Eric Treacy – the Right Reverend railway photographer

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.

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.

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 National Railway Museum.

York engine shed, c 1954.

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9 Responses to Eric Treacy – the Right Reverend railway photographer

  1. Russell @ NRM says:

    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 says:

    it would be great to see more old photos

  3. Peter says:

    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 says:

    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).

    • Michael Das says:

      Could you tell me were to find specific picture witch he made in i think about the 50/60’s
      It is a picture in the book Roaming the northern rails page 104 “Flying Scotsman” at Newcastle. A4 Pacific No 60009 Union of South Africa.
      Kind regards Michael Das

      Bovenbuurtweg 20

      6717 XA Ede, The Netherlands



  5. Lorna Frost, Assistant Curator - Image Collections says:

    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. This is incorrect. The locomotive 45428 Black Five was not renamed in honour of the late Eric Treacy in 2010, but was named after him some time around 1974/75 (see the film NORTH YORK MOORS RAILWAY NEWS COMPOSITE REEL NO. 2 on the Yorkshire Film Archive website).

  7. Francis Franks says:

    I have digitised slides (not pristine) taken by my father & some 126 print photographs of my own with a date recorded as 1st June 1974 showing Bishop Eric Treacy driving Black 5 5428, with the name Eric Treacy, on the NYMR.

  8. Keith Tomlinson says:

    i am about to visit the North Yorks Railway and noticed that Eric Treacy is in service,I am sure back in the mid 1970’s, I Saw this engine at Tyseley locomotive works along side Clun Castle.
    If this is the case then the previous comments would be correct.

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