Ian Allan Publishing was an English publisher, established in 1942, which specialised in transport books.[1] It was founded by Ian Allan.

Ian Allan Publishing
Ian Allan Publishing's Shepperton building in 2008
FounderIan Allan
Country of originEngland
Headquarters locationShepperton
Publication typesBooks
Nonfiction topicsTransport, freemasonry
Revenue£631,000 (2020)
Official websitewww.ianallanpublishing.com

In 1942, Ian Allan, then working in the public relations department for the Southern Railway at Waterloo station, decided he could deal with many of the requests he received about rolling stock by collecting the information into a book.[2] The result was his first book, ABC of Southern Locomotives. This proved to be a success, contributing to the emergence of trainspotting as a popular hobby in the UK, and leading to the formation of the company.[3][4]

The company grew from a small producer of books for train enthusiasts and spotters to a large transport publisher. Each year it published books covering subjects such as military and civil aviation, naval and maritime topics, buses, trams, trolleybuses and steam railways, including history, preservation and modern operations. The headquarters was at the western end of Shepperton railway station in Surrey.[3]

At the end of 2016, the company announced that it was withdrawing from railway publishing. Crécy Publishing acquired these titles, including the Oxford and ABC imprints.[5] It continued to operate bookshops until the last was closed in October 2020.[6]

Company acquisitions


Ian Allan Publishing acquired several companies and imprints.

  • Locomotive Publishing Company in 1956
  • Oxford Publishing Company, acquired in 1998 from Haynes Publishing[7]
  • Midland Publishing, acquired in 1999. The Midland imprint provides a range of specialist, highly illustrated titles, covering military aviation subjects from World War II to the present day. In civil aviation, comprehensive works of reference are published frequently.
  • Classic Publications, a publisher of aviation titles, was added in 2002, bringing another imprint widely considered important in the World War II aviation market.

Ian Allan Publishing's trade representation is provided by Amalgamated Book Services for its own imprints and a growing list of associated publishers. Midland Counties Publications, acquired by Ian Allan Publishing at the same time as Midland Publishing, was established in the 1970s with the objective of selling books at aviation events and by mail order to a growing number of enthusiasts who could not always find the publications they wanted to read on the shelves of their local bookshop.

In addition to the above, Ian Allan also owns the imprint Lewis Masonic. Lewis Masonic produces the ritual books used by lodges and chapters under the United Grand Lodge of England. Ian Allan Publishing also published an extensive catalogue of general Masonic publications, but from the 1990s these were also transferred to the Lewis Masonic imprint, alongside the ritual books.



The company formerly had stores at Cardiff (closed 2015),[8] Manchester Piccadilly (closed 2016), Birmingham (closed 2019)[9] and London at Lower Marsh (closed 2020).[6][10]



Ian Allan Publishing was well known for its range of enthusiast-based magazines, including the following titles:

A history of the company and of its publications down to 1967 appeared in the November 1967 edition of its magazine Railway World.

Those magazines still in print were acquired by Key Publishing in March 2012.[11][12]

Through the Lewis Masonic imprint, the company also published the quarterly masonic magazine The Square, the longest running masonic periodical in the United Kingdom.

From 1962 to 2007, Ian Allan also published, jointly with the Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA), the monthly magazine Modern Tramway, later as Light Rail and Modern Tramway and currently as Tramways & Urban Transit (TAUT), and continues to handle printing and some distribution of TAUT, as well as printing of the LRTA's quarterly historical journal, Tramway Review.[13]



The company was also responsible for producing a number of videos for sale in the shops on the themes of railway lines and military history, latterly under the name of Ian Allen SBS Video.[14] A number of the titles such as Then and Now[15] were picked up from the archive for broadcast on That's TV in 2024.[16]


  1. ^ "Ian Allan". Exec. Norwich: White Digital Media. 31 May 2007. Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  2. ^ Interview for "The Last Days of Steam", Timeshift, BBC Four, broadcast 5 April 2012
  3. ^ a b Ian Allan…the man who launched a million locospotters The Railway Magazine issue 1174 February 1999 pages 20-27
  4. ^ "Trainspotting explained and its rise and fall". Rail. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  5. ^ Hewitt, Sam (13 January 2017). "Era ends as Ian Allan quits railway publishing business". Heritage Railway. Mortons.
  6. ^ a b Thank you and Bon Voyage Ian Allan Publishing
  7. ^ OPC sold to Ian Allan Rail issue 332 3 June 1998 page 14
  8. ^ We have made the sad decision to close: End of an era for bookshop with 130 year history WalesOnline 30 January 2015
  9. ^ Young, Graham (24 October 2019). "City centre's famous trainspotting bookshop to close". Birmingham Mail.
  10. ^ Famous Bookshop Closes Rail Express issue 294 November 2020 page 9
  11. ^ Key Publishing Ltd acquires Ian Allan Magazines Buses 2 March 2012
  12. ^ Key Publishing acquires Ian Allan Magazines InPublishing 5 March 2012
  13. ^ "A new look for T&UT – and a new publisher". Tramways & Urban Transit, July 2007, p. 244.
  14. ^ "Ian Allan Video - Closing Logos".
  15. ^ "Then and Now, 2:25pm on That's TV".
  16. ^ "What's on That's TV?".