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Title:British Railways Motive Power - Combined Volume Review image
Publisher:Ian Allan
Subject:Rolling Stock
Category:Numbers - Current
Spec:A6 (or larger), hardback
Publication date:1944-1989
Summary:The 'standard' spotting books for many years, Ian Allan's ABCs were available as pocket books (covering locos for example) or in the famous 'Combined Volume'.
Review:The late Ian Allan didn't invent trainspotting, but he gave it a huge boost from 1944 onwards by publishing the first widely-available books to list British locos. Initially these covered the locomotive fleets of the big-four (later the BR regions), multiple units being added later on. Each title was available individually or in a hard-backed 'Combined Volume', while there were additional books that gave numbers with depot allocations, and also a directory of loco sheds. The books were produced in a similar format every year until the early 1980s. Then, in response to competition from Platform 5, changes were made. First the size was increased in 1983 (then reduced slightly in 1985), while from 1984 the depot allocations were included in the Combined Volume. Coaching Stock was added from about 1986, while the 1989 edition was perhaps the most detailed ever, with individual sector and design codes for most numbers. This also appears to have been the last edition, although Ian Allan eventually returned to the ABC market in 2010.
Reviewed:03/10/2019 by Thomas Young (Comments made by others can appear in the notes section towards the bottom of this page)
Sample pages:(Click on any image to view full-sized in a new window)
Page image Some of the early editions have recently been reprinted but this is an original 1963 edition. A few colour pictures (paintings rather than photos) were included.
Page image The book usually started with a list of engine sheds and codes, slightly ironic since individual allocations were not shown in the Combined Volume until many years later.
Page image With a few exceptions, stock was listed in numerical order, batches being headed by technical data, and some individual variations shown with symbols.
Page image Lots of smallish but good quality, black and white photos were included in each edition.
Page image This is a page of diesel loco numbers. The star symbols are the coupling (multiple-working) codes.
Page image DMU vehicles were listed individually, as the formations were not fixed. Coupling code symbols were again shown, as were regional allocation prefixes.
Page image Electric locos were grouped with electric units. The characteristics of the coaches of the latter were given but the listings were confined to just the set numbers.
Page image The 1973 edition had a revised title but inside was very similar in format to earlier editions.
Page image An unusual feature in this edition was the inclusion of a selection of photos of track machines. Numbers were not listed but the function of each machine was outlined.
Page image The growing number of preserved steam locos were now listed, with reversed footnotes used to give location information.
Page image A rather worn copy of the 1978 Combined Volume.
Page image A two-column layout was now standard, with technical information followed by numerical listings, with some individual variations shown using symbols.
Page image The photos were normally excellent, though the captions gave no extra information (such as when or where the photo was taken). I have just noticed that this page erroneously shows the class 31 as being a Bo-Bo! It was correctly listed as an A1A-A1A elsewhere.
Page image DMU vehicles were listed individually, with references to avoid repetition of technical information. The symbol in the top right of each batch is the coupling compatability code.
Page image Departmental units were included, with former numbers shown.
Page image As with earlier editions, multiple units without fixed set numbers had to have all the car numbers listed.
Page image Multiple units with set numbers were still listed just with the set number, though references to the side numbers of the constituent coaches were now included to the technical data.
Page image The long-established A6 size was ditched from 1983 in favour of a slightly larger 7in x 5in format.
Page image First-generation DMUs were still listed as individual vehicles, though tables showing the formations of Western (and later Scottish) Region units were added.
Page image The larger size was put to use to allow the side numbers of coaches within numbered units to be included.
Page image The 1984 edition continued at the larger size, the headline change being the inclusion of depot allocations for the first time.
Page image But you won't find any allocation information here! This used copy shows how most people's books would end up.
Page image No allocations here either. Photos were spread throughout the book, usually with minimal information in the captions.
Page image The allocations were actually shown by adding the pages of that year's locoshed book into the back. So, everything was actually listed twice.
Page image More changes came in 1985. The size was reduced to a little larger than A5, and colour was included.
Page image Allocation information was now included in the main part of the book. Less welcome changes were the very condensed font used, and also the cheap paper, which discoloured very quickly.
Page image 'With Colour' shouted the cover, but there were only 8 colour photos, most still being black and white. Strangely only the colour photos had captions with anything but the barest detail.
Page image There was a bit of colour on most pages, boxing the class headings! This page shows how some EMUs could not be squeezed into the two-column layout and hence ended up rather spaced out.
Page image Preserved locomotives still featured.
Page image Separate 'pocket' books were still produced and from 1986 there was also one covering coaching stock. I don't know if this was included in that year's Combined Volume.
Page image The format was familiar, and although the paper quality seemed to have improved, the condensed font was still being used.
Page image As far as I can tell, the 1989 Combined Volume was the last that Ian Allan published.
Page image Compared to earlier editions, this one had a lot of detail. As well as technical variations and allocation, sector and livery codes, diagram/design codes were shown for each item.
Page image An appendix at the end of the locos section listed all the sector codes, showing all the loco numbers allocated to each.
Page image DMU vehicles also had individual diagram numbers. In most cases these were shown in abbreviated form, for example 0A and 1D for DQ2.20.0A and DQ2.20.1D respectively.
Page image Though mainly in colour, a few of the 52 photos suffered from poor registration in the printing, as seen with this blurry DMU
Page image The multiple unit sections used various methods to allow the diagram of each individual coach to be included.
Page image The inclusion of full diagram numbers (referred to as design codes on this website) extended to departmental multiple unit. Set numbers were also shown, but not the actual formations.
Page image For some reason, coaches did not get full design codes, just the diagram numbers. For example 1644 was to diagram AJ403 but would have had a design code of AJ4030A (or similar).
Page image The same applied to privately owned coaches, although curiously the short codes (eg AO231) were referred to as Design Codes rather than Diagrams. My understanding is that the opposite is more correct.
Page image Most renumbered coaches did not have the former identity shown in the main section. Instead a tabulated appendix was included at the back.
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