Railfans at Fullerton Train Station

Railfans at Fullerton Train Station

Die-hard railroad fanatics, known as 'foamers,' gather at stations to study, videotape and photograph trains. Here's why.

The Los Angeles Times visits the Fullerton train station and takes a closeup look at why avid railroad fans regularly hang out there. Its video-profile focuses on one particular photographer, Jeffrey Bass, and his images.

The most die-hard are known as foamers — a term believed to have originated as an insult, used to describe people who get so excited at the sight of a train that they foam at the mouth. Studying, videotaping, riding – the so-called ‘foamers’ are crazy about trains. Bass is a member of the Fullerton Foamers and Foto Society (FF&FS). On busy nights, there are five or six similar gatherings of railfans at the Fullerton station, sometimes as many as 50 railfans in all. Engineers have taken to calling it “Foamerton.” The FF&FS is tight-knit and well-organized. Members bring scanners to listen to conversations between engineers and conductors and a laptop programmed to replicate what dispatchers see at their desks. Many members are published photographers.

The trainspotting hobby has exploded in recent years. There are railfanning magazines. You can download freight train ring tones. “Basically, we sit around solving the world’s problems and complaining about our jobs,” explains Bass, 48, who manages the parts department at a car dealership. “Then a train comes, and everything stops. We all watch the train. Then the train passes on and we get back to it. Everybody has their own interest. This is ours.”

Length: 2:21

Video: Sachi Cunningham
Photography: Jeff Bass