The Difference between Trainspotting and Railfanning

Trainspotting and railfanning are two terms often used interchangeably, but there are important differences between them. In this blog post, we’ll explore these differences, celebrate the similarities, and encourage readers to get involved in either activity.


Trainspotting is the act of recording the locomotive numbers and types of passing trains. This activity is often associated with a list-ticking approach, where the goal is to record as many different locomotive types as possible. Trainspotters may also focus on recording specific locomotive numbers or specific train types. Trainspotting can be done at train stations, along railway lines, or from vantage points overlooking the railway.


On the other hand, railfanning is the act of observing and enjoying trains and railway infrastructure. This activity is often associated with a photography approach, where the goal is to capture the beauty and power of trains through pictures or videos. Railfans may also enjoy learning about the history and technical aspects of trains and railways. Railfanning can be done in many of the same locations as trainspotting, but with a focus on capturing the visual appeal of trains rather than just their numbers and types.

Many Similarities

Despite these differences, there are many similarities between trainspotting and railfanning. Both activities involve a passion for trains and railways and a desire to observe and learn about them. Both activities can also be done alone or in groups and can be enjoyed at any age.

Whether you prefer trainspotting or railfanning, there are many opportunities to get involved. You can join a local trainspotting or railfanning group, attend railway events, or explore railway museums. You can also follow online communities and forums dedicated to trainspotting and railfanning. By getting involved in either activity, you can connect with others who share your passion for trains and railways, learn more about these fascinating subjects, and enjoy the beauty and power of trains.

Trainspotting and railfanning are two related but distinct activities, each with its own approach and appeal. Regardless of which one you prefer, both offer a chance to indulge in a fascinating and rewarding hobby that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. So why not give it a try and see what all the excitement is about?