I would imagine most people are aware of trainspotting, and I'm not referring to the 1996 film based on the writing of Irvine Welsh. I'm talking about the people who love trains and data so much they travel around waiting for trains to pass and then record what is considered to be the pertinent data about the train sighting. The first time I ever heard of this hobby was on a series that ran on PBS by Michael Palin of Monty Python. I loved the show and anxiously awaited each episode to find out exactly how serious he was about this whole train hobby.

Now, I love seeing trains, especially old trains, but I could care less about the data I might collect. So actually I don't think this hobby would suit me. Now, trainwaving, a nonexistent word, I can get behind. And yes, spellcheck gave me a really tough time getting that nonexistent word into this post.

As a kid traveling across country many times I can remember seeing a train traveling parallel to the highway out in some boring flat state filled with nothingness. That train and that engineer became my focus. I would start waving madly hoping to get their attention. Once they waved back I'd give the international sign of "blow the whistle" pumping my arm up and down. Sure enough, most of the time they'd blow the whistle and often that would be the highlight of that day of boring travel.

I miss trains. I don't have any trains that run near me. I used to love running along the tracks in the Sierra's waiting for the trains to pass with their hundreds and hundreds of cars attached. Good times.

Click on image to see it larger.


  1. Oh, my. Those boys look dangerously close to that train, don't you think? It almost makes me want to see the third photo in the sequence, the one where the train has passed them and they're still standing, looking in the opposite direction.

    1. That was the whole point. The power of the engines was exciting. And waving at the crew was part of it. Of course, somehow the engineer could always guess when we'd put a penny on the track and shake his head and tell us no.

    2. A steam locomotive like the one in the photo weighs around a million pounds. A penny stands no chance at all! Nor would a human ...

    3. Of all the pennies I put on the tracks I only managed to get one back. All the rest fell into the gravel. They become so thin they simply disappear. Of course, now I have no idea where my smashed penny is.

  2. I first discovered trainspotters when I lived in London for a few years. They have their own magazines, as do the related hobbyists of bus spotters and airplane spotters! Their basic equipment is a folding chair and a notebook to record the engines, buses, jets, by number, time, place, etc. I don't think they ever wave at the train "drivers".

    In my family ephemera I have several little pocket notepads from the 1940s that my grandfather used in his job as a yardmaster at Union Station in Washington, DC. As he assembled each train, he'd jot down coded letters and numbers for the locomotives and rail cars.

    For an example of an even stranger hobby group, check this link out.
    You can sample the sounds of vintage diesel locomotive airhorns that this guy has collected. Each engine horn had a distinctive chord. A train horn is one of my favorite sounds, but I wouldn't want this guy as my neighbor!

    1. Holy moly, did you look at the pickups with the horns all over the top? No, don't want to hear those all the time. Imagine when all the collectors get together and blow them all at once.

      Somewhere in my attic are all of my dad's log books for his flights for over 20 years. I know they'll just be data. He's done the same thing for over 30 years traveling in his motorhome. I tell him he needs to put details, not just data. But he's happy and somehow can remember the trips with this, what appears to me boring, stuff.