Despite different interests, trainspotters find community within their hobby

Despite different interests, trainspotters find community within their hobby
Posted at 11:46 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 23:46:57-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- A group of people have come together over a shared admiration for a very specific form of transportation.

"It's like in your blood," Jeff Allgood, a self-proclaimed trainspotter, said. "It's a relaxing hobby. A lot of good people in this hobby."

You may see them at the side of railroad tracks, waiting for the next train to pass them by.

"I'm usually out here Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays," David Williams, another trainspotter, said.

"I've always enjoyed trains," Jack Britton said.

Some drive from out of state just to find the best place to sit and watch the trains roll by. One of these places is near Collier Yard in Petersburg.

"There are a lot of fans that come here. We have friends from the Carolinas, Tidewater, Northern Virginia," David said.

Those who travel far and wide to this specific spot believe that it holds a special vantage point.

"Oh yeah, this is a real good spot because we've got two lines, two lines coming, so really, it doubles our chances of seeing a locomotive," Ray Mehl said.

Some have been following this hobby for decades.

"I've been spotting trains with my husband for probably 35 years now," Christy Letson said.

For many, their affinity with trains started at an early age. Jeff said that he borrowed his love of trains from his grandfather.

"He used to take me up to the station in Alberta, Brunswick County, and that's how I got into it," he explained.

"Trains were everywhere when I was a child, that was a normal part of life. They were as prevalent as buses," David said.

Like any hobby, many of the trainspotters have specific niches and interests that capture their attention while watching the tracks.

"I usually take pictures of the trains, so I'll write down the locomotive number and the train number," Ray said.

Outside of the trains themselves, there are specific gadgets that also capture the attention of the locomotive fans.

"This is just an Amtrak app that shows me where all the Amtrak Trains are in the United States," Craig Miller said.

When it comes to trains, each person is looking for something that is special to them.

"The old railroad lines that are still represented. It's kind of cool to sit by the trackside and watch and in between trains, read a book," Christy said.

"The older stuff, I like the older stuff," Craig said.

"I like to see the cars that have writing all over them. Some of the graphics are really good," Jack said.

"I want to see a car that is 40 to 50 years old that's still in service," David said.

As with many hobbies, the time spent alongside the tracks just isn't about trains. It's often about taking the time to sit down and talk to one another.