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Rail Enthusiast

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Some American Rail Enthusiasts in their natural habitat

"I like trains."

Someone obsessed with trains and railways, sometimes to an unhealthy, otaku-like degree. This is a type especially common in British and Japanese fictional works, which makes sense since both nations in real life have a high population of such enthusiasts. The United States and Germany have a lot of such enthusiasts as well, as do most other European nations, but generally with fewer depictions in popular media.

In Britain, the most popular depiction is the trainspotter, whose railway obsession revolves around hunting down each and every locomotive—and, sometimes, other rail equipment—and marking down each one they've seen in a little book listing all such equipment existing. In the field, they may use a paper notebook instead of their master stock book, and modern technology means they may now make their notes using a voice recorder and keep their master list as a computer database. Being a trainspotter involves lots of standing around in the cold and wet on station platforms waiting for that elusive quarry; this made the waterproof coats that they generally wear, the "anorak", become a symbol of the trainspotter. The word "anorak" itself has become a generic term, in fact, used to refer to the obsessively geeky in other fields as well. Trainspotters are generally depicted with most of the nerd/geek stereotypes—thick glasses, bad hair, no fashion sense, and frequently physically unattractive and socially awkward.


The second common British stereotypical character is the older, more respectable railway enthusiast. This is a common pastime of The Vicar. Such an enthusiast is likely to be active in the railway historical and preservation movement, and may be actively involved in restoring or operating historical trains. They are also likely to have a model railway built with obsessive care, and may be a photographer as well.

In Japan, the most commonly depicted form is the densha otaku (not to be confused with Densha Otoko), also known as tetsuotanote , a species of otaku whose obsession is trains. This stereotype has much in common with the English trainspotter, being extremely geeky and socially awkward, and obsessed with their chosen subject. The Japanese version is more likely than the English one to be a keen photographer of railway subjects, and many depictions involve a big camera and lens. Japanese rail photography often concentrates on trains' heads, by the way.


In the United States, most media depictions of the railfan (sometimes also called a "trainspotter" on the East Coast, or "ferroequinologist" for "one who studies iron horses") involve model railroads, which were generally treated as a common and respectable hobby. It's more rarely depicted in recent years. Most portrayed tend to be older, and although respectable, it tends to be treated as Serious Business for humor's sake. Traditional railfans—already derisively referred to by railroad workers as foamers, a term some have adopted self-deprecatingly—were massively hurt by post 9-11 changes where standing around bridges waiting to photograph trains was often mistakenly viewed as scouting locations for terrorist attacks. Fortunately, enough time has passed that that perception has died down.

Where British railfans use notebooks, German railfans prefer cameras, just like Japanese densha otaku. German rail photographs refer to themselves as Fotofuzzis or simply Fuzzisnote  and don't need anoraks either because they usually refuse to take photos when the sun isn't shining, even if it's a tiny little cloud blocking the sun the very second a train passes. Quality standards are high, and nitpicking on photographs is common in online communities whenever the standards of commercial photobooks aren't reached. For example, nothing is allowed to obstruct the view on the photographed vehicles, neither overhead catenary poles nor platforms nor signs nor vegetation (which Fuzzis sometimes cut down themselves). The common rules for vehicle portraits (45-60° angle from ahead, sun from behind and not too high, and so forth) have been used so often that some peope don't do portraits anymore because it's boring. Newer rolling stock and newer liveries are loathed by older railfans, especially those who have seen regular steam traffic in the West before 1977 and still put films in their semi-automatic SLRs, and preferred prey of younger railfans who hardly know anything older and go out with a compact camera or even their phone as their camera. While British railfans wait and see what comes, German railfans love to track down particular vehicles, especially locomotives with advertising on them, using sightings and leaked schedules and go ballistic when the expected material doesn't show up at the expected time.

Model railroading is quite popular in Germany, too, and Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, the world's biggest model railroad, is just one of the signs. As is the sheer number of German brands in the model railroad industry. Passionate German model railroaders know just about everything about the rolling stock they're running, they know which locomotives have been used in which services, which livery and numbering belongs to which era, and how train consists are composed correctly; occasionally, they don't even shy away from lecturing those who either don't know or don't care and just want to enjoy their beautiful trains (which is the case on most public model railroads). They would soup up a €500 ($770) locomotive with etched brass parts because the manufacturer got tiny details wrong, because the handles are too thick, or whatever. The fact that the core of German model railroaders is aging is shown by the majority still refusing any locomotives, cars, liveries, or letterings introduced after 1968, sometimes even 1960.

Related hobbies include bus spotting, plane spotting and model railways without significant interest in real trains. Some also played train and railroad business simulators such as Microsoft Train Simulator and Railroad Tycoon.

See also Cool Train.

The Other Wiki also has an article on this.

Not to be confused with Trainstopping or Irvine Welsh's novel and film Trainspotting.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Rachel in Baccano!. Due to her history she deeply enjoys riding on and being around trains and due to her vendetta against the rail companies, studies all variations of trains in-depth to find the best spots for stowing away on them and avoiding discovery. The young conductor is also something of a train enthusiast who deeply enjoyed being able to see all the different types of trains one could work on and being able to watch the joy of other passengers that were also excited for the trip while making his rounds, who was extremely excited to get work on the Flying Pussyfoot, a custom-model private train owned by the Nebula Corporation, which was an extremely rare and prestigious honor be able to serve on.
  • Kotetsu Segawa from Hayate the Combat Butler: being a good-looking and stylish young man, he is a stealth rail otaku, until he pulls out a giant camera ...
  • Tetsuko from Magical Witch Punie-chan, whose name actually comes from Kokutetsu ("Japan National Railways"), followed by -ko, a typical suffix for a girl's name: Tetsuko Koku (Koku Tetsuko, in Japanese order).
  • Noboru and Yuuki in the Great Teacher Onizuka manga.
  • Yuichi Yamanoguchi is a troubled boy who gets turned into EI-04 in GaoGaiGar.
  • Touko in the Maria Watches Over Us 4th specials.
  • Giroro of Sgt. Frog has this as one of his quirks in the anime. One of the tadpole episodes touched on this during a plot where the Power Trio went treasure hunting: he revealed he had a special pass for the galactic trains, which they used to go exploring off-planet. A later episode had them becoming train conductors as part of one of their schemes, to his poorly hidden delight — and triggering a Heroic BSoD when the trains got blown up.
  • Princess Jellyfish has a variation: Banba, the short girl with an afro adores street cars.
  • Suzuki, one of Those Two Guys in Ai Yori Aoshi.
  • Chitan, the resident Butt-Monkey in Katteni Kaizo.
  • Cilan in the Pokémon Best Wishes series is this trope 100%. And that's only one of his interests.
  • Kiichi Funabashi of Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Who Leapt Through Time becomes a full-on keet when dealing with trains. With his partner Digimon, Locomon, he takes other children on tours of the world at night.
  • Tetsuko no Tabi revolves around the adventures of two train buffs and the manga artist tasked with chronicling their adventures.
  • In Macross Frontier, Richard Bilrer, the owner of SMS, has a sprawling model train setup with miniature cities and landscapes. Since he is a 30+-foot Zentraedi, the trains come up to Alto's chest or higher when they meet and the buildings tower over him.
  • Anna Kaboom(Kozuki in the Japanese version) from Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL has a Railway Deck, all of her monsters being one kind of train or another.
  • Rail Wars! is essentially made for the railfan in mind, being a series about trains and with resident fan Naoto talking about the history and details of Japanese trains.
  • Haruka in Active Raid is a major railfan, regularly spending time at work sighing over pictures of trains and railroad tracks. She even gets up close and personal just to listen to the sounds of train compressors.
  • Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion:
  • Four-year-old Kun from Mirai of the Future loves trains, and is frequently seen playing with working models of them. When his parents ask if he has any ideas for a name for his new baby sister, he simply looks at his toy trains and suggests "Nozomi" and "Tsubame", which are both real-life train services.
  • in O Maidens in Your Savage Season, Izumi reads Train Tables for entertainment; he has posters of trains in his room. He even listens to a song called "Train Train" while on A Date with Rosie Palms to a movie about a woman getting molested on a public train.

    Comic Books 
  • John in the For Better or for Worse comic is the model train variant.
  • Batman seems to be this to some extent, as both the Silver Age and modern variations have a train as part of their vast arsenal of vehicles (the original being a bat-themed steam locomotive, the newest version being more akin to a modern streamliner).

  • Lex Luthor inherits a house from one in Superman Returns (being a millionaire, the set is pretty extensive). He ends up destroying her model set while doing a test of how Kryptonian crystals perform Hostile Terraforming. Notably, in the first movie, he hid his secret lair next to a train tunnel. Well, mostly because it made an awfully convenient way to get rid of anyone snooping around whenever the express rolled by...
  • Alfred Hitchcock was a well known train enthusiast and would find reasons to add scenes with trains into his movies if not make them key elements of the plot. One of his best known movies is Strangers on a Train.
  • Vicar Sam Weech and Ollie Matthews, the Bishop of Welchester, in the movie The Titfield Thunderbolt.
  • The main character in the movie The Station Agent is a train/model train enthusiast. He uses his hobby as an excuse not to socialize with others.
  • One of the main characters of Transsiberian. He's the reason the couple are travelling by train in the first place.
  • Emmett Ray, protagonist of Sweet and Lowdown, has this as one of his alienating personality quirks.
  • Rex Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones' character's husband) in the film Intolerable Cruelty bursts out with "I JUST LIKE TRAINS!" in the middle of open court when a witness describes recommending him as a target for Zeta-Jones because he was "a silly man" who would not be able to stop himself from marital indiscretions. Later, he is shown in a hotel room with four blondes (scantily) dressed as conductors, jumping on the bed, with stock footage of old trains projected on the wall as he leads them in a round of "I've Been Working on the Railroad."
  • In A Mighty Wind, Mickey's current husband is a model train enthusiast who is eager to show off his set. It helps characterize him as a bit lame and teases the possibility of Mickey getting back together with Mitch.
  • Flodder: Grandpa is fond of railways, collects train models, and even wears a train conductor's uniform as his standard outfit. This proves fatal when he goes up to a railway for sightseeing by himself and his wheelchair gets stuck on the tracks. Then his relatives discover that he left a fortune of old coins inside his model trains.
  • The "Joe McDoakes" short So You Want a Model Railroad (1955) finds Joe becoming this to a comically extreme degree.

  • The Railway Series was created by an English Vicar, the Rev. W. Awdry, showing that that stereotype can be Truth in Television. The character of the Fat Controller is sometimes attributed to another railway vicar, the Rev. Teddy Boston, a friend of Awdry's who had a narrow-gauge steam engine in his garden. And the occasional characters of the Fat Clergyman and the Thin Clergyman are confirmed as Boston and Awdry's Author Avatars.
  • One of the Discworld books discusses Death's patient, methodical personality by saying that while there aren't any trains or steam engines on the Discworld, he'll surely be there to note it down as soon as one is invented.
    • Unseen Academicals has a brief mention of a magazine for "Golem-spotters", suggesting that this has become the equivalent. It remains to be seen if Death has taken it up.
    • Numerous Rail Enthusiasts appear in Raising Steam, including established "geeky" characters Ponder Stibbons and Drumknott. Mostly in the context of trainspotting, but model railway sets also feature. A number of them show up for the first demo of the first engine, spotter notebooks in hand.
  • One of the central characters in the fantasy novel Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente is a female Japanese rail enthusiast.
  • The title of Trainspotting comes from a chapter in the novel called "Trainspotting at Leith Central Station". The joke is that the station is long-closed and derelict, so trainspotting there is an utterly pointless, dull, and squalid experience, like most things the characters do.
  • Watson from the Sherlock Holmes stories is occasionally noted to have a minor obsession with the rail system, including having memorized the London area schedules.
  • Tunnel Vision by Keith Lowe has a Rail Enthusiast protagonist, who accepts a bet about doing a Tube Challenge...on the day before his wedding!
  • In Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson recounts being stuck sitting by a very chatty, very obsessive rail enthusiast on a train journey through Wales.
  • In Sean McMullen's Greatwinter Trilogy, 40th-century Australian civilization relies on wind- and human-powered trains for long-distance freight and passenger transport. Accordingly, there is a social club of trainspotters, some of whom harbor greater loyalty to the rails than they do their ostensible rulers.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, Edmund is described as "the sort of person who knows about trains."
  • Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein includes a visit to the Emperor's palace, where the protagonist is taken to view his extensive model train collection. Seeing as the protagonist is currently impersonating a close acquaintance of the Emperor, the fact that he doesn't ritually deride the hobby reveals his subterfuge.
  • Mina Harker describes herself as a "train fiend" in Dracula.
  • Dagny Taggart and Eddie Willers of Atlas Shrugged.
  • Judi Abbot's picture book Train! is about a young elephant who loves playing with his toy train and this thrilled when his parents take him on a real train ride for a treat, but then gets into an Argument of Contradictions with other kids on the train who want to play with toys that are vehicles other than trains.
  • A few of the bosses in Bastard Operator from Hell fit the trope, though given this is the BOFH, the conversations where it comes up portray said bosses as being pathetic for having such hobbies.
  • The Duke of Taunton, who has an entire room of Scalefour layouts at Wolfdown House – the Brunel Room, of course –, is one in the Village Tales novels; as are Sir Thomas Douty and, naturally, the Rector. But with a twist: the Duke and Sir Tom have the money and influence to recreate the old Woolfonts & Chickmarsh Railway as a heritage steam railway, microfranchise it as a part of the national railway net, create a tourist boom for it, and create a whole supporting industry for it, including a community-owned brewery (for RailAle schemes). (And, next up, Sir Tom and the Duke intend to recreate the old canal....)

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gomez Addams from The Addams Family has an extensive model train layout in both the TV show and the movie adaptations, on which he likes to cause crashes and other disasters.
  • On The Sopranos, nice-guy mobster Bobby Baccalieri has a big interest in trains and can be seen building and playing with model trains in his garage (sometimes while dressed as a conductor). He gets made fun of for this hobby and he is eventually killed while buying a model train at a hobby shop.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus did a sketch, supposedly an excerpt from the latest West End hit It All Happened on the 11:20 from Hainault to Red Hill via Horsham and Reigate, calling at Carshalton Beeches, Malmesbury, Tooting Bec and Croydon West. The characters all get involved in a murder mystery that gets solved by everyone having a nearly-encyclopedic knowledge of trains and train schedules. At the end of the sketch, we see the author, Mr. Neville Shunt, making train noises with his mouth and ringing a large bell while typing on a typewriter.
    • There's also the sketch about camel-spotting.
    • The presenter on It's The Arts interviewing composer Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson veers off his interview to comment on Jackson's train-spotting interest.
  • In one episode of Last of the Summer Wine, The Vicar refuses to talk to the protagonists because he's too busy... playing with his model railway.
    • In another episode, Foggy is revealed to be one of these.
  • In the Yes, Minister episode "The Bishop's Gambit", the candidate Hacker eventually appoints is said to be interested only in Islam and steam engines.
  • Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory is one of these. In an episode where Sheldon abruptly decides to move out (because he can't figure out any other way to keep a secret from Leonard) Howard and Raj list off reasons why Sheldon would move out. Howard very seriously asks, "Did you make fun of trains?"
    • In the same episode, Raj attempts to dissuade Sheldon from moving in with him by announcing, "I hate trains."
      Sheldon: Oh don't be silly, you love trains.
      Raj: [sighs] Yes indeed, I do. Come on.
    • In another episode the four of them take a trip to San Francisco by train.
      Leonard: Well, we took a vote. Three of us voted we fly and Sheldon voted we take the train. So, [unhappily] we're taking the train.
      Sheldon: Don't say it like that, Leonard. Say it like, [excited] "We're taking the train!"
    • In another episode, Sheldon states that he always tells people if they only have one day in LA, they should make it a "train day", after which he proceeds to describe an itinerary that includes eating at two different train cars turned into hot-dog stands.
    • Amy uses this to her advantage to plan a Valentines' Day dinner with Sheldon, having it on a train as an incentive for him to go along. Things get derailed, so to speak, when Sheldon runs into a fellow rail enthusiast named Eric (who spends all his time riding trains while collecting disability after being hit on the head by a box at UPS), and spends the whole dinner talking to him, leaving poor Amy out in the cold.
    • In the season 7 finale he decides he can't deal with all the changes happening and leaves on a train, claiming intent to live as a modern day hobo. In the S8 premiere it turns out he spent a few weeks traveling from city to city by train, never even bothering to leave the station, before someone stole his pants.
  • While it's never mentioned afterwards, when Chris first meets Sam in Life On Mars, he asks if he'd ever been to the train museum in Hyde, where Sam had just transferred from.
  • Toby and Dwight in The Office (US) share a moment of Rail Enthusiasm while they were staking out Darryl's house to see if he was defrauding the company for workman's comp, listening to a train as it passed by, this being one of the few insights into Toby's hobbies or personal interests.
  • Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation is a model train enthusiast, according to an exchange with Jean-Ralphio.
    Jean-Ralphio: Why don't you use that time and go after one of your passions, like model trains or, like, toy Gandalfs or something?
    Ben: I don't know you jumped straight to model trains...I's accurate.
  • One episode of Highlander had a Rain Man-type immortal whose fixation was on trains. He kept quoting train facts during the episode.
  • Ernie Dell, the Red Herring of the Miniature Killer arc on CSI (see "Loco Motives").
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Black Orchid", the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) says that he has always wanted to drive a steam engine and takes a while to explain railways to Adric.
  • The BBC's children's strand CBBC used to have a character in the studio called the Anorak, an extremely annoying character who was a stereotype of this.
  • David Liebe Hart, best known for his appearances on Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and The Junior Christian Science Bible Lesson Program, is an obsessive rail enthusiast and even recorded an entire album of songs about trains entitled Trains of the Past and Present.
  • Lawrence Bingham from the Doctor in the House franchise, as part of his overall portrayal as an uptight square, is a keen trainspotter, and often spends his days off at the railway station writing down train numbers (a hobby the other doctors deride).
  • An episode of NUMB3RS about recreated train crashes featured a couple of these guys as witnesses. Their footage of the train provides a vital clue to cracking the case.
  • One clip on World's Dumbest... was filmed by an enthusiast who was so excited that at least one commentator speculated about what else he was doing.
  • The Tunnel: A young man who knows the sounds of different trains is called in to help them locate where an elderly kidnapping victim has been held from those recorded going past.
  • Captain Holt and Terry of Brooklyn Nine-Nine are both privately model train fans, and the two compete to see who has the best train set up. Unfortunately for the two, no one else really thinks model trains are cool, and the one person they ask to play judge to their bet is conpletely "meh" about the whole thing.
  • Armin Maiwald, original host of Die Sendung mit der Maus, who, in keeping with his status as a Cool Old Guy, possesses a driver's licence for steam trains and offers to casually man such a train during one of the Maus' summer tours. In addition to many of the show's signature Sachgeschichten voiced by him being about train construction, engineering or maintenance of Germany's biggest railstations.

  • 1, 2, 3, Train With Me from Playahitty.
  • The British indie rock band I Like Trains.

    New Media 
  • The F40PH locomotive is a subject of Memetic Mutation. For some odd reason,note  it's common to post it coupled with the phrase "Yiff in hell, furfags!" on Image Boards. Also, don't call it a train in front of Rail Enthusiasts.
  • Rail Enthusiasm is so prevalent on the internet, that Image Boards almost always have a /n/ board, for "Transportation". It's not called just "trains", because they allow talking about buses, commercial jets, subways, and even bikes as well as trains. As said above, the F40PH is always popular.
  • There's even a whole Image Board dedicated to trainspotting called They feel very strongly about the political aspects of rail infrastructure.
  • Australian Something Awful Goon "Maximum Sexy Pigeon" created almost a dozen realistic pixel art train cars for the Goon Train art project. There were other train fans (all Australian, oddly enough) in that thread, but none as passionate as Mr. Pigeon.
  • The "I Like Trains" kid from the asdfmovie series.
  • Geoff Marshall, a London-based rail enthusiast, who produces videos about all kinds of train-related content, such as the history of and trivia about the London Underground, hosted the show "All The Stations" where he and his spouse Vicki visited every trainstation in Britain and holds the record for the "Tube Challenge", where one attempts to visit every station on the London Underground in the fastest time. Phew.

  • BBC Radio sometime in the 90s had a half-hour comic monologue called "Anorak of Fire". The narrator is a trainspotter who's so obsessed with trains that he misinterprets everything else he sees and hears. At one point in his narration he describes seeing a train carrying nuclear waste through the middle of town, but all he's excited about is the fact that it's hauled by a rare type of locomotive.
    • This was adapted and expanded into a TV movie/drama in 1998 for BBC 2.

    Video Games 
  • Motochika from Senran Kagura: New Wave is an absolute fangirl of trains. Most of the time she'll either be seen playing with toy trains or exploring different types of metro when she's got nothing better to do. This is especially driven home where her weapon of choice is a miniature train.
  • There's a Lakitu in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door who loves the Excess Express, and hangs out at the platform. Not sure if the nearby Toadette is this, or is just about the romance of scenarios involving trains.
    • Bub the Bob-omb is also an enthusiast, to the point where a necessary sidequest involves you getting him an autograph from the conductor of the Excess Express. Goldbob also wants to buy Bub a train of his own for his birthday. Not a train set, mind you. An actual train.
    • An unrelated Toad is encountered in Paper Mario: Color Splash, who's constantly gushing about the Sunset Express, sometimes providing Mario with trivia about it, but also peppers his gushing with regrets about the patheticness of his life.
  • Selphie in Final Fantasy VIII.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks features Ferrus, a rail hobbyist who can be found alongside the tracks at certain points in the game, shutter clicking away. The appearance of the Demon Trains is a boon for him, because it means that he gets to take pictures of them. He's also dying to meet Link's mentor Alfonzo, as he's heard that the man is a legendary engineer.
  • Kingdom of Loathing gives the fandom a passing nod in the description for the yak anorak:
    This is a heavy hooded jacket made of yak hide, perfect for keeping you warm while you're waiting to spot Seaside Town's train — which is assumed to exist because of the track, even though no one has ever seen it. Seaside Town's trainspotting community are extremely patient (and extremely lonely) people.
  • In Lilly's route of Katawa Shoujo, she and Hanako express their preference for old trains when going to Hokkaido.
  • As mentioned above, Microsoft Train Simulator, Trainz, and Railroad Tycoon. The latter is particularly notable because Sid Meier is a rail enthusiast himself, and basically created the series to serve as a virtual train modelling experience.
  • Valve games very often feature trains - Half-Life, Half-Life 2, and Episode 2 all begin on trains. Left 4 Dead features train yards in multiple campaigns, and the player characters ride on one at the start of The Sacrifice.
  • Jude becomes one in Tales of Xillia 2, though this is probably more of a fascination considering how trains didn't exist in his homeland of Rieze Maxia
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, this is possibly Pablo's most defining characteristic. He's a huge fans of trains and goes into a spasm of ecstasy upon seeing the campus's special armored train, the Derfflinger, for the first time. He tries to start a train club at school, but has trouble finding members. He's eventually shot down by Principal Le Guin, who tells him that he can't start a train club because that won't help to grow because he already knows all about trains.
  • Kung Lao's Friendship in Mortal Kombat 11 has him play with toy trains with a track going around his Nice Hat.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Reverend Lovejoy loves, and finds joy in, model trains (and his standard attitude being what it is, many scenes make it look like it's the only thing he still gives a crap about in the whole world). They have a tendency to get into terrible accidents.
    Reverend Lovejoy: God, why do you hate my trains?
  • King of the Hill: Ted Wasonasong is shown playing with a model train in one episode.
  • The Classic Disney Short Out of Scale has Donald Duck building a very elaborate model train set in his backyard. Hilarity Ensues when he removes Chip n' Dale's tree because it's out of scale with the rest of the set. Donald and Chip n' Dale reached a compromise when the duo proposed their tree would be part of the set as a "giant redwood".
    • In a related note, many of the Disney artists (including Walt himself) were Rail Enthusiasts, and had model trains in their own yards. Some even had full-scale locomotives! There's a reason there's a Disneyland Railroad.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine, a series about trains, probably has a few examples within the cast but might well have been the starting point for a lot of railfans. For that matter, its popularity with autistic and Asperger's children overlaps, with some social workers noting that a lot of rail enthusiasts are also autistic or have Asperger's. In fact, this has become something of a stereotype of people with autism as of late, and many fictional characters with autism are given an interest in trains for this reason.
  • The kid in Play Safe, leading to Nightmare Fuel when he gets a little to close to his beloved trains.
  • Mr. Bernard in The Rescuers covers his behind by invoking this trope, when Ms. Bianca accuses him of being too cowardly to travel by air.
  • A Phineas and Ferb episode featured Heinz Doofenshmirtz's Freudian Excuse of the week being the fact his father wouldn't allow him to play with train sets. Doof's Dad would buy the stuff but not allow Heinz to play with it. As an adult, Heinz was disappointed by the sets' lack of accuracy so he shrunk monuments to use them in a model train set.
  • Code Name Kids Next Door: When a rival pilot was discouraging Numbuh 2 from flying, he briefly considered toy trains a new hobby.
  • All of the kids on Dinosaur Train are this. They even have a song about it— "I can't explain, but I won't complain! I only know that I love trains!"
  • On the Animated Adaptation of Max and Ruby, Grandma's purchase of a toy train for Max kicks off a four-story train arc.
  • Carl Gould, a young male rabbit with Asperger Syndrome in Arthur, has books about trains, loves to put together train puzzles, and keeps a journal of train illustrations.
  • Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales: Megopolis Zoo keeper Stanley Livingstone gets a miniature train put in the zoo so he can give visiting kids a ride. Tennessee and Chumley are intrigued by it so they take the train for a spin—and subsequently crash it. At the end, Tennessee and Chumley are consigned to physically pull the train around the zoo.
    Chumley: Gee, Tennessee. I thought this is what you wanted.
    Tennessee: Chumley, I said I wanted to be an engineer. Not an engine.
  • A Wing Dings blackout on Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines had Dick Dastardly regaling Zilly with his own private railroad and train car on top of which they're sitting.
    Zilly: What about that bridge?
    Dastardly: That's my own private...(suddenly baffled) Bridge?? What bridge?? (they collide onto the bridge facade and plummet to the ground) Oh...that bridge! (grins sheepishly)
  • The Let's Go Luna! episode "D'Orsay Day" shows Andy Hopper trying to paint a picture of a train because he loves trains, especially steam locomotives.

    Real Life 
  • 46th President of the United States Joe Biden, aka "Amtrak Joe." His thing isn't so much model trains or watching trains as getting people to ride trains and getting government to invest in trains—he got his nickname because he rode the Amtrak from his home in Wilmington, Delaware to Washington DC every working day of the 36 years he served in the US Senate (about an hour's commute) and has been one of the most consistent advocates for expanding Amtrak and passenger rail in the US.note  He originally did this instead of moving to Washington after being elected to Senate due to his wife dying just before he began his career, meaning he commuted so he could spend time with his children. In fact, Joe and Jill Biden never even had a DC residence until he became Vice President (at which point he was given One Observatory Circle). In his honor, Amtrak named the train station in Wilmington (from which he had made 7,000 trips) after him in 2011. The original plan for his inauguration was for him to arrive in DC from Wilmington by train; this was only changed after the storming of the Capitol two weeks earlier made arrival by anything but an airplane unnecessarily risky. Even his POTUS biography at the official White House website is subtitled "From Scranton to Wilmington to the White House — with thousands of train rides in between."
  • Joe Biden's fellow Senator, the late Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, often rode with Biden on the same trainnote  on the way to his Philadelphia home (Philly is only about 20 minutes from Wilmington on Amtrak). It's said that Biden persuaded Specter, a (very moderate) Republican for most of his Senate career, to switch to the Democrats during these train journeys.
  • Double Trainbow, either a parody of Double Rainbow, or one of the more unhealthy examples. Though keep in mind, the locomotive he's freaking out about, the EMD BL2, is rather rare, as only 59 were built before the advent of the GP7, and The Other Wiki lists seven survivors that live on in preservation.
  • Michael Palin titled his very first travelogue program "Confessions of a Trainspotter", riding from London to Kyle of Lochalsh, and had a Virgin trainset named after him. Parodied by himself during his New Europe series in a sequence involving a logging railway in some remote corner of the Balkans.
  • Walt Disney and two of his top animators, Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston, were avid train enthusiasts. Kimball even had a full-scale train and tracks in his backyard (as well as being responsible for creating the character of Casey Junior, a sentient steam locomotive, for Disney's film Dumbo), and Walt built a live-steam railway behind his own home. As a result, almost all Disney Theme Parks have live steam railways, and a steam train can clearly be seen in a modern version of Walt Disney Pictures' Vanity Plate.
  • Bill Peet, one of Disney's associates, was also fond of trains. When he started writing children's books, they were one of his favorite motifs. Smokey and The Caboose Who Got Loose focused on trains.
  • Chris Hughes, one of the panel of quiz champions on the BBC's Eggheads quiz show, is a fanatical railway enthusiast. His near-encyclopedic knowledge of railways and trains enabled him to win Mastermind, and he is always keen to delve into the most obscure details of railway lore when the opportunity comes up on the programme. He is a retired train driver.
  • Quite common in the music business:
    • Rod Stewart is probably the most well-known of these in music. He is a model train enthusiast with a 1:87 scale representation of New York's "Three Rivers" Manhattan and the surrounding area that is so enigmatic only Model Railroader magazine is allowed exclusive access, and has attained the title of "Master Model Railroader" - he's appeared on the front cover of that magazine four times. On his travels, he always books two hotel rooms - one for his trains. The video of his cover of Tom Waits' song "Downtown Train" was shot in the Hoboken, New Jersey train terminal and features him hanging off moving trains like an old railroading hand. The guy even personally paid out of pocket to help a model railroad group that had been vandalized by thieves.
    • Frank Sinatra had a huge room in his house dedicated to a large Lionel layout.
    • Jools Holland (presenter of Later... with Jools Holland and former member of Squeeze) has also graced the cover of MR. He has a 100ft model railway in his attic in Kent, which actually appears in the intro for Later....
    • Roger Daltrey. He, along with the aforementioned Rod, donated money to a club from Ashford, Kent, after their show was vandalised.
    • Neil Young keeps his 750ft collection in a 2,800ft barn in the California hills. He was also part of an investment group that bought the Lionel model train company, saving it from bankruptcy and extinction, created the Liontech company to expand on and improve Lionel'sRailsounds, and designed new control systems to allow his handicapped son to experience the full features of his model trains with just one button.
    • Pete Waterman of Stock Aitken Waterman (of "Never Gonna Give You Up" and "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" fame) has a huge collection of model railways. He's also written a book about his hobby, been interviewed by James May about his hobby, and is such a big fan that Hornby Railways did a subrange of locomotives dedicated to him, "The Pete Waterman Collection".
      • Although, in 2015, he sold some of his collection at an auction … to fund repairs on his five full-sized steam engines.
  • Mandy Patinkin has a huge basement Lionel layout, mentioned and shown off for 25+ years in interviews from Tom Snyder in the 80s through 60Minutes in 2014.
  • Gary Coleman had an N-Scale layout after leaving the acting world.
  • Alfred Hitchcock was a tram enthusiast to such a degree that he would mutter the endpoints of London tram routes routes equivalent to the scene number they were shooting during his director career.
  • Buster Keaton loved trains, and used them many times in his films, most notably in The General and Our Hospitality.
  • Wikivoyage of course also has an article on the travel aspects of railfanning.
  • The Horseshoe Curve outside Altoona, Pennsylvania was built with railfans in mind, having had a trackside observation park at it since 1879.
  • Rochelle, Illinois is known for having a diamond where the mainlines of BNSF and Union Pacific cross, and a railroad park where railfans can safely watch trains traverse the diamond, with wireless internet, and live track scanners that monitor the radio frequencies for both railroads.
  • Owen Hart was a huge rail fan, which was a love he shared with his son Oje.

Alternative Title(s): Railfan, Densha Otaku, Trainspotter


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