I’ve got another confession to make.
I’m no fool I was once a trainspotter.
Yes, shocking though it is to admit it, I once looked at trains and wrote down the numbers.
There was a well-developed trainspotting clique at school. I use the word ‘clique’ advisedly, because it wasn’t a formal club or anything like that, but not in the pejorative sense that it has come to be regarded nowadays. It was a close group of train aficionados which anyone could join if they really cared to know why there were people wandering around their school shouting “Peak! Wagon!” at one another.
The group revolved around Anthony Hicks. Thin, bespectacled and unathletic, he was the stereotypical image of the schoolboy trainspotter. In truth, he was the primus inter pares of the lot of them – Michael Looney (taking time off from his doomed pursuit of Corinne Jackson and from listening to heavy metal) was also heavily involved, John Sabin I think another member and possibly several others.
The objective, of course, was to see as many different trains as you possibly could. So although the trainspotters were friends, there was also competition between them. Anthony hit on what he must have thought was a clever ruse. He knew that I travelled by train more often than the average child (my family had no car, remember), so on one occasion when I was going down to London to visit my grandparents he asked if I would make a list of the trains that I saw along the way.
Nowadays, a long train ride is a rare treat. Back then, it was commonplace and so I was glad of the chance to try something different – even if it meant becoming a trainspotter, an activity which I regarded as being akin to being in the Masons (albeit with shorter trousers).
It was, as I described to Dad on the way home, a pleasantly pointless activity. I even suggested that I might take it up myself, which provoked a quizzical response of ‘Why?’. I had no answer, and with that my love of trains was returned to being a sensibly historical one.
I was reminded of all of this when I read this story. I hope that it brings back some happy memories for trainspotters everywhere (though I doubt that Messrs Hicks, Looney or Sabin are reading this).