GEORGETOWN, Colo. (CBS4)– The first official day of summer kicked off Friday and despite the afternoon storms, you could still find a steady stream of excited families at the Georgetown Loop Railroad. It’s tradition for every employee to wave as the train passes by and each does with conviction, but there’s one employee who always gets a double take.
“Even the little boys once in a while, ‘There’s a girl up there!’” laughed Jen Jenks.
The 28-year-old is one of seven female steam engineers in the country- at least the last time she checked there were only six others. For Jenks, her qualifications don’t stop there.
“I’m a brakeman a conductor, engineer, fireman; I’m a machinist, a mechanic. I do a little bit of everything.”
Jenks is modest but she is very aware of the impact she has. With her long blond hair, flying outside of the train as she waves to kids passing by, it shatters the typical image most kids have of powers a train.
“You can just see their eyes light up when I go by. I’ve actually gotten a letter and it’s hanging on my wall at home about this family with two little girls that came up and rode and it made their day.”
While she has a little boy of her own, she hopes the little girls who see her are inspired to try a career they hadn’t thought of, or were afraid to try.
“It is a man’s world but I’ve been doing stuff like this since I was 18, I started mechanicing when I was 10 so I just think more women, if they have a passion for it, they should step up and do it.”
The children she encounters are only her second biggest fans. She gets to work with her number one.
“Not many fathers can say that their daughter is their best friend but my daughter is my best friend.” said Sam McCloskey.
Sam McCloskey is the shop foreman at the Georgetown Loop Railroad. His great-great grandfather worked on the original railroad when it serviced miners, now he gets to work alongside his daughter on the same railroad. He remembers the first week they started together.
“She says ‘Dad, this isn’t fair to the company. I can’t believe they’re actually paying us to do this!’” he chuckled.
Occasionally he gets to work the locomotive with her. It’s one of his favorite parts of his job.
“Probably the biggest sense of pride that I can imagine. I’m very proud of her.”
McCloskey says he and his daughter used to volunteer at the Sumpter Valley Railroad in Oregon. He knew she was mechanically inclined and watched her quickly excel.
“She worked her way up from brakeman to conductor, from conductor to fireman…”
He believes she takes after her mother who is a truck driver and works in the oil fields. If you talk to Jenks, she’ll tell you it’s because of dad that she has her dream job.
“My dad is my best friend. We’ve been working together since I was 10 and he’s the one that got me into mechanicing and steam engines and trains.”
He says he taught his girls that they can do anything a man can do. It’s a message Jenks carries with her to this day.
“Nothing is impossible. You can do anything that you set your mind to- don’t let the naysayers put you down!”