A growing number of women are entering the traditionally male world of steam. Rachael Rowe asked local steam enthusiast Coral Goddard why
Coral Goddard is one of a growing number of women working on steam engines. She appears regularly at local shows and steam-ups with her husband (look out for them at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show). Most of us are familiar with the classic steam engines at shows but I’m curious as to how the then Coral Fookes first got involved.
‘Through my now-husband. One of our first dates was to a steam fair! He has a strong interest in steam engines, and that’s how I got into it. It was an interest-at-first-sight.’
Coral is fortunate to have friends with a steam engine who allow both the Goddards to take it out to shows. But what is it about steam that appeals?
‘The first time I did it, it was the engine. I knew immediately that I wanted to do it again. It’s part of our history and heritage.
‘It’s really interesting to see all the machinery in front of you. It is so different from driving a car, for example. There’s such love that goes into just getting it to move. You’re putting fire into the engine and boiling water for the steam. It’s the smell and the physical presence of the machine. You’re actually putting life into it.
It’s really therapeutic.’
Coral’s day job is working at an equine veterinary practice in Salisbury. ‘Horses are my first love. The team at work think I’m a crazy lady!’
She steers the engine while her husband drives it. ‘You have to know your journey, so you have enough steam to get up a hill, for example. The classic one is coming out of the G&S Show and making sure you have enough steam to get up the hill into Shaftesbury.
‘Usually we do a recce of any unknown journey or route. You really have to know your hills.’
Breaking the rules
There’s a certain stereotype associated with steam engine enthusiasts. So how has Coral found it?
‘There is still a bit of that around, especially the older generation who are a bit old school. They’ll say “well done, well done”. However, I know lots of women in steam who do a brilliant job. For example, Jenny Duncan Coles has been with the Great Dorset Steam Fair all her life. Laura Kimber is another example. Many more are coming through, so we must keep people interested. Women’s football is a great example of how stereotypes have been transformed.’
So how can women and newcomers get involved with steam engines?
‘Ask questions. Engine owners love nothing more than explaining how their engines work! Then, during winter, ask if you can help with lots of engine maintenance. The Steam Apprenticeship Club is another way younger people can get involved. Sometimes it is difficult as most engines are privately owned, so it is important to show an interest. And there’s such a great community in the steam world.’
How long did it take Coral to learn the basics of engines?
‘I’m very much still learning and don’t have a mechanical mind! My husband is the mechanic. But I’m always learning about the steam engines.’
Meet Coral in the steam area at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show. She will also be at the Berwick St John Fair, a local event raising money for the Salisbury District Stars Appeal, on 17th and 18th September. Further information on traction engines can be found on the National Traction Engine Trust website at www.ntet.co.uk.