The Railway Tree


One of several commemorations of Stratford's strong association with railway history, this striking sculpture is a real landmark in Stratford.

Due to the redevelopment of the Stratford gyratory system back to two-way traffic, in 2019 the sculpture was moved slightly away from its original position on a traffic island, towards the railway station. The sculpture was also cleaned and re-painted and looks brand-new now.

The Newham Council website described the sculpture as:

"The steel girders of "Railway Tree" are shaped like railway lines and are intended to remind us of Stratford's past connection with industry and the railways.

The sculpture seeks to symbolise Stratford as a focal point of arrival and departure. Stratford’s first train station opened in 1839 along with workshops of the Eastern Counties Railway which later became the Great Eastern Railway.

Sculpted by Malcolm Robertson, the 10 metre high artwork is made up of 18 tons of rolled ‘H’ section steel.

[Exploring East London website] adds:

"This stands at the junction of the Broadway and Great Eastern Road, Stratford, E15. This structure is aligned by the compass points. The steel girders are shaped like railway lines and are intended to remind us of the area's past connection with industry and the railways. Stratford station opened in 1839 together with engineering workshops of the Eastern Counties Railway. This later became the Great Eastern Railway, and their workshops built 1,682 steam locomotives between 1850 and the 1920s. At one time the railway yards and the repair depot employed 3000 workers. With the construction of the new international railway connection, this sculpture has become even more relevant."

The Public Monuments and Sculptures Association website also said:

"Seven upright groups of steel girders, fashioned to look like railway tracks, fixed in groups of three to a 'stem' stretching skywards and branching out, overhanging the circular base.

The sculpture is set within a circle of coloured, decorative pavement slabs incorporating the points of the compass and circular decorative motifs - a star, umbrellas, birds, leaves, etc. Lights are set in the pavement around it, illuminating it at night.

Commissioned by Newham as part of the Stratford City Challenge redevelopment programme in 1995, the piece was put in place during June 1996, having been fabricated in Birmingham the same year.

Malcolm Robertson's proposal was to use stainless steel 'skeletal forms in a spatial way to create a tree-like structure in an area bereft of natural landscaping'.

The construction is of stainless steel box section girders. In the original plan, the tree's branches were to be decorated with suspended steel motifs, symbols and wind chimes, which were to have been designed by members of the local community. Although this part of the project was never implemented, the sculpture itself stands as an effective reminder of the area's strong links with industry and the Victorian railway system, as well as Stratford's current location as a focal point of East London's transport network.

The sculptor says 'that it was intended to "act as a gateway to Stratford and to symbolise its former connection with industry and railways in particular"

The inscription on a plaque at the base of the sculpture (see photos) reads:

Railway Tree


Malcolm Robertson


Commissioned by Stratford City Challenge

in consultation with the following community groups:

Sarah Bonnell School, Rokeby School, Carpenters Primary

Carpenters and Docklands Art Classes, Stepping Stones Club,

Upton Centre, Hibiscus Centre, Greenhill Centre

The Railway Tree