Weekly Photo Challenge: Down

One of the joys of childhood is to look down on trains passing under a bridge.   Often those first glimpses are from the shoulders of a patient parent.   We soon grow tall enough to see over the bridge parapet ourselves…. Oh! the pleasure of being enveloped by the clouds of steam and smoke as an engine passed beneath and then the rush to the other side to watch it disappearing into the distance leaving a smell of warm oil and coal.   Such were the memories of my childhood when trips to Hadley Wood were a popular picnic treat for the family and journeys to Scotland were by night train.   Back then all the mainline expresses were commonly in the hands of Steam locomotives.

Of course, sooner or later, we grow up and many of the joys of childhood are forgotten or become faraway memories of a time when the sun always shone.   For some of us though, that early encounter with the view from the bridge stays with us into adult life.   I still can’t resist standing on a bridge watching the trains go by and I’ve been doing it off and on for the last 40 years.

Willesden Junction has always been a popular mecca for trainspotters / railway enthusiasts, featuring a confluence of lines from all points of the compass and all regions of  British Railways (with the exception of the Scottish Region).   Around 1920, as the new lines were built for a local electric service to Watford Junction from Euston, a footbridge was built across the main London to Crewe lines for a new footpath connection.   Ever since it has been a popular location for enthusiasts to look down on the passing express, outer suburban and freight trains whilst also affording a view of the trains operating around the North London Line.   Here are a couple of then and now views looking down from that footbridge…

Willesden Junction 1982 and 2010

Willesden Junction 1982 and 2010

Willesden Junction 1986 and 2012

Willesden Junction 1986 and 2012



  1. Great pictures. 🙂

  2. It’s amazing that you have comparative photos to post side by side. Even more Amazing is how much things change in 25 +/- years. In the lower photos, it appears some of the original buildings in the background have been demoed for new construction.

    • Sure sign of a mis-spent youth 😉 Yes, several buildings on the horizon have been replaced, notably the factory with its chimney. There’s another that has gone in the top left of the upper pair.

      • Isn’t that the story everywhere? I take lots of photos of old tobacco barns and such, knowing one day they will be bull dozed over in the name of ‘progress’.

      • Too true Marcy – I take photos for a website called Geograph and it’s amazing how quickly things disappear to be replaced by something else.

  3. Of course – trains. I grew up on the tracks near a bridge and didn’t even think of it. Top post.

  4. there truly is something magical about trains, isn’t there? i envy you your chance to spend childhood days watching trains (that’s something i didn’t grow up with 🙂 ). it is lovely to see your past-and-present photos—i especially enjoyed seeing the trains’ metamorphosis. (ps. thanks for visiting my blog).

    • Hi Liv – yes trains change a great deal with time in much the same way as the environment through which they run.

      I think railways are in my blood – my Grandfather was an engine driver on the old LNER. Where I live, the Northern Line passes just behind the houses on the other side of the street. The Kings Cross to Edinburgh line is just over 2km to the east and the St.Pancras to Leicester line is 2km to the west. On a still night I can hear the trains on those lines. Thanks for popping by 🙂

  5. Creative entry as usual Martin. I like the stairs in particular.

  6. So cool, Martin!
    Reminds me of a similar place from my childhood… an overpass that crossed many, many sets of tracks where cars sat. I usually didn’t see too much ‘action’, but still, every time my parents would drive over that bridge I’d fight the seat-belt for a better glimpse of all that awesome railroad ‘stuff’ below…

    • Sounds like a railfans paradise to me Bob 😉 Some of those big US diesels have so much character – I always enjoy looking at photos of them (and I get to drive them on Railworks too!).

  7. Great post. I specially likes these photographs, of different times. There is no better approach to compare things, other than seeing them through photographs.
    The line that made me smile was, ” I still can’t resist standing on a bridge watching the trains go by and I’ve been doing it off and on for the last 40 years”. Because i am doing the same thing from last 20 years. 🙂 It looks beautiful to see a train pass under the bridge. Wonderful job with this post. 🙂

  8. I so love to take photos of tracks. Great photos!

  9. Hi. Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to view my “down” photo and clicking “like.” But I have to say more because I am so blessed by your train photos. I have loved trains all my life, and have been so saddened by the fact that train travel in the U. S. has almost died out. One of my earliest memories is of the time I was two years old, and I rode a train with my mother to spend time with my grandmother. One of my favorite “toys” as a child was a train that had an old-fashioned steam engine that literally spewed out sparks as it tooted and ran around the tracks. (Of course, everyone would consider that unsafe for kids now, but it was a real prize back then.) I have to admit to feeling just a little fearful when the sparks flew, but I still wanted Daddy to run the train again and again.

    I guess I come by my feeling for trains naturally, because my dad has always had a love and fascination for them as well. In fact, he set up an entire train yard that took up one whole corner of our basement, and his favorite pastime was “playing” for hours with those trains. Of course, his love affair with trains dates from the earliest rides he had during his Marine Corps days, when trains were the main transport of our troops. And for two decades after the war, trains were one of the most common modes of transportation here. They are still used somewhat regularly for some freight use, but passenger trains are very sparse.

    One of my good friends also loves trains so much that he opened a hobby store -specializing in trains and a restaurant in which he set up a huge track that ran around the entire restaurant, at a
    level of about 7 feet from the floor. The trains run around those tracks all the time the restaurant is open, to the joy and delight of the customers. People come from out of state to that restaurant just so they can see the trains run. He has also devoted one whole room in his home to a train yard, which covers the entire floor of that room.

    Recently I had to meet my sister at our local train station, as she returned home from a long trip, none of which was made by train except the last little bit. The depot was completely closed, and when the train stopped, passengers simply disembarked and trudged with their bags to their cars or waiting relatives’ cars. The experience just drove home more completely how much we’ve lost of the days when trains and depots were full of life, with passengers excitedly bustling through the depot, eager to board, or eager to greet relatives and loved ones in the busy crowd of people coming and going — when passengers enjoyed eating, sleeping, and interacting with the conductors, waiters, etc as they made their journeys on trains that were virtually hotels on wheels.

    Ah well, those trains and those times are gone now, but the romance has not diminished one iota. Your pictures are great.

    • Hi Sandra – Wow, Fascinating comment! I think you’ve got more than enough there to do your own post on the subject and thanks for the kind comment about the photos 🙂

      I had noticed that apart from the Northeast corridor, passenger services are very rare in the US. In Europe the railways have successfully fought back aginst the car and the plane with high speed frequent services. It’s all helped by the shorter distances involved of course. But capacity on some of our routes in the UK is an issue as freight trains have to fit in between the passenger services. A second high speed route is planned in the UK to alleviate congestion on the Euston-Birmingham Route (depicted in the photos), thus allowing increased passenger services and also greater freight capacity as well.

      Our last Holiday was to Rome and we travelled by train via Paris and Zurich – a real adventure which you can read about in my All Roads Lead To Rome posts from last summer. Part 1 here and part 2 follows as the next post – hope you find time to read and enjoy 🙂

  10. I understand why looking down on the trains bring you joy …

  11. Years ago on the farm my father employed a train spotter. Not AS a tain spotter, of course, but that was this guy’s hoppy. He had SO MANY photos of trains!

    Yours are more colourful – all his were black and white.

    • Hi Robyn – Well, I have got some B&W ones somewhere that I took back in the early 1970’s and I sometimes decide to process my photos of preserved trains in B&W for a vintage effect like at Didcot.

  12. You know what? I never even thought about writing an article on the subject of my love affair with trains, but now that you’ve mentioned it, I think I’d really enjoy doing so. Thanks for the suggestion!

  13. I love the story with your pictures. Anything that takes us back to (a happy) childhood is magical.

    Thanks for looking in on my pictures!
    Writing from the Edge

  14. My three-year old son loved your post. He’s totally into trains 🙂

  15. Thank you for adding these 2 e 0 m c a
    as they are certainly a fine addition to your
    Space, well I like them my friend 🙂

    Keep up the great work now 🙂


  16. Those photos are amazing Martin ,totally great shot 🙂

  17. They haven’t changed that much have they? the second photo maybe with the office type block in the background I wonder how it will be in another thirty years. Well recorded for posterity 🙂

  18. Thanks to JakesPrinter I found your blog. I was captivated by the colorful trains and could almost sit at the computer to watch them as under the bridge!


  19. Great photos there, Martin. I love the comparison from different times!
    Have a great week ahead!

  20. The 1st part of your post paints such a wonderful picture in my imagination. I like how you’ve put the old & new photos together showing the changes over the years. I always enjoy you train or bus photos & info.

    • Thanks Tony – Ironically, I visited another bridge that I took photos from a long time ago on Thursday so I have another ‘then and now’ to put together.


  1. […] Weekly Photo Challenge: Down (2e0mca.wordpress.com) […]

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