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Knowing which locomotives they had seen was of great importance to locomotive spotters. Consequently the 'underlining book' (1) was a valued possession, as well as being a key tool of the trade.
Back in 1969, when the 'Counties' was formed, there were only really two options, both published by Ian Allan annually in pocket book (A6) format. These were the 'British Railways Locoshed Book' and 'British Railways Locomotives and Other Motive Power - Combined Volume' (2). In 1970 the Locoshed Book sold for 3/- and the Combined Volume for 15/-. The Locoshed Book was thus the one most commonly used for underlining and a copy was carried by almost every participant on a 'Counties' excursion.
In the mid 1970s spotters were increasingly becoming aware of the importance of the detail differences between locomotives of the same class and how this affected where they could be found working or stabled. The Ian Allan Combined had for some years detailed which locomotives had train air-braking but that was about it. Similarly relevant to spotting was the fitting of slow speed control, headlamps and particularly for the increasing number of spotters dabbling in locomotive haulage, train heating provision.
This demand was initially met by the RCTS who in the spring of 1977 published their 'Locomotive Stock of British Railways including detail differences'. This contained a plethora of details about locomotives never previously published. This though was in A5 rather than pocket book format.
A story for another day is how and why during the summer of 1977 Platform 5 Publications was created. Needless to say, towards the end of the year their first 'Motive Power Pocket Book' hit the platforms. This contained a locomotive listing with allocations along with the detail differences of relevance to spotters and those interested in haulage. It didn't take long for Platform 5 to break the Ian Allan dominance, setting new standards in detail and accuracy.
There was by 1978 no longer a place for formats other than pocket book.
However, there was still a demand from spotters for a basic listing provided in pocket book format as well as a listing also containing multiple units. The 'Counties' as well Dalescroft and Midland Railfans continued to meet this need for a couple of years.lvetica Light is an easy-to-read font, with tall and narrow letters, that works well on almost every site.
The NREA were formed in 1976 and were soon producing spotting pocket books. In the Autumn of 1979 they, in partnership with Oxford Publishing Company started publishing the 'Spotters Companion'. This set a new standard for basic listings which the others couldn't match.
By the time of the 'Counties' demise in 1981 the 'Motive Power Pocket Book' and 'Spotters Companion' had become the favoured spotters underlining books.