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Rail Enthusiast
aka: Railfan

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"I like trains."

Someone obsessed with trains and railways, whether it's toy models or watching/riding actual trains. This is 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 foamersnote , 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 people 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 largest model railroad,note  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.

Czech railway fans somewhat resemble the German ones (not a big surprise, considering the geographical and cultural closeness) but are perhaps a bit less exacting in their standards and more adventurous and waterproof in their exploits (not a big surprise, considering they are not German). They are often just as interested in the surroundings in a photo as in the train itself: shots of running trains from the wild are more popular than stationary shots taken in a station. They will often engage in discussions of where exactly a given shot was taken, and where it was taken from, and may go or climb increasingly unlikely places to get a good view of the track. They have gained the mysterious epithet šotouš/šotouši; generally it is considered to have something to do with their passion for taking photos, but it is also a rarer Czech word for goblins or mischievous sprites...

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 (the damage of which would likely upset rail enthusiats) or Irvine Welsh's novel and film Trainspotting. Nor is it about birdwatchers fond of Rail birds.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Active Raid: Haruka 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.
  • 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.
  • Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Who Leapt Through Time: Kiichi Funabashi 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.
  • Noboru and Yuuki in the Great Teacher Onizuka manga. Noboru is able to become friends with Yuuki (who had barricaded himself inside his room with a gun) and get him to come back to school by talking with him about trains.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Touko in the Maria Watches Over Us 4th specials.
  • Mirai of the Future: Four-year-old Kun 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 masturbating to a movie about a woman getting molested on a public train.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Cilan in the Best Wishes series is this trope 100%. He calls himself a "metro connoisseur", displays knowledge in regards to train-related matters, and is a fan of the local subway conductors. And that's only one of his interests.
  • Princess Jellyfish has a variation: Banba, the short girl with an afro adores street cars.
  • 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.
  • Sgt. Frog: Giroro 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.
  • In Shima Shima Tora no Shimajirō, Kento is the resident densha otaku of the series. When shown he is often playing with toy trains, and on several accounts he has been shown photographing the newest trains that launched on the island. He also aspires to be a train conductor when he grows up.
  • Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion:
  • Shinkalion Z — sequel series to Shinkalion:
  • Tetsuko no Tabi revolves around the adventures of two train buffs and the manga artist tasked with chronicling their adventures.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL: Anna Kaboom (Kozuki in the Japanese version) has a Railway Deck, all of her monsters being one kind of train or another.

    Comic Books 
  • 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).
  • Donald Duck frequently develops an obsession with trains, and jumps at the opportunity to steer one.

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Animation 
  • 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.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare: while never explicitly stated as being a railway enthusiast, John Doe is implied to be one, having both model trains and pictures of trains in his room.
  • 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.
  • The "Joe McDoakes" short So You Want A Model Railroad (1955) finds Joe becoming this to a comically extreme degree.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Emmett Ray, protagonist of Sweet and Lowdown, has this as one of his alienating personality quirks.
  • Vicar Sam Weech and Ollie Matthews, the Bishop of Welchester, in the movie The Titfield Thunderbolt.
  • One of the main characters of Transsiberian. He's the reason the couple are travelling by train in the first place.

  • Dagny Taggart and Eddie Willers of Atlas Shrugged.
  • 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.
  • In The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper's Feast, the poem "The Rodents' Express" portrays Rat and Shrew as far more interested in seeing the eponymous steam engine than either being on time for the Ball or keeping their clothes smart for it.
    "No use scolding them,"
    Squirrel explains,
    "The plain fact is,
    "They're mad about trains."
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle, Edmund is described as "the sort of person who knows about trains."
  • 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.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe story "Model Train Set" by John Blum, in the original Short Trips collection, expands on the Fifth Doctor's claim he always wanted to be an engine driver by saying different Doctors manifested this desire differently: One of them (probably First or Third) would have been content as a station master on a quiet branch line; Seventh, of course, saw himself as the man at the main control board, making sure all the trains went where they were supposed to and all connections happened exactly to plan; and Sixth probably wanted to be an actual steam engine, all brightly coloured and sputtering violently. The story involves Eighth rediscovering Seventh's meticulous model railway and deciding he wants to be surprised by it.
  • 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, taking joy in studying trains and learning the schedules by heart. This becomes a Chekhov's Skill later, when she uses that knowledge to discern the most likely route Dracula will take to Transylvania.
  • 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.
  • Mike from He Is Your Brother has a huge collection of old train and railway pieces, including nuts and bolts, tickets, uniform buttons, signal flags, and a coal shovel. During his free time, he wanders by the railways to collect more treasures and memorises timetables. He is endlessly fascinated by railway history and is delighted when his father brings home a copy of History of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, which has been out of print for years. His little brother Orry loves riding the train with him and looking at his collection.
  • One of the central characters in the fantasy novel Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente is a female Japanese rail enthusiast.
  • In My Brother is a Superhero, the version of Zack from Stellar's universe. This doesn't apply to Zack himself, which proves that they're not as identical as Stellar assumed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Abigail in Rivers of London is a Closet Geek type, who flatly denies to Peter that she's a trainspotter even as she describes a ghost encounter she had while trying to see the Hogwarts Express (not actually the Hogwarts Express, she's quick to clarify, because that's not real). What Abigail Did That Summer goes into further detail about this, saying she started looking into trains when she was trying to work out just how far she could get if she ran away from home.
  • Emmet from The Roosevelt is delighted that his family's new home is near a train track, which runs between his and Jeremey's backyards. Every time a train goes by, he counts the cars and engines and tries to find patterns in the way they're arranged. When he and Jeremey move into the titular assisted living facility, he makes sure to get a room facing the train tracks.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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....)
  • Calhoun Mooney in Weaveworld has memorized British train schedules, which turns out to be Chekhov's Skill during this Clive Barker novel.

    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.
  • Sheldon Cooper 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 Sheldon 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.
    • Within many IRL railfan circles, Sheldon is a shunned figure due to being seen as a Card-Carrying Jerkass and a poor stereotype of the hobby. Comparing a real railfan to Sheldon is likely to raise eyebrows, or get a disgruntled response; although it hasn't stopped the Nevada Northern Railway attempting to capitalize on being mentioned by Sheldon in the show in their advertising.
  • 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 (Captain Holt favours strict accuracy whereas Terry prefers a more Sugar Bowl "everyone ride the fun train to the ice cream shop" approach). 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 completely "meh" about the whole thing.
  • 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.
  • Ernie Dell, the Red Herring of the Miniature Killer arc on CSI (see the episode "Loco Motives"). Being a model train enthusiast who made his own dioramas, he was a viable suspect for a while and even confessed to the crimes at one point, but was Taking the Heat for someone close to him.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • One episode of Highlander had a Rain Man-type immortal whose fixation was on trains. He kept quoting train facts during the episode.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus:
    • The series 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Shakespeare & Hathaway - Private Investigators: In "And Rarest Parts", Frank and Luella are employed by lottery winner Leroy King, who is convinced his son Arty, who died 5 years earlier in a trainspotting accident, is haunting him. Sebastian goes undercover as a trainspotter, and gets bitten by the trainspotting bug.
  • 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.
  • David Liebe Hart, best known for his appearances on Tim and 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.
  • A spin off from Luke Nicholson's "Francis Bourgeois" character on Tik Tok (see below in New Media) titled Trainspotting With Francis Bourgeois aired on Channel 4 Digital and You Tube in 2022, featuring Francis taking various British celebrities trainspotting.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Young Sheldon, which focuses on the early life of Sheldon Cooper, also shows that he was a rail enthusiast as a child. In fact, the first shot of the pilot is of Sheldon playing with his model train set.

  • The end of Pressure Machine by The Killers has a man discussing how his grandkids like to run out and wave at the train as it passes by.
  • "My Trains" by Lemon Demon is about a man obsessed with model trains, so much so that he beat the crap out of someone at the Model Railroad Club who insulted his collection (and getting himself kicked out of the club in the process).
  • The song Wellington Goes to Waterloo by Mike Batt is, of course, about the young, nerdy Womble by that name going trainspotting at Waterloo Station. What else would it be about?

    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.
  • There is some crossover between the furry fandom and rail enthusiasts though in general, perhaps due to both being niche hobbies that greatly benefited from the internet age; such as furry "Bolt the Railway Dog" whose enthusiasm for trains lead České dráhy a Czech Railway company to name a locomotive after him in 2023. Appropriately Bolt attended the naming ceremony wearing his fursuit.
  • 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. Immediately followed up with a train crashing in from out of nowhere from any and all angles.
  • 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.
  • TikTok star Francis Bourgeois (real name Luke Nicholson) achieved viral fame portraying an over the top train spotter, particularly with a famous video looking for a British locomotive named Dick Mabbutt. Luke has admitted to being a real train fan, but his Francis persona is definitely an over the top parody of the hobby.
  • Many websites cater to rail enthusiasts although many suffer various levels of jankiness and site breaking bugs due to their age, with rr.picture.archives, TrainOrders and being among the most remembered (and often loathed) sites. More modern sites such as Railfan Atlas which works with Flickr are making headways against the old guard, while Facebook has become a booming site of railfan discussion.
  • A niche-meme culture for railfanning has blossomed on social media with the British The Bash Mash and Americans such as The Memelord Foamer Shitpost Hype Train, Generic Foamer and Train Pictures With Chaotic Auras among the more notable examples.
  • Hyce: Colorado based YouTuber with a focus on rail enthusiast culture, games and history.
  • Lawrence Rose: British YouTuber who covers rail history on his Lawrie's Mechanical Marvels series.

  • The hosts of Well There's Your Problem are semi-ironic rail enthusiasts. Train accidents are one of the most popular subjects of the podcast, they occasionally get Distracted by the Sexy when one of the slides has a train on it, and their twitter account ran a 'sexiest rail line in North America' contest in 2021. Given the podcast's general tone it's up in the air just how seriously they take any of it however.

  • 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.

    Theme Parks 
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Selphie in Final Fantasy VIII.
  • In Lilly's route of Katawa Shoujo, she and Hanako express their preference for old trains when going to Hokkaido.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kung Lao's Friendship in Mortal Kombat 11 has him play with toy trains with a track going around his hat.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The surge of indie game development on Steam has added titles such as Derail Valley, Mashinky, and Railroads ONLINE! to the genre. Run 8 is another popular train simulator that has maintained a following. Arguably the current heavyweight rail simulator though is the aptly titled Train Simulator series, with the original Train Simulator Classic (formerly known as ''Rail Works'' and then just ''Train Simulator''), Train Sim World and Train Sim World 2. The Train Simulator series has come under fire though for locking much of its content as DLC exclusives.
  • In Super Mario RPG, Booster Tower has model train tracks running throughout, and Booster himself rides on a miniature train that's about the size of a go-kart.
  • 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
  • Trails Series
    • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure, there's a guy who can be found standing on Station Street just outside the train station pretty much all the time, gushing about trains whenever you talk with him. He is over the moon when the Chancellor Giliath Osborne's crimson train, the Eisengraf ("Iron Count"), pays a visit for the trade confrence in Azure. Conversely, when the transcontinental railroad through Crossbell is shut down later in the same game in the wake of Crossbell's declaration of independence and the Erebonian civil war, he is utterly bereft.
    • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Girl Genius: Brother Matthias likes trains quite a bit, to the point that he sees working on them as far more fulfilling than the things most other Sparks get up to, like ruling empires:
    Matthias: Not every Spark is crashing around trying to take over Europa, you know! Some of us get to work on trains! Beautiful, shiny, wonderful trains! Other Sparks beg us to build lines into their territories! Munahahaha!
  • In Widdershins, Alexa King's mother takes an avid interest in trains, particularly vintage Phlebotinum-Induced Steampunk engines imbued with spirits to improve their speed.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • The Casagrandes: Stanley Chang, the GLART subway conductor. He loves trains to the point that when he heard a model train class at his daughter's school had shut down due to lack of interest, he stopped the subway and told the passengers: "Your conductor needs to walk this one off."
  • 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".
  • Code Name Kids Next Door: When a rival pilot was discouraging Numbuh 2 from flying, he briefly considered toy trains a new hobby.
  • A Wing Dings blackout on Dastardly & 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)
  • Nearly everyone in Dinosaur Train is enthusiastic about trains, especially the Dinosaur Train. In particular, Tiny, Buddy, and many of their friends are junior conductors-in-training, and they love learning about how trains work almost as much as they love meeting dinosaurs.
    I can't explain, but I won't complain! I only know that I love trains!
  • King of the Hill: Ted Wasonasong is shown playing with a model train in one episode.
  • 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.
  • On the Animated Adaptation of Max and Ruby, Grandma's purchase of a toy train for Max kicks off a four-story train arc.
  • 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.
  • The kid in Play Safe, leading to Nightmare Fuel when he gets a little to close to his beloved trains.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • Thomas & Friends, 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.
  • "Porcupine Panic" from T.O.T.S. involves a porcupine named Petey who is this, but is afraid to go down the delivery tube into his cradle to get delivered. Pip and Freddy manage to solve it by connecting with him on his level, turning the delivery tube into a train game with him being the caboose.

    Real Life 
  • Antonín Dvořák was a dedicated early trainspotter, going to watch trains every day in Prague and taking notes of their numbers; during his stay in New York City, he temporarily switched his hobby to ship-spotting. The rhythm of his Humoresque Nr. 7 is said to be derived from the rhythm of a train on railway tracks. (This is in Central Europe, where tracks are different than in the USA, so the rhythm differs from the American railroad staples.)
  • Although he was a World War I Ace Pilot and ended up in charge of Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe (Air Force), Hermann Göring was also a miniature train enthusiast. The whole attic at his Carinhall lodge was covered in miniature train tracks and landscapes crossed by them.
  • 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 daughter and first 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. 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." Others joked that Biden's visit to Kyiv in 2023 was helped along by the prospect of a ten-hour train ride from Poland (flying in was considered too dangerous, what with the war going on), and the train that carried him was quickly dubbed "Rail Force One".
  • 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 drunken teenagers.
    • 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.
    • Johnny Cash wrote songs about train travel and was even in advertisements for Lionel Trains (although this was in the 1980s, which was considered a Dork Age for both).
    • Anthony D'Amato an indie folk singer-songwriter and member of the Americana supergroup "Fantastic Cat" is an avid rail photographer whose photos of the Durango & Silverton Railroad are often used by said railroad for promotional purposes.
  • Mandy Patinkin has a huge basement Lionel layout, mentioned and shown off for 25+ years in interviews from Tom Snyder in the 80s through Series/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. Train travel is also prominently featured in his films The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes, North By Northwest, and of course Strangers on a Train.
  • Buster Keaton loved trains, and used them many times in his films, most notably in The General (1926) 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 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.
  • British broadcaster Michael Portillo has a passion for steam trains which led to him presenting the BBC programme Great British Railway Journeys, which sees him travelling across the country and comparing the present-day Britain to the one in guidebooks printed in the 19th Century, when travelling by rail was in its infancy, and this has spread to similar shows in Continental Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and India. Before that, however, he was the Transport Secretary under Margaret Thatcher, during which time he prevented the closure of the historic Settle to Carlisle line, which he cites as his proudest achievement in politics, and is the president of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle group.
  • Eddie Izzard donated the Izzard Family Model Railway to Bexhill museum. The layout was originally built by Eddie, Mark and their father John, and depicts Sidley station (where they grew up) on a wintry evening in the 1940s.
  • Amish people vastly prefer trains for long-distance travel, as their culture forbids them from owning cars and they view flying as an unnecessary luxury (barring a medical emergency). It is not at all unusual to see extended Amish families riding the Amtrak between Pennsylvania and Missouri.
  • Dave Filoni has let his interest in trains show, particularly for GO Transit a Canadian commuter railroad, and he owns a collection of GO Transit model trains. He has snuck in rail related references to various Star Wars projects, most notably RG-G1 an astromech droid in the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars that is painted in the Pennsylvania Railroad's GG-1 locomotive colors.
  • Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg were an early 20th century couple who wrote railroad history books, along with articles on food, travel and western history. The two were arguably America's first celebrity gay couple, and their works were featured in Life, Playboy, and other major publications. Many modern railfans have pointed out much of their research was erroneous and built up railroad history as part of a mythological take on The Wild West (animator Ward Kimball was also guilty of contributing to that as well) but no railfan can deny Beebe and Clegg's contribution to the photographic art and their efforts to raise awareness of the then dying Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Since Beebe and Clegg's death much of the V&T has been rebuilt as a historic railroad, ensuring their legacy lives on.
  • Photographer O. Winston Link was famous for his black and white images of steam trains in their dying days along the Norfolk & Western in the United States. Link has a cameo as the locomotive engineer in October Sky, has had his work referenced in The Simpsons, and has a museum dedicated to him in Virginia.
  • George R. R. Martin and Michael Gross are part-owners of the Santa Fe Southern Railway (I guess that is what the "R. R." stands for in Martin's name...) Gross in particular has also been a celebrity spokesman for various railroad museums and has an extensive collection of railfan memorabilia.
  • One of the larger clubs at MIT is the Tech Model Railroad Club, or TMRC. This group of model train enthusiasts has its origins in 1946, and oddly enough, played a crucial role in the development of early computer hacker culture - many of the early programming students were also TMRC members, especially the 'Systems and Power' sub-group, and much of the early hacker jargon came from similar slang used by the club. The club itself was a testing ground for all sorts of automatic control systems and other early efforts in electronics and computer science. Notable members included Professor John McCarthy (an early AI proponent) and McCarthy's grad student Steve 'Slug' Russell (creator of the original Space War).
  • Hideaki Anno. All of the appearances of Neon Genesis Evangelion in the anime show Shinkalion were done with his express permission because the series is an Edutainment show about the Shinkansen line. It's also why the Ube-Shinkawa train station has such a significant plot appearance in the final Rebuild film.
  • Vladimir Putin took to travelling by private train, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine made him even more paranoid of attempts on his life. The thinking was that going by train instead of plane would make him harder to track. However, Russian trainspotters, like those in other countries, have an attention for fine details and love of anything out of the ordinary. To their practiced eyes, Putin's train is glaringly obvious and pictures of it soon became popular on Russian trainspotting sites.
  • Wileyk209zback is one of these, and has a fairly large HO-scale model railroad layout in his basement that he has shared videos of on his channel, utilizing a neat mix of older and newer model train equipment from The '60s to the present, and even has a working Drive-In Theater! (with a tablet in the screen streaming intermission snack bar advertisements and trailers)
  • Philip Reeve is a fan, which led to him writing Railhead, a YA science-fiction trilogy utilising futuristic trains in place of spaceships.


Video Example(s):

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


Midnight Express

Midnight Express has a fascination for steam trains and is more than willing to protect "Grandpa" from a potential Predacon ambush.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / RailEnthusiast

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