Karen Harrison: Euston's Mural Of Pioneering Train Driver Is Staying Put

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 11 months ago
Karen Harrison: Euston's Mural Of Pioneering Train Driver Is Staying Put
Female staff members admiring the mural of Karen Harrison
The mural featuring Karen Harrison appeared at Euston in January 2023, and will now stay indefinitely.

In January 2023, Avanti West Coast unveiled a mural of Karen Harrison — one of the UK's first female train drivers — at Euston station.

A savvy marketing stunt to drum up female recruitment, it was supposed to be a temporary instalment, but will now remain a fixture of the station (unless, of course, that was part of the marketing ruse all along).

Harrison was a true pioneer; after working at London's famous Marquee Club, she applied to become a train driver with British Rail, who tried to deter her from the role. Harrison refused to let that happen, pushing herself through years of sexism and harassment to achieve her goals — first at Old Oak Common depot (which she described as "hell"), and later at Marylebone station, where she found "heaven".

Karen Harrison at the microphone
Not only a pioneer for women's rights, Harrison was also a staunch trade unionist.

She later recalled of her earlier days: "Every day I walked into the mess room I'd be s***ting myself, but strutting about pretending not to be. I couldn't let them create no-go areas for me; that would've established a precedent and we couldn't have that, could we? It would've been the beginning of the end."

Also an avid unionist, Harrison became the first woman to hold various different roles at ASLEF, and serving as a Trade Union Officer for UNISON from 1997-2003.

Harrison's train driving career was interrupted by a bout of meningitis, although she later returned to the profession. She sadly died suddenly at the age of 51, at her home in Oxford, where she'd been studying law.

The original text on the mural has been altered to read as a general tribute to Harrison, with the title: Celebrating Karen Harrison (1960-2011).

Two station staff members look at the image of Karen Harrison
Harrison died at the age of 51, at her home in Oxford, where she'd been studying law.

Remembering her late friend and former colleague, retired driver Tricia Roche described Harrison as an 'active, outspoken and controversial character' who took no nonsense when it came to issues of equal opportunities and social justice: "She made many friends, and upset plenty of others, to her constant amusement."

You'll find the mural on the slope down the side of platform 3 at Euston station (and presumably may have to request a member of staff to go and see it if you're not travelling).

Over at nearby King's Cross station, you'll find a plaque dedicated to Wilston Samuel Jackson — Britain's first Black train driver.

Last Updated 08 March 2023

Continued below.