Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis 1909 - 1987


Writer and illustrator of books on railways, 1940s-1980s; employed by British Railways; produced artwork for LMS; signed artwork C Hamilton Ellis.

In an interview with Sir Peter Allen in 1976, Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis was asked when he became interested in trains. "Oh trains! Trains began, to my recollection, in July 1911, probably before, but that is as far back as I can remember". This casual reply belied the fact that the railway had captured his imagination and imprinted itself on his earliest childhood memories - he was only two years old in 1911! The emotion railways aroused in him is expressed in his choice of words: "I was born to it" he said, referring to his preference for the LSWR, "but I became very fond of the Great Western; I always loved the enemy".

Hamilton Ellis' mother was a professional photographer and when her son was twelve she photographed some captive wildlife specimens to illustrate an article he wrote on lizards - a lifelong passion - for Country Life. Hamilton Ellis himself became a keen photographer and journalist, beginning his career with The Railway Magazine, and Railway Gazette, before moving on to write for Modern Transport. It was at this time, in 1947, that "everybody's Christmas book", The Trains We Loved, was published. It made his name and brought him a flood of commissions in the following decade. Though his bank manager commented nervously "It is a very hazardous way of earning a living isn't it?", he embarked on a successful second career writing and illustrating books on both trains and ships, as well as selling paintings from his exhibitions. He also possessed a strong sense of humour, and published comic railway books such as Rapidly Round the Bend and Ballad of the M7.