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Service User Blog: Finding joy in trainspotting as a visually impaired person

One of our service users, Roy, has written a blog about trainspotting, a hobby he greatly enjoys.


Roy’s trainspotting story

Hello, my name is Roy and I am visually impaired.  My sight is best described as being one where everything is concealed behind a kaleidoscope of disturbances and distortion. Life is often a challenge but my happy place is when I am out train spotting, especially freight.


Depending on the level of brightness of the day, I am able to see trains but not in great detail and that is why I take pictures using my phone so I can zoom in afterwards and see the number of the locomotive, it’s livery and if it has a name.  Other times, I allow my other senses to paint a picture and this is just as appealing to me.


Last Wednesday, I set off from a wet Glasgow Central to Carlisle on the high speed Avanti service. The journey down took just over an hour. When I arrived at Carlisle, it was still overcast and rainy but thankfully the railway station offers full protection from the elements with a roof. The usual fare of passenger trains criss-crossing the country, were punctuated with some gems, notably by two “Body Snatchers” and a passenger train dedicated to the centenary of the Royal Air Force.


a freight train with a yellow and orange front car with the words "Colas Rail Freight" printed on it

A Coastal Freight train with an orange and yellow engine carrying logs


The “Body Snatchers” are rebuilds with new engines, of older class 47 locomotives originally introduced in 1964-65. Both, in tandem, were pulling over 20 wagons of logs that were heading down from Carlisle to the Austrian founded, Kronospan factory site at Chirk, Wales, that manufacturers wood based panels which are used in flooring, furniture and timber framed houses. Each journey by rail is taking 16 lorries off the road network. The freshly cut logs had a strong singed smell that was soon overpowered with the diesel fumes from both locomotives working at full capacity. The train dedicated to the centenary of the Royal Air Force was adorned in its colours and with silhouettes of aircraft from the past 100 years. It was quite a find, indeed Hornby have already immortalised it in model form.


Side of a passenger train car with silhouettes of old aircrafts and the words "100 years of the Royal Air Force" printed on it

The side of a white passenger train car with silhouettes of old aircrafts and the words “100 Years of the Royal Air Force” printed on it.


On the Thursday, I headed down to Wakefield, near Leeds, where I got to see one of the 17 daily trains that run from Liverpool docks  delivering up to 20,000 tonnes of wood pellets, from Canada, which are devoured by three generating units at the enormous Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire. The locomotive I saw doing this delivery was named The Royal Scotsman which is normally seen doing more glamorous duties like a luxury sleeper train that explores the beauty of the Scottish Highlands during the summer months. A cabin then costs over £8,000 for 4 nights doing a malt whisky tour!!


The side of a brown train car with the words "Belmond Royal Scotsman" printed on it

Side of one of the cars of the Belmond Royal Scotsman train. 


Another notable locomotive I saw at Wakefield was The Royal Corps of Signals. The 129-tonne Class 66 locomotive was named by Major General John Crackatt of the Royal Corps of Signals on armed forces day back in 2017. It was pulling 23 wagons of stone. The sheer power of the locomotive was deafening and you could feel the thunderous vibration underfoot.


Side of a blue train car with the words "Royal Corps of Signals" and the number 66756 printed on it

Side of a blue and yellow Royal Corps of Signals train car


Afterwards, two Class 66 Freightliner locomotives tentatively passed through the station with a dozen tanks of aviation fuel. A nice end to the day and my trip down south!!


Side of a grey freight train with the number 10801 printed on it The engine of a dark purple and yellow GB rail freight train

The left image shows three gray tank cars of a freight train

The right image shows the dark purple and yellow engine of a GB Railfreight train

Image of Paul Hanlon
Written by: Paul Hanlon

Posted on the: April 11, 2024
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