Shadowing the tramspotters through Edinburgh

Tramspotter John Dunnet. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Tramspotter John Dunnet. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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At £2 million a piece, the trams have proved a productive pastime for fans of city’s new mode of transport

WITH his trusty camera and dog-eared notebook he stalks his prey through the streets of the Capital.

Gogar is his favoured hunting ground, he has bagged more than 12 confirmed sightings from his spot perched high on the hill above.

However it isn’t an easy shot into a crowded pen he’s looking for, his grand plan is to capture all 27-strong herd in their natural environs.

John Dunnet, from Lothian Road, is a keen tramspotter, whose stated ambition is to photograph each one of the £2 million trams at stops along the line.

And that’s not all, the 77-year old former warehouseman, who rode the city’s last tram back in 1957, also wants to document the entire route from start to finish.

He said: “I think the tram is great, they’ve changed a lot since I last rode one back in 1957 but that’s what I find interesting. Transport and tram systems have changed considerably since then, there’s always something new to keep you interested.

“I’ve had an interest in trams and the railways since I was a boy and regularly go trainspotting at Waverley, especially the steam engines.

“I hope to take photos of all 27 trams and also wish to chronicle the entire route from start to finish.

“I’ve taken hundreds of photos in different spots from the airport to York Place. I tend to stay away from the platforms as I prefer a clear photo.”

In a rather fitting book-end to his ride on the last tram in the city, John was also one of the first city residents to get a ride on board the new tram system when he took part in Exercise Salvador in March.

Tram chiefs requested 1000 volunteers to test the stop at Murrayfield and John was only too happy to answer the call.

He said: “I got a trip from Haymarket Yards to the airport. It was very smooth and great to get a look inside after photographing them passing for the past few months.”

John is by no means alone in his affection and interest for the trams, tram drivers regularly tell of spotters lining the route each day snapping away with one Saughton resident regularly seen dashing out of his house to log a new number.

Bruce Kitchener, from Muirhouse, is also a regular spotter, who often spends his lunch hours away from Sainsbury’s in Murrayfield down on the nearby tramline.

The 25-year-old shoots both pictures and videos, uploading the latter to YouTube – several of his videos having garnered more than 5000 views.

He said: “I’ve always been into trams and trains and I’m looking to get each one of the 27. There’s a few still out in the depot that haven’t been used yet, at present I’ve bagged about 20 of them.”

Bruce was turned on to all things on rails by his dad and fellow trainspotter, Geoff.

He added: “A good number of my mates are into it too. Ever since the tram began running you see all types of folk stopping and staring or grabbing their cameras.

“I’ve been down to Manchester to have a look at their tram too, but they don’t compare with Edinburgh, it looks great travelling along Princes Street with the castle in the background.”

Another keen tramspotter, rather unsurprisingly is Edinburgh planning and transport expert, Robert Drysdale, although he’s keen to point out he is by no means “a diehard”.

He said: “I’m more interested in the provision of public transport. I’ve been chronicling the city tram project for some time taking photographs.

“It has been enlighteneing to see people’s attitudes change towards the tram once they began appearing on city streets, everyone is snapping away and filming.”

Back in March, hundreds of snaps of the sleek carriages appeared on Twitter following the start of regular daytime testing all under the hashtag – #tramspotting.

This trend owes its identity to Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, 55.

The Leith-born writer came up with the #tramspotting hashtag and has tweeted in the past: “@EdinburghTrams Can’t wait. Loved them when they came to Dublin. Best thing that happened to the town.”

The mini craze has seen pictures uploaded from every conceivable vantage point – the City Chambers, Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh Airport Control Tower and the Scott Monument, to name but a few.

However despite this rise in interest, Howard Johnston, of trade magazine Tramways and Urban Transit, believes the Edinburgh tram will only ever be an “entry level tram system” for would-be spotters.

He said: “Once they’re fully up and running and accepting passengers, you will be able to bag the entire fleet in just one day sitting outside the Gogar depot.

“Meanwhile in Manchester, a much larger system with six lines, it might take you several days or several trips to collect all the numbers.

“One thing Edinburgh has though is that they are new and sleek, however I believe the interest in them will be a passing phase as it is a fairly simple system.”

Despite this, tram bosses are hopeful of the positive feeling continuing in the coming weeks as the trams continue to become a daily part of city life. Edinburgh Trams director Tom Norris said: “We’re delighted that there’s been 
so much interest in the trams and it’s fantastic to see excitement building – our drivers certainly try to give a wave to any fans they spot along the route.

“We’ve also had a great online response to increased tram testing and we’ve even involved some of our most enthusiastic social media followers to help spread our ‘#carefulnow’ tram safety messages and to post pictures of the trams around the city.”

Enthusiasts start from an early age

TRAMSPOTTERS aren’t all old men in flat caps either, as one 13-year-old tram enthusiast will testify.

Tom Walker, from Morningside, has long been a fan of all things rail and tram-related, he’s even managed to bag himself a one-on-one meeting with city transport convener Lesley Hinds.

The Boroughmuir High pupil sent a letter to Cllr Hinds last November in which he detailed his proposal to open up the Edinburgh South Suburban Rail line to trams.

A few days later he got a response and was soon sitting across from her in City Chambers, informing the councillor of the benefits of opening the freight line which runs through Haymarket, Gorgie, Morningside, Niddrie and Musselburgh. He said: “In Sheffield they co-ordinated the trams on to the rail lines so if they could do it, why can’t we? Councillor Hinds sounded quite interested in my proposal.”

Tom is a regular tramspotter, having bagged more than 20 trams so far, he added: “I’ve ticked off quite a few and look forward to completing the set.”

NUMBER CRUNCHER

Size of fleet:

• 27 trams

Supplier:

• Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) of Spain.

Length:

• 42.8 metres

Capacity:

• Up to 250 passengers, consisting of 78 seats, two wheelchair spaces, and 170 standing passengers

Top speed:

• 80 km/h (50mph).