Trainspotters founders Jesse Carrington and Tony Brook first met eyes across a crowded bar in a pre-gentrified Shoreditch. Working for architectural salvage pioneers Lassco they spent their days scouring the underbelly of London for interesting reclamation, filling a crumbling warehouse off the back of Old Street with everything from piles of humble Victorian door handles to reconstructed Georgian panelled rooms.
Alongside the booming architectural reclamation side of the business they started to take an interest in the runs of industrial lighting they would occasionally come across. Back then it could be bought cheap. But then again nobody really wanted it. So it remained something of a labour of love until the pair decided to go it alone in 2005, setting up Trainspotters to break away from the generalized salvage mould and specialise in industrial salvage and lighting.
There is indeed a railway related provenance to the name, going back to the time when co-founder Jesse Carrington would daily commute in and out of London Bridge station. With standing room only he’d grab hold of the overhead luggage racks and would admire their stylish design.
At the same time these 1950’s carriages were gradually being taken out of service and scrapped. After some persistent investigation it was established that the racks, mostly flanking each first class compartment, were being scrapped at two facilities, one in Immingham and the other at the MOD base in Shoeburyness.
Our initial enquiries were met with bewildered surprise from the scrapmen, however we were soon salvaging hundreds of luggage racks, rescued from the jaws of the crusher, confident that others would see in them the stylish retro design that we did.
The early days involved a lot of driving around the UK, early morning trips to antiques fairs and trips up to the north of England, loading the hire-van to the gunnels with old workbenches, vintage industrial storage units and rakes of factory lighting.
The scrap metal gold rush was in full steam and the demolition guys had no interest in saving the huge amounts of rare and pristine industrial lighting that lay in the way of the bulldozer. So it was a case of running ahead of them with a cherry picker removing as much as we could. We salvaged thousands of lights, but it doesn’t bear thinking about how many still went down amongst the rubble.
As the nascent interest in industrial lighting grew into full-scale demand we expanded our attentions to the abandoned factories studding the once communist belt of Eastern Europe.
After a number of fruitless trips, where our enquiries were met with miscomprehension if not outright suspicion, we finally located some like-minded folk in the demolition trade. And so the westward flow of Eastern Bloc factory lighting began, soon filling a large warehouse in Stroud.
These lights have ended up taking some often unlikely journeys to new homes across the world, from lighting Vegas casino’s and Hollywood movies to providing practical lighting over countless family dining tables.
Salvaged lighting will always be integral to what we do, though we have slowly introduced a range of our own re-makes of classic vintage designs. These are all based on original examples that we’ve had in stock but can’t get any more of. Whatever we make we make it using traditional techniques to at least the same high standards as the originals, marking our products out against the cheap price-driven Chinese and Indian imports saturating the lower end of the market.
Trainspotters continues to forge the way ahead, following our instincts rather than emulating others.
That’s what keeps this business interesting.