Art and the railway

Murals transforming London’s historic railway bridges are just some of the striking pieces of art across our network.

We take a look at the artworks making an impact:

Vintage railway-style signs

Network Rail has teamed up with renowned sign writer Lionel Stanhope to paint murals on the railway across the capital in a move aimed at inspiring pride in neighbourhoods and encouraging respect for our bridges and other structures.

Lionel, who has painted sets for Hollywood productions and Disneyland, has transformed nine bridges so far, and has set his sights on completing another five murals before the end of the year.

He said: “I trained as a sign writer so lettering is my thing and I paint scenery for films. So I love working on anything big and these signs are 50 feet wide by 12 feet deep.

“I really enjoy doing these signs for Network Rail because I like to work on big pieces, plus it’s cool to get so much positive feedback from people, especially in Brockley where I’ve lived for 15 years.”

The pieces first graced a wall in Herne Hill after the community launched a successful crowdfunding campaign for artwork, which they hoped would help rejuvenate the area.

Since then, other community groups have crowd funded for similar work with two signs in Hither Green, two more in Catford, one in Lionel’s native Brockley and Forest Hill.

More recently, Lionel painted murals at Lee and Nunhead. Next up are signs at West Norwood, Brixton, Clapham and Selhurst, where residents also joined forces recently to create their own mural.

Lionel, who works at Elstree Studios painting scenes for film and television, said: “Some of these railway bridges are on the South Circular, so all the heavy traffic has made them quite grim to look at.

“So these murals really help brighten the place up. I design the signs, all in the same typography but with two or three colours to choose from, then the community usually create an online poll to vote for their favourite."

Lionel said: “I’ve also personalised some of the signs based on suggestions from local people, so I painted a walrus in Forest Hill because they have had one on display in their local museum for over a century, and I added a heron in Lee because they’ve got herons in the park.

“I’ve been inundated with emails from communities wanting something similar and I plan to paint another five before the end of the year, so we could end up doing 20 in total.”

Glasgow Queen Street

The pieces come as Glasgow-based artist Gabriella Marcella has unveiled a huge piece at Scotland’s third busiest station as part of a £120m redevelopment of Glasgow Queen Street.

With just two years of construction to go, Gabriella, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art, has created a piece inspired by the city.

 

The installation on hoardings at the station comes ahead of a major milestone for the project - part of the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme (EGIP), a Scottish Government-investment in the railway infrastructure across central Scotland.

The demolition of Consort House tower and the Millennium Hotel extension has cleared the way for the final phase of demolition on Dundas Street to get underway. Piling work to underpin the future expanded station concourse can now begin.

Facing onto Glasgow’s main civic square, the hoarding artwork will also provide a striking backdrop for the European Championships in Glasgow. George Square will host a Games Village, while elite international cyclists will race past Glasgow Queen Street during the cycling events.

Tom McPake, Network Rail programme manager for the station’s redevelopment, said: "Our hoarding line will remain consistent for several months now, so that’s a great opportunity for us to install this artwork and help to improve the appearance of the station as we deliver this significant  improvement for customers without disrupting journeys.”

Gabriella Marcella said: “I was asked to produce a bold design which was modular, adaptable and unique to the setting. The artwork includes motifs inspired by the Glasgow coat of arms and the legend of St Mungo as well as old railway semaphore signals and other more abstract imagery."

London Bridge tribute

In February, street artist Jimmy C, known in London for his work paying tribute to David Bowie and William Shakespeare, produced a major work of art in memory of the London Bridge terror attacks.

The work shows a series of hearts floating in space and is painted under one of Network Rail’s arches on Stoney Street, in Southwark. The attacks, on June 3, 2017, took place in the surrounding area.

Jimmy said: “London is a great city, a city of the world, with people from all cultures living and working here. The terror attacks shocked everyone who loves our city. It is a great honour to be able to create a lasting image to the memory of those who lost their lives and to the resilience and spirit of London.”

Network Rail had previously worked with Jimmy C on a Shakespeare portrait on Clink Street, Southwark.

Last year, to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Jimmy sprayed a colourful image of the playwright just round the corner from Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

Ancient clay transformed

In January last year, artist Alison Cooke used ancient clay found beneath London Bridge station to create art inspired by the rail network.

Network Rail found a third of a tonne of clay, thought to be 54 million years old, during redevelopment.

Inspired by the sight of a piling machine digging deep into the foundations of London Bridge, Alison asked for a batch of the raw material. Happy to oblige, Network Rail provided a tour of the station construction site and access to the many historical artefacts that had been found during the station’s £1bn works.

The Southwark-based artist shared the clay with seven fellow members of the Associated Clay Workers’ Union (ACWU) to create pieces of contemporary art that reference the railway and the history of London Bridge.