The Magic of Hintock

The Magic of Hintock Setting - Easton, Portland

Easton has changed little since John walked here as a boy – 80 odd years ago.

Hintock first caught my eye when I picked up the 2016 Railway Modeller Annual. As I turned the pages, I was drawn to John’s branch line, which evokes that special spirit of joint working between the GWR and the SR in the 1930’s. Hintock proved to be the real thing – an enchanting creation, forever Dorset, yet far away in Utah in the USA, where John has lived for the last twenty five years.

I was taken with John’s own photographs in the magazine, which mix colour with black and white, yesterday with today and the imaginary Hintock Redux with the real Easton, where John spent his formative years. You can tell the difference between the model and twelve inch scale, but these photographs showcase our hobby at its best. It is no surprise to learn that John is also a keen photographer 1.

The Magic of Hintock Place Portland

The Isle of Portland dominates the eastern horizon, in the foreground to the left Abbotsbury and The Fleet and right the stretch of Chesil Beach.

I fell in with Hintock again shortly afterwards, this time on the internet, when I was researching my own modeling plans. I have a soft spot for the Jurassic Coast, often a crossroads in history as players came and went through the ages. The old Saxon kingdom of Wessex survives, imagined and real, the land much as it has always been, full of myths and legends.  As elsewhere in Dorset, there are special places on this coastline, where the bones of prehistoric creatures are found and the past is close. Stand on the Bill of Portland in a storm of wind and waves and sense how many have watched these turbulent seas before, and many do so still.

Magic of Hintock Place - Jurassic Coast

Across Lyme Bay to the west is Devon along the shore Dorset’s Jurassic Coast.

The website you are now visiting is a window on the creation of a fine model railway. Browsing the chapters on this site is like dipping into a favourite guide book. Novices and experienced modellers alike will find something in these web pages. Nowhere are John’s attention to detail and his talented blending of the imaginary and the real more apparent, than in the tale he weaves around his Hintock and around his operation of the Branch line.

Magic of Hintock Place - Beamister

Beamister in its idyllic setting and with its rural Dorset charms.

Why does John’s Dorset look so real? It is partly his expert use of trees, which John makes himself and which enfold the scene just as they do in the Western Vale of Dorset. It is also partly his masterly creation of miniature buildings, which he gives starring roles at the line side and credits on the station plan. It is also John’s attention to detail and to prototype practice. Hintock lives. I follow his track down the line to a special place – to stand among the Vale’s trees, to listen to the leaves rustling in the sea breeze, to watch shadows and sunlight play, to hear an engine’s shrill whistle.

Magic of Hintock Place - Bridport

Bridport, stolid, prosperous, respectable, comfortable and very attractive.

Here is the tale of the Hintock Branch. This is no disposable layout, for the railway that John has built recreates the world of his youth, which is reborn in an American basement and in his mind’s eye. It is a special part of Dorset that is forever his, a way of life he celebrates with a story as credible as it is fascinating. John admires the writings of Thomas Hardy, who described his native Dorset in his tales of Wessex, and recorded rural life with the insight of local knowledge. John has adopted place names such as Port Bredy from Hardy’s world for his own vivid recreation of Dorset.

Magic of Hintock Locale - West Bay Station

West Bay station, opened in 1884 closed to passengers in 1930 and today still performing a useful function.

On his website, John says the Reverend Peter Denny’s Buckingham Branch has also been an inspiration to him. Sadly, Peter is no longer with us, but many of us grew up admiring his miniature recreation of the Great Central Railway, in which nearly everything was scratch built. It is a fitting tribute to Peter’s work that the Buckingham Branch has been saved, to run again. I believe the Hintock Branch is a worthy reflection of Peter’s guiding light. Thank you, John for the Magic of Hintock.

Magic of Hintock Trees, the Dorset Countryside

It is through the south western Dorset countryside such this as does the Hintock Branch run.

  1. As am I. John invited me to illustrate my contribution on the Magic of Hintock with photographs. Please enjoy my photos of the Dorset that I love.

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