Catalogue description The Treacy collection of railway photographs

This record is held by Search Engine (National Railway Museum)

Details of The Treacy Collection
Reference: The Treacy Collection
Title: The Treacy collection of railway photographs

The NRM acquired Treacy's collection of glass plate and film negatives from the publisher Millbrook House in 1994. They mainly feature LNER, LMS and British Railways Standard locomotives hauling passenger and freight trains in the Midlands and north of England. Static shed scenes, diesels and electrics are also well represented and there are small numbers of photographs of GWR and Southern Railway engines.


Typewritten lists give details of the number, train service, name and location of the locomotive.

Date: c1935-1978
Held by: Search Engine (National Railway Museum), not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Treacy, Eric, 1907-1978, Suffragan Bishop of Pontefract, Bishop of Wakefield, member of the Railway Photographic Society

Physical description: Approx 12,000 negatives
  • Railway transport
Administrative / biographical background:

Treacy's approach to railway photography was to plan the desired shot well in advance, paying particular attention to the scenic setting, the performance of the locomotive, the weather and the position of the sun. Treacy then went straight to the chosen vantage point, resisting all temptations to take his photograph unless the scene met his exact requirements. Although he started with a 35mm Leica, Treacy preferred to use a quarter-plate Soho Reflex, a 9 x 12cm Zeiss Contessa Press camera and a 3¼ x 2¼ ins Zeiss Super Ikonta rollfilm camera. In the 1960s he conceded to new technology, and his studies of modern trains were made on film with a Rolleiflex and a Super Ikonta. Later in life he also returned to 35mm film.


In 1935 Treacy joined the prestigious Railway Photographic Society, which favoured a standard three-quarter front view of a locomotive and train. Initially, he subscribed to this credo, and certainly his early photographs show his conformity to their ideals. However, he began to question the value of this uncompromising approach to railway photography, describing it as "rather tedious". Instead, he praised the efforts of his fellow members, such as C C B Herbert and Stephen Townroe, who opted for images that attempted to capture the spirit of the railways. Treacy believed that "it should be possible to place the train in relation to the landscape so that the result is a picture rather than a mere photographic record". He certainly achieved that aim, and his superb collection of railway images stands comparison with the work of top landscape photographers as well as those of locomotive enthusiasts.


Treacy's photographic career lasted for forty years and it was while he was photographing the last BR steam locomotive 'Evening Star' at Appleby Station in 1978 that he collapsed and died. His contribution to railway photography was recognised when his name was given to a British Rail Class 86 electric and a preserved Class 5MT.

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