Trainspotting as a Hobby: Why Watching Trains is Better Than Watching Paint Dry

Trainspotting as a hobby may seem like an odd pastime to some, but for those who have caught the bug, it’s an obsession that’s hard to shake.

From tracking trains and collecting numbers to exploring new routes and meeting fellow enthusiasts, trainspotting offers a unique thrill that can’t be found anywhere else.

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a curious newcomer, there’s always something new to discover in the world of trainspotting.

See Also: What Are Some Spotting Hobbies?

What is Trainspotting?

If you’re curious about trainspotting, you’re not alone. Trainspotting is a hobby that has been around for over a century, and it involves watching trains and noting their distinctive characteristics.

It’s a pastime that can be enjoyed by anyone, from children to seniors, and it can be done anywhere in the world. In this section, we’ll explore the history of trainspotting, what it entails, and why it’s such a popular hobby.

Can be done almost anywhereCan be time-consuming
Provides an opportunity to explore new placesMay require some travel
Offers opportunities for learning and educationCan be challenging to identify certain trains
Can be enjoyed alone or with othersMay be seen as an unusual hobby
Can be a great way to relax and unwindMay require some investment in equipment and resources

History of Trainspotting

Trainspotting has been around since the early days of rail travel, but it became more popular in the United Kingdom in the 1940s and 1950s.

At that time, trainspotting was seen as a way to escape the drudgery of everyday life and to explore the world of trains and railways.

Trainspotters would often gather at railway stations and record the numbers and details of passing locomotives and rolling stock.

In the 1960s, the hobby began to decline as rail travel became less popular.

However, it experienced a resurgence in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly in the UK, with the publication of the ABC Guides, which provided detailed information on locomotives and rolling stock.

The hobby also gained international attention with the release of the film “Trainspotting” in 1996.

What is Trainspotting as a Hobby?

Trainspotting is a hobby that involves watching trains and noting their distinctive characteristics. Some trainspotters focus on specific types of trains, such as steam or diesel locomotives, while others are interested in the history of railways or the architecture of stations and bridges.

Trainspotters often keep notebooks or use mobile apps to record their sightings, and some even collect tickets, badges, and other memorabilia related to trains and railways.

Trainspotting can also involve photography and videography, with some enthusiasts capturing stunning images of trains and railway lines. Railway photography is a popular sub-hobby of trainspotting, with many enthusiasts publishing their work online or in books.

Trainspotting is not just limited to the UK, as it is enjoyed by enthusiasts all over the world. In Greece, for example, trainspotting is known as “basher” or “line bashing,” and enthusiasts often take trips to different parts of the country to spot different types of trains and railway lines.

How to Get Started with Trainspotting

If you’re interested in trains and want to take your passion to the next level, trainspotting might be the perfect hobby for you. Here are some tips on how to get started.

Choosing a Location

The first step is to find a good location for spotting trains. You might want to start by checking out local train stations or railway lines. Some popular locations for trainspotting include bridges, tunnels, and elevated platforms.

It’s also a good idea to research the train schedules in your area so you know when and where to look for trains.

What Equipment Do You Need?

You don’t need much equipment to get started with trainspotting, but there are a few things that can make the experience more enjoyable. A notebook and pen are essential for keeping track of your sightings.

You might also want to bring a camera or video camera to capture the trains you spot. Binoculars can be helpful for getting a closer look at trains that are far away.

What to Look For

When spotting trains, there are several things to look for. Train spotters often record the numbers of the engines they see, as well as the classes of the trains and the types of rolling stock.

Some spotters are also interested in the branding and design of the trains, as well as the architecture of the stations and railway lines. If you’re interested in railway history, you might want to focus on spotting steam locomotives or other vintage trains.

Keeping Records

Many train spotters keep detailed records of their sightings. This might include a notebook with engine numbers, dates, and locations, as well as photographs or videos of the trains they spot.

Some spotters also collect tickets, badges, or other memorabilia related to trains and railways. If you’re interested in railway photography, you might want to invest in some books or guides on the subject to improve your skills.

Trainspotting as a Social Activity

Trainspotting can be a solitary pursuit, but it can also be a social activity. If you’re interested in meeting other trainspotters, there are a few ways to do so.

Joining a Club

One option is to join a trainspotting club. Clubs can be found in many areas, and they offer a way to connect with other enthusiasts. Club members often organize trips to different stations and locations, and they may have access to special events or opportunities.

Clubs can also be a great source of information. Members may have knowledge of train schedules, locomotive details, and other insider information that can be hard to find elsewhere. Some clubs even have their own websites or newsletters, which can keep you up to date on the latest news and events.

Meeting Other Trainspotters

Another way to meet other trainspotters is simply by spending time at train stations. Many enthusiasts gather at stations to watch trains and take photographs. Strike up a conversation with someone you see there regularly, and you may find that you have a shared interest.

If you’re interested in photography, you may want to consider joining a photography group. Many photography groups have members who are also trainspotters, and they may organize trips to locations that are particularly photogenic.

Regardless of how you meet other trainspotters, it can be a great way to learn more about the hobby and to make new friends. You may find that you have more in common with other trainspotters than you thought.

Opportunity to connect with other enthusiastsMay require membership fees
Access to insider informationMay require travel to attend events
Opportunity to participate in organized trips and eventsClub politics can sometimes be difficult
Can be a great source of informationMay not be a good fit for everyone
Opportunity to make new friends

Trainspotting and Photography

If you are interested in trainspotting, combining it with photography can make the experience even more enjoyable. Capturing stunning photos of trains can be a rewarding way to document your hobby and share it with others. Here are some tips to get you started.

Camera Equipment

To take great photos, you’ll need the right equipment. While you don’t need the most expensive camera on the market, investing in a decent camera will make a big difference. Here are some things to consider:

  • Camera Type: A DSLR camera is ideal for taking high-quality photos, but a mirrorless camera can also produce great results. If you’re on a budget, a point-and-shoot camera or even a smartphone can work too.
  • Lenses: A zoom lens will give you more flexibility, but a prime lens can produce sharper images. Consider getting a lens with a wide aperture for better low-light performance.
  • Tripod: A tripod will help you keep your camera steady and avoid blurry photos.

Tips for Taking Great Photos

Once you have your camera equipment, it’s time to start taking photos. Here are some tips to help you get the best results:

  • Find a Good Location: Look for a spot with a clear view of the tracks and a good vantage point. Consider the lighting and the background as well.
  • Use Manual Mode: To have more control over your camera settings, use manual mode. Adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to get the desired effect.
  • Experiment with Angles: Try taking photos from different angles and perspectives. Get down low or up high to add interest to your shots.
  • Capture Motion: Trains are in motion, so try to capture that in your photos. Use a slower shutter speed to blur the background and create a sense of motion.
  • Be Patient: Sometimes you might have to wait a while for the perfect shot. Be patient and take your time.

In conclusion, combining trainspotting with photography can be a fun and rewarding way to enjoy your hobby. With the right equipment and some practice, you can capture stunning photos of trains in action.


In conclusion, trainspotting is a unique and fascinating hobby that has been enjoyed by enthusiasts for many years. It provides an opportunity to observe and appreciate the beauty and complexity of trains and railways, as well as the history and culture surrounding them.

Whether you are a seasoned trainspotter or just starting out, there are many reasons to give this hobby a try.

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