Craig & Mertonford locomotives abroad

Ted Polet (2008-2012)

There is no narrow gauge model railway that has spoken to the imagination like P.D.Hancock's Craig and Mertonford Railway. The origins of this 9mm gauge, 4mm scale railway were in the immediate post-WW2 years and, as PDH himself writes in his book 'Narrow Gauge Adventure' (Peco Publications, 1975/1980), the person really responsible for his layout was the late John H. Ahern, who wrote about building his Madder Valley Railway in the Model Railway News, just after the war, and inspired him.

In turn, many of the older generation of narrow gauge modellers were inspired by P.D.Hancock and all the scenic ideas he put into his successive Craig & Mertonford layouts. This includes myself - as a teenager I experienced my real first narrow gauge railway in North Wales, and at the same time I had access to a pile of 1950s and 1960s Railway Modellers that had been discarded by the editors of a Dutch language modelling magazine. In this were several articles on the Craig & Mertonford feeding my imagination.

Little was I to know at the time that the small shelf layout I built in 1969 would be the start of an extensive model railway system, over which, many years later, several original Craig & Mertonford locomotives were to operate for a short period of time.

When, back in 1990, P.D.Hancock started writing in the Railway Modeller of his garden railway (the Torlum Heights Light Railway or THLR), I wrote to him to inquire what had become of his old layout. Thus, an occasional correspondence started, and back in 1993 a package arrived, containing one of his later locomotives, an Arnold conversion named Colin, one of the old cast metal open wagons lettered CM and two very old metal bogies. The locomotive was loaned to me, and the wagon and bogies were a gift. So that was the first time a CMR locomotive ran on C&DR rails.

'Colin' on video in 1993  

About 10 years later, three other but much older CMR locomotives surfaced. These were real veterans of the 1950s period. Ian Turner found the 50-year-old 0-4-0 saddle tank 'Angus', modelled after the Ffestiniog Railway 'Prince', on his workbench, which he duly repaired for its owner and in the process took along to one or two shows where I exhibited Rae Bridge. We matched the loco (which was minus its tender) to PDH's open wagon for photos.

In 2006 I met Rod Allcock and Warren Dawson, who visited the Valkenburg show. I already knew that Rod had repaired another old CMR locomotive ('Moira', see Mick Thornton's Weemoira page), which had been given to him on a '99-year loan' by P.D.Hancock himself very long ago, but the fact that he came across the vertical boiler loco 'Duncan' was a surprise. Rod left both locomotives with me for some time, to operate over the C&DR.

That was easier said than done, however, as these 50-year-old locomotives proved to be far too bulky even for my own liberal loading gauge. In the end I managed to run 'Moira' from the branch to the harbour, provided it ran chimney first into Dunalistair. Turn it round and it would stick. It wouldn't go under the overbridge at Rae Bridge, and less so through the tunnels, but on the branch it did go.

'Moira' on video in 2008 (part 1)  

'Moira' on video in 2008 (part 2)  

'Duncan' on video in 2008  

Rod proved to have done an excellent engineering job on the two old models, which despite their size run very sweetly. I decided to make a video programme of their visit, copies of which were duly sent to P.D.Hancock, to the 009 Society, and to the Railway Modeller who had given permission to use photos scanned from the 1975 book in the film.

In 2012, Rod visited the Valkenburg show with his 'Corris' layout. He brought another CMR loco with him: the converted Kemtron diesel 'Joan', which we ran on my C&DR together with a set of 'Woolworth tippers' similar to those used by P.D.Hancock in the 1950s.

'Joan' on video in 2012  

It was a privilege to run PDH's old locomotives over my layout, and after consulting with Rod and Warren I decided to publish some of the photos on our website, as tribute to P.D.Hancock, who is the true pioneer of what we call 009 today.

More photos