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Tony Bock On The Railway

November 3, 2023
by the gentle author

Please come to our SAVE LIVERPOOL ST STATION campaign event at 7pm on Tuesday 7th November at Hanbury Hall, 22 Hanbury St, E1 6QR. Speakers include Griff Rhys Jones, Eric Reynolds and Robert Thorne.




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

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Lizebeth permalink
    November 3, 2023


    The proposed development makes the disgraceful alteration of Euston in the 1960’s look good by comparison.

    We must STOP developers who have no interest in aesthetics or history from ruining the historic architecture of London.

    Thanks to the Gentle Author and all who are campaigning against this. We must win!

  2. Andy Strowman permalink
    November 3, 2023

    Liverpool st station used to be my site to write poetry at night .
    My favourite photo I’ve the cleaners one.

  3. Christine permalink
    November 3, 2023

    There is always something so nostalgic of black and white railway and stations photo! It’s like a longing x

  4. Greg T permalink
    November 3, 2023

    Historic England have weighed in on the Liverpool St destruction
    All to the good

  5. Martin Ling permalink
    November 3, 2023

    I seem to remember that in the mid 1970s there was a booth at Liverpool station where you could record a seven inch vinyl single. Can anyone else recall this ? They definitely exist as Neil Young recorded a whole album on one a few years ago. It was in the days when the last train to Southend left at 1.25am. If you missed that you made a record and then got the ‘Milk Train’ around 3.30am.

  6. November 3, 2023

    Ah…………..TRAINS. GA, “trainspotting” is a term that belongs to you. In America (at least where I grew up) it was “pro forma” to wave at a passing train, and the engineer always waved back. Always, always, always. If one was really lucky, the kindly engineer would blow the whistle. I dated a boy at the other end of our town, and his home was located a stone’s throw from the tracks. How romantic to sit on a porch swing with him, his arm around my shoulder, and wait for the trains to pass.

    Naturally, I loved the photo of the railway posters. As a collage artist, I greatly appreciate tenacious fragments of paper that cling to surfaces, against all odds. Such unintentional beauty.

    And, oh boy, that seemingly deserted white suitcase!? Whoa. What a fabulous writing
    prompt! — Just stare at the thing, and I dare you to not think of a dozen possibilities.

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