Tony Bock on the Railway
A mischievous trainspotter changes the departure time at Liverpool St Station
“I have always liked railway stations, a focal point of the community – the start and finish of a journey,” Photographer Tony Bock admitted to me, introducing these elegant pictures which are published here for the first time today. “Often the journey was a daily chore, but sometimes it was an occasion,” he added, in appreciation of the innate drama of rail travel.
Tony’s railway photographs date from the years between 1973 and 1978, when he was living in the East End and worked on the East London Advertiser, before he left to take took a job on the Toronto Star, pursuing a career as a photojournalist there through four decades.
“Although plenty has been written about the architecture of railways and the industrial ‘cathedrals’ – from the perspective of the twenty-first century, it is easy to forget the great change the railway brought when it first arrived in the mid-nineteeth century. Liverpool St Station was opened in 1874 and survived largely unchanged into the nineteen seventies.
So, in 1977, when proposals to redevelop the station were suggested, I decided to spend some time there, documenting the life of the station with its astonishing brick and iron architecture. I loved the cleaners, taking a break, and the young lad taking it upon himself to reschedule the next train – ‘Not This Train’! Meanwhile, the evening commuters heading home looked as if they were being drawn by a mysterious force.
Next door to Liverpool St was Broad St Station, only used for commuter trains from North London then and already it was looking very neglected. Only a few years later, it closed when Liverpool St was redeveloped.
Over in Stratford, the rail sheds dated back to the days when the Great Eastern Railway serviced locomotives there. Surprisingly, British Rail were still using some of the sheds in 1977, maintaining locomotives amongst the rubble that eventually became the site of the Olympic Park.
Finally, from the very earliest days of railways, I found three posters on the wall in the London Dock, Wapping. The one in the centre is from the Great Northern Railway, dated 1849, the other two from the North Union Railway Company, dated 1836, and it is still possible to read that one hundred and twelve pounds or ten cubic feet would be carried for three shillings according to the Rates, Tolls and Duties. The North Union operated in Lancashire and only lasted until 1846. How did these posters survive, they were likely one hundred and thirty years old. I wonder if anyone was able to salvage them?
I suppose there is an irony that I am writing this today in my home which is a village railway station built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1904. The building now sits in woods, since the local branchline is long gone. Yet any station – grand or modest – will always carry a significance for the community they are part of.”
Farewells at LIverpool St
Ticket collecting at Liverpool St
Cleaners, taking a break, at Liverpool St.
Commuters at Broad St Station.
Waiting for a train at Victoria Station
Wartime sign in the cellar of Broad St Station, demolished in 1986.
Stratford Railway works, now engulfed beneath the Olympic site
Repair sheds at Stratford
Engine sheds at Stratford
Railway posters dating from 1836 in London Dock, Wapping
Photographs copyright © Tony Bock
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