Trains. Perhaps the only real form of transport to have such a following. I realise that planes spark an interest in people, they certainly do for me and spotting Eddie Stobart lorries whilst driving down the motorway is for some more of an obsession than a game just to keep the kids interested but there is no other transport that has such an enthusiastic following.
Firstly there are the enthusiastic train spotters. The stereotypical train spotter stands in the rain at the end of platform 3 at Crewe station dressed in a Parka raincoat ticking off the train numbers as they pass in and out of the station. But train enthusiasts are much more than just spotters, there at a whole number of levels.
Firstly we have the home train enthusiast. More typically male and over the age of 50 with an empty loft or a spare bedroom. These gentlemen frequent specialist toy shops to purchase scale models of trains old and new and then spend their weekends constructing York station or a Welsh branch line.
The second group are a unique bunch of people who work as a group to restore and maintain steam railways around the country. These people work as volunteers to recreate the past to enable the general public to experience the age of the steam train as well as providing useful TV and film sets. These are serious individuals who give up their time and money, employing considerable talents to work at something they really feel passionate about.
Then there is the the third group. I met some of these today. These railway enthusiasts are the people who maintain and run the narrow gauge railways that are found at historic houses, garden centres and open farms. The small railways that run tiny trains that are still powerful enough to pull a good number of kids and their parents around an oval track usually decorated with plastic animals or bizarrely quite often plastic dinosaurs. I rode on one of these trains today, and there was evidence of quite a few people getting involved in the driving and maintenance of the train and the tracks. It was a eclectic group, young, old, male and female. And they all seemed to be having fun playing railways.
I guess that is what many people see trains to be. Not just a way of commuting to the big smoke every working day. But entirely different. A big toy to enjoy the outdoors in.