|A Brush 4 and a Deltic, if I'm not mistaken|
I used to be a trainspotter. There, I've said it.
Let me explain. Between 1971 and 1973 I was a young (very young) version of those sad and lonely individuals you see standing at the end of deserted platforms armed with nothing more than a note pad and pen. But I was neither sad nor lonely. There was a group of us who, no matter the weather, would meet up at Grantham station, pay the princely sum of 2p for a platform ticket and loiter around the premises all day. Long before digital arrival and departure boards we knew the times of every arrival and departure, every express, every freight train and every milk train stopping at or passing through the station - day or night. And if it got too cold outside we would seek sanctuary in the waiting room complete with a real open fire and the company of fellow spotters. I was still a pre-teen but there was always older lads around who ensured I didn't get up to mischief or stand too close to the platform edge; when the Deltics rattled through the station at speeds touching 100 mph the danger of being sucked under was very real.
But I haven't told you the best bit yet. When I cycled home, often late and often without lights, the transferring of the raw data from my notepad to the Bible would begin: Ian Allen's Book of Diesel locomotives was a pocket sized tome which had the numbers of every diesel train in the land and the only way to do the copying over was with a pen that didn't smudge, invariably my dad's Parker, and a ruler. The numbers we'd seen that day would then be underlined and a permanent record of all the trains we'd spotted would emerge. Some I'd see every day, others remained permanently elusive. This is where, I guess, for some people it turns hardcore and they just keep doing it. Trying to fill the gaps. I stopped probably six months shy of my thirteenth birthday. At about the same time I discovered rock and roll. And girls.
Judging by those I saw standing on deserted platforms yesterday they'd not had that fork in the road moment which lead them to wine, women and song. I think I got out just in time.