They were must-haves if you were (still are) at all interested in trains, ships, aircraft etc.
In fact many lads of his generation were probably able to identify with Andy Bogle - I wrote yesterday about his musical, Geordie, to be staged at the Customs House - when he spoke of his boyhood spent haunting the Mill Dam in Shields with an Ian Allan book in his hand.
What was the nature of the vessel you were looking at? There would be a book that would tell you, bought, perhaps, from T&G Allan’s (no relation, or at least I don’t think so) in King Street, or Phillips’s book shop in Fowler Street.
So it was sad to learn that publisher Ian Allan died only recently, albeit he was 92.
Originally from West Sussex, he worked as a clerk for Southern Railways, where he came up with the idea of printing booklets for the information of fellow rail enthusiasts.
He eventually established his own publishing firm, catering for fans of all kinds of transport.
We are talking of an era, of course, in the 1950s and 1960s when there was much to keep a shipspotter entertained on the Tyne.
The date here is the early 1960s, with Smith’s across at North Shields presenting a busy view in the background - I can spot at least one British tanker over there on the left - while, in the foreground, the cargo ship Trebartha gets a final coat of paint and a clean-up in dry dock at Brigham and Cowan’s on our side of the river.
She was preparing for sea trials, after coming out of Readhead’s yard where she’d been built for the Hain Steamship Co Ltd.