Ian Allan the “inventor” of train spotting dies aged 93

The man who thought up and published the ABC books of engine numbers, the bible of schoolboy railway enthusiasts from 1943, has died.

Hard to imagine now, but in the 40’s and 50’s railway platforms were crowded with young boys, youths and men attempting to “cop” (get the number of ) every engine that passed through a particular station, or every one of a particular class of loco or any combination. All were clutching their copy of Ian Allan’s latest ABC, a pencil and a 1d platform ticket + an OXO tin (“this tin makes an ideal lunchbox”) of sandwiches and home-made cake prepared by Mum.

Never before or since could an all embracing hobby cost so little and be enjoyed by so many.

Of course it led these spotters on to – model railways, railway travel, volunteering on the burgeoning railway heritage sector, railway photography, railway history and many to employment in the railway industry. Ian Allan’s company published books and magazines that covered all these interests plus equivalents covering buses, trams, aircraft, lorries and cars.

I, and hundreds of thousands of my generation, am immensely grateful to Ian Allan for  giving us a lifetime of hobbies full of interest and fun. RIP