SLIDESHOW: RETRO - Full steam ahead for a spell spotting trains

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It is a much-maligned pastime, all too often unfairly associated with anoraks and middle aged men of somewhat limited social abilities.

But trainspotting, whatever the naysayers reckon, is much more than just a chap loitering on a windy platform, notebook in hand, jotting down numbers of engines.

The Flying Scotsman'Totley Tunnel ?'19th February 1973

The Flying Scotsman'Totley Tunnel ?'19th February 1973

This is a hobby – requiring knowledge, concentration and, above all, indefatigable patience – where a man truly engages with the existential nature of being. Plus, if he’s lucky, he might get a real belter pulling the 4.02pm freight from Leeds.

Today Tuesday Retro today continues our weekly A-Z series of hobbies enjoyed in our region with: T is for Trainspotting.

And these pictures, taken from The Star archive, show there has always been plenty of people in South Yorkshire who choo-choo-choose the activity when it comes to ways to spend their free time.

“I think we prefer to use the term railway enthusiasts these days,” says Peter Tuffrey, The Star’s Doncaster-based Retro columnist, who has been making notes about trains since the age of steam.

“I was nine-years-old when I first started doing this and it’s been a passion ever since.

“Why would someone stand watching trains all day? Well, it’s better than watching soaps, isn’t it?”


To trainspot is to wait. To wait is to commune with oneself. To commune is to peer into the void of existence. To peer into the void is to seek truth. Sort of like fishing.

That’s one theory anyway. Another is that some blokes just like things which are loud and fast.

Go to the right bridge on the right day and you’ll see them with their cameras and notebooks and - these days - voice recorders to read train numbers into.

“When you see a steam engine, for instance, it’s like watching an animal,” says Peter, 60, of Warmsworth. “It breathes and spits and growls. It’s a marvellous thing to behold.”