There’s so much more to fanning, especially on the bus and rail sides of the hobby, that I had to add a Part 2 to this post. Believe me, I’m starting to think about the plethora of topics to speak on when I get to railfanning and what it entails. There is quite a lot to try to understand, and I shall make the best attempt to touch most if not all of it.
Here are some more ways that bus enthusiasts enjoy this hobby/interest:
Observing vehicles, jotting vehicles down, and comparing notes
In order to enhance the bus enthusiast experience, we have to know what to look for and why we are looking for it…or not looking for it. We have an understanding of what buses transit agencies have and where they are assigned. We know which routes are based out of what garages based on what buses we know are assigned to these garages. I can say that if I saw a 1200-series New York City Transit NovaBUS LFSA articulated bus on Fordham Road, I can narrow down what route it could be on, based on the fact that any 1200s in the Bronx are based out of the Gun Hill Bus Depot. Any 1200s in the Bronx seen on Fordham Road could be assigned to the Bx12/Bx12 +Select or the Bx22 since those routes are Gun Hill routes. If it was spotted on a route like the Bx9, a Kingsbrigde-based route, I would think either (a) it was transferred to Kingsbridge for use on the Bx9, or (b) it was loaned to Kingsbridge to replace a bus that broke down when a replacement couldn’t otherwise be located.
Some bus enthusiasts keep track of what buses were rehabbed, repainted, restored after being out of service for long periods of time, or retired from service. The 9800- and 9900-series Orion V CNG models from 1998-2000, formerly NYC DOT private lines units, were retired at various times in 2012, 2013, and even 2014. Some bus fans had a list of every bus in this series and would cross them off if they were retired from the active MTA Bus and/or NYC Transit roster. This was mainly to dispute and confirm or deny any sightings by people who think they saw a particular bus in service when it was actually retired, or vice versa. Some fans keep track of what buses they have ridden in a series, what buses they have yet to ride, which ones they have photographed, and which ones they have photographed continuously. We even keep track of buses that have been transferred to multiple garages in its lifespan. Many of us might keep track of these vehicle movements on paper, while others have it in the back of their minds and catalogued in their memory banks. We have so many ways to document our observations and relate them to previous experiences, much like mnemonic devices.
I can recall, for example, nearly every general assignment of New York City Transit’s 6000-series buses from 1999. When they were brand new, they were assigned to Mother Clara Hale Depot in Harlem (#6000-6065), Amsterdam Depot in West Harlem (#6066-6119), Casey Stengel Depot in Flushing (#6120-6139), Castleton Depot in Livingston (#6140-6279), and Yukon Depot in Eltingville (#6280-6349). In time, when Amsterdam and Mother Clara Hale closed for revenue vehicles, their buses wound up in places like Kingsbridge Depot in Marble Hill, Gun Hill in Co-op City, and West Farms Depot in the West Farms section of the Bronx. Nowadays, they are found in all of these depots except West Farms, and now Grand Avenue in Maspeth and Charleston Depot in Tottenville have a number of them. Numberically, they aren’t all together either, as several clusters of 6000’s are scattered between these depots with no rhyme or reason other than that these depots need buses wherever and whenever.
Attending trade shows and gatherings
Trade shows are a great way for fans and enthusiasts, working in the industry or not, to get together and talk buses, everything about them, from what systems they have ridden to who has their favorite buses. Trade shows, however, aren’t the only bus enthusiast outlet, since getting together at special events and bus gatherings is a great way to feel like a member of a group without having to subscribe or pay membership dues. You may have special groups like the Motor Bus Society and the Metropolitan New York Bus Association that have charter trips and conventions for paying members with special perks, but you can be part of a smaller group of friends and fans who enjoy the hobby in the same way. Not all groups are named, and not all groups have websites or Facebook pages, but those that do have usually an open membership with conditions that need to be met.
Some gatherings have their perks, including occasional bus facility visits, access to subscriptions to industry magazines, and transit paraphernalia handouts by transit systems. All of them, though, give bus fans a sense of belonging in a world where bus fanning is considered nearly taboo or just plain weird. In this universe, bus fans can enjoy their buses with other people that enjoy buses, even share their experiences and information with those who buy, sell, drive, fix, build, photograph, and transport buses to their customers. It does help that many people that are bus fans actually do work in the industry, and some of us actually developed more of an interest of buses after working with buses for several years. There’s something about a 40,000-bound vehicle with a 6-cylinder, 280-horsephower engine and seating for around 40 people with a slew of passenger amenities that brings fans together to photograph, cherish, buy, sell, drive, draw, paint, and imitate these vehicles. It’s like car owners and dealers, but with big passenger transit buses and coaches.