I like trains; I always have. No, I’m not one of the beings seen at stations around the UK from time to time, huddling at the end of the platform, wearing anoraks and frantically scribbling the numbers of passing trains into their notepads. Are trainspotters only found in Britain? It wouldn’t surprise me, and the fact that spellcheck doesn’t believe that ‘trainspotter’ is a real word rather compounds that belief.
The trusty OED says, ‘Trainspotter: noun, British (I knew it!), a person who collects locomotive numbers as a hobby.’
Really, I am not a trainspotter; I simply like trains.
My favourite walk into town along the banks of the River Cam takes me under a railway bridge forming part of the busy line to the midlands, and it’s one of my ambitions (seriously!) to be walking underneath this bridge as a train goes over it. This would have to occur naturally, though. If I hear a train approaching I’m not allowed to hurry in order to be in position as it rumbles overhead, nor am I allowed to loiter if a train is on its way when I’m underneath the bridge. Today, to my dismay, a train passed over the bridge as I was only a matter of feet away; if I’d been a few seconds earlier my dreams would have come true, but no. Instead, I was left making a complete fool of myself, waving my hands at the train and saying ‘Oh, train!’ in my most admonishing tone as it trundled off towards Cambridge.
Grumbling, I carried on with my walk, passing under the bridge and emerging on the other side just as – you’ve guessed it – another train rattled over the bridge. I could almost imagine that the trains were laughing at me, but I’m not quite ready for the men in white coats to come and take me away yet!
About five minutes later I heard an impressive rumble behind me, and turned round to see a massive freight train going over the bridge. Oh what joy it would have been to stand underneath the bridge counting the wagons on that, but, alas, it wasn’t to be.
I wasn’t even close enough to spot the engine’s number.