Is trainspotting the latest hipster trend?

Virgin Trains has discovered that trainspotting is emerging as the latest hipster trend as millennials with a thirst for photography, high-speed travel and fast-moving technology declare their love for trains online like never before.

As the launch of the new high-tech Virgin Azuma train creeps closer, interest from millennials shows no signs of slowing down. Since announcing the new fleet last year, the train operator has seen three clear peaks in engagement from fans – including during the Azuma’s inaugural test run to Scotland in August.

Social media analytics platform Talkwalker has also identified more millennial Instagrammers documenting train travel than ever before, with the hashtags #trainporn and #train_nerds increasing in popularity by over 200 per cent in just four months. Meanwhile, the #ukrailscene hashtag saw posts increasing by 615 per cent for the same period – and over three-quarters of those posts came from people under the age of 35.

Virgin Trains East Coast Azuma

Looking further into this trend, Virgin Trains enlisted help from subculture expert and author of Style Tribes, Caroline Young. “This new type of train fan is an avid social media user who seeks unique adventures and experiences that will help them connect with, and impress, thousands of other users,” she said.

“Not only is there a certain ‘geek chic’ attached to the concept of trainspotting, but the journey becomes part of the travel experience as people enjoy the chance to observe scenery, read, listen to music, and even write. Technology is key to their lives, and we know they’re snapping and sharing their real-life experiences more than ever before.”

She added: “The new Azuma fleet will be giving this new wave of trainspotter something they’ve been excited to see for years – a totally revolutionised fleet of trains equipped with the perfect mix of speed, advanced technology and sleek design that we know the modern rail fan craves.”

Richard Branson Virgin Trains East Coast Azuma

Caroline also helped to identify some of the top new generation trainspotters, including Vicki and Geoff who run the All The Stations blog – and recently completed a challenge of visiting every rail station in Great Britain. Vicki said: “We’ve loved the response to our videos, which have now reached more than six million views, as it really shows that there is a growing interest in railways and train travel, and many are younger enthusiasts who, like us, are keen to have an adventure and explore the country by rail.”

Aileen Jordan, director of Azuma at Virgin Trains East Coast, added: “We’re really excited to see trainspotting transcend generations and become as popular amongst hipsters as it is with regular fans. Azuma has been sparking conversations on social media since we unveiled the train last year, and we’re delighted it is inspiring a younger train enthusiast. We’re looking forward to exciting even more fans when our trains hit the tracks in barely a year’s time, and move us into the next era of high-speed passenger train travel.”

The Azuma is due to launch on the rails in December 2018.


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