|This article gives an insight into how trainspotting became a national pastime for most boys in the 1950s and 1960s and enhances this with a series of photographs of trainspotters covering the period 1946-1968 which shows the changes in fashion in what 'spotters' wore in that period. In fact, this is actually an interesting insight into the change in fashions in general. Let's face it, the late 50s/early 60s was a drab time. Most of life was lived in shades of black, grey, beige & brown although things were starting to change and did so quite dramatically over the next couple of years.|
Introduction - How Trainspotting Took Off
Ian Allan began his working life in the post of temporary Grade 5 clerk in the office of the General Manager of Southern Railway at Waterloo Station, which allowed him to pursue his enthusiasm for railways. Having had an all consuming interest in railway engines, locomotive classes and types of rolling stock, Ian was given the task of handling enquiries from the public. To do this he was given a notebook with the numbers of most of the Southern’s locos, their classes and their shed allocations. Realising that there was a keen interest in these names and numbers he made the suggestion that the company should publish the notebook. The suggestion was turned down and so permission was sought to publish his own booklet. This was given, subject to his doing so only at his own risk and expense. With the help of his colleagues, Ian produced a booklet containing a numerical list of loco numbers and their classes and a table at the end of the book giving all the details of each class so that it would be possible to relate the number to the name. There was at this stage no thought of collecting the numbers. That was to come later.
Having obtained a quote of £42 to produce 2,000 6” x 4” pocket books, the 'budding' publisher spent 5 shillings and sixpence (26p approximately) placing a small classified ad in the Railway World magazine offering the publication to enthusiasts in exchange for one shilling. Very soon Ian had nearly 2,000 one shilling postal orders, which after all expenses produced to his surprise an unexpected profit.
A reprint with the new title of ABC of Southern Locomotives was quickly ordered, with the authors credit changed from I. Allan to Ian Allan.
The other big four companies followed – The Great Western, LMS, and LNER. Soon the dispatch of these books became too much to handle for Ian alone, so friends, colleagues and neighbours were enrolled to help satisfy the demand. Ignoring the advice of experts Ian published a book on London Transport (the Underground, trolley buses, and buses). The 20,000 print run disappeared in days.
Ian’s books were attracting the attention of bookshops at railway stations and book chains such as W H Smiths. The success of the loco spotters books was assured. However, one reluctant buyer said “it’s only a list of bloody numbers, who do you think is going to buy this?” The answer soon became obvious, thousands of the ABC books were purchased and “train spotting” was born. In 1944 one excursion of school boy loco enthusiasts wandered on to the mainline track, an incident which made headlines in the national newspapers. (The formation of Ian Allan Locospotters Club run by Ian’s future wife Mollie and the establishment of branches the length and breadth of England quickly followed).
Later, a Combined Volume was introduced containing detail of whet appeared in the four regional ABC books. The Locoshed book then appeared, containing basic details of loco number and shed allocation code. Most spotters usually carried a shed book with them when out, while the more expensive combined volume never left the house.
Trainspotter's Fashions - what We Wore
During the 1950s, especially at Grammar schools many boys wore short trousers until they were sometimes 14 years old or even older in some cases; a number of schools in Liverpool, especially Grammar schools, had boys wearing shorts until they reached the age of 15 or 16 years of age. A school uniform consisted of blazer, usually with the school badge on the breast pocket, a peaked school cap also with the school badge on, grey V necked pullover, grey or white shirt, grey short trousers, either flannel or more comfortable, poly/cotton material, and long grey turnover top socks. In the winter on on wet days, most boys also wore a gaberdine school raincoat of woollen or cotton gaberdine, a close twill-weave fabric with a smooth finish which normally had an attached belt. Many trainspotters of this period wore some or all of the above while by the lineside or at the station. Many grammar and public schools, had a strict dress code that basically forced boys to stay in short pants until the end of the second or third year, or even longer in some cases, along with a pullover, white shirt, blazer and tie. School caps were also still common, but by the end of the decade the wearing of them had begun to decline. With regard to the shoe situation, British schoolboys were less likely to wear sneakers and instead wore closed toe sandals with a "t" strap to school and for play after school. By examining photos of the period, it seems older boys and adults seemed to wear sports jackets and macintoshes, along with slacks. Many photos of trainspotters in the 1950s, show them wearing their school uniforms while out 'spotting', with adults wearing the aforementioned clothes.
The 1960s brought vast changes in fashion for most young people, never mind trainspotters. Jeans and slacks became readily available and many boys wore them when not at school. Duffle coats also made an appearance at this time along with the infamous 'anorak'! The duffel bag, haversacks, rugsacks and other bags also took over from the school satchel. In the mid 60's with music tastes changing, the arrival of groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones and the colourful clothes they wore, completely changed the fashion scene of most boys and teenagers. About 1967, Boy Scouts went to long trousers, further influencing the trend away from shorts. By the end of the 60s few boys over 11 still wore shorts, although many boys, even some in the first years of their secondary/grammar school were still wearing shorts and one or two boys still wore shorts in the 3rd form, though most people thought their parents odd to make them. School caps were no longer worn by the vast majority of boys, only public and grammar schools hanging on to them.
In the early 60's, hardly anyone had jeans and generally mothers still resisted in buying them as they would have to buy two sets of clothing; one for wearing at school and one set for outside school. Cost was also an important factor as most jeans were branded e.g. Levis and were quite expensive at the time. The early jeans were of the tight fitting 'drainpipes' style and usually worn with turn ups as most photos of the period show.
Eventually, this article and accompanying photographs, will be expanded to cover the period from the 1970s to the present day.
Many thanks to Richard Postill and John Ford, collection David Ford for permission to use some of their photos in this gallery.
The album is in chronological order starting in 1946 throught to 1968. You can access the album at the first entry by using the link below, then browse through the photos in date order, noting the changes in fashion as you do. Alternately, you can jump straight to a particular photo in the album by selecting one of the thumbnail images below.
If you have time, we would appreciate it if you could comment on any photo, loco, building, clothing, etc by completing the comment box below the photo.
We hope you enjoy your journey into the past...