Originally from Guinea, Adamadia Diallo is a train driver at the Belgian National Railway Company (SNCB), since 2017. She shares her passion for her job on her various social networks under the account “@mama.is_a.traindriver”. Living in Belgium for about 20 years, and mother of 2 children (a 7 and a half year old boy, and a one year old girl), Adamadia Diallo, who has been working at SNCB since 2015, has a goal to drive international trains.
What motivated you to become a train driver and what steps did you take? Is it a difficult process?
I discovered the job of a train driver, during my previous job as a train attendant. I always thought that it was a job for men only. However, after talking to the drivers and asking questions about the advantages and disadvantages of the job, I decided that this was the job for me. Since I didn’t have the necessary seniority to change jobs “internally” and I didn’t want to wait, I decided to apply externally. So I had to take all the psycho-technical tests and the medical tests again. Then came the one-year training, provided by the company I work for. The training can be compared to a marathon, because you have to make a constant effort over a whole year, passing different tests and simulators.
What are the qualities and skills required to be a train driver?
To have a sense of responsibility, to be reactive, calm and rigorous. You also have to be able to manage stress and always put safety first.
Could you describe your daily work ? your missions and your working environment ?
A typical day always starts and ends at the depot. Once I have taken up my duties, I may have to go to the station where a relay is waiting for me and make a journey to a destination x. I may also have to go directly to the harnesses to prepare trains. This consists, in a way, in testing the brakes, the safety devices, seeing the general state of the train, etc… The service is on a tablet and the changes are made in real time. At the end of the service, I go back to the depot to finish my service.
What are your working habits ?
I am a calm and composed person. I try to always approach my services in this way: arrive early, have my coffee moment in the station, visualize my entire service and calmly join my train.
As a train driver, do you also have any mechanical knowledge? Do you use it from time to time?
It’s part of the “equipment” training that allows us to help out in case of technical problems. We are regularly confronted with it.
Are you authorized to drive a type of train or can you drive any train ?
I can only drive trains for which I have received “material” training, as well as trains for which I have line knowledge. Personally, I have been trained on most of the machines and I drive on a large part of the Belgian lines as well as on the high speed line 2.
What are your daily motivations in your job?
To transport people safely and to make the youngest and the oldest dream.
What are the challenges you face?
The unexpected, i.e. situations where you have to act quickly but in a relevant and professional way. Helping yourself in the middle of nowhere with 500 passengers on board. Every day is a challenge with its share of surprises.
How do you manage your stress?
By remaining calm and composed. I’m lucky enough to have a good self-control, which helps me on a daily basis.
What are the positive sides of being a train driver? And the difficult part of your job?
It’s a job that allows you to get away from it all, to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets. In a totally personal way, I would say it’s a unique job. You feel like you’re in a little bubble when you drive your train.
The difficult part is the shifting and non-regular hours, as well as working on weekends. However, I’ve gotten so used to it that I could hardly imagine myself in 8-16. But, it’s an adjustment you have to be prepared for in your personal life.
What is your favorite route and why?
Brussels-Midi – Welkenraedt, because there is a part on the high speed line. My dream has always been to drive international trains and driving on the high speed line is already a small step towards that.
You are also an avid traveler and you have traveled with the “Connecting Europe” train that connects 26 European countries. Could you tell us about this experience?
I had the opportunity to travel part of the way, as a traveler. I was able to attend the preparation of the train in Schaerbeek (Commune of Brussels). I was impressed by the mix of people present in the train: parliamentarians, ministers, enthusiasts, artists and colleagues… A very beautiful journey in the panoramic car. This project also accompanies the return of the night train, which is a very good thing. What could be better than going to sleep in Brussels and waking up in Vienna, for example?
How can you evolve in your job on a hierarchical level?
There are several opportunities internally, in different areas. But my goal is to drive international trains. I hope to be able to achieve this soon.
Are there other women of African descent?
To my knowledge, there are a few.
What are your next destinations as a traveler?
To return to Cape Verde. It is a country that has made a huge impression on me because of the hospitality of its people. I advise everyone to go there, at least once. Then Canada, my childhood dream and Korea to discover the country that makes my little sister dream.