry where they can thrive on an equal footing. Our ambition is to increase the number of women we employ as engineers every year.”
Elizabeth Donnelly, of the Women in Engineering Society, said:
“We are absolutely delighted that Southeastern has chosen to name one of their trains after the past President of the Women's Engineering Society (WES) Verena Holmes. It is especially fitting that this honour has been unveiled on International Women in Engineering Day, celebrated every year on the 23 June the date of both the founding of WES and the day Verena was born.”
“Verena was a champion of Women Engineers throughout her career and in 1931 she became the first woman member elected to Institution of Locomotive Engineers, so we are incredibly pleased to see her honoured in this way.”
Verena has also had a faculty building at Canterbury Christ Church University, named after her.
Dr. Ann Nortcliffe, Head of the School of Engineering, Technology and Design at Canterbury Christ Church University, said:
“We're delighted to attend today's event celebrating one of the country's, and Kent's, most pioneering female engineers, Verena Holmes. She was a trailblazing mechanical engineer, a prolific inventor and someone who was dedicated to development and advancement of females in engineering.”
“We started our engineering degree courses to specifically address the issue of diversity and female representation within the industry. Our STEM building, which opened in 2021, was named after Verena to honour her legacy and inspire generations of female engineers.”
Nada Abouelhiga, Southeastern Technical Services Engineer said:
“Southeastern has supported me in my ambition to be taken seriously as a woman engineer and has valued my skills and the contribution I can make.”
“We all follow in the footsteps of inspirational women like Verena Holmes, and she richly deserves this honour.”