Train spotting

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(Redirected from Trainspotting (hobby))

This article is about the hobby of train spotting, for other uses see Trainspotting.

Train spotting is a pastime practised in countries where trains run on a constant schedule, in which enthusiasts spend time at railway depots, train stations or at trackside vantage points noting down serial numbers of passing trains and locomotives. It is most popular in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The aim of these hobbyists is to see all of the locomotives and perhaps coaching stock and multiple units (coaches with motive power as well as passenger seating) in the country. To this end, they collect and exchange detailed information about the movements of locomotives and other equipment on the railway network, and become very knowledgeable about its operations.

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Rail-trainspotters-amoswolfe.jpg
Train spotters at Norwich Station

The equipment of a train spotter consists, generally, of a data book listing all the locomotives or other equipment in question, in which locomotives seen are ticked off; a notebook and pens, to note down sightings to transfer into the book at leisure; a thick anorak, to keep warm and dry in Britain's generally unpredictable weather; and an infinite supply of patience. More advanced trainspotters sometimes use a tape recorder instead of the notebook. Modern times have seen the addition of the cellphone and/or pager as an essential tool of communication with others in the hobby, while various Internet mailing lists and web sites allow for the exchange of information as well.

Some began carrying cameras in order to document more unusual sightings, in order that they be believed, as well as to 'collect' the photographs as well as the numbers.

Train spotting is generally the early stage of the British railway enthusiast (railfan). The knowledge of the railways obtained by a trainspotter is generally the start of a larger hobby; many start taking photographs, for instance, merely to document their sightings, and become hooked, and before long are full-fledged railway photographers. Some turn their railway interests into a career. Others write for the specialist press, or become model railway enthusiasts. Others get involved in the railway preservation movement, becoming volunteers at the museums and organisations dedicated to preserving railway history and historic equipment.

A development from trainspotting is the haulage enthusiast or basher. These individuals are not content merely watching trains; instead, the aim is to ride in them. Some attempt to ride behind as many locomotives as they can, marking them off in a book just like a regular trainspotter. Still others are only interested in certain types and classes of locomotive. Others attempt to cover as much of the railway network as they can, these people are usually referred to as Gricers or track bashers.

In America, concerns over terrorism have led to situations where train spotters are followed or confronted by security or police forces. In the United Kingdom, however, the British Transport Police have used train spotters' vast knowledge to their advantage, and have actively encouraged them to report any suspicious persons or activities.


The term "train spotter" is often used as a derogatory term towards someone perceived to have an enthusiasm for acquiring or hoarding detailed or humdrum information. It was translated in French as the neologism Ferrovipathe which literally means "railway disorder".

It is widely believed that many train spotters may be suffering from a form of autism. Some of the symptoms of this disorder are: poor social interaction skills, obsession with routine, increased number skills, and increased ability to recall information.

See also

pl:Trainspotting (hobby) ru:Трейнспоттинг

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