Fairlight Works

Official blog of the High Weald Light Railway (1977) Co. Ltd.

Inspiration – Craig & Mertonford

009 inspiration model-railways narrow-gauge

Narrow Gauge Adventure by P.D. Hancock

In a small package of second-hand books received recently was a copy of P.D. Hancock’s collected writings on the Craig & Mertonford Railway – Narrow Gauge Adventure. While I’ve always been familiar with this pioneering 009 layout (and other contemporaries such as the Aire Valley by Derek Naylor) through reading my uncle’s old copies of Railway Modeller, this is the first time I’ve gone through the whole “history” in one go and with supposedly grown-up critical faculties.

The first thing that struck me was how much P.D. Hancock talks down his own achievements, and while the book was of course compiled and edited with the benefit of hindsight its clear that during the development of the layout he was never quite happy with how things turned out. There were tight constraints of space and resources available, but I think its still fair to say he managed an awful lot with what he had; and the trade support of the mid 1950s is an almost unrecognisable place to someone who is modelling off the beaten RTR track today.

Hancock’s main source of dis-satisfaction was falling in to the age old trap of trying to cram as much model railway in to the space available as physically possible. He admits this, and you only have to compare the earlier photos and trackplans with the eventual room full of C&M to see the effect. It’s a brilliant lesson in layout planning and still something to appreciate in these times of DCC, tiny motors, excellent kits and numerous scratch aids.

The book ends tantalisingly in the middle of the third generation of the Craig & Mertonford, and plans of what might have been, and of course history tells us that this is about as far as the story went. Some stock still exists in the care of the OO9 Society, and Hancock’s eventual move to outdoor live steam was documented in RM in the 90s, but I’m sure somewhere a mental picture of the “ultimate” C&M still exists and I’m sure it’s glorious.

One of the other books was a pictorial history of the Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway which tripped my “potential future layout” alarm pretty hard, but more on that anon…