Hello Readers,

My name is Matthew Walters, I am a volunteer for the Penistone Line Partnership, and supporting Sarah their Community Rail Officer. I’d love to start a career within the rail industry.


We came up with the idea of writing a Trainspotter’s Blog called “Traction!” to document what a day out trainspotting is like, for people outside the hobby, and for people who have always wanted to start trainspotting, but didn’t quite know how. We hope that this series of posts will be informative and inspire anyone interested in pursuing this hobby, to begin their journey. I have been trainspotting for 9 years now, and I am thankful for this opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with you on this platform.

Doncaster Railway Station: April 2024

Post Written by Matthew Walters


To begin, I will explain the timeline of events that took place throughout this session trainspotting to give you, the reader, an idea of what it’s really like.

Since this blog was created, I first visited Doncaster Railway Station on the East Coast Main Line. I travelled to Doncaster by train from Meadowhall on the 10:03 Northern Service to Scarborough. The journey time thankfully was only 20 minutes, so I was able to begin spotting as soon as the train had arrived on Platform 8. The first thing I did was pull my notebook out of my bag and my pen, to write down the numbers of the trains I was about to see in the day. I then went around Platform 8 recording numbers of different types of trains that were sat at the station and in the goods yard opposite Platform 8. This was to ensure that I wouldn’t miss any numbers that I had seen to make sure my findings were as accurate as possible.

Doncaster is on the Electrified East Coast Main Line, which means a wide variety of train types pass through the station on a day to day basis, these include:

  • Diesel Locomotives
  • DMUs (Diesel Multiple Units)
  • Electric Locomotives
  • EMUs (Electric Multiple Units)
  • Network Rail Engineering Vehicles

I will write about the most notable sightings from the day and explain why they are significant and sought after by spotters across the country.

The Midland Pullman


The first notable sighting from the day was the new charter train service, “The Midland Pullman”, which is a repurposed HST set of Class 43 Diesel Locomotives, and old slam door coaches from the 70s & 80s. It is a recreation of the Blue Pullman trains from the 1960s. This is a significant find for spotters because only a handful of these charter trains are currently in service and are rarely seen around the country often. Their numbers were 43047 and 43055, which were in storage before being repurposed for this charter train by Locomotive Services Ltd. In the same video was one of the many class 800 EMUs used by LNER on a service to London Kings Cross.

Freight Traffic


Other notable sightings were the various freight trains that rattled through Doncaster on this day, the one I took a video of for the blog was of Diesel Locomotive 66005 hauling a Container Train southbound through the fast lines of Doncaster Station. Class 66s are the most common freight Diesel Locomotive on the whole British rail network, and are the most likely ones for spotters to see as a result of this. The station was very quiet in terms of freight trains on this particular day, as this was by far the longest freight train that had come through during my day at Doncaster Station. Other Diesel Locomotives I also saw were Colas Rail 47714 and West Coast Railways 57314, which I both hadn’t seen their numbers before. This was during my lunch break, however, so I don’t have pictures or videos of those to show, unfortunately.

That leads me to another essential part of the day for a trainspotter, bringing yourself some lunch, when you travel around the network, you will be out for the full day, so bringing something that you like to eat for your dinner is essential so that you can stay sustained throughout your day. I had two butter croissants and ate them on Platform 0, as there were plenty of seats and shelter there, along with a good view of all the trains arriving and departing the station.  A tip from me for your trainspotting adventures is to bring a packed lunch to stay sustained and save money that you would spend on the day trying to find something to eat.

Tips for recording Fast Trains’ numbers


The last notable sightings that I documented for the blog, were the various express services flying through the fast lines. Not all services stop at Doncaster, as some need to use the fast lines to pass through the station. I took a video of one example of this, as the various EMUs and DMUs that passed through the fast lines included LNER units, Grand Central units, and LUMO units. Fast trains do give spotters a thrill as they show what speeds trains are truly capable of and makes the day genuinely more interesting and exciting as you wonder what’s going to pass through fast each day.

This, however, can make collecting numbers quite challenging, as they can be so fast, it is literally a blink-or-miss-it moment as they zoom through the station. To combat this, a tip from me is to take a video of the train, either at normal speed or in slow motion if your device is capable of that, and simply watch it back and pause at the right time to see the number. Or if you want to be more technical, a website I can recommend is “Realtime Trains“, which shows details of each train that will pass through the station on the day, and what their numbers are.


To conclude my first post, after 4 hours of Trainspotting at Doncaster, I took the 14:21 Northern Service to Sheffield and got off at Meadowhall, where I began the day. I had a good time and saw 91 trains in total and had seen 33 new numbers that I hadn’t record before. Trainspotting is a hobby of perseverance and patience, as it gets to a point where you have a handful of numbers left of a class of trains to see, and you just have to wait for it to eventually roll past you by chance. It’s a lottery of what you’ll see on each day, and despite each line-up and down the country having trains you will expect to see, there can be ones that are completely unexpected, which makes this hobby all the more enjoyable and exciting.

Overall, I had a positive experience going to Doncaster again, as it is one of my personal favourite stations to visit, due to the large amount of traffic that passes through the station on a regular basis. The variety of passenger and freight trains not just here, but on the whole network, bring sights that make this hobby worthwhile and an absolute blast to pursue. You’ll end up going to places you would never go to for any other reason, it takes you around the country as you visit new stations and places that you’ve never been to before. I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, there will be plenty more to come of my upcoming experiences, the next blog post will be in June.

Matthew 🙂