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Carried away: Why do transport enthusiasts do what they do?

SINGAPORE — Last Tuesday, self-professed transport enthusiast Muhammad Naz Farihin joined other enthusiasts at Woodlands Interchange at about 11am to wait for a Mercedes-Benz O405 bus to arrive. The group then went up the bus and rode the service from Woodlands to its terminal stop at HarbourFront — a journey that took 50 minutes. The model of the bus was about to be retired, and Naz and the others wanted to take a photo of the bus and its route before it ceased its services.

SINGAPORE — Last Tuesday, self-professed transport enthusiast Muhammad Naz Farihin joined other enthusiasts at Woodlands Interchange at about 11am to wait for a Mercedes-Benz O405 bus to arrive. The group then went up the bus and rode the service from Woodlands to its terminal stop at HarbourFront — a journey that took 50 minutes. The model of the bus was about to be retired, and Naz and the others wanted to take a photo of the bus and its route before it ceased its services.

Student Naz, 19, is one of many transport enthusiasts here in Singapore who have found their passion in observing the buses, trains and planes plying our roads and skies.

For bus enthusiasts, also called bus spotters, many of them are members of the Singapore Bus Spotters Association (SBSA), a group that is passionate about spotting models of buses on the roads. With several new bus routes launched in Singapore over the past four years and new bus livery rolled out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), these bus fans certainly have a lot on their plate.

As part of SBSA’s activities, members would hop on a bus and then hop off after travelling for a distance, before getting onto another service and getting off again. Think cafe hopping — but with buses. “By changing from one bus to the other, we get to not only document the buses of the past and the future, but also get to discover different routes to get to our destination,” said Naz, who is SBSA’s vice-president.

Sometimes, groups numbering 30 to 40 would charter a bus for “joyrides” around the island, he added. Besides enjoying the trip, they would stop at various locations to take photos of that bus. Members would also attend bus-related events such as the recent SG Bus Journey Carnival, and service launches by operators, such as the Bulim Carnival Day hosted by Tower Transit Singapore.

“My passion for buses started off from as young as five to six years old, when I usually utilise the bus to commute with my dad. The passion grew from just spotting buses to collecting parts for memory’s sake” said Naz, adding that he began pursuing this hobby seriously five years ago.

For example, he collects bus parts such as badging, registration plates and service number plates. “We would usually head down to the local authorised scrapyards located around Singapore, where we will then liaise with the owners to allow us to preserve and collect the unused bus parts like the plates and number plates,” he said.

He also collects detailed die-cast scaled bus models, he said, adding that he spent about S$10,000 so far, with each model going about S$60 to S$80 a piece.

Another bus enthusiast is photographer Christopher Tan. The 27-year-old, who is also a fan of planes, said he started this hobby some 20 years ago. “I find buses very fascinating as they are able to transport so many people around, unlike cars,” said Tan. Like Naz, he also collects bus models.

Tan started the Facebook page Public Transport Hub in 2011 because he wanted to showcase his photographs and let the public learn more about bus and plane models. The site features photos of planes and buses from Singapore and other countries.

He says he tries to get good shots of buses with a good camera and great precision. “I will seek and plan the ideal location and capture the photo when the sunlight sits just right on the bus,” said Tan.

And then there are those who marvel at the bodywork and engine of a train or plane.

“My interest sparked off back in 2011. The news on the vandalised train initiated my interest in trains and their daily operations,” said Liang Ge Song. The 17-year-old student, who is part of the management team of SGTrains — a community site, run by train enthusiasts, about Singapore’s rail network — has been an avid fan of trains for five years.

Liang, who prides himself on having a high level of knowledge on Singapore’s rail system, is also part of a group called Friends of SMRT, where members get invited to events such as depot tours and are given a heads up on upcoming events.

For university undergraduate Liu Yingjun, who is an avid photographer, it was “love at first sight” when she first spotted planes in her childhood. The 24-year-old, who is president of SBSA and a fan of buses as well, said she was inspired by her father’s passion for photography and transportation. She finds their bulky demeanor fascinating as they are able to soar high in the sky despite their weight and appearance, she said.

Tan is a plane enthusiast, too. “I started this hobby two years ago when I flew on Boeing 747-400. It enkindled my interest in aviation and I started to take notice of them,” said Tan, who also set up the Christopher Tan Aviation Photography Facebook page.

The plane enthusiasts said they usually head to Changi Beach, Changi Airport Terminal 1 Viewing Mall and Crowne Plaza Hotel to spot their favourite birds. Some have even flown to other countries to spot planes. “We travel in groups of four overseas to spot other planes. Recently, we went to Perth to spot the largest plane (Antonov An-225 Mriya),” said full-time national serviceman Teo Boon Kiat, 22, who is also vice-president of SBSA.

At least one good thing has come out of their activities. The transport enthusiasts regularly send feedback to LTA, as well as bus and train operators, when they see areas that can be improved. Liang, for example, would go train spotting with a group of three or four. “Before deciding to enter the train, I will take note of the train that pulls into the station,” he said.

“If I decide to board (it), I will then identify the different faults the train may have, consolidate them and submit it to the operators for their rectification,” he added. “It is a form of transport that Singaporeans use and I wish to make it a better one by giving the authorities a commuter’s point of view.”

Members of transport enthusiast groups also tend to develop a more positive outlook for the industry. “Whenever a train disruption occurs, instead of ranting and flaming the relevant authority, I will try to understand the situation better to explain to my friends and family,” said Liang.

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