P.D. Hancock, a tribute

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.

The three sources of my narrow gauge inspiration, apologies for the hideous carpet in the layout room!

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.

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3 Responses to P.D. Hancock, a tribute

  1. philip miller says:

    Dear Sir,

    i too am a fan of PD Hancock and like you i have a First edition copy Narrow Gauge Adventure which i purchased new in Australia. Though my interest is GWR / LMS in Birmingham i find that there is a lot of useful information and ideas that in my view are still valid in this book.

    i am disappointed to read that the CMR is no more as a famed layout like this is worth preserving, though i appreciate that is easier said than done.

    Well at least some parts of the famed CMR were preserved, and long may they inspire future modellers, whatever their prototype.

    Thank you for an interesting read,



  2. I’m sad to hear of PD Hancock’s passing, though it comes to us all in the end. I met him once: I got cheeky and went to the house (he was notoriously private and secretive). I spent the most delightful hour with the man and saw, in front of my very eyes, the most beautiful examples of railway modelling I have ever seen. I too have remembered all my life the details of the CMR articles in the Railway Modeller. I can see now pictures of Alistair, Duncan, Moira and so forth. So passes a man who brought delight and beauty to many lives.
    Keith Scott-Mumby

  3. Charles Billette says:

    Living now in the Czech Republic, I kind of lost contact with many people and things. I, too, visited Philip Hancock in his home in Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh in the 1950s, and saw the CMR. Philip was an unforgettable, charming guy — and what an amazing modeller! He had a great love of trams as well. He showed me the OO gauge trolley head he had bent up out of platinum wire. It was only 2mm long and worked perfectly. I met him again in the mid 1980s, by which time he was in very poor health, but still deeply interested in modelling and railways. I believe he moved out of Edinburgh (to Dalkeith?). I hope he enjoyed his time out of town.
    Charles Billette

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