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By Lorna Hogger on

Eric Treacy – the Right Reverend railway photographer

Having a locomotive named after you is no small honour—Lorna Hogger explores why two bear Eric Treacy's name.

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

16 comments on “Eric Treacy – the Right Reverend railway photographer

  1. 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. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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).

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. This coming Sunday, 13/5/18, will be the 40th anniversary of Eric Treacy’s death. I have recently visited his grave in St. Kentigern’s Churchyard at Keswick and it is a simple slate headstone bearing his name and arrival and departure dates, along with those of his wife. There is not even a mention that he was a Bishop. As mentioned in an earlier blog, Eric was a member of the RPS which became the Rail Camera Club of which he was also a member. The RCC members hope to display some of his photographs and his biography in the church as a memorial if we can obtain the permission of the Parochial Church Council, who, at our suggestion, have recently placed signage to Eric’s grave which appropriately is alongside the trackbed of the former Keswick to Cockermouth Railway.
    David Gibson, RCC Secretary.

  9. I saw the steam locomotive bearing Eric Treacy’s name on the Channel 5 programme last week and it brought back memories. Did I glimpse a small bishop’s mitre on the nameplate?
    My own father, another railway-loving clergyman who died in 1969, used to speak of him.

  10. There is something timeless about the medium of black and white photography, and though the images would look nice in colour. The monochromatic scenes are uncluttered of distracting colours, allowing the eye to wander and absorb the magnificent images which Eric Treacy took and left us.
    An era sadly now long gone, thankfully I just remember the last days of steam running on the Aire Valley route from Leeds before they were phased out. So for me looking at these moments of the great days of steam captured on film, is the nearest I will get to travelling back in time.

  11. Is it possible to purchase any prints from Eric Treacy’s collection? Would any be available as enlargements?
    This would be as a view to mounting and framing for personal use.

  12. In June of 1982, my wife, Mona, and I were part of a group of US and Canadian students who were working at the Dun Fell Christian Hostel near Knock. On a day off we drove to Appleby and took the train to Carlisle for a day of sightseeing. As we waited on the Up platform we saw the Eric Treacy Memorial Plaque. As a first-year seminary student and a rail hobbyist, I took a photo of the plaque. I told Mona, “It’s a sign! I might be a bishop.” She replied, “No. It means that you will probably die while waiting for a train.” The other team members got a good laugh from our conversation.

    Thomas W. Busch, BA, M.Div.
    Decatur, Illinois USA

  13. Did Reverend Eric Treacy take the photograph of the A 4 Pacific (Woodcock) leaving the Copenhagen tunnel, as I have what seems to be a photograph from possibly the original negative.
    I bought the picture recently at a local bric a brac fair. It has a description on the back of the photograph mentioning the train leaving the tunnel, and from what I can make out ,(with down Flying Scotsman. There is also what appears to be his signature.
    I would be grateful for any information.

  14. Eric Treacy rode on the footplate with my grandad George. His photo appears in “Steam Up”. Back in the early 50s. Towards the end of his career he was the Queens driver.

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