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Pursuing the Passionate Hobby of Railfanning in India

Pursuing the Passionate Hobby of Railfanning in India

In the fast paced, extremely stressful life environment, there is always time for pursuing a hobby. One such hobby is railfanning, which revolves around everything to do with trains, stations, heritage, history, operations, yards, and much more.

In India, railway is not just another mode of transportation; it offers a window seat to view the culture and traditions from up close. Railway was first introduced in India as a transportation system in 1853 and since then, it has grown to become one of largest railway networks in the world covering 115,000 km (71,000 miles). Such a large network with deep-rooted history offers plenty of avenues for learning, photography, and traveling. Today, India has around 5,000 railfans, and the number keeps growing by the day.

Railfanning, as a hobby can be divided into several segments. Each segment has its own benefits and charm and ensures the participation of like-minded hobbyists. The different segments are:

  1. Train Spotter: A train spotter (TS) focuses on spotting specific trains and sharing the running information with other train buffs. TS is involved in documentation of arrival and departure of trains at a specific station, the type or class of locomotive hauling it, the type or class of coaching stock, primary and secondary maintenance, and rake sharing arrangements if any.
  1. Loco Fan: They are rail buffs whose primary focus is locomotives. They specialize in documenting information on type and class of locomotives used with specific train, road number of a locomotive, AC/DC, shed name, horse power, bogie type, and much more. Photography and videography of locomotives along with trains is the favorite pastime of loco fans (LF’s). For example: 12343 Darjeeling Mail was hauled by WDP-4(class of locomotive), 20066 (road number), of Siliguri (shed name).
  1. Rail Enthusiast: Known as RE’s, they are the “super heavyweights” of railfanning. RE’s participate in several activities apart from train spotting and loco fanning. Their primary activity is documentation of yard layouts, operations and signaling, railway electrification system, rolling stock, coaching trains, track maintenance, type of gauge (narrow gauge, meter gauge, broad gauge, or standard gauge), containerization, haulage, motive power, passenger stations, railway heritage, trans-shipment yards, old and new alignments, Bridges, working time tables, loco sheds, and permanent way among others. RE’s travel across various railway divisions in India and create documentation of their visit to a specific area. They also share this documentation with the Indian Railway authorities to help plan for a better future. RE’s also specialize in creating railway system and yard layout maps, as well as drawings related to trains and locomotives.
  1. Heritage Fan: They are known as HF’s and their primary focus is on different types of railway heritage. They also participate as volunteers to resurrect Indian Railway heritage locomotives. The areas of focus and participation include steam locomotives, narrow and meter gauge trains and locomotives, redundant signaling systems like upper and lower quadrant semaphore, old sections and track alignments, and historical mapping of railway network.
  1. Time-Table Specialist: This comprises of a small group of dedicated train buff’s whose primary focus is reading the time-table and using it to identify various trains they will come across at a particular station. They have the ability to identify late running and on-time trains based on their knowledge. They always carry a copy of divisional time-table during their train journeys.
  1. Speed Fan: This is a new breed of rail buffs, also known as “Speedofs” and their passion lies in taking videos of high-speed trains. They normally visit specific sections where the maximum permissible speed is 100kmph or more and record videos, which are uploaded in YouTube for public viewing.

Every rail buff knows somewhere deep down that there are several railway men involved in different roles 24×7 to ensure the safe arrival of trains at their respective destination. This single thought makes each train buff dedicate this hobby to the unsung heroes!