The Mancunian band Elbow recorded a song named Station Approach, partly inspired by this painting. It is about the lead singer Guy Garvy’s excitement at coming home on the train to the station in Manchester. Lowry, a lover of trains and a dedicated Mancunian, one feels, would have approved. The station depicted in the picture has been demolished and the city centre has changed from the simple charm of Lowry’s vision. The slightly cockeyed perspective and overlarge train make this one of Lowry’s more naive paintings. Although he became a guest lecturer at the Slade School of Art and his favourite artist was the highly polished and romantic Gabrielle Rosetti, Lowry remained resolutely childish in his depiction of scenes throughout his career, often saying “I only paint what I see, you know”.
More than once the artist described himself as “a simple man” - perhaps it is the simplicity of his pictures that make them so striking, Station Approach being the example. The atmosphere captured by the smoky train and frantic cloud of people seem unimaginable under the hand of a more precise academic painter. A few identifiable landmarks remain, such as the statue of Oliver Cromwell and Strangeways Prison on the right. Lowry painted this in the studio from memory as he did with many of his best loved pictures.