The Tanfield Collection

Tanfield Railway holds a special place in the story of my dad’s art. Located only a mile from our family home, Tanfield was the place where my dad first started drawing and painting steam railways as a relaxing break from the abstract art he had become known for in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

The railway, or waggonway as it was then known, was built in 1725 to transport coal to the banks of the River Tyne. Constructed more than a quarter of a century before the first railway was officially sanctioned by government and over 75 years before the first steam locomotive, Tanfield is the oldest railway in the world and will celebrate its tricentenary in 2025.

The National Coal Board’s engine shed at Marley Hill closed its doors in 1970 following the demise of steam. After the shed’s closure, the nearby Beamish Museum used the building as a store. In the early ‘70s Beamish Museum allowed a group of steam enthusiasts to work on the railway items stored in the shed and they began to bring in and restore other locomotives the group had acquired. New track was laid and by 1977 the first passenger trains began running.

In those early days of the railway, my dad rediscovered his boyhood love of steam and could often be found in a dark corner of the engine shed or tucked away in the sidings, drawing and painting while the volunteers worked around him. Some of these pieces were donated to the railway and auctioned to provide funds for restoration.

In contrast to his later work, much of my dad’s art from Tanfield focuses on the day-to-day life of the railway – views of the shed and sidings rather than drawings and paintings of specific locomotives. Sadly (and unusually for my meticulous dad!) much of the collection is undated and untitled. It offers a unique perspective of the railway and its development from a local artist’s point of view in a number of different mediums, covering pencil, conté, pastel, watercolour and acrylic.


If you know the specific locomotive number, enter it below.

Artwork Collections