Spotting - our wonderful hobby
This page is an attempt to explain the wonderful hobby that the Northern Counties Transport Society was so much a part of in the ninenteen seventies. For starters, below is the late Roger Richard's 1976 attempt at explaining us.
Also in need of explanation is what we were actually 'Spotting' and what 'Clearing BR' actually meant. Those who participated in Northern Counties Transport Society excursions were very much focuded on 'Spotting' locomotives, although many also spotted multiple units, carriages, snowploughs and various other rolling stock. The 'Spotting Totals' page goes into exactly which locomotives needed to be spotted. 'Clearing BR' usually refering to having seen and underlined every number in whatever listing was being used. Seeing the final locomotive to be underlined is often compared with ........ [better stop there] Memories of members achieving this [the former not the latter] can be found on the 'Last Locomotive Spotted' page.
WHAT IS A TRAINSPOTTER!
There are, of course, many answers to this question but in general they are considered harmless lunatics who are alright in general but "I wouldn't like my daughter to marry one".
To British Rail he is a source of revenue and as such receives the same consideration and courtesy as any other customer which is, of course, not much. On the other hand there are some parts of British Rail to whom the spotter is a pain in the neck (or maybe lower). The confrontations between spotter and foreman have the same kind of standing as other great rivalries such as Wellington and Napoleon, Gladstone and Disraeli and of course Tom and Jerry. To be fair to the foreman he must have the only job in the country, where he is likely to be confronted by some, soaking wet clown at 2.30 in the morning in the middle of nowhere.
It is well known that some spotters tend to collect strange things such as coaches and milk tankers but there has appeared another strange phenomenon. The general public has become used to seeing wierdos writing down engine numbers on stations but is still completely baffled at the sight of some idiot fishing a roll of wallpaper out of his duffle bag and slamming it up against a Deltic nameplate to make a rubbing. There are many people who would be interested in a rubbing from the tomb of Sir Ethelred Farquaharson, died 1321 but, who the devil wants "Gordon Highlander, Doncaster Station, 1975?".
Due to a tendency to go on long journeys, overnight trips and "carbashes", trainspotters are known to be slightly smelly at certain times. Although this is easily remedied there are some spotters who take the hobby so seriously that they only take a bath when their favourite 47 is in Crewe paintshop.
Although spotting used to be a fulltime job, as a result of the massive cut down in locomotives the spotter has had to introduce his own entertainment which is why some people collect several sets at once. These sets include "my second set", "my 1976 set", locos that Fido has seen and locos seen from the saloon bar of the Rat and Goldfish. It is extremely disappointing when Fido misses his last 47 because of next door's poodle.
There is a slight tendency for spotters to exaggerate. It is a well-known fact that a spotter makes all his fascinating sightings when he is by himself. It is also strange when you realise that traffic through Chesterfield on Wednesday nights is double when I am not there.
A trainspotter is also someone who has loads of jealous workmates. They decry the hobby as childish but remain slightly green about the travelling involved. Of course some of them have never heard of some of the places we go, let alone been themselves, I am thinking particularly of Inverness and Dewsnap. So-called friends make superior snide remarks like "were we chasing choo-choos this weekend, then?". The way to stop this is to look casual and say "not really, we went to Cardiff on Saturday but stayed at home on Sunday." When they grin knowingly, hit them between the eyes with "mind you, we're going all round Scotland next weekend," and then sit back and watch them seeth.
On holiday last year I cashed two cheques, on my return I went to my bank to check if they had been cleared. The cashier told me they had cleared but added, "where the hell's Dingwall?" I explained to her its whereabouts and her eyes glazed over as she said "but, the other one came from Plymouth".
For the more adult spotters perhaps a Doncaster policeman has really discovered what is a trainspotter. To be fair to the police force, the majority have decided that spotters are harmless but decidely daft. This particular policeman approached me on Doncaster station and having said that he knew what I was doing there but still could not see the point. I explained that as a hobby and as such a way of getting away from it all. His only comment was "I think I'll start, my wife's like that".
As a parting thought, you must have heard the words "in the spring a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love". The Herbert who wrote this knows nothing, in the spring a young man's fancy turns to what he is going to do on his railrover.