For those of you who enjoy the automotive posts hosted on this blog, you’re likely to have a deep appreciation for vehicles and how they work. A further examination of this field of study brings about a natural further interest. It’s purely fascinating to see the origins of locomotives and how they informed the design of the modern automotive we used and take for granted today.
Luckily, just like vintage cars, a wealth of train stations still carry the old interconnected vehicles for your viewing pleasure and are all too happy to inform you of the history. Time spent studying these trains often bring with it an understanding of history and an appreciation for how easy it is to get roadworthy in the modern day. Back in the day when trains were the main method of transport, the world must have felt like a much bigger place.
The best way to see these trains in action, and they are still in action in some distinct locations, is to begin the hobby of trainspotting. This can serve as a relaxing and rewarding endeavour, and has a real sense of discovery about it. Trainspotting initially rose to prominence in the United Kingdom in the 1940’s, when a gentleman working for PR in Waterloo decided that there was a market to spread this information about trains and potentially bring in a large audience.
Since then, the hobby has exploded in popularity, and thousands of people now enjoy the vast archive of train history and use that to inform their hunting of the large vehicles. No matter your motivations such as taking photo’s, simply viewing the trains you’ve read about in action, or to serve as a fun retreat to take with one of your children, there is the best way to go about it, and we hope to explain them here:
Styles of Trainspotting
While spotting the actual trains in action is usually a forefront of trainspotting, that isn’t all the hobby is limited to. Hobbyists collect increasingly valuable tickets, ticket books, rail memorabilia and even old construction items from train stations long since renovated. Some train stations are arguably as interesting as the trains they inhabit, and some are dedicated to preserving the initial intent of the train line, housing the original trains used decades upon decades ago. Stepping into one of these stations is almost like stepping straight into history, helping you escape to another world for the time you’re there.
Many of these stations, such as the Severn Valley Railway located in Bridgnorth, England offer massive celebratory and commemorative events, such as the ‘40’s weekend,’ in which the whole town enjoys a recreation of the latter stages of the war. This can not only serve as a brilliant opportunity to see the trains used to evacuate children to the rural towns during the Blitz but can help inform your child or family with a real, tangible example of the difficulties faced in the day, heightening their historical awareness. Not only that, but these facilities will also offer sideline history lessons, such as interesting information about aluminum in the train industry. You’d be surprised where the best historical insight can come from.
Join A Network
Due to the trainspotting subculture being a relatively niche one, comprised of all manner of automotive and locomotive experts, it’s important to find the right community to help guide you in the directions of the best train stations, the best models to find, and the best websites to visit. Finding popular trainspotting forums online from both the UK and US environments can give you interesting and different interpretations on the trains and the history thereof. However, you needn’t be limited to solely Western nations. Russia’s train network is of great interest to many around the world, and the great Trans-Siberian railway stands as a perfect example of that. Visiting this as a tourist can be difficult because the subculture, expectations and best ways to self-maintain on a journey of such length can take a lot of effort. Soaking up as much information about the endeavour online before you head out can help you tremendously in this regard.
In order to find the best place to set up your camera or simply rest in quiet reflection waiting to see the train, you must understand the best spots to relax. Some train stations will have ‘no go’ areas around the lines, especially with historical trains, so it’s important to make sure you’re never accidentally trespassing on the property. It’s also important to make sure you’re safe, and never interfere with or enter the train tracks in the pursuit of a better viewing angle. Study the routes ahead of time and pre-plan the whole affair to give yourself plenty of time to adjust your trainspotting locations for the best and longest viewing times you can. Make a day of it, visiting multiple trains and stations, even museums, to get the best and most complete understanding of your newly found hobby.
These tips can help your locomotive understanding increase tenfold, which in turn can help the knowledge and historical perspective of your automotive understanding. Have fun!