This word describes the actions of railfans, the people who are interested in trains and follow them as a hobby.
I was on my way back home from the park on the C&O Canal at Point of Rocks when I decided to take a diversion through the parking lot of the Point of Rocks railroad station just for the heck of it. The interesting thing about this commuter station is that a railroad line from the east, from Baltimore (ex-B&O Old Main Line from Baltimore, one of the oldest lines in the country), meets up with another line from the southeast, from Washington, DC (ex-B&O Metropolitan Branch from Washington DC), just beyond the platform for the station. After the lines converge, a single line (double-tracked) continues onward to the west towards and beyond Burnswick, MD. There is plenty of freight traffic to be seen at the station. Trains going in opposite directions sometimes have to wait before entering the station because of tracks crossing each other.
I saw two people on the platform. One of them had a camera in hand and the other had a backpack and a radio unit that would squawk every once in a while. I suspected that they were railfans waiting for trains to come by. After sitting for a while in the car in a parking spot waiting for a train or two to come by, I worked up the courage to go down to the platform with my camera and try to pick up a conversation with them.
The two guys did not know each other but had already struck up a friendly conversation. The one with the radio was monitoring the railroad communications to find out when a train would come by. He seemed to understand the language of the railroad radio, including the identification of trains, recognition of locomotive sets used with the trains, and the language of track usage.
The guy with the radio told me that they were single tracking between Brunswick and Point of Rocks at that point. This meant that trains going in opposite directions would have to share the single track between Point of Rocks and Brunswick. Basically a train had to clear the entire stretch before another could be sent in the other direction. He told me that there were two CSX trains that were waiting to come out of Brunswick, one heading towards DC, and other towards Baltimore.
The first train we saw was one on the DC line, headed west, waiting outside the station for its signal to change. The lights indicated that that it was waiting for a train coming in its direction from Point of Rocks.
The first train that came by the station at about 11:30 am was an auto-train headed to DC.
About fifteen minutes later this was followed by a coal train headed towards Baltimore.
At this point the guy with the radio informed me that they had now also opened up the second track towards Brunswick. Trains would now be able to go in both directions at the same time in the stretch between Point of Rocks and Brunswick. Our westbound train from the Washington DC line began moving and approaching the station about 10 minutes later.
The train was moving at a good clip by the time the last freight car passed by.
By this time I felt that I needed to get going and back on my way home. I decided to head back to my car while the other guys continued to wait for the trains. All of a sudden I heard one of them say something about the Capitol Limited and I rushed back to the platform to see the Amtrak train approaching.
By this time, there was a westbound freight train from Baltimore approaching, waiting just outside of the station, before the intersection with Route 28, for the track to clear, and there was another westbound train heading towards Point of Rocks from the DC side. At this point I left the station.
I saw the train from Baltimore at the railroad intersection as I was headed home on Route 28. I parked the car and waited for a while for the train to get its signal to proceed.
I could hear the train from the DC line going past the Point of Rocks station behind me as I was waiting. I waited for a little while longer for the Baltimore train to move but nothing seemed to be happening. I finally gave up and headed home. I guess I am not a real railfan!