Nellie Nelson, Railway Porter

Nellie Nelson joined LNER York as a porter in 1940. In the second World War the Government needed to replace railwaymen who had joined the Forces. They asked women. Within a year there were over 80,000 women working on the railways as porters, guards, ticket collectors, van drivers, and mechanics, and in maintenance, signals and workshop operations. They faced many difficulties including negative attitudes, lower pay, and no lavatories for female workers.

Nellie has provided an oral (spoken) history for the National Archive of Railway Oral History. She says:

“We had a uniform, yes, and a tin hat. It were more or less a replica of the man’s uniform. We got an oil lamp each if we wanted one, but I didn’t bother. I used to take me flash lamp. If you were in a van where there wasn’t a light you could see what the parcels were” and that “On a night you got a job as a bailout attendant on trains. You had to go up and down the train to see that it’d got all the curtains down”.

She also talks about helping to get injured passengers off the bombed train at York Station in 1942, and about how her bike got destroyed.


National Archive of Railway Oral History, National Railway Museum, York.

‘Female Railway Workers in World War II’ by Susan Major. Published by Pen & Sword Transport 2018. ISBN 9781526703088.

York Press.