I’ve recently been investigating the subject of trainspotting which will be the focus of a season at the museum from September 2014 to March 2015. As part of this research, I have been reading trainspotters’ memoirs to get a feel for what the experience of trainspotting is like and I’ve learned that there’s much more to it than collecting locomotive numbers…..
Trainspotting began in the 1950s and was a very popular hobby. Crowds of boys of all ages could be seen at the end of station platforms, eagerly awaiting a glimpse of a locomotive they had not yet seen. Something that comes up again and again is the sense of adventure that trainspotting involves – I’ve read about many trainspotting excursions that involved travelling the length and breadth of the country to discover new and faraway places.
The Ian Allan ABC book was the trainspotters’ go-to guide. Here, the spotters could keep a record of what they had seen. The Ian Allen Locospotters’ Club had a Code of Conduct to keep trainspotters in check and members had to sign a pledge of good behaviour. Occasionally, however, some spotters pushed their luck. This video from 1953 shows some mischievous trainspotters getting on the wrong side of station staff!
This British Railways poster sets out some rules to make sure that spotters were safe on station platforms. I like the friendly tone of this poster, however the ‘Spotter’s Code’ gives a good insight into some of the things that trainspotters got up to.
It seems that for many people, trainspotting led to numerous escapades and spotters often indulged in an array of antics such as filling the train carriage with soot or letting off stink bombs. One trainspotter admits to using ‘all manner of tricks’ to get into railway property whilst another remembers ‘the thrill of guerrilla raids into the heart of railway territory’.