Obituary: O. S. Nock

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The Independent Online
Oswald Stevens Nock, engineer and railway historian: born January 1905; married 1937 (one son, one daughter); died 21 September 1994.

SELDOM can there have been a more prolific and well-respected author on one subject: O. S. Nock's final book - Another Facet of an Autobiography (1993), published in his 88th year - was his 143rd on the railways.

'Ossie' Nock submitted his first article (the first of some 1,000 articles he wrote) in 1929, to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. It was a technical paper on railroading. His motivation at first was to supplement his income during the Depression; it was not until three years later that he began contributing work regularly. A 10-instalment article on the life's work of Sir Nigel Gresley, in the Railway Magazine, became the text of his first published book, in 1945. Thereafter he produced almost two new titles every year. After his retirement in 1970, his output increased to five, his works including a definitive three-volume history of British locomotives of the 20th century and eight volumes, for the publishers A. & C. Black, on the railways of Southern Africa, Australia, Canada, Western Europe, Asia and the Far East.

Nock had a lifelong interest in painting, fired when, as a child, he was given a copy of The Wonder Book of Ships and began to sketch the ocean liners. Railways soon took over, however, and his watercolours of the great trains and his beloved British countryside formed the basis of his last book.

This talent was also evident in the scenery and backdrops for his extensive model railway system. So large was his layout that, when the Nocks moved to their newly built bungalow in Batheaston, near Bath, in 1980, they needed two houses: one for the family and one for Ossie's model railway.

He was born Oswald Stevens Nock, the son of a bank manager in the West Country, in 1905. The family moved to Barrow-in-Furness, from where he attended Giggleswick School as a boarder. Having graduated in engineering from Imperial College, London, Nock joined the staff of Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company in 1925, with whom he remained for 45 years, holding many senior positions, including Chief Mechanical Engineer and Planning Manager. 'I always thought of writing as a second string to the bow,' he said. 'The real job was as an engineer.' In 1969 he was elected President of the Institute of Railway Signal Engineers.

Ossie met his wife Olivia at King's Cross railway station, where she was assistant manageress in the Georgian Tea Rooms. She died in 1987, just four months before their golden wedding anniversary.