“I think engines, machinery and the like don’t appeal to women so much because they have a different sort of brain… If you asked someone why they like football, they probably couldn’t answer. I just started looking at trains and carried on. I don’t think it’s any different from any other hobby – it’s not an anorak thing at all.”
You might be familiar with Trainspotting (no not the film). We’re talking about those men who stand at the end of regional UK station platforms - or as they’re also known Rail Enthusiasts / Bashers / Railfans and less favourably Anoraks. Trainspotting is a somewhat maligned hobby that embodies the paradox of existing in a private community but also very much in the public realm. Even though they’re not uncommon to spot themselves, the community’s backdrop exists predominantly in a teeming online presence riddled with gender issues and furiously passionate typed arguments between Trainspotters and train station staff.
What has struck us is that this hobby is nearly always conducted by men, and this is very clear in the online world as much as it is in railways stations. The image of a solitary male, standing in whatever incremental weather throws at him at the end of the platform has fascinated us, as well as the fact we’ve come to learn that more younger men now are interested in this hobby than ever.
This project will explore contemporary masculinities through the lens of this hobby, looking at isolation and loneliness as well as the fascination with watching, and waiting. We will look at the symbolic resonance of train stations as transient places, and delve into the online community to understand who these people are. As two people identifying as women conducting this process, we are keen to embody the Trainspotters, and will use performance practices including drag, clowning and queer feminist performance to work out how we can share this very public space together and explore the draw for specifically men.