Train Spotting, a very British hobby

Whilst undertaking exercises in the NLP Practitioner and Master Practitioner courses in the many countries I go to, I ask participants to recall perhaps their hobbies, and as an example I will mention the British hobby of Train Spotting.

In non UK country courses, Italy, Turkey etc, the participants look at me in a very strange way. Train Spotting? Am I deluded? Am I mad?

As a boy, yes many years ago, I remember riding long distances on my bicycle with my friends, to stand by the mainline rail track from Manchester and Scotland to London, the Trent Valley Line, to collect train numbers and  and train names. Those were the days of steam trains.

Each train would have its’ own characteristics, but be a member of a “class” or type of engine, and each train would have its’ own individual number and most likely a name.

Depending upon the use of the engine, hauling passenger carriages or goods trucks, the speed required, and the distance to be covered, so the “class” of train would change.

The configuration of the wheels of the engine would also distinguish the type of engine. There are two types of wheels on a steam engine, non powered wheels often small wheels called pilot wheels, and larger powered wheels or driving wheels.


In the first animation above there are four small pilot wheels at the front, six driving wheels, and two pilot wheels, (coloured red), making it a class 4-6-2. The second has four small pilot and six driving wheels and no rear pilot, making it a 4-6-0 class engine.

Each class of train could also be given a name, the last steam locomotive built by British Railways the Evening Star class was a 2-10-0 type. The Britannia class was a 4-6-2 as was the Clan class.

Full details including photographs of the classes of trains would be listed in a small book in the I-Spy series, a must to have for a boy train spotter like me, which could be crossed matched with my hand written notes of spotted trains, when and where I saw them.

Oh power they had, and the wonderful smell of the steam locomotive, the mixture of coal smoke, steam and oil. I used to love to stand on a bridge to be enveloped by the steam as the train passed beneath.

Those were the days.

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