My Ian Allan ABCs

Back in the 1950s and 60s, Ian Allan’s lists of locomotives were the train spotter’s bible. The right collection of books could tell you everything you wanted to know about just about everything that moved on the railway network. Train spotters get derided these days but back then an awful lot of us did it. We stood on platform ends or over-bridges and jotted down those numbers on trains and engines. Back home we’d underline the numbers in our ABCs. That was harmless and simple. But it also led to travel and travel is said to broaden the mind. Armed with our loco-shed book we could head off for places where we had a chance of seeing different engines from those that operated the home lines. The geography of Britain became known to us – at least by railway. We could read maps and timetables. We could ask the professional railwayman questions in a vaguely intelligent way. Above all there was camaraderie at the end of the platform. Friends were instantly made, albeit, probably, only temporarily.

But back to those ABCs. Yes, I still have them. This is just a small selection.


I lived in Sussex so I was a ‘Southern’ enthusiast but as travel became wider, the hard backed ‘combined volume’ with all regions in it became an essential. Let’s peek inside that Combined Volume.


There’s a page of Southern steam locomotives. If they are underlined, I had seen them. If the number is crossed out, I had learned that the loco had been withdrawn from service. I reckon about thirty of those locos still exist, preserved in some form or other.

If we go to the electric units, I had seen all of them.


All but one of these underlines had been copied from a previous book. When I started this book, I only ‘needed’ one more 2-Bil and that was number 2025.

I obviously ‘copped’ it during the life of this particular book.


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