Remembering the rail enthusiast who captured Sunderland’s age of steam

Silksworth branch line.
Silksworth branch line.
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A RAIL enthusiast who captured Wearside’s golden age of steam on camera has died at the age of 77.

Ian S Carr spent more than 50 years photographing Sunderland’s train networks, stations and industrial railways, with his work featuring in newspapers, magazines and more than 300 books.

Neptune - at Seaham.

Neptune - at Seaham.

“He will be a big loss to the railway world,” said friend and fellow rail enthusiast Neil Sinclair.

“To readers of railway magazines, photos with the credit Ian S Carr were synonymous with Wearside.

“Ian worked almost exclusively in black-and-white photography. He never owned a car but would think nothing of walking eight miles to obtain a particular shot.

“All his developing and printing was carried out in his kitchen. He had very high standards and would discard a print if it he felt his printing did not bring out all the detail he wanted.”

Ian at an exhibition of his photographs held at Monkwearmouth Station Museum in 1974.

Ian at an exhibition of his photographs held at Monkwearmouth Station Museum in 1974.

Although born in Sunderland in 1937, Ian spent much of his early childhood in Cumbria, after being evacuated to live with relations in Cockermouth when the Second World War broke out.

The youngster enjoyed frequent trips to a nearby station at this time, watching trains on the old Cockermouth-Keswick-Penrith line, which helped spark an early interest in railways.

But it wasn’t until 1950, while a pupil at Bede Grammar, that Ian first combined his passion for photography and trains – by taking photographic records of his rail journeys.

“In 1953, he purchased the last tickets to be issued for the Marsden Rattler miners’ train from Whitburn Colliery to South Shields,” said Neil, a local historian and author.

Redhills

Redhills

Two years later, in August 1955, Ian’s first published picture appeared in Trains Illustrated.

His work has since been showcased in hundreds of magazines, books and newspapers.

“Many of his photos show long-forgotten passenger lines such as the Sunderland-to-Durham service, calling at little stations like Pallion and Millfield,” said local historian Bill Hawkins.

“An amazing rail network developed in and around Sunderland to cater for our coal, rope-making, shipbuilding and other industries, and Ian captured it all though his camera lens.”

Washington Station.

Washington Station.

Even a stint away from Sunderland as a student at the London School of Economics failed to curb Ian’s enthusiasm for rail photography and he retained a life-long passion for trains.

Indeed, after securing a teaching post in Wallsend, he carried his camera while commuting between Wearside and Tyneside, photographing unusual workings at Newcastle Central Station.

“Ian set himself the task of putting on photographic record countless railway scenes, many long gone, to pass on his pride in Sunderland’s rich and diverse railway heritage,” said Bill.

“For the rail specialist, his pictures are priceless, while for others, they provide fascinating reminders of the way things were.

“Often the background is just as interesting as the trains.

“From the golden age of steam to the new era of diesel and even the humblest narrow gauge industrial lines, Ian recorded many facets of our local railways for more than five decades.”

Ian Carr at South Dock shed.

Ian Carr at South Dock shed.

Indeed, in addition to photos taken on the British Railways system, Ian also documented the industrial railways which once criss-crossed the North East, such as the one at Doxford’s shipyard.

And he photographed the last days of several colliery lines too – the Hetton Railway in 1959, the final section of Lambton Railway in 1986 and Harton Electric Railway in 1989.

“His photos show the changes in local railways from the time steam locos were being ousted by diesels right up to the development of South Hylton’s Metro service,” said Neil.

Ian also had a long-standing interest in rail preservation and was an early member of North York Moors Railway Historical Trust and North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Trust.

He was one of the original members of the Lambton No 29 Locomotive Syndicate too, helping to save the 0-6-2T, and he supported other groups by supplying prints of his work.

“Reflecting his very generous nature, Ian was always willing to help fellow enthusiasts, particularly those seeking illustrations for books or magazines,” said Neil.

A close association with Monkwearmouth Station Museum flourished over the years as well, while Tyne & Wear Museums published Ian’s Railscenes Around Sunderland book.

In addition, Ian wrote articles on subjects such as the Durham Miners’ Gala special trains for railway magazines, as well as contributing photos for books on Wearside’s railway history.

“Happily, his photographs will still be available to authors through the Armstrong Railway Photographic Trust, to whom his negatives and copyrights have been gifted,” added Neil.

 Ian, of High Barnes, died on February 24. His funeral service has already been held.

Durham

Durham

Monkwearmouth Colliery.

Monkwearmouth Colliery.

Monkwearmouth Station

Monkwearmouth Station

The Hetton line.

The Hetton line.

South Dock

South Dock