My apologies. Trainspotting is not only a British pastime. A number of people have e-mailed to say that trains are being spotted here in the US too, by ’railfans’. Like their brothers across the Atlantic (I would be surprised if there are many sisters involved in this hobby) railfans are under pressure, but dealing with it in a curiously mature way – cooperation and ‘unthreatening’ tee shirts. The Washington Post takes up the story here, but for those not enthralled enough by all the excitement to click on the link here’s an extract:
“…chat sites have been filled for weeks with advice on what to do about the growing police attention. That advice includes a caution that the railroads also stress: Don’t trespass on railroad property. Many of the postings take a patriotic tone; many others express anger. But the advice also includes ways to look unthreatening, by wearing a shirt with a locomotive on it, for instance, or carrying railfan magazines to show police officers who never heard of the hobby.
“As crazy as it sounds, you need to educate the cop about our strange hobby in under 60 seconds,” wrote Todd Clark, the webmaster of Trainorders.com.
Clark said in an interview that, for the most part, railroad police are familiar with the hobby but local police “think it’s bizarre that grown men would be out there taking pictures of trains.”
Rutter suggested that railfans be “mellow” when approached by police. He said Whitenight was a good example of how to act: Cooperate, keep cool and understand that “everything passes in time.””
Sadly, there are some extremists:
“Some railfans are advising their brothers to remain undercover as much as possible, not looking like railfans, keeping the car out of sight, taking one photo and moving to another location. This is becoming known as “guerrilla railfanning.””
In a possibly related development units of heavily armed stamp collectors are said to be gathering somewhere in the hinterland.