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10 questions..

Jeannette Schönholzer, mechanic in Samedan

RhB mechanics are responsible for all maintenance work, including repairs to freight and service wagons. Sounds like a man’s job? Far from it. Jeannette Schönholzer tells us about her day-to-day work.

Johanna Burger, Corporate Communications trainee, 10. August 2021

1 What do you do and where do you work?

I work as a mechanic in the RhB workshop in Samedan.

2 Is there such a thing as a “normal” working day for you?

For me, a normal day is a varied day. No two days are the same. Sometimes I’m on early shift, sometimes I’m on late shift and sometimes I’m on call.

3 What’s your favourite task?

There’s no one thing that I like doing most. It’s the combination of different things:

  • Changing light bulbs, checking oil levels
  • Carrying out maintenance and repair work on freight wagons
  • Overhauling axlebox bearings
  • Being on call outside of “normal” working hours
  • Making sure the stores are in order
  • Performing weekly and monthly inspections of the locomotives on night shift
  • Jumping in where support is needed

And that’s just a part of my work.

4 Is there anything you haven’t yet experienced in your line of work that you’d be interested in?

We also have an emergency vehicle at our depot. This is used, for example, when there’s a derailment. I’ve never been involved in an emergency operation. I’d like to join and support my colleagues in this line of work too. Of course, it’s always better if the emergency vehicle isn’t needed in the first place.

5 You’ve been part of the RhB family for the past year and a half. How did you end up at RhB and working as a mechanic?

It’s not that easy to find a job in the Engadin. And since neither sales nor gastronomy were an option for me, I applied to RhB. At that time, the position of mechanic was already filled, so I started as a skilled labourer. After a few months, a vacancy for a mechanic opened up and I was able to apply again and got the job.

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6 What apprenticeships and jobs have you done so far?

I originally trained as a shoe salesperson – not exactly my dream job, but manual trades weren’t really accessible to women back then. After working in Zurich for a year on the job, I joined the army. There I completed my basic military training as a train soldier with special training as an explosives pioneer. After that, I somehow ended up at trucks and drove lorries for ten years. I managed to repair everything that was possible without a large workshop myself. I then spent a year and a half working in plant engineering at the steelworks in Gerlafingen, which enabled me to expand my technical and mechanical knowledge.

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7 What would you say to someone thinking about working as a mechanic for RhB?

If anyone is interested in working at the Samedan site, I’d say that it requires a great capacity for learning, team spirit, a certain amount of drive and a good dose of humour. You shouldn’t be afraid of getting dirty (in all variations) or loud noise. And last but not least, you should be aware that we also carry out minor repairs outside in extreme sub-zero temperatures. Never underestimate the cold!

8 In addition to Samedan, we also have workshops in Landquart and Poschiavo. What makes your place of work in the Engadin special for you?

The nature up here is perfect for relaxing and unwinding after work. It’s forever showing me how small we and our supposed problems are. It keeps me grounded every day. Plus, I’ve always been a winter person. I’d rather have seven months of snow than three months of heat.

9 All RhB employees get a GA travelcard. Where do you go with it?

When I’m on shifts, I mainly use it to drive to work, but naturally I also use it occasionally for private trips.

10 Have you always been a train enthusiast or has your work turned you into one (or not at all)?

Not at all. Whenever I’ve travelled by train, it’s usually been to an open-air event. Of course, things have changed a little bit. Now I actually leave the car at home and use the train. I wouldn’t describe myself as an enthusiast, but I am interested in trains. Probably because I’m now looking at the whole thing from a different angle. Suddenly I can hear when the carriages aren’t properly coupled or I listen to how the engine driver is driving. I’d never done that before.

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