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Colin Peter Walker (1930-2005), art teacher and railway photographer

Above: On Thursday 19th April 1962 class A1 No. 60141 Abbotsford of Copley Hill (Leeds) shed pulls away northbound past the vantage point of Grantham North signal box.
Photograph taken by Colin Walker

by John Clayson

Colin Walker was born in Leicester on 3rd November 1930.  After studying at the Bath Academy of Art he returned to his home city as Head of Art at Mundella Boys' School.  In the late 1960s his career took him to Bicester School in Oxfordshire.  He also lectured for Warwick University, training a new generation of art teachers, before retiring to North Wales.

Colin was a master of the medium of black and white photography, combining dramatic viewpoints with a keenly observed sense of the interplay of light and shade, shape and composition to create emotive views of the steam railway.  Above all, his photographs exemplify the art of creating 'mood' in a monochrome image.

Many of Colin Walker's photographs have been published in the railway press and on the sleeves of 'Argo Transacord' steam recordings made by Peter Handford.

One of Colin Walker's atmospheric photographs aptly illustrates the cover of this 7-inch EP (Extended Play) disc of evocative sounds of the steam railway recorded by Peter Handford at Grantham.
One of Colin Walker's atmospheric photographs aptly illustrates the sleeve of this 7-inch EP (Extended Play) disc of evocative sounds of the steam railway recorded by Peter Handford at Grantham.

One of his most evocative works is Main Line Lament, a moving tribute in pictures and words to the men and traditions of the Great Central main line between Sheffield and London.  It was published following the route's run-down and closure in the 1950s and 1960s; the author remarks, in his poignant introduction, 'This has been a sad book to prepare.'  Colin was Vice President of the Great Central Railway Society.  Several of the A3 locomotives he photographed on trains such as The Master Cutler were transferred to Grantham when express services were withdrawn from the GC section.  

Colin Walker's work has featured in two public exhibitions.  The first was Tribute to Steam, featuring 145 prints, which opened at Leicester's civic Museum & Art Gallery at New Walk in 1967.  Later in the year the exhibition toured to Grantham, where it could be seen at the Public Library and Museum between 4th and 30th December.

From 16th February to 14th April 2006 there was a second exhibition of his pictures, Steam Twilight, at Locomotion, the National Railway Museum's base at Shildon in Co. Durham.  Shildon was a most appropriate venue because Colin had been there in August 1975 to witness the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.  His photographic record of that event was published as Happy Return: The Rail 150 Steam Cavalcade.  The aim of Steam Twilight was, fittingly, 'to remember Colin Walker's legacy and his contribution to the history of the railways, which lives on through his emotive and stunning work.'

Grantham shed on Saturday 7th September 1963, its final day of activity. A3s No. 60063 Isinglass and 60112 St. Simon are standing as main line pilots for the last time. Photographer Colin Walker has travelled over from Leicester to record the sombre occasion and is seen chatting to one of the locomotive crew.

Photographs taken by Colin Walker in the Grantham area can be enjoyed in the following publications:


Trails of Steam Volume 6 – Trails through Grantham
Oxford Publishing Co., 1979  [ISBN 0 86093 038 6]

Eastern Region Steam Twilight - Part One: South of Grantham (especially plates 147-204)
Pendyke Publications, 1990 [ISBN 0 904318 13 3]

Eastern Region Steam Twilight - Part Two: North of Grantham (especially plates 1-53)
Pendyke Publications, 1991 [ISBN 0 904318 14 1]

Magazine articles and features:

Steam World No. 220 (Oct. 2005), pages 46-50: The Colin Walker Years - photo feature (Western Region)

Steam World No. 221 (Nov. 2005), pages 20-25: The Colin Walker Years - photo feature (London Midland Region)

Steam World No. 222 (Dec. 2005), pages 20-25: The Colin Walker Years - photo feature (Eastern Region)

Steam World No. 227 (May 2006) 'Platform': Thanks for the Memories - tributes to Colin Walker from his son, Martin, and John Massey.

Steam World No. 263 (May 2009), pages 18-23 (?): The Colin Walker Years - photo feature (Eastern Region)

Copyright note:  the article above is published with the appropriate permissions.  For information about copyright of the content of Tracks through Grantham please read our Copyright page

11 thoughts on “Colin Peter Walker (1930-2005), art teacher and railway photographer

  1. Brian Lewis

    A big thanks to Colin Walker for providing us with so many locomotive pictures. I'm 66 now, but when I want to relive my teenage years, especially 1961 to 1963 at Grantham shed & Nottingham Victoria, Colin's books are priceless to dip into. Nuneaton born, I would journey on my own to my trainspotting paradises, Carlisle and Waterloo being others, Crewe and Birmingham Snow Hill. There are a lot of us out there who would love to repeat those great days. Thanks to all who share past journeys - I'm certain you will have barrow loads. Many thanks, Brian

  2. Linda Brockway

    What a useful interesting site. I found it whilst searching for Colin Walker as I have a catalogue of his exhibition in 1967 I wanted to sell on Gumtree!
    I grew up almost opposite the yard on Springfield Road in Grantham, my grandfather worked on the railways - Thomas Harry Gutteridge, b1897.

  3. Ken Naylor

    I've just been reading one of Colin's books (Great Central Twilight Finale) and had a lovely surprise, a reference to my Dad, Bert Naylor, who was head passenger shunter on Leicester Central. I remember watching my Dad (Noz, as he was known) doing his job many times and I don't mind telling you it frightened me to to death.

    It's brought a few tears to my eyes and many happy memories.


    1. TracksthroughGrantham1

      Hello Ken,
      Thank you for your comment. I grew up in Leicester and have always admired the Great Central - some of my earliest spotting memories are when Mum took my sister and me to St Margaret's Pasture and we watched the trains rattle across the river on that huge girder bridge which was there. Unfortunately the rundown of the GC was already happening by then; I never saw the A3s, and only an occasional V2. I agree with you that Colin's photographs and his books are masterpieces - there's real affection and emotion in his pictures and in his words. He had a genuine connection with railwaymen too - as you've discovered, finding the mention of your Dad.
      John Clayson

  4. Peter Baxter

    Lovely tributes to Colin Walker, whose black and white images of the the Great Central railway are truly masterpieces of the art of photography. The twilight years of the line were captured superbly by him and evoke so many happy memories for me and, I suspect, many others. Thank you Colin RIP.

  5. John Powdrill

    Is anyone able to identify if Colin Walker took any photos of Belgrave and Birstall station on the GC north of Leicester up to or after its closure in 1963?
    Any advice re published or unpublished work gratefully received.

  6. Graham Woodhall

    Colin Walker was our art master at Mundella Boys' school. He took us out to Swindon Works, 'A' shop etc., Eastleigh engine shed and works and other places. One time he left us at St Margaret's church in Leicester sketching the Monolith whilst he disappeared to the Great Central Station not too far away. We were young boys then and the girls in the factory opposite made our sketching a very embarrassing time with their quips and innuendoes. He took us as his school railway club members to London where he photographed trains running into and out of the Capital, very much enjoyed by us all. He was a very good teacher who was very much liked by us all at the school. Smashing bloke.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham1

      Hello Mick,
      Thanks very much for getting in touch. It's a great tribute to Colin that people remember being taught by him. It's interesting to imagine how some of Colin's photographs might appear in colour. However back in the day, when only film and chemical processing were available, it was not generally possible to do high quality colour processing at home. You were entirely dependant on the processing lab for the end result. So, for photographers and photographic artists who wished to have full control over the medium, black and white was their only realistic option. This was one reason why my father, who was taking photographs at around the same time as Colin Walker, generally worked in monochrome. In today's digital era colour and black and white processing are equally accessible so we now have the option to shoot in colour and then, if we wish, convert to black and white afterwards.
      All the best,
      John Clayson

  7. Peter Turner

    I never had the opportunity to meet Colin Walker but as a fellow steam railway enthusiast I marvel at his photographic expertise.
    Having a love of the Great Central and being of an age to remember the railway in its heyday of the 50s and early 60s, looking through Main Line Lament brings back so many happy memories for me. I regularly travelled on the London extension from Aylesbury to Marylebone hauled by steam traction, and can still remember hanging out the carriage window on the 16.38 from Marylebone with a Black Five on the front.
    It is such a shame that the line was dispensed with and removed with unnecessary haste, such short sightedness when we now have HS2 costing millions which could have followed the G.C. route to Rugby and beyond, the G.C. having been built to continental loading gauge!
    Thanks to Colin we have a fantastic record of an age gone by.
    Many thanks.

    1. TracksthroughGrantham1

      Thank you for your words of appreciation for Colin Walker's photography. We are very fortunate that he visited the Grantham area on a number of occasions, capturing the spirit of the era in many superb pictures.
      John Clayson


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