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Tony Bock on the Railway

March 10, 2013
by the gentle author

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

You may like to see these other photographs by Tony Bock

Tony Bock, Photographer

Tony Bock at Watney Market

Tony Bock on the Thames

12 Responses leave one →
  1. David Brief permalink
    March 10, 2013

    One of the great things about Broad Street was the list of destinations etched into the stone of its entry Including St Petersburg!
    It made me smile every day when I used to commute from there.

  2. TAA permalink
    March 10, 2013

    After reading these everyday and loving them for months now…it was only with this one that I must have been more focused on the text rather than the pictures; only to discover Tony Bock is here in Toronto. I love the East End of London and his recording of it, at that time is so interesting as I think it was a time great change in the UK and it is fascinating to see it from this era. I love his photographs. Thank you both Gentle Author and Tony.
    Cheers from the Colonies – Toronto Canada

  3. March 10, 2013

    Great photos, thanks for posting them.

  4. March 10, 2013

    It’s a treat to see pictures like these, especially when you know what it’s all like now – much more enclosed, claustrophobic. And the change in attitude – notice the suitcase left unattended?

  5. Toni Ellwand permalink
    March 10, 2013

    Loved the rather bored Railway attendant as the crowds said goodbyes to their loved ones!

  6. March 10, 2013

    As a child, my nearest station was Victoria. I have fond memories of the News Cinema, intended to while the time away for travellers waiting for connections. It had A and B movies of course, and newsreels which held rather less attraction for a small child. Actually, as far as I was concerned, the B movies weren’t up to much either: travelogues of Patagonia, that sort of thing.

  7. Bob Davenport permalink
    March 10, 2013

    David Brief: I think that was Blackfriars – see http://mural.uv.es/jahesa/granta_extract.htm. Or did Broad Street have similar carvings?

  8. sprite permalink
    March 10, 2013

    unattended suitcase -
    innocence regained lasted
    between this war and that…
    parallel lines of goodbyes
    in bygone stations

    sprite

  9. sprite permalink
    March 10, 2013

    derelict station -
    another train, another rail
    going nowhere

    sprite

  10. Peter Twist permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Thank you for publishing these for the first time. I do hope Tony will share these remarkable photographs with the London Metropolitan Archives in due course, for future generations.

  11. Rena permalink
    April 25, 2013

    Such great photos.I was born in the East End Of London in the 50s and grew up with these images.A trip back through Memory Lane.

  12. May 14, 2013

    Tony, your images and story are very wonderful, thank you! I’ve always loved train life; travel, stations, the comings and goings indeed anywhere/anytime all these years. Lovely! Cheerio.

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