-When the Call Came, Maintenance Whiz Patricia Rosario Was Ready
Patricia Rosario begins our conversation with a bit of an admission: “I’ve never been much of an office person.” And to be sure, the seven-year commuter rail veteran has done a bit of everything over the course of her professional career – from running a daycare center to stocking retail stores to managing and operating properties. But it was when a friend told her about a job opening at the commuter rail that she would eventually find her passion: fixing and maintaining passenger coaches at Keolis Commuter Services, the MBTA’s commuter rail operating partner.
For the scrappy native of the Dominican Republic who has lived in Dorchester since she was 11, the railroad seemed like a natural fit. A self-described “hands-on person,” she speaks enthusiastically of the practical experience she acquired during her property management days, fixing electrical and plumbing problems that arose. But working her way up at Keolis didn’t happen overnight. Initially cleaning passenger coaches, Patricia’s dream was to be an engineer – but, she says, that changed when over time she began to spend time watching, and then shadowing, the maintenance teams at the Somerville repair facility. “I really loved seeing the team work on fixing the trains – how every day there was a different thing to repair or a new problem to solve. So when I got my shot, I didn’t hesitate.” As part of her 90-day training, Patricia received a crash course in welding and cutting, grinding and changing brake shoes.
But that intensive training didn’t compare to the experience Patricia found herself thrust into only months after she started the new job: the devastating winter storms of 2015. “At first I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’ as she worked alongside crews chipping ice, inspecting wheels and brakes in brutal weather conditions. “It taught me that some things we have no control over,” she says today. “So you have to do everything you can to prepare.”
For Patricia, it’s preparation where Keolis has excelled in the winters since 2015 dropped 108.6 inches of snow, the most Boston’s ever experienced. “Maintenance isn’t just about what you fix,” she says. “It’s also about how you prepare. Having the right equipment, having people outside on the ground spraying special solvents to melt snow, salting walkways and running equipment in cold weather so air doesn’t freeze inside the brake system. That’s the key, and we’re much better prepared today than just three years ago.”
In her line of work, everyone needs to pull their own weight – and at the time, there weren’t a lot of women doing train maintenance, but Keolis set out to grow, better train and ensure proper diversity within the workforce. Patricia’s dedication to her craft quickly showed her coworkers she was up to the task. “I take pride in my work,” she says. “When I work on a set, if I’m out there, the train needs to go out on time. For me, when the train leaves the station on time and passengers are getting on and off the train safely and on time, that’s when I know I’ve done my job.”
Given her busy schedule, it’s hard to believe Patricia has time for much else. But she blows off steam with exercise. “I’m really into cardio,” she says. “We put in long hours, so it’s important.” She’ll often bike to work, taking in the view of the Charles River.
This year, Patricia earned a new title: mom, as she and her wife welcomed their first child, a son, into their family. Patricia was excited to spend time on leave caring for her new family. “But,” she adds, “my wife didn’t want me home – so she sent me back to work after two weeks.”
When she’s not fixing coaches or changing diapers, Patricia regularly returns to the DR to visit friends and family, though most have moved to Boston. “I’m from Bani,” she says with a laugh.
“Everyone from Bani lives in Boston now. It’s a close-knit community, everybody kind of knows each other, looks out for each other and helps as much as possible.”
The city’s LGBT community is also important to Patricia: “My wife is an insurance coordinator at Fenway Health, which is a great hospital for our community, so we participate in a lot of events there,” including El Latino Family Festival – an event at Fenway for the city’s Latino families.
Ultimately, Patricia says, working for Keolis has been a rewarding experience. “Nothing in the real world teaches you how to fix a train.” But, she quickly adds, it’s a challenge that keeps her going. “That,” she says, “and my coworkers. They have really become family to me.” Pausing, she adds, “I can’t ask for much more than that.”