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Tony Bock On The Railways

March 2, 2018
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. “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

15 Responses leave one →
  1. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    March 2, 2018

    Lovely pictures

  2. March 2, 2018

    Fabulous and atmospheric photos. Train-spotting at Liverpool Street used to be a happy day out when we were children, and we always enjoyed sending people in the wrong direction if they happened to ask us the way. Valerie

  3. March 2, 2018

    These are wonderful images. I have travelled in and out of most of London’s termini over the last 40+ years and am always surprised at the changes I see. I still expect to find the dark, gloomy and highly inconvenient concourse at Victoria and hope that they finish all the work soon so the entrance is improved. I love the new Kings Cross and St Pancras, both of which were mildly depressing before renovation, same for London Bridge. As my parents met on a blind date under the clock on that station during wartime, I feel rather protective of it. But in my head, I can still hear the slam-chunk! of the doors on electric trains of the southern railway lines. Just ghosts, now.

  4. Greg Tingey permalink
    March 2, 2018

    Brings back memories.
    Taken, 1962, standing where now would be just inside the E entrance of “Westfiekd” – you can just see the canopies of the Lae Valley line platforms in the distance.

  5. March 2, 2018

    The Broad Street photos are poignant, and all are evocative of a time that’s close in my memory but seems an age away in images.

  6. frank hadley permalink
    March 2, 2018

    thanks for posting these lovely reminders of how some of our stations looked.
    living near liverpool street station we kids would often go down after school to see the lovely steam trains, Broad Street was a favourite as we would travel to Gospel Oak in the summer.

  7. March 2, 2018

    How many countless couples met on trains, I wonder? (my parents did)
    And think of how many memorable films included stories about trains? (don’t get me started……)
    In the small town outside Pittsburgh where I grew up, the little place has gone through quite
    a hard time and is struggling….but there is a preservation project underway…..A complete restoration of the old Train Station.
    People love trains! (and train stations)
    Many thanks from the snowy Hudson Valley in New York.

  8. Richard Smith permalink
    March 2, 2018

    I’ve been interested in railways for many years and so it is not surprising that I enjoyed these photographs so much. One thing I don’t like is goodbyes so the picture of farewells struck an emotional chord with me.

  9. mark permalink
    March 2, 2018

    Amazing pics. Used to arrive at Liverpool Street often in 1977 and 78, then tube to Aldgate East for St Marks Square? to visit Merchant Navy pool, so bringing back happy memories. As the photos attest, it was grimy and bustling. Exciting to a 16 /17 year old boy, travelling alone. So began my love affair with London.Thanks again.

  10. David Brain permalink
    March 2, 2018

    Thank you for posting these charming photos. I see that Tony’s photography started in 1973 which was the year of my first visit to Britain. The first train we took was from Southampton Ocean Terminal to Waterloo, then we transferred stations and continued north. I well remember many of these stations and trains, especially the Deltic locos and the carriages with compartments. My most recent trip across the Atlantic Ocean was last year and, although there are many improvements in rail service, the atmosphere is lacking. Fortunately, most of the grand stations have been preserved.

  11. Chris Ryan permalink
    March 2, 2018

    Great memories, as a diesel “fireman” at Hornsey in the 60’s we had several turns to Broad St. there were regular commuter trains from Hertford Nth. and Hatfield into the city,it was also served by midland lines, we also, via the North London line had regular trips to Stratford ,the works and yards there seemed massive and were always busy, we also accessed the Vic Docks via Stratford , thanks for the memories Tony.

  12. Jules permalink
    March 3, 2018

    There is a definite romantic quality present in old railway photographs. A window into a practical, non computerised mechanical past where life, although harder in some ways, was more simple. As a sixteen-year old boy, I started work on the railways in the mid seventies and the very first picture in this post takes me back to those units (trains) I started my working life repairing. I still work on the railway to this day and boy! How things have changed.

    Great post. A veritable trip down memory lane.

  13. martin permalink
    March 6, 2018

    Nice shots of class 37 and 47 locos, or was it class 50? loved the BR blue locos.

  14. JerryW permalink
    March 6, 2018

    Normally, I prefer looking forward to looking back; not a great one for nostalgia .. but there is something about railways, and steam railways especially, that completely overpowers the senses and forces you to look back at, and appreciate, bygone times.. lovely photos Tony.

  15. Marcia Howard permalink
    April 2, 2018

    Fabulous images. I don’t often use a mainline train these days, but am always impressed with the service on the occasions that I do.

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