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.
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. (Ed’s note: we’ve just added a more recent photograph of this area to our Latest Image Uploads page.)
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.
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.
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 the NRM.