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Ian Allan dies at the age of 93

Railway publisher Ian Allan died on June 28, aged 93.

Allan started his career in 1939, working for the Southern Railway as a junior assistant in the PR department. He dreamed of becoming general manager, but was told it was impossible after he had lost a leg in an Officer Training Corps exercise at the age of 15.

After working at Waterloo station, he decided to collect useful information for ‘locospotters’ into a book, which resulted in the first Ian Allan ABC book in 1943 - the ABC of Southern Locomotives.

The book quickly sold out its 2,000 copies, at one shilling a copy. Allan said: “It hadn’t been hard to put together. I knew all the Southern engine details by heart.”

He maintained his interest and involvement in his business for many decades, claiming that retirement was the worst course of action for someone with a passion for the railways.



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  • M G Evans - 29/06/2015 18:08

    So sad to hear this. As a boy it was a guarantee to my juvenile brain that an Ian Allan publication would provide pukka gen to my aviation and rail minded self. A marvellous contribution to publishing, one I shall mourn

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  • John Tuthill - 29/06/2015 18:15

    A sad day for us all. People of a certain age owe him a debt of gratitude for instigating our interest and love of anything railway. RIP

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  • DAVID WOOD - 29/06/2015 21:55

    what a gentleman he will be missed R.I.P

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  • Bill Allen - 30/06/2015 12:01

    Ian Allan was responsible for my entry into a lifelong hobby of railways at the age of 1957 at the age of 7, and still continues today. Without his ABC spotters books the hobby would never have reached the proportions it did, and still does to a lesser degree. RIP great man.

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  • Alan Witton - 30/06/2015 12:04

    Ian Allan never knew this, but his publications were a large part of the inspiration both for my interest in railways, and for my much smaller "Fleetbooks" publishing business which I started in 1974 - an interesting coincidence was that my first print order was also 2,000 copies! He cast a longer shadow than he knew. RIP, and condolences to his family and close friends.

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  • Grahame McDonald - 30/06/2015 12:06

    A good thing for him that he published his first 'ABC' in 1943. If he had started up in 2015 he would probably have been 'under investigation' by the 'Security Services' for 'leaking sensitive strategic information'!! I still have my own first 'ABC' which was the 'Summer 1955' edition covering "Eastern, North Eastern and Scottish Regions" (although it didn't include any former LMS power working north of the border). There is no doubt that this consolidated by interest in all things 'transport', particularly railways, which undoubtedly led to me travelling to many overseas countries in search of 'steam' which I would otherwise never have visited. Surely Ian Allan was worth his '15 minutes of fame'. RIP.

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  • Kevin Cliffe - 30/06/2015 15:00

    Really Sad to hear death of a true gentleman. His publications have given me and my fellow enthusiasts hours of enjoyment. RIP Ian Allan

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  • Mike Peel - 30/06/2015 15:35

    Met him on a visit to David and Charles at Newton Abbot at least 30 years ago and he was interesting to talk to.

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  • John Debens - 30/06/2015 16:28

    The passing of a LEGEND......Childhood would have been so much less exciting without our ' Ian Allan Books '..... Condolences to all family and close friends...RIP..IA......

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  • Alan Edwards - 30/06/2015 17:50

    My condolences to all Family and friends of Ian Allan at this very sad time. R.I.P. My personal meeting with Ian Allan in the 1950's. I will never forget when I was a schoolboy, during the 1950's my Mum and I made a trip from Chilworth, Surrey by Bus, Green Line Coach and Trolleybus to Hampton Court and found Craven House, the address on all Ian Allan publications at that time. We rang the door bell and my Mum asked if I could meet "Ian Allan", we were invited inside and to my joy "Ian Allan" appeared and asked me about my interest in trains. He then presented me with a Locospotters Annual book, the book along with me actually meeting and speaking to Ian Allan and also my only ride ever on a London Transport Trolleybus made this a day that I will always remember.

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  • Dave Rowland - 30/06/2015 18:55

    Ian Allan. What can I say? For those of us above a certain age, it's never been possible to think of trains without 'Ian Allan' springing to mind; as a mere youth, he managed, single-handedly (with some help), to convert the random scribblings of thousands of schoolboys into a coherent hobby, whereby those scribblings could be channelled into that thing we all love so dearly - lists. He brought order to chaos, and over the years made life a delight for hundreds of thousands of, firstly railway, then generally, transport enthusiasts of all ages. My young world wasn't complete until my mum bought me my first Ian Allan abc. Despite being sidetracked over the years by such fripperies as women and pubs, the appeal of 'spotting' insists on returning to so many of us with alarming regularity. His multitude of abc books are still held in high esteem, even to this day. Ironically, only a couple of weeks ago, I managed to obtain a copy of his autobiography "Driven By Steam", and within two hours of finishing reading the book, I heard the sad news. RIP Ian Allan - the father of trainspotting, and so much more besides.

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  • Sid Sponheimer - 30/06/2015 20:37

    I have an autographed copy of that first ABC which I believe to be genuine having bought it at Lens of Sutton in the mid 1950s. Very sad news. He gave thousands of youngsters an interesting hobby.

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    • Project22 - 12/07/2015 20:48

      Sid. i know this may not be the area to make contact but is there any way i may be able to have a few words regarding some of your images

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  • Martin - 30/06/2015 20:44

    He was 92....just one day short of his 93rd birthday.

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  • Andrew Muncaster - 02/07/2015 22:00

    I am greatly indebted to this man, the father of train spotting. My children smile at my fascination with trains, but the grandchildren really smile. There must be millions of lives he touched, thank you seems insufficient, but 'thank you so much'. He lives on in our hearts.

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