How to Go Trainspotting

Trainspotting has been around for many years. It is beginning to become more popular.


  1. Image titled Go Trainspotting Step 1
    Learn about trains and railroads. You might find that you like a particular railroad over another because of its history, paint scheme, type of trains, frequency of trains, and so on. Go to a local library, museum or interpretive center to aid in your research. Many times this might lead to being able to actually meet a former railroad employee, which could in turn lead to a valuable friendship. Often local hobby shops in the area are the best places for finding "old heads", along with railroad magazines and books for further information.
  2. Image titled Go Trainspotting Step 2
    Buy a scanner radio. Railroad frequencies can be selected for listening, allowing a railfan to hear the train-master, locomotive engineer, tower operator, and other railroad personnel converse back and forth. This often results in hearing information which tells you where and when the trains are running. Search for individual railroad frequencies in your area on the Internet.
  3. Image titled Go Trainspotting Step 3
    Find a safe area near railroad tracks where you can observe trains. Usually if there are telephone poles running along the tracks, go no further than those. Railroads do not look kindly on railfans who hurt themselves by being stupid, and often the railroad will then make it harder for other railfans to enjoy their hobby. It is best to observe trains from public property, as anywhere else is trespassing.
  4. Image titled Go Trainspotting Step 4
    Watch the trains pass by. There is a certain magic about watching and listening to a passing train. Some people even develop a respect for the sheer power and beauty of a speeding freight train. Go on a rail tour, as this will boost your understanding of trains, and you may even make friends with fellow enthusiasts found on such trips.


  • Often a digital camera is best for this because you can take multiple shots of a speeding train and then go back and delete your bad shots. However, even the bad shots can have a certain artistic value.
  • Take pictures of the trains. This will aid in remembering the consist (grouping) of the locomotives for your records.
  • Get a notebook to record the trains you've spotted. Write down the numbers and name of the railroad that is painted on each unit. You can then go online to find out the particular make and model of the locomotive.
  • Always make sure to have your camera ready just in case a train comes.


  • You may get mixed looks from passers-by or police. Just smile and wave. Be advised that you may be approached by law enforcement due to heightened sensitivities and alerts of suspicious behavior. Keep a couple of railfan publications in your car to bolster any argument.
  • Don't throw any objects at the trains.
  • Don't walk on railroad tracks. You could possibly be arrested and prosecuted for doing this, or at least kicked off railroad property. Bottom line: it is unsafe, and it is trespassing.
  • If you choose to go trainspotting at or near a railroad crossing (at-grade), it is advised that you wear some form of ear protection when watching a train go through a crossing. The whistle on a train is very loud, depending on your distance from the crossing, and can reach very high decibel levels. Some crossings have a regulation in which the train cannot sound its whistle (quiet zones, except in emergencies), but always bring a form of ear protection as a precaution. This is also strongly advised if the line is used by diesel trains, as they are a lot noisier than electric trains.

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Categories: Public Transport | Hobbies and Crafts