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5th Jul, 2022

'Labour of love' explores work of colour photography pioneer

Ian Hughes 27th Dec, 2017

TOM Williams was passionate about railways and photography, and combined they produced very special results as is evident in T.E.Williams: The Lost Colour Collection Volume 2.

The Stratfordian was a pioneer of colour slide photography in the years after the Second World War, but it is only really now that “the true results of his endeavours”, to quote his friend and fellow rail enthusiast Dick Blenkinsop, can be truly appreciated.

That is down to the labour of love of his son Phil, a graphic designer and photographer himself, who has been busy painstakingly cleaning and digitally restoring 1,500 colour slides taken by his father.

T.E.Williams: The Lost Colour Collection Volume 1, featuring Tom’s colour images taken between 1954 and 1966, received nothing but praise from vintage rail enthusiasts, and the second volume is sure to receive an equally warm welcome.

Tom became well known for his extensive black-and-white photographic work which was donated to the National Railway Museum in York by his family after his untimely death at the age of 49 in 1980.

The collection, comprising almost 12,000 medium format and 35mm negatives of railway life during the last few decades of steam haulage, has since seen publication in many books and magazines across the world.

Tom, who worked at Flower & Sons brewery in Stratford, would spend much of his spare time – before and after work, and at weekends – photographing steam trains in and around Warwickshire, and further afield, often with his aforementioned friend Dick who has written the introduction to volume 2, and who first met Tom lineside at Hatton Bank in the early 1950s.

Dick writes: “During the time we spent together, Tom was always very positive about all his activities and he was a perfectionist by nature, particularly when it came down to his railway photography.”

Tom was reliant on his ‘trusty bicycle’ when he started taking his railway photos in 1947, but come the early 50s, Dick bought a car and the pair ventured further afield.

In the summer of 1956 they went as far as Devon, and even got a B&B on a Newton Abbot council estate partly so they could watch trains leaving the station while eating their breakfast.

Dick also recalls Tom’s determination for the perfect picture even once went as far as requesting a driver for a ‘good smoke effect’ as he passed by. The driver duly obliged.

The good news for fans of the golden age of steam is that a third volume is planned.

T.E.Williams: The Lost Colour Collection Volume 1 is published by Irwell Press.

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