Saturday, February 04, 2023

Saturday Film Club: Why isn't trainspotting cool?

An interesting video from Lawrie's Mechanical Marvels. Why has trainspotting evolved from something most boys enjoyed, to an activity that makes you a social pariah?

Lawrie argues that it's down to the dullness of the modern railway, and I can certainly see something in this. When all trains were fronted by a locomotive, there was certainly more glamour, but is that enough?  

I wonder if there is an element of people not being as interested in the mechanical side. Once, we celebrated engineering achievement, now, as much of the HS2 coverage shows, the only thing we do is moan about it. Now, kids want to be "influencers", in the 1980s, they wanted to be Yuppies. People don't aspire to do anything hands-on and practical. 

What do you think?


john gawman said...

My thoughts Phil are that the mechanical and practical aspect of railways as a hobby are of little interest to current generations.There are too many competing time factors,social media being the principal.The modern railway still has a lot of interest,traditional civil engineering mixed in with the modern and a variety of traction and livery too.Just the idea of spending a while watching trains pass by is a fading notion.

Grahame Every said...

Other than the relatively tiny proportion of commuters using railways, fewer and fewer people actually USE the railways these days. Travel, particularly as a family, is almost exclusively done by car. As a family, it is cheaper, much more flexible and convenient. If young people aren't introduced to railways, then they don't impinge on their consciousness, and they never develop an interest in them. Add in the general anti-stance of the media, the impression that modellers are old farts, the apparent expense of layout components, the general move away from repairable household goods so no-one develops the manual dexterity necessary for modelling, it's almost a conspiracy! I take every opportunity to pass on my enthusiasm for railways full size and model, plus the skills I have learned in a long life, but too often I meet with indifference. These are just my experiences and opinion, andI'll keep trying, as long as I am able.

James Finister said...

I never saw the attraction of number-taking myself, so I can't probably can't pass much comment. But for what it is worth I can't help thinking it must be really dull these days, and childhood doesn't have the long periods of boredom it once did. Don't believe all those boomers telling you "we were never bored in my day"

I believe the modern spotter - should be the name of a new magazine - makes great use of the on line services so they know where interesting movements will be taking place, rather than standing in one place and hoping.That probably makes them less visible.

Christopher said...

I have been a “railway enthusiast” for longer than I remember, but I will only admit to being a “trainspotter” for a couple of years in the mid-1970s! (I started because a few friends at school were into it, and a railway line ran conveniently close to the school fence...) The association with anoraks and being “uncool” must have come later? (I take exception that watching a train go by or pointing a camera at a train makes someone a “trainspotter”.)

My suggestion is that people no longer identify with railways like they once did. Up until the 1950s, the UK depended on the railways, and that was the way that most people and freight travelled — especially longer distance. Every small town had a rail connection, many people were employed on the railways, and it was considered to be a respectable career. This all changed in the 1960s. Some people at a high level couldn’t get rid of railways and their infrastructure fast enough, and railways were seen as old technology in the “space age”. I suppose it is remarkable what has actually survived, but for many parts of the UK a car is now the only solution for getting anywhere.

Phil Parker said...

Interesting. Leisure travel is well over pre-Covid levels, so people are travelling by train, and presumably associating them with nice things. Will this affect the numbers of enthusiasts in the future? Not sure...

Simon Hargraves said...

About a year ago, I stayed for a few days at a B&B in Crewe (rostered week's leave, too cold for even me to camp as I usually do).
The major reason for staying there was that it's so busy, with routes radiating off in all directions giving a wide choice of places to go.
I wandered into the large WHSmith at Crewe Station and found the latest Platform 5 combined volume...flipping through it I decided on impulse to buy a copy and straight after started noting down numbers.
During the rest of the visit, I spent quite a bit of time either at stations or on trains looking for numbers; subsequently I've found that there need be no such thing as a "boring" train journey and that I spend a lot less time looking at a smartphone screen. I've actually found that today's mundane railway scene is anything but; there's a heck of a lot of variety, just different to how it used to look.
Remember in the 1970s and '80s there were a lot who derided the (then) modern stuff as bland, boring or whatever...HSTs were hated by many because they replaced Westerns, Deltics, Peaks etc., 1st generation DMUs were given as many derogatory names as Pacers have been more recently and yet now they (and in some cases their successors) are being preserved.
A year on I'm still spotting, though I'm not a particularly industrious train spotter (or anything else for that matter!) so the book isn't very full, but for me that's not the point. I suppose there is a bit of a "thrill of the chase" thing going on, especially when you're down to the last few in a class or sub-class or chasing the last few of a type that are being withdrawn as happened with the Southern Class 455s last year.
The main thing for me is that I've learned a lot more about the different rolling stock that's in use and in a lot of cases why a particular variety is used for a duty. The other thing is that change is it has always been.