If you think of a photographer, the most likely figure to come to mind is the man or woman who took the pictures and the video at your wedding. Since so many people around the world now own cameras, there is also a good chance that you can also count yourself as included in the ranks of the photographers. Yet in addition to helping us preserve our memories of important family events, photography is also a hobby that provides many people with a tremendous amount of enjoyment.
While many of those who make photography their hobby find their subjects among family and friends, there are also groups who specialize in a particular kind of photography. In Europe, and in particular in the United Kingdom, the railway photographer has long been a regular figure on mainline stations, and even at quiet country halts their cameras and tripods have quite often been seen.
It is hard to say which came first - their interest in the railway, its atmosphere and history or their interest in photography, and usually it is some combination of these two passions. Railway photographers are almost exclusively male and they seem to be an aging group. Many of them found the sight of a steam engine puffing its way up a sharp gradient an inspiring subject for their camera, and with the disappearance of steam from the 1960's their interest in this hobby waned.
It is not hard to understand that the electric or diesel engine presents a colder and far less dramatic subject for the lens. Today if you are looking out for the railway photographer you are most likely to encounter him on one of the preserved railway lines, standing on the platform of a recreated Victorian station and waiting for the arrival of a steam locomotive pulling its train of veteran carriages. You can also find him standing patiently on a railway bridge or by a level crossing anticipating the arrival of one of the occasional steam powered special trains that make their appearance on European mainlines.
While railway photography seems to be primarily associated with historic railways, you can also find some railway photographers taking an interest in modern traction. The making of railway videos giving a view of the line from the locomotive cab has become another railway photography sideline. Some of these videos are incorporated in online simulators. While these are often used for entertainment they can also be a useful tool in the training of new locomotive drivers.