Trainspotters make me cry. Out of the hundreds of commuters passing through Victoria Station this morning, only two or three strayed off their morning routine to admire the Steam Dream train pulled into platform three that is taking a trainload of expectant passengers on a day out to Stratford.
As I stand amongst the excited passengers and trainspotters who have come up to the front of the train for the view, I feel a tear come to my eye. There is something about a grown man getting excited about a locomotive. A gentleman in beige trousers and a sensible jacket stands in front of the train as a stranger takes his photograph, “Yes, yes. Just press the button! Oh I can’t believe it! I was just passing by!” he manages to say through his grin, “This has made my day!” It just breaks my heart.
Well, it’s not that it breaks my heart exactly, but in that moment, I feel us both to be acutely human. There is the fragility of an obsession amongst the steam. It’s painfully beautiful. And reassuring… his hurried steps to get to the front of the train. The spiral bound notepad full of numbers I don’t understand, 390-001, 278-151, 340-003, and I can’t even see this mystical numerology marked anywhere on the train. I want to stop one of the men and ask him what he does with all those numbers. I want to buy him a cup of tea from Journey’s Friend and sit on the platform edge, our feet dangling over the rails, as he tells me which brand of pencil he prefers and I brush his comb-over.
I realise this obsession has more to do with what I lack, than what these unlikely Casanovas possess. We often take lovers who live out a side of ourselves that we cannot. I’m a successive failed poet via my previous boyfriends, but since they have not satisfied my untapped creative urges, perhaps trainspotters are the way forward? I often get frustrated by my fluctuations in self-discipline and dedication, and trainspotters have these by the carriage-load. As I make my way back to the main concourse, I wonder whether a trainspotter would help me be more focused. The hotshot cityboys around me on the underground might focus on working nine to five, but I am unavoidably intrigued by someone who is willing to stand on a platform at five to nine in the morning, searching for a fleeting glimpse of a number amongst the steel and high voltage. I get out my notepad and begin to write, “trainspotters make me cry…”