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Spotting Books

   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.

Spotting Book IA 1970 Locoshed001.jpg

   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.

Spotting Book IA 1970 Combined001.jpg

   Information contained in the Locoshed Book was very basic, being little more than a list of locomotive numbers with a depot allocation code.  The listings though were considered to be accurate at the time of going to press, although in retrospect the information about Departmental Service locomotives has been revealed to have not been particularly up to date.  This basic listing was though all that that most locomotive spotters required.

   As far as we are aware, in the early 1970s there was no real alternative to the Ian Allan offering, so that had to suffice. A situation that had existed since the 1940's when locomotive spotting first became a popular pastime.  The trigger for change was the great locomotive re-numbering which started towards the end of 1972 and got into its stride during 1973.  Spotters needed more frequent listings containing old and new numbers in order to keep abreast of the changes then taking place.  Ian Allan where not adequately meeting this by only publishing annually. 

NCTS Allocation 00 197310 cover October 1973.JPG

   The 'Counties' first produced its Allocation Listing in the spring of 1973, this included details of locomotives which by then had been re-numbered.  This was a duplicated quarto size publication rather than a printed pocket book.   Other spotting focused societies were by then doing similar.  Frequency of publication increased through 1973 and 1974 with society duplicators taking a pounding as the booklets sold like hot cakes.  These duplicated listings were though not ideal for underlining and carrying about in pockets.

NCTS Allocation 02 cover April 1974.JPG
Spotting Book WLS 1974 001.jpg

   However, by 1974 both Dalescroft and the Worcester Locomotive Society were producing basic pocket books. 


   The first Dalescroft offering is dated December 1973, this being several months after  the first 'Counties' quarto sized booklets had appeared. 


  The frequency of publication eased during 1975 with completion of the re-numbering.   The 'Counties' continued with their duplicated offering and Dalescroft with their pocket books, whilst most others ceased publishing.  Although the Ian Allan monopoly had been dented it had not been broken and they remained dominant.

Dalescroft edit.jpg
RCTS 1977 book cover.jpg

   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.

Spotting Book P5 1978 001.jpg

   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.  

Spotting Book P5 1981 001.jpg
Spotting Book NCTS 1978 Combined 001.png

   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.

Spotting Book NCTS 1979 001.png
Spotting Book OPC 1979 001.jpg

   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.

Spotting Book OPC 1980 002.jpg

(1) Locomotive spotters have traditionally underlined rather than ticked the locomotives they have seen, why this is, who knows?


(2) Diesel Locomotives, Diesel Multiple Units and Electric Locomotives & Multiple Units sections were also available separately.

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