Philip David Hancock
Recently I received the sad news, both through private email and on NGRM, of the passing of Philip “P.D.” Hancock on the 28th June this year. PDH was one of the early pioneers of 009 modelling, and his layout, The Craig and Mertonford Railway, has been a source of inspiration for modellers since his articles began to appear in the modelling press in the 1950s, and continued to do so into the 1970s. Philip was one of the first to use 9mm gauge for 4mm scale narrow gauge modelling, and built quite an empire in a 13’6″x10’6″ room in his flat in Edinburgh.
When I was very young I bought a copy of Philip’s book ‘Narrow Gauge Adventure’ in a secondhand bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, and it has had a very special place on my bookshelf ever since. I remember rooting through piles of old modelling magazines and being captivated by the CMR from an early age, so finding an entire book on the layout was great!
Craigshire went through three incarnations and, to my mind, the one which contained the CMR and the pre-grouping standard gauge was the most appealing. The quirky appearance of the narrow gauge, and the impressive liveries carried by the NER and NBR locos fitted in nicely against the more rural setting which began to disappear with later incarnations of Craig.
On hearing the news of Philip’s passing I noticed the book sat on the shelf when packing for a holiday last week, and so took it with me. I had never noticed that it was a first edition! It doesn’t age or lose interest with every read, and is a real tribute to the author that it’s so easy and pleasant to read, with such entertaining and insightful prose. Reading it now was just as appealing and enjoyable as it was as a child. PDH’s Narrow Gauge Adventure, Ted Polet’s entry on his Craigcorrie & Dunalastair Railway in the “Peco Modeller Book of Narrow Gauge”, and a page on narrow gauge locos in O.S. Nock’s “Steam Railways of Britain in Colour” are the things which got me interested in narrow gauge lines, and ultimately narrow gauge modelling. Indeed, the photo in the O.S. Nock book sparked an early interest in the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway and ultimately lead to me volunteering, with my late father, in the early days of the trust before, and slightly beyond, when Woody Bay Station was purchased.
All three of the above are very important to me, they all helped inspire me to model narrow gauge railways, and perhaps without one, or all, of the above I wouldn’t be building Isle Ornsay today.
Sadly the Craig & Mertonford Railway is no more, but some items of stock are in either private ownership, or in the heritage collection of the 009 Society. It’s still possible to get hold of a copy of Narrow Gauge Adventure, and if you have never read it I urge you to do so as it’s a cracking read, and a fitting tribute to such a brilliant and pioneering modeller.