Rail enthusiast Tom conjurs images from the past... in the present

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...Tom Noble’s are probably worth 3,000. The 17-year-old Harrogate Grammar sixth former has been wielding a camera since he was knee high.

He recently produced a series of pictures featuring our sister paper, The Yorkshire Post. They are enigmatic and emotive, combining a penchant for black and white photography with a passion for steam trains - he’s also a volunteer at North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR).

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For that, he has his grandad, David Dearlove, to thank, as he explains: “It’s something I’ve done since about the age of 10, which is the earliest age you can volunteer. It was my grandad who got me into it. He was interested in steam trains from an early age too and he passed it onto me. Now we go there regularly. It was my grandad who also got me into photography.”

Tom, from Ripon, has two younger siblings aged eight and nine but for a long while, he was the only child (and grandchild) and he spent a lot of time with his grandad David and grandma Pauline.

“I still go there now,” says the avid Leeds United fan. “I will go on a Friday and leave on the Sunday. We will normally go out somewhere during the weekend. I’ve never been one for staying inside, I love the outdoors. I used to play on a Nintendo DS when I was much younger and my brother and sister play on the X-Box but I’ve never really been into that to be honest. I’d much rather be walking on the moors with a camera, or riding on a train.

“I think there’s something magical about steam trains, it’s a much more relaxing way to get about, you just plod along through the countryside at 25 or 30mph, passing through all these beautiful locations.”

Tom is currently training to be a fireman on the footplate of a steam engine, something he is very proud of.

“I’ve been doing it for years now and when you get to 16, you can decide which side you want to go into and I always like working on engines, so I’m currently a cleaner on the footplate but training to be a fireman, which means you shovel coal into the engine. After that, you can train to become a driver and then an inspector. It’s a lifelong passion for me. When I started it was once a month but now I can go for a week at a time.”

In between his volunteering to help create a magical experience for the thousands of people who want to experience what rail travel was like in a bygone era, Tom takes pictures. Lots of them.

“I was just down in London on a special day of photography and I must have taken 800 pictures in about five hours. That’s the thing with modern photography, in that you take lots of pictures, then when you get back you look through them and usually one or two will stand out. One of the things I am wanting to do next year is to experiment with film, because that will require a different mindset, because you won’t be able to just shoot away and you’ll have to compose the shot in your mind.”

But Tom, who is studying photography, chemistry and maths at Harrogate Grammar School and plans to study a degree in photography at either Leeds or York, has a keen eye and has already had several pictures published.

“The first picture I ever sent in to a magazine, they rang me up and asked me to send a hi-res version, which I did. When I got the mag, I opened it and realised they had used it as the centre spread. I also got paid for it, which at 15 was really nice. I was proud of that.”

Today, he uses a Canon 7D Mark II digital DSLR. He has had pictures appear in Heritage Railway Magazine, Steam Railway and The Railway Magazine. A veteran of the still image at just 17, he’s constantly looking for new ways to capture life beyond the lens. His grandfather features in many of his shots, wearing a trenchcoat, trilby and with a pipe in his mouth and a copy of The Yorkshire Post under his arm, it could almost be an image from the 1950s but it’s not just the subject which draws Tom’s eye. He a knack of making the mundane look majestic, so that your gaze is drawn in, picking out the finery of a balustrade or the sweep of an arch.

Tom, who is no stranger to Leeds, regularly visiting Headingley Cricket Ground, adds: “Although I do take colour pictures, sometimes it can distract, there’s something about black and white which can bring more emotion to a picture. This is a great time to be outdoors and taking pictures, because you have great big blue skies, frost on the ground and the prospect of a cup of tea somewhere along the line.”

View Tom’s pictures at https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/page1

Instagram: @tom_noble_photography