“4-6-2!”.”4-4-4!” “Little sod! Bugger off!”. These expressions still chuff in my ears 50 or so years after I first heard them, as a trainspotter.
There was a time, in the 1950’s and 1960’s when many boys and grown men, spent their afternoons sitting on train station platforms, or on local railway cuts, waiting for trains to go by. Armed with a ruler and some colored biros (ballpoints) the idea was to “cop”, spot, or see, as many of the locomotives that you could that were listed in the Ian Allan ABC Locospotters books, and underline them.
The locos were listed by their Railway Regions, their class, and their bogey-wheel configurations. 4-6-2 was 4 small wheels in front, 6 big ones and then 2 small ones under the coal tender. When I was a kid the trains were mostly steam trains. So, steam trains and trainspotting and the experience of dirty, smelly, loud, impressive metal monsters chuffing down the track have melded into warm memories for many.
Trainspotting was a bit like birding – how many entries could cross off in your book? A damp locospotting book on a rainy day would have been a lot like a damp bird spotting book on a rainy day. Indeed: one of the popular stereotypes of the typical trainspotters was that they wore anoraks, like birders.
Railway embankments were often Urban Wilderness slopes, with bushes and brambles. A perfect place for a chap to take his bird. On one memorable occasion,Ii stumbled into a bloke and his bird :” ‘aving it off” in the brambles. He humping and heaving, she underneath him. Legs up in the air. Sex used to be called shagging which must be to be a birding term, since shags are sea birds. Anyway: there was lots of panting and moaning. I had never seen anything like it and was fascinated. It was such a funny sight, I guess I must have started laughing. And the next thing I knew, he was up and running after me, willy waggling, yelling “Little sod! Bugger off!”
Too bad I did not have an entry to cross off for copping that first experience.