RIP Ian Allan, or should that be ABC

It was sad today to hear that Ian Allan died peacefully yesterday aged 93, after a long illness. An inspirational figure in the world of railways and transportation publishing and of course the ABC books, he will be greatly missed.

When thinking of ‘trainspotting’ it conjures up an image of teenagers stood at the ends of station platforms in coats clutching a note book and pencil and of course one of the ubiquitous Ian Allan ABC publications.  As well as trains the ABC range eventually included booklets on buses, coaches, cars, planes, ships and just about anything else that moved and had a number!

Ian Allan originally worked in the Public Relations department of the Southern Railway and it was due to the correspondence that he received from enthusiasts whilst there that led to the putting of the locomotive information together in one booklet and arranged for it to be published, hence the Southern Locomotives being the first ABC to be issued.  Following the obvious success of the first couple of issues he left the SR to work full time in publishing.

The first Southern ABCs produced by Ian Allan
The first Southern ABCs produced by Ian Allan

Surprisingly the Ian Allan ABCs appeared during the middle of the Second World War with the very first issue being ‘ABC of Southern Locomotives’ in December 1942.  This was quickly followed by a second edition in February 1943.  These handy pocket sized booklets (6” x 4”, approximately equivalent to today’s A6) contained a complete listing of all locomotive numbers, and their classes split into Western, Eastern and Central sections.  Also included was a list of named engines, a table of principle dimensions, a list of the Southern Power Classifications, and dates of all the Locomotive Superintendents (Chief Mechanical Engineers) of the Southern Railway and its key constituents.

The 3rd Edition appeared in April 1943 and differed from the first two editions in that it was illustrated with black and white photographs of many of the engine classes.  These photographs were from either the Southern Railway itself or from the collections of well-known railway photographers such as O.J. Norris, A.B MacLeod and in later editions also E. Elsey and H.C. Casserley.  It was this issue that set the style and layout for all Ian Allan ABCs for many years to come.

1943 also saw the introduction of ABCs for the other 3 of the big four railway companies with the LMS 1st edition in June, GWR in October and the LNER November.

The above is an extract of my pages on the SEmG website about the Ian Allan ABCs that can be read here. My condolences to his family and friends.

Edit: See also the obituary in the Daily Telegraph here

2 thoughts on “RIP Ian Allan, or should that be ABC

  1. A sad loss.

    During the early-mid 1940’s my mother (a railwayman’s daughter) used to go round to Ian Allan’s house (he then lived with his mother close to Woodside Fire Station) to buy her Engine Numbering books!

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