UP Career Corner

Pioneering Female Railroader Proud of her Union Pacific Family

Posted September 5, 2018 02:00 PM CDT

Share This!
Email This

Back in 1979, there were few women working in field railroading positions. That didn’t matter to Annette Cannon.

“I had two sisters who finished college,” Cannon said. “I wanted to have a job and make money like them, but I didn’t want to go to college.”

She heard the railroad paid well, and applied for a train crew position.

“When I interviewed, they told me to come back next month when they were hiring clerks, who drive crews to the trains,” Cannon said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t want to be a clerk. I want to be a switchman brakeman.’”

Her persistence landed her the job; learning the ropes was just as tough.

“There were only maybe two women in train crew positions in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, at the time,” Annette said. “It was hard being a woman in this job, because back then the guys didn’t really want to teach you. A lot’s changed in almost 40 years.”

Growing up on a farm, Cannon was used to physical work. After working on train crew and as a conductor for more than 30 years, she was promoted to an engineer.

“Being a conductor is more physical work: carrying and fixing knuckles, which connect the trains,” Cannon said. “As an engineer, I operate the locomotive. I moved from one side of the locomotive to the other.”

One of her favorite parts of the job is working with new hires.

“The new, young people have energy that motivates me and perks me up,” Cannon said.

In return, she helps them feel comfortable in their positions, and reminds them it takes time to learn the ropes.

She remembers seeing a female new hire sitting alone on a bench.

“I introduced myself, gave her my phone number and told her to call anytime she needed something,” Cannon said. “I could tell a weight was lifted off her once she knew she had support.”

Cannon considers her Union Pacific team her family, and gets together with them for birthdays, anniversaries and dinners. “We stick together,” she said. “If something goes wrong, we talk about it; and if something is good, we talk about it, too.”

Her railroad “family” includes a handful of other women in field positions.

“I am so proud of them,” she said. “They are out here and know their jobs. I hope the next generation of female railroaders takes the industry even further.”

Cannon says she’s proud to work at Union Pacific and is just as happy as her sisters, who finished college.

“I had to overcome some things, but in the end, I have a good job,” she said. “I’m able to go on vacations, buy a house and car, and appreciate the simple things in life.”

Interested in a career like Cannon’s? Visit UP.jobs to view our opportunities and apply today.