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Trainspotter Spotting

cultural exchange
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Trainspotters are a curious breed. Seemingly found nowhere other than mainland UK, they are, to a man, men of somewhat dishevelled appearance who stand either alone or clustered like anorak-clad meerkats at the far ends of British train station platforms, clutching dog-eared note pads and bookies' pens in their fingerless-gloved hands, writing down the numbers of each train they have not seen before.

Trainspotter Spotting is easy. Simply wait on the platform with a telephoto polaroid camera and snap each trainspotter you spot spotting trains. Once the picture has developed, sneak up behind them, place the polaroid right in their field of vision, to offer them an inescapable glimpse of the monomania writ large on their tumbledown appearance, and croak menacingly in their waxy ear "I've got you on my list" before sneaking away, cackling joylessly.

Then, when you get to your dank and lonely bedsit, fastidiously catalogue each of the snaps, for storage in a series of large ring-binders, all annotated and indexed with your scratchy green biro scrawl.

calum, Apr 22 2005

Doing this from the comfort of you own home http://www.bbc.co.u...y_station_360.shtml
does not count. [calum, Apr 22 2005]

Trainspotter Spotting http://www.ben-park...spotting_index.html
A Trainspotter spotting web page [hippo, Apr 22 2005]

TrainSpotter v4.0 http://www.flar.dem...uk/trainspotter.htm
A trainspotting simulator... [hippo, Apr 22 2005]

Hazmat Bingo HazMat_20Bingo
by krelnik. Very lovely. [calum, Apr 26 2005]

Aircraft Spotting http://en.wikipedia...i/Aircraft_spotting
not popular with Greeks. [calum, Apr 28 2005]

Another recursive candiate? _22Recursive_22_20category
[Gamma48, Aug 12 2009]


       Sorry, [calum] no telephoto polaroids exist - the front element would be enormous. Maybe a digital camera and portable printer?
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Apr 22 2005

       but I would cackle joyFuLLY. Is that wrong?
dentworth, Apr 22 2005

       Next time I'm passing through Clapham Junction, I'll try to get a photo of the sad collection of individuals huddled at the ends of the platforms, and post it.
Actually, there is an even sadder bunch near where I live, who are bus-spotters.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Apr 22 2005

       Re: hippo's link, that fellow seemes to be spotting the trainspotter spotter, or /altho, I suppose she is just waiting for the train.
dentworth, Apr 22 2005

       Truly magnificent writing, mistah fishah. You get my 'for' for that alone.
waugsqueke, Apr 22 2005

       Trainspotter spotting was put on some tv on a kids channel ages ago here, so it was baked a long time ago, but still, the idea has some merit to it, so I'll bun it!
froglet, Apr 23 2005

       surprised this isn't baked really. sounds like a hugely enjoyable hobby.
po, Apr 23 2005

       AWL: you are mistaken: polaroid backs are widely available for professional cameras, which can mount most any type of lens you please. "writ large" might not be how you would describe the results, though, except for the largest format cameras.
DrCurry, Apr 23 2005

       fairly offensive steroetyping. I do not wear fingerless gloves.
ato_de, Apr 23 2005

       Yet I have a picture of you that says otherwise [ato-de].
zeno, Apr 24 2005

       Thank you very much, waugs!
calum, Apr 25 2005

       Call me a grumpy old sod but I'm afraid I must fishbone, for the "ha ha, sad people are sad" content and general mean-spiritedness of the idea.
Saveloy, Apr 26 2005

       Here we have carspotters, similarly disheveled men who stand alone or in groups at freeway off-ramps and major arterial intersections, scribbling down the license plate numbers of those cars they haven't seen before.   

       It seems their work is never done.
bristolz, Apr 26 2005

       Oh no [DrCurry], I'm well aware of polaroid backs for MF cameras (having used a few down the decades), but for a 6 x 4.5cm format, a 600mm f/5.6 (ie pretty slow) lens (equivalent to only 350mm on a 35mm camera) is over 15cm in diameter and weighs nearly 5kg (plus the weight of the camera). Not an ideal hand-held point-and-shoot. I think the £5.5K+ price tag puts it out of the reach of most spotters too.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, Apr 26 2005

       Whoa, carspotting in the USA, that's a sisyphean exercise if ever there was one.
calum, Apr 26 2005

       I've never seen carspotting here in the D.C. area. I think we have elected officials to perform that function. :-)
dentworth, Apr 26 2005

       I have a personal hobby of "HazMat Spotting". I look for HazMat materials code numbers on trucks that I haven't seen before. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, <plug style=blatant>see my idea "HazMat Bingo" for an explanation</plug>).
krelnik, Apr 26 2005

       I don't see any actual invention mentioned in this anywhere.
Size_Mick, Apr 28 2005

       it's a sport, S & M
po, Apr 28 2005

       Once trainspotter-spotting becomes popular, it will engender a whole new level of eccentricity: trainspotterspotter-spotting. Who knows where it will end.
ldischler, Apr 28 2005

       It will end with me standing on the end of a station platform with a paintball gun, explaining to a bunch of anoraked trainspotterspotterspotters that I am the original "trainspotter" who started the whole thing off, and they really don't understand what the original hobby was about.
wagster, Apr 28 2005

       What did the trainspotters do during WWII? Weren’t they arrested as spies?
ldischler, Apr 28 2005

       Alas, no. During WWII, they were nearly eliminated from the pastime gene pool when some misguided Military Intelligence wing, hoping for reliable and consistent statistical analysis of Axis bombing patterns, duped the massed ranks of reserved occupation trainspotters into believing that doodlebugs were flying German trains. Standsing in the blitzed streets of London and the cratered lanes of SE England, they squinted into the sun, trying to read the numbers, still scribbling as the explosives detonated. Not one single notebook survived the ensuing incineration.
calum, Apr 28 2005

       I don't see the need for an physical invention to be part of every idea. A lot of ideas are more about concepts than gadgets.
hidden truths, Apr 28 2005

       The camera is camouflaged as a four wheel 18th century laborer's hand cart. You can be at the other end of the railway platform with this cart, flip it over onto the tracks and it's electric motor driven large plastic wheels and felt tires sneak the polaroid/wireless video transmitter monitor/remote control apparatus up on the spotters for close-up shots. More 3D, less flatter field.
mensmaximus, Apr 28 2005

       //four wheel 18th century handcart// ah, the coffee stand.
moomintroll, Apr 28 2005

       I remember the stand at Rag Week at university:   

       L ocomotive
I dentification
A nd
R ecognition
S ociety

Complete with anoraks, Thermos flasks and bits of sticking plaster on brown National Health 'specs
gnomethang, Apr 28 2005

       + for explaining to me what a trainspotter really is. I saw the movie by that name twice and never realized it was a legitimate word. Now, can someone please explain to me why a film that had nothing to do with anyone spotting trains as a hobby was named as such? Maybe I need to re-watch it again. (I wish I was British. *sigh*)
XSarenkaX, Apr 28 2005

       I could hardly make it through that film once let alone twice.
bristolz, Apr 28 2005

       In the book Trainspotting, the book on which the film is based, Mark Renton and Begbie end up in a disused train depot, which was then famous for being a junkies' shooting gallery. A grizzled, stinking old alkie who is in the depot at the time asks the guys why they are there, "Trainspotting?" he asks, laughing to himself. Begbie batters him.   

       Trainspotting factoid: the pub where Bebgie throws the beer glass over the balcony is my local. I can see it from where I sit.   

       [XSarenkaX], you should watch the film again, for deffo. And they you should read the book, too.   

       [bristolz], I'm curious, was it the content, the execution or something else that made it hard to sit through?
calum, Apr 28 2005

       //(I wish I was British. *sigh*)// So you *do* get irony!
coprocephalous, Apr 28 2005

       There has been quite a bit of government intrest in trainspotters here in the US. After the sep. 11th attacks, railfans (as we refer to ourselves on this side of the pond) were routinely harrased by local authorities and yardmen. Since I usually have my son with me, I seldom get much more than a cursory once over and an occasional "whats all this then?" There is nothing like the enthusiasm of a 7 year old boy talking about trains to soften the heart of an overly suspicious cop or yard dog.   

       Contrary to the stereotype here, I find that most railfans are well, if comfortably, dressed family men with children or grandchildren in tow and you'd probably be suprised at how many of the little ones are female (about 1/3). The occasional mom who gets dragged out by her son is always put at ease and almost no one takes copious notes about trains or schedules (they are all available on the net anyway). Just like any group, the elders brag about the old days and complain about the current crop of whatever that isn't anywhere as good as the whatever in the old days. The young 'uns all take it with grain of salt and just enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of trains at work. It usually lasts for about two hours then the kids are ready for something else.   

       Every once in a while we'll stop off the side of the road and watch a train come by from a few yards away, there is nothing as impressive as a locomotive at full power 15' from you.
ato_de, Apr 28 2005

       <waves> XS <waves> where you been? sometimes I wish I were American. <waves flag>   

       what flag?   

       <any flag>   

       // Every once in a while we'll stop off the side of the road and watch a train come by from a few yards away, there is nothing as impressive as a locomotive at full power 15' from you// a_d I know what you mean but try a race horse!
po, Apr 28 2005

       //<waves> XS <waves> where you been? sometimes I wish I were American. <waves flag>   

       what flag?   

       <any flag >//
Or you could try your drawers on a stick, [po]!. It worked for Jenny! ;-)
gnomethang, Apr 28 2005

       As you describe it, [ato_de], US railfans aren't that much like trainspotters. There are many people in the UK, including a notable specimen in my office, who are rail enthusiasts of one stripe or another. These people could be classed as railfans. On the other hand, trainspotters, it seems from fairly extensive observation, are not interested in the trains qua trains, but in the trains as something that can be noted down, catalogued and filed away, a numbered memory.   

       If my description is stereotyping, it is only because trainspotters conform to the stereotype.
calum, Apr 28 2005

       The film made me want to kill myself. Not sure if that was the content, execution or something else.
bristolz, Apr 28 2005

       <waves back to [po] with... (what? what should I wave??) ...her limited-edition HB apron on a stick> :)   

       Where have I been? I have been here, in Chicagoland, getting teased with summer weather falling back down to freezing again within the same week. How's the Spring treating you in the UK?   

       I have been a bit distracted by, of all things, work. Really, though, I have no excuse for being a bad 'baker. I'm guilt-ridden. I seem to have emptied my brain of those brilliant "recipes" for posting and thus, stopped. I need to recharge or something.   

       Getting back to the topic at hand, I'm glad I came across this post and exposed my ignorance. The responses are very informative. Thanks, all, for the details. I can't promise that I'll rewatch the film a third time though, much less actually pick up the book and read it. I'm a much better movie-watcher than a book-reader. If I do, though, I'll be armed with the new understanding of the world of trainspotting.   

       <waving that apron again, to all>
XSarenkaX, Apr 29 2005

       I guess there are overly-obsessive types in any activity. I have run into a few people like the ones described here, so I am not trying to contradict the basic premise. I think that the majority of trainspotters blend into the background because they appear to be normal, the obsessive ones stick out in your mind because thay are different.   

       None of the fishbones up there are mine, People watching is infinitely interesting.
ato_de, May 02 2005

       "What about like, trainspotter spotter spotting? Whooa! That would be like... ironic or whatever. Gurglegurglegurgle" <---(sound of a bong being hit)
doctorremulac3, May 02 2005

       *Cackles mercilessly* +
kuupuuluu, Jul 02 2005

       That's redundant; no one cackles mercifully.
bristolz, Jul 02 2005

       <Cackles Mercilessly>Indeed Yes!. Guards, Execute that man!.</CM>
gnomethang, Jul 02 2005

       Sisyphean- good word, I almost never hear it used.   

       I wish I was from a country no one knew anything about; one of those little ones like Andorra or Brunei. I would even settle for the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelone so I could be closer to home. Its not so bad, most other Americans, have never heard of my state and often confuse it with being a part of Massachussetts or, as a couple in New Orleans thought, a part of New York City.   

       I haven't seen any trainspotters here. There aren't too many trains running through the little towns anymore, if the town still has its tracks, since the mills have all been closed for decades. Its rather sad. They rip up the railroad beds instead of trying to invest in improving it for mass transit. Its a waste of infrastructure.   

       This would be great if, immediately after the cackling part, you pushed the trainspotter into the next oncoming train.
Kozi4361, Jul 05 2005

       And do you know what would be really really cool? When you got arrested for murder afterwards. Yay!!!
hidden truths, Jul 05 2005

       ...which begs the question - does serial murder count as a hobby?
Detly, Jul 05 2005

       Well that's a good idea mister Calum. The problem is, if you get too near to them, they'll be scared away. Like birds.
Thomasunde, Feb 25 2008

       I like [mensmaximus]'s idea of adopting a disguise; a full Mallard outfit should have them clustering round like it's Christmas. Muah ha ha haaa etc.   

       There is also the inevitable sport of Trainspotterspotter Spotting. Much the same, only the proponents are much more secretive, and tend towards blue felt-tips.
zen_tom, Feb 25 2008

       zen tob is right! Trainspotting was started by the first comander of M16 in ww1. He recruited obsessive cumpulsives in germany to list trains and timetables which he collected and analysed. The trainspotter spotters where the guys who made sure they were doing "the job" properly
Irontoad, Sep 15 2008


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