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Rail Data > Articles > Reviews > Review details
Title:Rail Guide 20xx series Review image
Author:Colin J Marsden / Pip Dunn
Publisher:Ian Allan / Crecy
Format:Book
Subject:Rolling Stock
Category:Numbers - Current
Spec:A5, hardback, 310-432 pages, colour throughout
Publication date:2010-current
Summary:Having given up publishing ABCs in 1989, Ian Allan returned to the field in 2010 with this distinctly up-market version.
Review:First published in 2010 and compiled by the brilliant Colin J Marsden, this book was a step-change in the quality of number listing books. A5-sized and hardbacked, the pages used glossy paper and colour printing throughout. Also setting it apart from other titles, the trains inside were detailed in order of their operator, rather than in strictly numerical order. Although somewhat radical, this approach has its benefits. For example it is interesting to be able to see all the stock of each company in one place rather than spread across a longer listing. Alongside the number listings (which give all the normal details such as formations, liveries, owners and allocations), there are numerous colour photographs with detailed captions, and each passenger operator has a diagram showing their routes. The passenger operators take up the first half of the book. The remainder covers a wide variety of aspects, such as freight, infrastructure and private train operators, rolling stock hire companies, preserved motive power and the various tram and metro systems. The book concludes with appendices listing codes used throughout the book and a full numerical index listing of all locos, units and coaches. All in all, this is a well-produced, high-quality book, with a reasonable price tag, being only a pound or so more than the comparable (but smaller) Platform 5 book. It is too good to do underlining in though!

Further editions up to 2020 grew in thickness and coverage, adding things like Irish Railways, the Isle of Man, LUL stock, some of the smaller UK tram networks and increased coverage of preserved stock. However, from 2021 the content was revised when Pip Dunn took over from Colin Marsden. The book got even thicker but covered less of the 'peripheral' bits such as track machines, non main-line steam and the other aspects just mentioned. However, Pip added more in the way of background text, made the page layouts a bit less cramped, and used larger photos. Overall the book is - in my opinion - still very good, but not quite as good as the last Marsden edition. It is of course a minefield deciding how to organise the content when so many distinctions (such as preserved/operational) have become somewhat blurred. Update: An 80-page supplement to the 2021 edition was made available in May 2021. As well as bringing the content up to date, it restored coverage of tram/metro systems and railways of Ireland and the Isle of Man. It will be interesting to see whether these elements can be included in the 2022 edition without the page count going too crazy!
Reviewed:17/04/2018 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 The front cover of the 2nd (2011) edition.
Page image The contents page shows the wide range of subjects covered. Unlike most other ABCs, the Rail Guide is primarily organised by train operators rather than just numbers.
Page image Almost half of the book deals with the Passenger TOCs, each being headed by company details, usually with a routes/network map.
Page image The main number listings are fairly standard in format, interspersed with numerous colour photos. All locos, MUs and coaches used by each company are listed.
Page image The next section lists the locos (and coaches for the likes of DRS) of the freight operating companies.
Page image Next up is a section on infrastructure companies. This covers Network Rail locos, departmental coaching stock, track machines and some wagons (mainly specialist types such as YDA spoil handlers and YEA rail carriers)
Page image A listing of all main-line registered stock (locos and coaches) owned by private train operators takes up 13 pages. The colour-coded blocks at the page edges make it easy to quickly flick to a particular section.
Page image 6 pages were used for a list of preserved locos and units, each showing the operator or location and the operational status. Stock registered for main-line use is highlighted in red.
Page image After a listing of exported locos, and of 'paper' TOPS numbers allocated to preserved locos, three pages give an interesting overview of the various coupling types in current use.
Page image A single page is enough to list the remaining ex-BR locos in industrial use.
Page image All the tram, light-rail, metro and underground systems are covered, with photos of most types and stocklists for all except London Underground.
Page image The last 40 pages are appendices, listing codes for liveries, pools, operators, owners, depots and preservation sites. An interesting addition to this section is an alphabetic list of all mainline passenger stations, complete with their three-letter codes.
Page image Given the way the main part of the book is organised, finding a particular stock number could be tricky were it not for the inclusion of a 27-page 'number cross-link' table at the back. This showed every loco, coach and unit with a code to show the operator or status, and hence where the full details could be found.
Page image The book has been updated each year, retaining the same basic format. By 2017 it was being published by Crecy rather than Ian Allan.
Page image A significant change from the earlier edition reviewed was the inclusion of railways (and tramways) in Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Page image By the 2020 edition the cover price had risen slightly to £25, but this was matched by an increase in the number of pages to 384.
Page image The layout of the passenger operators section remains the same, with route maps, photos of each main type (some of the photos being very small) and rather compact data tables.
Page image For each item of rolling stock, the number, allocation, livery and owner is given. Pool allocations are also shown, but only for locomotives.
Page image To save space, some classes have the names of named examples in a separate table. Note that the table for class 66 locos includes those now operating in France and Poland, these being clearly indicated.
Page image The section on Network Rail runs to 14 pages and lists all their locos, test coaches and snowploughs, along with most large track machines (including those owned by other companies, as shown by the column on the right).
Page image The section on exported motive power includes the class 66 locos that are also listed under DB and Freightliner.
Page image Ireland is well covered with all locos, units and coaches of Irish Railways, Northern Ireland Railways, DART and Belmond Pullman being listed.
Page image A significant change is the listing of all London Underground stock, in addition to those of the other tram and light-rail networks.
Page image London Underground departmental stock and locos are also listed, though I could find no explanation for the various numbers shown against each battery loco.
Page image The inclusion of a fleet list for the Emirates Air Line cable car seems rather odd in a book entitled 'Rail Guide'. Still, it probably wouldn't be hard to spot all the gondolas!
Page image In addition to the 'modern' tram and light-rail networks, some of the smaller and historical lines are included, even those with only a couple of trains/cars.
Page image Ten pages are devoted to the various lines on the Isle of Man, listing all locos, coaches, tramcars, wagons and even horses!
Page image All preserved diesel and electric locos are listed, with a symbol to show those registered for main-line use. Former numbers are listed, though it is not always clear which number is currently carried.
Page image All preserved DMUs and EMUs are also listed, each showing the location. EMUs are listed by coach number (as many sets are incomplete), but the set numbers are also shown.
Page image A recent change is that all preserved ex-mainline steam locos are now listed. These are listed by their BR number (where relevant) and show the type and location. There is no indication of which locos are registered for use on Network Rail (but see next image).
Page image Preserved locos that were assigned TOPS numbers in class 98 (steam) or 89 (diesel or electric) are listed again, in order of these TOPS numbers. It is mentioned that this does not indicate that every loco is currently registered.
Page image The section on couplings now has five pages and includes new types. Some of the photos are annotated.
Page image As before, there are appendices (termed Rail Data Tables) covering codes used for liveries, pools, operators, owners, depots, preservation sites and DMU/EMU coach types.
Page image The back section is a useful check-list of numbers, with a little box (for ticking if you have seen it?) and a code to show where in the book the details can be found. Unlike earlier editions, preserved stock is not included.
Page image The 2021 edition was the first to be compiled by Pip Dunn and introduced some changes in format and content. The page count was increased again (to 432) but the price was kept at £25.
Page image One of the main changes in the 2021 edition is the inclusion of more textual information. Most sections now have an introduction (sometimes lengthy), while each operator and class also has an overview.
Page image The pages now look less crammed, with a slightly larger and lighter font used for the data tables, along with a paler yellow background and rules under each item. A negative comment in several other reviews was that the photos often do not relate to the numbers that they appear next to, but this is not a big deal, and the photos are (in the main) considerably larger.
Page image Coverage of other railways is reduced, with Irish Railways and the Isle of Man dropped, while only the modern tram/light-rail networks are included and there are no number listings. For example, London Underground is now covered in just two pages with only one photo.
Page image Former numbers for most locos and units are shown, with pool codes for each loco. In a welcome development, pool codes for most units and coaches are also shown, though almost hidden in the heading text. Photo captions are shorter than before, with the background information now given elsewhere.
Page image The Network Rail section still includes test coaches, but track machines are no longer covered. I'm not sure why this table gets column headings, since they are (slightly annoyingly) absent from most other pages.
Page image The list of depots is now promoted from an appendix to a section, though there is no extra information. Also, the list is in order of depot name rather than depot code. This can make it hard to look up the allocation of a given train.
Page image A new section covers the main train builders, with tables listing the trains they have built since privatisation. The tables are presented rotated through 90 degrees and are ordered by class number (by build date may have been more useful). Since most of the information is obtainable from elsewhere in the book, the benefit of having this section is not clear to me.
Page image Another couple of pages are devoted to trains that are on order, with a tabulated list and photos. Several of the batches are also listed in full in the operators sections.
Page image The section on preserved stock now only covers locos (no units). Diesels and electrics are shown with former numbers (the number currently carried being indicated by bold), liveries and locations. Unlike previously, main-line registered locos are not included, these only being listed under their owners/operators.
Page image While the listing of preserved diesel/electric locos does not include main-line registered locos, the table for steam locos only shows main-line registered examples, and is hence rather shorter than before. Additional information includes the owner, TOPS number, brake type and restrictions for each item.
Page image Another new section is two pages on the subject of scrapyards. After an introduction, five of the main companies involved are outlined.
Page image As before, there are appendices for livery, pool and owner codes. There is also still a checklist showing all locos and units (not coaches) in numerical order (except that non-mainline preserved locos are grouped at the end). Rather disappointingly, there is no cross-reference code to help you find a given number within the book. As such, this section may now only be of use to underliners.
Page image The blurb on the rear cover mentions some of the new sections but unfortunately also includes several aspects that are no longer included (such as Irish Railways, Isle of Man and preserved units).
Page image In an unusual move, a supplement to the 2021 edition was made available (as a free PDF download) in May 2021, the publisher saying it was due to the main book having been published slightly earlier than normal and before the second COVID lockdown disrupted things again. The supplement has 80 pages.
Page image The first 15 pages give updates on the main passenger and freight operators, with text, some data tables and a few photos.
Page image The remainder of the supplement covers items that had been omitted from the main 2021 edition (though were in the 2020 edition). First up is 14 pages covering the railways of Ireland (Northern Ireland had been included in the main book but is repeated here).
Page image The stock of metro and tram systems is then listed, with 16 pages for London Underground, 19 pages for the various tram and light rail operations, 4 pages for the Isle of Man and 5 for Dublin Trams. Photos are scarce, though some had featured in the main edition. Curiously, Dublin Trams has 4 photos, 3 of which are full-page!
Page image Finally there are a couple of appendices. The first lists coach types (eg DMBS), giving their meanings. The second is a list of depots in depot code order, perhaps as a result of feedback to the depot list in the main edition being in name order (and hence harder to use to decode details given elsewhere in the book).
Notes: No notes have been left yet. ?There may be some notes posted but which have not yet been approved.
Edits:Record edited 2 times.
Time / DateEdited byChange
13:37 on Wed 12/01/2022Thomas YoungDetails of 2021 Supplement added
13:54 on Wed 07/07/2021Thomas YoungDetails of 2020 and 2021 editions added