Train and bus-spotting

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Porteño, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. Porteño Member Emeritus

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    I have often wondered whether other people have the same deep, almost fanatical interest in public transport as those in the UK. For me it all began during WWII when books were published showing drawings and photographs of war planes so you could look up into the sky and without even bothering about colours or markings, you could immediately identify whether the plane above was ‘one of ours’ or ‘one of theirs’.

    Then shortly after the war, I came across Ian Allen’s fascinating publications about trains, giving details of all the classes of locomotive currently running in the various regions of the newly nationalised British Railways and their respective identity numbers Train-spotting soon became the natural hobby of tens of thousands of schoolboys who spent hours on windswept station platforms duly ticking off the numbers of passing locomotives in their books. At school we even had a train-spotters’ club and travelled hundreds of miles around the country visiting grimy, steam-laden engine sheds in our never-ending quest for the magic numbers.

    I don’t think it was very much later when the said Mr. Allen started publishing lists of London Transport buses, trams and trolleybuses and the rush was on once more, visiting bus stations and busy terminals for the same purpose. He provided a similar service for some of the other major operators in those days like Midland Red and Southdown, to name but two.

    Judging by the proliferation of websites about buses in general, and London buses in particular, I gather that some of the same interest continues. Whether or not schoolboys still hunt down fleet numbers, I am not sure. I rather imagine that these days, such a habit would be rather less exciting, since the drive of most trains nowadays is part of a set of coaches and cannot compare with the glory of the massive, roaring steam engines thundering down the tracks. Similarly, London buses have somewhat lost their identity with a multitude of private operators constantly changing their fleets, as concessions pass from hand to hand, making it virtually impossible to keep track of any fleet numbers.. .
     
  2. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    (I'm not sure if you're aware of this out there in Argentina, Porteño, but apparently this is all the rage nowadays among the kinds of little Britfolk who appreciate big machiney stuff. I suppose the advantage of it is that one's kiddywinks can indulge their hobby in the safety and comfort of the back seat of the Volvo ...)
     
  3. Topsie

    Topsie Senior Member

    Avignon, France
    English-UK
    Good gracious! Are you saying that people actually pay to join clubs like that?:eek:
    (Give me cheap & cheerful WR any day!:D)
     
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Elsewhere
    English English
    Presumably, Topsie, yes: people pay:confused:

    Oh and I think you mean 'free and cheerful WR' ~ end of plug.
     
  5. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    The Brits tried to convert continental Europe to train-spotting (the most recent attempt being the book and film Trainspotting) but never really succeeded. :D

    Anyway, is this only about British spotting traditions? (The thread title suggest that this were not so.) In Austria there isn't a noticeable community of train- and bus-spotters; there are some plane-spotters though.
     
  6. Topsie

    Topsie Senior Member

    Avignon, France
    English-UK
    It's not a French hobby either! In France they have "number plate spotting" instead - the last two numbers of your car registration plate is the number of the "département" where you live (e.g. 75 for Paris) and there was a huge hue and cry when the French government suggested changing the system of registration!

     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2008
  7. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    How strange, never heard of that one!
    But I did notice that really enthusiastic plane spotters want to have:
    a) photos of planes on which
    b) the registration number is visible
    So I guess the number is kind of a trophy, right?
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2008
  8. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Hungarian
    Although Sokol says people are not interested in stuff like that I think people rather hide their bizarre feeling toward trains. They might feel ashamed here. But men are fascinated by locomotives and trains since they are 5. I wonder what percentage of spotters is made by women? I haven't ever been but know some male friends who can talk about trains, train tables. But plane-spotting might be more popular.
     
  9. ilocas2 Banned

    Czech
    look at Drehscheibe forum, I wonder whether all people contirbuting there are from Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein........
     
  10. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    In Greece, trainspotting and plane-spotting is unknown to most people. There was a case a few years ago where several British citizens were arrested on charges of spying, because they were caught taking photos of planes at a military installation. I don't know whether they were spies, but it was hard to convince anyone here that they might have just been indulging in a weird but harmless hobby.
    Read all about it:
    BBC News | UK | Greek tragedy for jailed plane-spotters
     
  11. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Hungarian
    Funny Greek comment. :D
     
  12. ilocas2 Banned

    Czech
    I would be interesting to learn how it's with train-spotting in Hungary since no Hungarians participated in this thread.
     
  13. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I recall that for me and for quite a lot of boys in the sixties, when car ownership was much less common than it is today, the introduction of a new bus or a new train was an important event. The size, the lines, the colour schemes, the shininess and the noise made by these things appealed, I think (with the benefit of an adult's hindsight) to "the child's sense of wonder." It was not considered nerdish (a word we didn't possess at the time) for a child to take an interest in such things. Thanks to the cheapness of digital photography I think that train spotting pure-and-simple among adults men is now rare and that any bloke who does engage in it is likely to describe it as "an interest in railway history":D.

    As you know, Porteño, many of the railway lines in Argentina were laid down by the British. I think there was less British involvement with buses in Argentina. Nevertheless there is an Argentinian bus enthusiasts' website, complete with rather groovy period music, at: BusARG.ar - Primer Museo Virtual del Transporte Argentino
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2016
  14. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    I have never heard of anyone having a deep and fanatical interest in public transportation here. I suppose trains are cool and all, but most are freight trains, not passenger trains. Buses are horrible things that you ride if you have to, usually because you have no car of your own if it's in town, or because you can't afford a plane ticket if it's out of town. Planes are everywhere and not terribly exciting.
     
  15. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Hungarian
    I wonder what Americans/Mexicans have any deep and fanatical interest in?
     
  16. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    Guns and chile. ;)
     
  17. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    Mexicans have really nice long-distance buses. Americans...not so much. I rode Greyhound buses a few times in California in the early 90's, and they were sort of squalid and scary and you wanted to be careful of the other passengers. It is a completely different vibe from traveling by plane, which may be why Americans aren't into bus travel -- it's a last resort. I was listening to a very humorous podcast by a Peruvian man who proposed a long Greyhound trip with his American wife and couldn't understand her initial horror and reluctance to the idea, until he boarded the bus and found that it was nothing like the plush experience he had been expecting from his South American perspective. But he took it as an opportunity to meet new people and recount the trip on his podcast. It was a major cultural lesson for him.
     
  18. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Hungarian
    The truth is guys are into guns here, too, but it is banned. And you are right ling-distance buses suck in a country as large as the whole EU. Bu I wish to take a train from Boston to Washington once.
     
  19. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    Apparently the few passenger trains we have are pretty nice. You would probably enjoy it. The only train I have ever ridden in the US is the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) from Santa Clara to San Francisco, and it was pretty utilitarian, but I think the long-distance ones are better in terms of views and amenities.
     
  20. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I disagree with this. Trainspotting is far from unknown in France (you will find all manner of clubs devoted to trains both new and old, and where to go to get the best views of them). I quite enjoy trainspotting myself, and France is a very good country indeed to indulge in it.
     
  21. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I found train transportation in the (eastern) United States and Canada to be shockingly sub-standard. The Acela Express is the only "high speed" line that I know of on the East Coast (and calling it high speed is stretching credulity), otherwise decent long-distance train services are few and far between. My only options to get from Montreal to New York City were plane, car or bus. The only available train took 11 hours. You'd find better in many African countries.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2016
  22. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Hungarian
    So nothing like Shinkansen or TGV. :)
    I wonder why Northern Americans prefer planes even for shorter distances.
     
  23. Topsie

    Topsie Senior Member

    Avignon, France
    English-UK
    Au temps pour moi!:(
     
  24. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    I think funding is a big part of it. Obama, for instance, wanted to devote money to building a high-speed rail network worthy of the name but the Republicans, as usual, nixed it.
     
  25. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    We invested heavily in cars and our highway systems, and almost everyone has a car of their own. So public transportation outside of very big cities is just not something the public has really clamored for. We also don't have the same population density as Europe or Japan, to where it would really attract the numbers of passengers that would make it cost-effective. Plus, once you got to your destination, how would you get around without your own vehicle? Our cities and towns are not laid out with everything in walking distance. We did not grow up planning out routes and timetables and connections. We just got in the car and went. I am not surprised that voters and politicians have been reluctant to fund something most people might not find very useful or convenient. I've used and enjoyed trains and subways in Japan, Spain, and England. I took a bus across Ireland and wanted to kill myself (it was comfy, but it took for freakin' ever). I would have absolutely no desire to do these things in the US. I would much rather take off in my car, play my own music, and have no timetable to answer to but my own.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2016
  26. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    In New Mexico, sure. It would make little sense to build high speed rail links between your State and, say, Arizona. But there are population centres in the U.S. comparable to Western Europe, for instance large parts of California, or Washington D.C. up through Boston (and onward to Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto).
     
  27. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
  28. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Paris, France
    English (Ireland)
    Certainly, but high-speed rail is not currently among Amtrak's offerings.
     
  29. ilocas2 Banned

    Czech
    railway timetables of Africa for comparision whether it's worse or better than in the US:

    Afrikanische_Bahnen
     
  30. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    But we have tons of short commuter flights, which are probably just as fast or faster. This site claims Canada and the US average 5300 flights per day.
    Animated Atlas of Flight Traffic over North America

    It may just be that we prefer to fly. It would certainly never occur to me to consider a train when travelling. Maybe for Christmas I will look into the options. My lunch companions say that they and their relatives have gone from Montreal to NYC by train and Chicago to Seattle and the rides were spectacular but long (2 days for the second one). They say they travelled extensively by train when they were living in the UK and India.
     
  31. snarkhunter

    snarkhunter Senior Member

    France, Région parisienne
    French - France
    I heard someone in France once started brain-spotting: When he eventually passed away, many years later, his great-grandson inherited a brand new notebook/pencil set...
     
  32. Panceltic Senior Member

    Slovenščina
    I love trains! I can spend ages riding or watching them. Though I don't shout it off the roof tops ;) I have never gone to the length of collecting numbers though :) I'm not sure it is a big hobby here in Slovenia, but I'm certainly not the only one.
     
  33. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    That's a nice one.
     
  34. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Greek
    And the two Czech developers of ARMA 3 (a tactical/combat military game developed by Bohemia Interactive) were caught in 2013 plane-spotting, and taking photos of a Greek Air Force base on an Eastern Aegean Greek island, and were jailed for 128 days (!!!) accused of spying (!!!) before they were bailed out. Plane-spotting military aircraft here is a big no-no (espesially in military sensitive areas). It made the headlines 3 years ago. Advice: when in Rome...
     
  35. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Hungarian
    Here in Prague even nudist-spotting is well tolerated. It shocked me I took a walk to a famous water reservoir in Prague and a guy was spying with a tripod and gigantic camera with many people around, the nudist beach was on the other side of the reservoir. Nobody cared. Bizarre. He can put the photos on a website like this.
     
  36. Sepia Senior Member

    High German/Danish
    ... what else could you expect. Anywhere.
     
  37. apmoy70

    apmoy70 Senior Member

    Greek
    I think authorities here over-reacted a bit (hence the exclamation marks), but in general I agree with you
     
  38. ilocas2 Banned

    Czech
    The most funny train-spotters are in these days on Idomeni-Gevgelija railway border crossing. :D
     

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