Stacey Corcoran is an electrician at the Nippon Sharyo railcar manufacturing facility in Rochelle, IL.
She is 53 years old, and has been building trains for 24 years. She began working at the Nippon Sharyo railcar factory when it opened, 2 ½ years ago. “I was the only one that walked into this brand new facility, that could step in and build,” she says.
Stacey works with the Electrical Team, about 50 people total. Every day is different, Stacey says, “I have a specific area which I’m responsible for…. depending on which area I’m working in, I could be fixing a wire that got broken, doing the wiring from scratch, helping somebody. As an electrical team, we try to always help each other. That’s the best part. All the support means everything to me.”
“I grew up in upstate NY, where my husband worked on trains for Morrison-Knudsen. When he was transferred out here to Illinois, I joined in. I started from the very bottom, and now have traveled everywhere. I’ve worked for train manufacturing companies in three different areas in California, New York, Utah, the Chicago area, Illinois. I’ve been part of building Union Pacific freight rail in Milwaukee, WI and in Schenectady, NY -- I spent a few years moving back and forth. It always varies depending on how long the contracts are. I’ve been very happy and I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve experienced so much, and I’m very grateful.”
Of the Nippon Sharyo factory, Stacey says, “in this facility, it’s all cool. I love most of my coworkers. Everybody helps each other, we yell, we rib each other, to deal with our stress. I learned a long time ago if you can’t joke around, then you’re in trouble. It’s a very stressful job.”
“All my coworkers are great, even through the tough times. A year ago this time, I was in the hospital in a coma, I weighed 50 pounds. I was in a coma and was not supposed to live. My family flew in from all over, and I had coworkers who did not leave my side.”
“People always ask me with all the traveling, which is the best place. I explain that each place is unique, but here in Illinois, I love my coworkers the best.”
Stacey describes her role as a female railcar builder, saying, “being one of the only women…. it depends on where you’re at. 99% of the time, I’ve had no issues with that -- and I’m proud to be able to say that. But I could be at a place where the guys are very angry.”
“But I don’t take crap from nobody. I’m little, but I’m mean. So they learn real quick. I can talk it and walk it. I’ve been known to grab someone by their ear, and drag ‘em from station to station. Everybody learns: if you don’t like her, it doesn’t matter, you deal with her. We get new people in and they all know about me. I’ll say, ‘hey, I need my coffee and my donuts,’ all in fun. That part is really funny. Even though I have a mouth, I can only get away with it, because of all my experience and the years I’ve put in.”
“You take the good with the bad. I understand why some women do have problems. At the beginning we had one of my coworkers who treated one of the girls pretty bad, I stepped in, and said, ‘let’s not forget, I’m a female, I know more than you do, I make more than you do, and I’m little. So what now?’ And he got the message right then and there. He knew never to disrespect her again, afterwards he came and talked to me and apologized to me.”
“The one major problem that I do run into is that I generally make more money than my lead, and he’s pissed off about that. That’s wrong. I’m making more than others because of my experience, and I should -- woman or man.”
“I know that I’m not as strong as the big guys, and I’m not supposed to be. There are things that I do that the guys could never do. I’ll physically be inside the locker -- no one else can do that. We are all suited for different things. In my world you do need both. If you balance it out, it works perfect. You need to work together.”
“I think “Women Can Build” is very important, because we women, we can do everything. Just because people don’t think we can -- we can. This work is exciting! Honestly, it’s challenging, stressful, every aspect in life. Nobody should ever feel that they can’t do it. Women stand by what they believe in. Don’t think you’re destined to be barefoot and pregnant. I was raised to speak my mind, and if something needs to be challenged, challenge it. We all have a right to choose and there are more and more women in the workforce. If you’re doing something that you don’t enjoy, then get out and explore. Hopefully women will come to understand they can do it!”
“I’m only four foot four, I build trains, and I’m a girl. What more proof do you need?? No matter what we do, we all play an important part.”
“Now at Nippon Sharyo, we have so many younger, new women, and I absolutely love it. Because I’m 53 years old now, I want to see the next generation. Sometimes there are generations of families building these trains, and so here is a whole new group of people who have never built trains before. And they’ll be the ones doing this in the future.”
“To me, it’s not just a job. I really care about the trains, I always have. Doing the electrical work, to me it’s like putting art together. You want it to be flawless and beautiful. Thats’ why I traveled, because my work is so creative and beautiful. It has kept me busy. It’s exciting.”