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Eric Treacy – the Right Reverend railway photographer

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Last week the locomotive 45428 Black Five was renamed in honour of the late Eric Treacy, a renowned railway photographer. The electric locomotive Bishop Treacy was also named after him in 1979, the year after his death.

Railway photographer Bishop Eric Treacy, c 1974.

Railway photographer Bishop Eric Treacy, c 1974.

The Rt Rev Eric Treacy (1907-1978) began taking photographs shortly after joining the clergy in 1932. He joined the Railway Photographic Society in 1935, but unlike many of his peers he described his pictures as ‘emotional rather than technical’, enabling him to create stunning landscapes. This is evident in the photograph below which shows a goods train crossing the Ribblehead Viaduct.

A goods train crossing the Ribblehead Viaduct, North Yorkshire, c 1950s

A goods train crossing the Ribblehead Viaduct, North Yorkshire, c 1950s

Treacy befriended drivers and firemen in his congregation and often persuaded them to make smoke effects for his pictures.

He took time to plan his photographs days in advance, checking the weather and position of the sun at the time the train was due, and coming to know the locations well. Treacy rarely took unplanned shots, the equipment and large glass negatives being too expensive for acting on impulse.

Driver Bill Hoole and his fireman lean from the cab of 'Lord Faringdon' to chat with station guard, c1956.

Driver Bill Hoole and his fireman lean from the cab of ‘Lord Faringdon’ to chat with station guard, c1956.

In the early days of the medium it was common that photographers were largely teachers, doctors and clergymen. This was due to the prohibitive cost of the equipment required which was beyond the reach of the average worker.

View from a train carriage window, c 1950s.

View from a train carriage window, c 1950s.

Treacy became Bishop of Wakefield, remaining in post until his retirement in 1976. He died suddenly in 1978 on Appleby Station while photographing the locomotive Evening Star.

Treacy’s image below shows the turntable in the York engine shed – now our own Great Hall.

York engine shed, c 1954

York engine shed, c 1954

Written by Lorna Hogger

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  1. Russell @ NRM

    Hi Lorna – bit of extra info for you: apparently Rev Treacy began his love affair with steam when he was working with poor and needy railway families in Edge Hill, his first Parish. He felt a real respect for them and this lead to his interest in trains.

  2. Rory

    it would be great to see more old photos

  3. Peter

    I didn’t realise how he died.

    How fitting, and yet ironic, that it was Evening Star that he was photographing at the time.

  4. Judith Ann Treacy van der Kaay

    His love of the steam is truly evident in his photography. Truly a gifted man – have one original that I inherited from my mother (his sister).

  5. Lorna Frost, Assistant Curator – Image Collections

    Hi Judith, its good to hear from you, thanks for your comment. What a wonderful family connection, you must have some great stories of Treacy’s life and photographic adventures. We would love to hear from you further if you’ve got any particular anecdotes that you’d like to share.

  6. Geof Perry

    My father lived very close to Edge Hill depot (Earl Road) where he later became a fireman with LMS. He passed away in 2004 but spoke of Rev Treacy speaking to him often when my father was a young man on the depot. Even popping into my grandmothers for a cup of tea. My brother and I have been train drivers for nearly 30 years, currently driving high speed Pendolino,s along the west coast mainline out of Liverpool Lime St.

  7. Frederick J Taylor

    Does NRM own the copyright to Eric Treacy’s photography? As an artist I am looking to use one with permissions. Thank you for your time. Fred Taylor GRA (assoc).

  8. Paul Ebberson

    Does anyone know which church Eric Treacy was vicar of in Edge Hill? Was it St. Mary’s? I have often wondered if it is visible in the background of shots Eric took of the shed

  9. Richard S Greenwood

    The photograph on this site “View from a train carriage window” was taken close to the site of the long closed Cornholme station on the steep climb from Hall Royd Junction, Todmorden to Copy Pit summit. This is a route across the Pennines which connects Yorkshire with Lancashire and was a route frequently used by excursion trains to the west coat resorts.

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