In defense of OS Nock

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Fairway 2746
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In defense of OS Nock

Post by Fairway 2746 » Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:35 pm

To All,

After reading several, less-than-flattering comments about Mr Nock's contribution to the world of railway literature I should like to remind those non-fans that he & Cecil Allen were about the only writers covering the topics we all so love for quite a number of years (the specialist press not withstanding). Prior to his massive output, including that of Mr Allen, the general public was provided a limited window into either the general subject of railways & more specifically, the machinery on which we dote.

While I agree much his later output often consisted of rehashed material for what is typically referred to in the States as coffee table fare, there are quite a few, very well done, publications of his which I encourage the readership to review for themselves before dismissing him out of hand. The David & Charles produced monograph series are a good starting point. His two volume treatise of Gresley Pacifics were my first exposure to his writing & contain information I have not seen elsewhere. Also, old editions of "The Engineer" regularly contain period material on locomotives & their performance which are quite illuminating.

Regards,
Fairway 2746

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by Mickey » Sun Nov 19, 2017 11:00 pm

As an ordinary 'railway enthusiast' I always enjoyed reading his many railway books on various railway subjects that he published during his lifetime and that I came across when I was 'really into railways' as a teenager during the late 1960s and through into the mid 1970s and I gained a fair bit of useful railway knowledge from them all. I also remember his death being announced on BBC radio 4 back in September 1994.

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by giner » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:38 am

On my seventh birthday my Uncle Jim, a top shed fireman, gave me a small soft-cover book in landscape format that was written by O.S. Nock. I think it was called "Locomotives of the LNER".

Anyway, it contained a series of official photos of various classes and, opposite each plate, was a drawing of that loco with all the major dimensions on it. That's over 65 years ago now, and my book disappeared somewhere in the mists of time long ago.

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by harvester » Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:36 am

One of the first "railway books" I read was O S Nock's "The Locomotives of Sir Nigel Gresley " in the late 1950's . Quite a revelation to see pictures of the silver streamliners and then the P2's. We all thought Cock O, The North was the finest engine we had ever seen a picture of, never thought I would have a chance to see one in real life. OSN certainly help kindle a life long interest in the railways and steam .

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by john coffin » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:31 pm

I think as a taster, particularly of their time, the books of O.S.Nock are a valuable introduction to the world of steam, and being written, as they
were by someone who worked for many years for The Westinghouse Brake co, he had experience of railway workings for much of post 1st War steam railways. Indeed many may not know that K.H.Leech was his boss at Westinghouse, which is where the book about Stirling Singles came from along with Maurice Boddy as co-editor.

KHL often complained about the GNR book written and published under Ossie's name as very strong on detail about building the railway,
also about the locos in timing, which is very much a feature of the times, but very little about locos and rolling stock. Now whether that was the
editors not thinking it would sell, or Ossie not being interested is difficult at this time to tell.

The monograph on Atlantics and that on the Pacifics are in general good products, but for modern enthusiasts, do not include all the detail about
building and maintaining them that we now would like to know. But of course they were built at a time when nobody really showed an interest,
rather the perception was that everybody wanted to know how long particular journeys took over specific sections.

My understanding is that O.S.Nock was reasonably well respected by those officers of the railway companies who allowed him access to many things that normal outsiders would not at that time see, but of course he was almost like Barbara Cartland in the amount of his output, so it is important
to consider that when criticising. Don't forget in early post war publishing, the important thing was to have a "respected" and well known author to
sell the product, the railway detail was somehow less important.

Of their time and as a starter, they are a decent what we older people call a "primer", now if you think you can do better, see how easy it is!!!!!!!!
We might have more paperwork available, and no restrictions on how to use it, ie Engineers salaries, but very few of the top people are left to discuss events of more than 80 years ago. As I have discovered with looking at pre Gresley carriages, and of course tenders on the GNR, no one thought to ask many of the questions that I think are really important.

it is part of history that the day to day things are rarely recorded in published work, it is only since the advent of TV documentaries that we have properly learnt to understand how people lived or made a living, and look at all the revisionist histories about the second world war now out.
Just study the Dam Busters raid, including the two films to see the different perspectives.

Read Ossie Nock to get the basics, and then ask about the details to see if you can find out more, just enjoy it.

Paul

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by Fairway 2746 » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:07 am

To All,

One common point on which I believe we would all agree is that no single reporter on locomotive design & employment cover everything in individual publications. I have no less than six works on Gresley Pacifics & four each on Southern King Arthurs & BR 9F's. And yet, these are not enough. I really would like to have publications showing these wonderful machines under construction (from start to steam) in the shops yet, this sort of detail is regularly overlooked. Having worked for a marine engine manufacturer this is just the sort of thing I relish.

Regards,
Fairway 2746

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by strang steel » Wed Nov 22, 2017 4:44 pm

For me both O S Nock and C J Allen were entertaining authors in my teenage years, reading their articles about timing various passenger services on the BR network (not just ex-LNER, although that was my priority).

In my teenage naivety, I wrote letters to both of them asking about how they conducted their railway timing exploits and how they calculated the horse power of the runs published in the contemporary magazines.

To my amazement (and their enduring credit - as far as I am concerned) I received handwritten replies explaining their procedures, and how a youthful enthusiast might join in with the timing fraternity on a meagre early 60s pocket money budget.

What wonderful people they were. How many of today's well known teenage idols would go to that much trouble?

There were many articles on ER 100mph running, but the ones that struck me the most in those days, were the SR 100mph timings (which had to be made very vague/anonymous, because they would probably have been illegal at the time).

Thanks to both of them for their efforts.
John

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by 2002EarlMarischal » Wed Nov 22, 2017 6:20 pm

I purchased a paperback copy of LNER Steam by OS Nock from my school bookshop in the early 1970s. Nowadays it might be referred to as a "pop-up" shop, which appeared some lunch times in the school reception.

That, my late Mother's choice of a Triang-Hornby B12/3 61572 passenger train pack as my first train set, and my late father taking me to Bulmers Hereford to see Flying Scotsman (along with King George V and Pendennis Castle), are what inspired me and set me down the LNER road. Clearly 4472 impressed me far more than the King and Castle combined!

I am of course totally indebted to my Mum & Dad, but also very grateful to Mr Nock.

Oh, and I still have the original loco, renumbered as 8579, LNER wartime black, and the (very well-worn) book too! I will never let them go.

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by jwealleans » Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:19 pm

I never met the man personally, but I heard two very different opinions from people who did.

My dad met him through being in the support crew for 4498 through the late 1970s and 1980s. He thought he was pompous, arrogant and overbearing (and those are only the terms I can repeat).

Our President at Ely club, Derek Buck, worked for him at Westinghouse and describes him as being good to work for.

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by kimballthurlow » Thu Nov 23, 2017 2:43 am

When I was young, anything written about railways was eagerly sought here in Australia.
O S Nock (alongside A L Ahrens and Roger Lloyd) was available at our local library. So his reputation as a disseminator of information was unquestioned.

Anyway, as a one-time bookseller, (and from a commercial point of view) I can say his books sold well.

Kimball

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by Mickey » Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:24 am

Amongst several railway books of his that I once had were a hard back book called Fifty Years Of Railways Signalling that I bought back around 1970-
https://www.worldofrarebooks.com/fifty- ... -nock.html

Also a excellent book of his on the Great Northern Railway from the early 1970s-

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Great-No ... /141574507

And also The Railway Race To The North again from the early 1970s as well-

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Railway-Race ... 183?_trkpa...

Mickey
Last edited by Mickey on Thu Nov 23, 2017 12:50 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by Hatfield Shed » Thu Nov 23, 2017 11:36 am

I don't feel that the man needs any defence, he was of his time, as we are of ours, and things were done differently. Quote that follows perfectly illustrates.
jwealleans wrote:
Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:19 pm
I never met the man personally, but I heard two very different opinions from people who did.

My dad met him through being in the support crew for 4498 through the late 1970s and 1980s. He thought he was pompous, arrogant and overbearing (and those are only the terms I can repeat).

Our President at Ely club, Derek Buck, worked for him at Westinghouse and describes him as being good to work for.
I have met just such a man in a different context. Even making allowance for late age he was 'very prickly' regarding his importance and the weight that attached to his opinion, never mind the facts that flew in the face of his position. But two of his former staff would hear no ill of him: when the going was tough, he was the one who kept them going, come what may: a magnificent leader of men.

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by StevieG » Fri Nov 24, 2017 2:07 am

Mickey wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:24 am
" Amongst several railway books of his that I once had were a hard back book called Fifty Years Of Railways Signalling that I bought back around 1970-
https://www.worldofrarebooks.com/fifty- ... -nock.html .... "

Mickey
I got a copy of this as well Mickey, in about 1966, from a bookstall on Paddington station which had several of them in a small display window - I think it must have been newly published at the time.
In my early days of getting into signalling I learned a lot of the history from this and another OS Nock hardcover book of similar size, "British Railway Signalling" (definitely not the little Ian Allan book of the same title), of around 1968 published by George Allen & Unwin.
BZOH

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by Mickey » Fri Nov 24, 2017 7:36 am

StevieG wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 2:07 am
I got a copy of this as well Mickey, in about 1966, from a bookstall on Paddington station which had several of them in a small display window - I think it must have been newly published at the time.
In my early days of getting into signalling I learned a lot of the history from this and another OS Nock hardcover book of similar size, "British Railway Signalling" (definitely not the little Ian Allan book of the same title), of around 1968 published by George Allen & Unwin.
By the age of 12 & 13 in 1969 & 1970 respectively I was seriously getting into British Railways signalling and signal boxes at that time and not only from observing signal boxes and signals from the line side but 'unofficially' visiting a number of working boxes such as Broad Street No.2, Dalston Junction, Kensington South Main, Woolmer Green & St Albans South box during that year of 1970. As for the O.S.Nock book Fifty Years Of Railway Signalling I vaguely remember buying it that year (1970) although to be honest I was probably a little bit to young to have fully understood what I was reading from this book and from memory the book dealt more with the 50 years of The Institute Of Signalling Engineers 1912-1962 and not so much the actual 'method of signalling trains' that interested myself but my other book called British Railways Signalling Volume 2 by Geoffrey Kichenside & Alan Williams and was originally published in 1962 (re-printed in 1968) was a much better book for that purpose and I actually learnt a lot of the fundamentals of railway signalling from that particular book such as what the different lever colours meant, bell codes, track circuits, three position block instruments and the method of signalling a train between three signal boxes along with how a signalman dealt with for example a failed train or a run away train or on how to implement single line working over a double line between two signal boxes with a Pilotman along with a host of other emergency regulations that signalmen were expected to know. Anyway going back to the O.S.Nock book Fifty Years Of Railway Signalling I believe that particular book was originally published in 1962 so I presume my hard back copy of the same book that I bought in 1970 was either an original first edition copy or maybe it was a re-print?. My copy was 'lost' sometime during the later 1970s or 1980s?.

Mickey

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Re: In defense of OS Nock

Post by StevieG » Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:07 pm

Thanks for mentioning that the "Fifty years of..." book concerned 1912-1962.
That means it must've been about 1963/4 when I bought my copy.
BZOH

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