The term ferrovipathe (in British English, ” trainspotter ” in American English , ” railfan “), refers to a passionate train and the railway world. The ferrovipathe is devoted to one or more fields: observation, recordings of compositions and photography of trains; railway heritage management : historical work and archiving, restoration of old trains (including steam locomotives), collection of trains or railway parts; model railroad …

Names and etymology

The term “ferrovipathe” is a neologism, born from the association of ” ferro “, by assimilation to “railway”, and from the Greek ” pathos “, meaning raw passion.

Some ferrovipathists are defined with humor as “sick of the train”, by assimilation to the terminus “pathie”, coming from the same Greek root, associated with the notion of suffering. This idea of suffering, or medical condition is not always appreciated by some one , who prefer to be defined simply as “train enthusiasts” or “railway enthusiasts.”

Synonym appellations exist: like that of “ferroviphile” (of ” ferro “, by assimilation to “railway”, and of the Greek ” philia “: “love of”), or that more constructed of ” siderodromophiles ” (of the Greek ” sidero ” “Iron”, ” drome “: “path”, and ” philia “: “love of”), although the latter term is already used to designate a paraphilia 2 .

The term ” trainspotter “, which comes from British English, and particularly from the term ” spotter ” (designating an airplane enthusiast) is sometimes used, as well as ” railfan “, coming from American English. In the United Kingdom, the trainspotters are sometimes nicknamed ” anorak ” because of their predilection to wear a big coat intended to support several hours of presence on a platform of station 3 .

Activities of ferrovipathes

Observation and exploration

Observation and exploration concern both active railways and those that have not seen trains for a long time. This activity is multiple:

  • movement observation (corresponding to the English name of Trainspotting 3 );
  • observation of a particular type of material;
  • search for traces of a disappeared railroad;
  • urban exploration , railway oriented;
  • accompaniment of a train, in the driver’s cab;
  • etc.

This desire for exploration may lead some amateurs to plan full stays solely to observe a type of train or a railway region. These amateurs are called bashers in English.

Railway Photography

Rail photography is the most frequently encountered ferroviphatic activity with observation and exploration, which it completes effectively. Railway photography is mainly used as documentation. Its practice depends on the policy of the country where the train or railway facility is to be photographed, as well as the regulations of the operating company; each country therefore has its own regulation in this area 4 .

In France , railway photography is still allowed outside the railway rights- 5 . Within these, the photograph is theoretically prohibited 6 , because of the present activity of the Vigipirate Plan .

Search for documentation and collection

The search for documentation, in order to complete the knowledge concerning certain trains or certain railway regions, is the activity of some railroad workers. Research can cover many aspects, such as rail infrastructure, rail accidents, certain types of locomotives, and so on.

Collection and restoration of railway equipment

Main article: Railway Heritage .

This branch of railway passion is often the most spectacular and the most visible. It consists in preserving railway heritage , through the collection of parts (registration plates, mechanical parts, decorative objects …), the restoration of a building 7 , the conservation of materials 8 , or, more impressive , the refurbishment of a locomotive or the operation of a tourist railway .

Railway modeling

Rail model making is the reproduction, through models and models, of trains and the rail world. Many model railway are ferrovipathes, engaging in particular in photography and research documentation to get closer to the models they reproduce.

The railway model collection is often referred to as “ferrovipathy”, but model trainers prefer to call themselves ” ferromodelists “.

Railway Tourism

Rail tourism consists of visiting places thanks to the railway, whether for the landscape or historical quality of the line, the reputation of the route or the fact that the trip is made by tourist train , operating with heritage material railway . To lead the experiment to its pinnacle, some ferrovipathists go to wear the uniform of a ticket controller 9 .

In culture

  • Trainspotting , Irvine Welsh’s noveltakes its name from a book scene, showing the activities of a ferrovipath. This scene was not included in the film from the novel .
  • The new Olivier Gechter ‘s Ferrovipathe (awarded at the Bagneux Festival in 2010) features a ferroviphathe so passionate that he stubbornly refuses to die.


Related article: List of railway model journals .

Several journals exist, specialized on real railway subjects or miniature, of which, in France :

  • Railroad Life (LVDR), dedicated to railways and transport and publisher on these topics;
    • Rail Passion , edited by LVdR and dedicated to the news of railways, especially French;
  • Rail , French railroad magazine;
  • Ferrovissime , a review of the study of French railway equipment;
  • Rail objective ;
  • Miniature Flash Rail (RMF);
  • General Review of Railways (RGCF).

Notes and references

  1. ↑ See the article’s discussion page
  2. ↑ Claude Leroy, Gabrielle Chamarat, rail Sheets: literatures of the railway, Paris-Mediterranean 2006 ( ISBN  9782842722463 ) , p. 258 [ read online  [ archive ] ]
  3. ↑ a and b Hugues Serraf, « « Trainspotters »: the hard life of English ferrovipathes »  [ archive ] , Slate.fr, (accessed May 31, 2013 )
  4. ↑ See the site of Pierre-Noël Rietsch  [ archive ] , which lists the practices and regulations concerning railway photo for each country.
  5. ↑ See the answer on the forum of the SNCF  [ archive ] .
  6. ↑ The lack of response on the forum SNCF  [ archive ] does not provide a clear answer.
  7. ↑ List of stations  [ archive ] inventoried in France
  8. ↑ List of railway equipment  [ archive ] inventoried in France
  9. ↑ Fan of the SNCF, he played the controllers  [ archive ]

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