P D Hancock

P.D.Hancock and the Craig and Mertonford Railway.

After buying a copy of the Peco Publication "Narrow Gauge Adventure - the story of the Craig & Mertonford Railway" by P D Hancock I was so spellbound with it, I wrote to him via Peco Publications who kindly forwarded my letter on.  It started a long pen-friendship, and in June 1999 I actually met the great man himself.

He was born in 1928, his father was a military man and his mother, a children's nurse, he did well in education and studied at George Watson's College in Edinburgh.  His job was an Assistant Librarian at Edinburgh University up until 1984 when he had to retire to look after is elderly mother.

He had been reading about John Ahern's "Madder Valley Railway" in the Model Railway News and was inspired by his railway "in a proper landscape".  He set about designing a model railway of his own, but the plans exceeded his ability and the space to build it in as his family lived in an Edinburgh Tenement flat.  The only space for a layout was in his bedroom for which he needed permission from the "household authorities".  He dabbled on "00" gauge at first, but was not happy with the performance of the locos.  He decided there was nothing impossible about building a proper scale narrow gauge railway, though most items would have to be scratch built during the times of austerity during the years after World War II.  He always indicated that his locomotives were slightly larger than 4mm scale due to the large motors that were available then.

He wrote his first article for Model Railway News in July 1949, and following that was a prolific and entertaining writer, many articles appearing in the Railway Modeller magazine.  Being drawn to the scenic side of things the photographs of his models were always in a scenic setting.  During the next six years he created the "Craig & Mertonford Railway" the railway had a history, a map, and real characters.  The railway ran all round the bedroom and was re-built two times.  Trams appeared along Harbour Street, and also a standard gauge section.  His most famous locomotive was a L&B Manning Wardle named "Alistair" which could often be seen hauling long Kemtron bogie coaches.  But, many other locos full of character followed.

Craig: circa 1955/56
 Harbour Street with the boat building yard on the left, but Craig Castle has yet to appear on the hill.  On the (early) standard gauge is an American Varney 4-6-0  "Casey Jones".  "Alistair" , the bogie coaches and mixed vehicles are leaving the narrow gauge platform. On the right, the engine shed with "Agnes" and "Ian" outside, and  "Joan" in the siding with the skips.  Peter Allans Processing Plant is behind the engine shed.
(Photograph by P. D. Hancock is copyright and reproduced by kind permission of the Custodian of the Edinburgh & Lothians MRC P. D. Hancock Collection.)

The Manning Wardle 2-6-2 "Alistair" which P.D. Hancock had specially built for him about 1950.  Cherry's Ltd of Richmond, Surrey built the chassis and Mr H.B. Whall built the body. 

He had suffered from Ankylosing Spondylitis (rigidity and curvature of the spine due to swollen vertebrae) most of his life and like all of us, I suppose, suffered from more health problems later in his life.  When he moved to a bungalow with his mother in 1987 the famous C.M.R was no more, though when he got over his mum's death he started building a 0-16.5 version of the C.M.R in the loft, and a little later started laying some SM32 track around the garden later to be named the Torlum Hill Light Railway.

A photo of the 0-16.5 version of the C.M.R sent to me by PDH in 1998 which has a resemblance to the 4mm version.
(Photo: P.D. Hancock)

Photograph of a station on the Torlum Hill Light Railway sent to me about 1995.
(Photo: P. D. Hancock)

He loved hill walking and wildlife, and corresponded with the famous fell walker A. Wainwright.  He loved cats and collected coins, vintage films and British TV comedy.  Many times I had to tape a comedy for him on VHS cassette that was been shown on TV in England but was not broadcast in Scotland, and then post it to him.  He also studied the Roman occupation of Britain.

After becoming very frail and having a spell in a nursing home, we lost him in June 2011.

I had the honour of meeting him at a 009 Society Open Day in Northallerton in 1999 and he test ran a loco on "Carne" - the layout I was exhibiting with my wife at the time.  And, a few months later, and after a little persuasion, Andrew Hastie of Dundas Models and I arranged to bring some of the remaining 4mm C.M.R stock to a ExpoNG event in Swanley to display.

This is the only item of the C.M.R that I own: an Egger "H0e" scale OEG bogie coach modified by Philip Hancock with a higher clerestory roof to make it look more like 4mm scale.  There was an article about this coach, it's two sisters and diesel locomotive "Christine" in the September 1979 Railway Modeller.  "PD" sent me this in 1991 out of the blue as he knew I was trying to find an OEG coach for my own railway.  It was, as he mentioned, "quite tatty" when I received it as the paper "teak" side panels had got torn and the original brass nameplates were missing, used on other stock.  So I re-painted it and got new brass nameplates made up by Narrow Planet who did a good job matching to one of the originals that was loaned to me by M. MacLeod.  We think though, that the nameplates were only applied on one side of the coaches and we aren't too sure about the background colour.  I've painted mine in black as it looks classy.

Many items of original C.M.R. stock still survive and the "Dundreich" baseboards still exist and have been preserved by M. MacLeod of the Edinburgh and Lothians Miniature Railway Club.  It was exhibited as a layout in it's own right at the 40th Anniversary of the 009 Society at Kegworth in 2013. 
"Dundreich" as exhibited at the 009 Society 40th Anniversary Convention in Kegworth, 2013.  
M. MacLeod had done much repair work on this section of the C.M.R to get it to an exhibitable layout.

The cramped area around the tiny engine shed at Dundreich.  Diesel loco "Christine" (built from a Lima 4-wheeled diesel) hauls the three OEG coach conversions away from the station passing 
0-4-0"Colin" in the shed siding.

As a end photo to this post, the village of Whitsend received a special visitor in October 2012 when Lord Craig visited the Whitsend Tramway.  Here he is seen (centre) at the engine shed inspecting the locomotives with Sir Richard and the shed manager.