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Tony Bock On The Railway

January 27, 2022
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

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Second Generation rose permalink
    January 27, 2022

    Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. There is a memorial to the child refugees who arrived at Liverpool Street station on the Kindertransport. Most never saw their families again. The photo above of the postwar children with their parents and saying goodbye to their grandfather after a normal visit is very poignant.

  2. Penny Gardner permalink
    January 27, 2022

    a fifties childhood ,I was brought up to be independant and use the railway from the age of six. Ladies Only carriages and ‘ask a grown’ up if the door sticks. The joys of being held up outside The Star Brush Works waiting for signal at the Copenhagen Tunnel by Kings Cross . The terror of squeezing between the mail trollies and the huge hissing wheels of Mallard or The Heart of Midlothian on the mainline station. Finally,demand that the policeman see you over the main road to Grays Inn Road and Eastman Dental Clinic. (Sometimes you could fiddle your ticket and spend a penny on stamping out your name with the metal luggage label machine on the Suburban Line platform).

  3. Barry Coppock permalink
    January 27, 2022

    Brings back great memories from when I started work and travelling into Liverpool Street in the mid-sixties.

  4. January 27, 2022

    What a bonanza! I did a first/double/triple take at the top photo……usually a sign that there is something “extra” about the appeal of the photo, far beyond its already-interesting subject matter. And sure enough… was the array of numbers that hooked my art director’s heart.
    There is a lot of graphic goodness right there, on Platform Four. And I want to hang out and have after-work drinks with the cleaning crew. Dare I say, that “unattended package” in the second photo is fuel for a cunning short story. That tall gent standing nearby looks awfully suspicious, if you ask me. The farewells — Sure, the waving grandfather gets top notice — but don’t miss that young couple and how he pulls her near for one last kiss. Where are they now?

    So enjoyed reading the recollections of reader Penny, above.

  5. Helen Breen permalink
    January 27, 2022

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, great pics and so true – “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.”

    I am reminded of that great Sherlock Holmes series on tv in which Jeremy Brett starred in 41 episodes from 1984-1994. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must have been fascinated with trains since so many of his stories featured the indomitable Holmes and his sidekick Watson boarding a train in London to travel into the countryside to solve some foul murder. Great scenes. They were always met at the station by some lackey with a horse and buggy who would convey them to the estate where the crime had been committed.

    The whistles, the steam, and the screeching brakes created great effects.

  6. Paul Loften permalink
    January 27, 2022

    I journeyed from Clapton Station directly to Cambridge Heath to School and then when I started work to Liverpool Street during the 60’s and 70’s . I have particularly fond memories of the staff at Clapton. The man at the ticket office was a great help . He would let you know when the Liverpool Street train was coming in or delayed. There was Charley the station porter ,a tiny guy with a voice so loud that people had to stand back and mind the opening doors. How many lives that booming voice saved!

  7. January 27, 2022

    Those were the days of analogue travel — it’s nice to have those memories left.

    Yes, today is Holocaust Memorial Day. Trains played a big role in the transport of children to England. The pictures made me think of it too… Here is the memorial to the helpful acts of Sir Nicholas Winton in Prague:

    And a wonderful documentary here:

    Love & Peace

  8. Pamela Bough permalink
    January 27, 2022

    Loved getting from the Central line from Debden to Stratford to see the little engine that helped the other parts of the ‘big’ trains move when their engines were turned off but were in the wrong place. Saw some of the biggest rats. Fascinating!
    Always wanted to be a train engine driver. Constantly told ‘ladies do not do that’. That’s during my growing years, the 1950’s and ’60’s.

    I have my own toy train set and working with that seems to be enough, now.

    Love the memories and seeing the changes.

    Keep up the good historical news.
    From Canada

  9. Paul permalink
    January 27, 2022

    Yet come to think of Clapton Station, all the trains then had doors that opened outwards . It was usual for passengers to open the doors as the train slowed down on approaching the platform. It was a busy stop directly on a link to Liverpool Street and the City . In the morning the platforms were crowded . Sometimes when I got there there was an ambulance and police on the platform and an open door had hit a commuter with devastating results . I knew the staff there to be very attentive and caring and if I saw just an occasional accident there must have been many more . It must have been devastating for the staff there to witness them and Charley with his loud warnings reflected their concerns. Indeed he must have prevented many an accident . An ordinary railway worker just doing his job . I doubt if any of them are still around or many that can even remember . It’s a great shame we can’t go back in time and recognise his valuable work with some sort of retrospective award.

  10. Akkers permalink
    January 28, 2022

    I loved these old photos. When I was a little girl and went to Liverpool Street with my Dad to watch the trains when my Mum and sister were down Petticoat Lane market, one of the ticket collectors used to let me change the time of the trains like the kid in the photo. My Dad did used to have to lift me up though as I couldn’t quite reach it from the top step even on tip toes.
    I think my Dad must have known him though as they always had a bit of a chat, and he must have changed it back when I wandered off or maybe he just had a sneaky sense of humour and used to like to see the passengers running for the train which wasn’t even due to go out for a while 🙂
    It still used to look like this when I started work in the mid 1980s and travelled in and out of the station from Hackney Downs.

  11. Max Burns permalink
    January 31, 2022

    Nice work, Tony.

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