Richard Chrysler

Today, I lost a good friend and fellow modeller of Port Rowan.

Those who knew Richard Chrysler know he was an exceptional researcher and model builder… an accomplished restorer of Austin Healey classic British sports cars… and an incredibly generous and kind man. Sadly, Richard was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year and passed away this morning at age 59. (Here’s Rich’s obituary.)

Rich was a regular at local train shows, working on his HO scale Free-mo-compliant version of Port Rowan – as he is in this photo from the 2012 Copetown Train Show:
Rich Chrysler photo PortRowan-RichChrysler.jpg

It’s how I will remember him – building things, often in public, and sharing his considerable skills and passion for the hobby with others.

Rich was also a member of the Canada Southern Free-mo group. Before that, he was a member of the Ontario & Eastern Railway. Both these layouts appeared at many shows in Southern Ontario.

But the real magic took place in Rich’s basement, where he was building a beautiful HO scale layout that faithfully captured the Hagersville Subdivision of the Canadian National Railway. As this map illustrates, the line started in Hamilton, Ontario and headed south and west to Simcoe. There, the prototype split into two branches to reach Lake Erie at Port Dover and Port Rowan. (Rich wanted to model both terminals but did not have the space at home – hence, his Port Rowan exhibition layout. The map also shows that I am modelling only a very, very small portion of this line – just the two stations at Port Rowan and St. Williams.)
The line between the lakes photo ProtoMap.jpg

Rich’s double-deck layout captures most of the highlights of this line, including many crossings and interchange points with railways in Southern Ontario. Compare the layout plan, below, to the prototype map to appreciate how much of the line he was able to incorporate into a modest layout room.
Rich Chrysler Layout Plan photo RichC-01-Plan.jpg

The layout was well underway by 2003, when it appeared in print as the cover story in the March issue of Railmodel Journal. That issue can be found in the archives at TrainLife. (I believe membership is required, but it’s free to join TrainLife – and that’s a good idea if for no other reason than access to hundreds of model and prototype railway magazines.)

Here’s a link to the March 2003 Railmodel Journal at TrainLife. The article begins on page 44.

The article was part of RMJ’s coverage leading up to the 2003 NMRA convention in Toronto. I was one of the local co-ordinators for the Layout Design SIG‘s self-guided layout tour and knew I wanted Rich’s layout to be on it. His layout showcased many layout design features that remain innovative today – including the use of integrated fascia/valance to separate adjacent scenes into unique windows…
Rich Chrysler Fascia Windows photo RichC-03-DoubleDeck.jpg

… to create a shadowbox presentation:
Rich Chrysler Shadow Box photo RichC-04-Shadowbox.jpg

The layout also deployed a “partial mushroom” design along one side, the lower (Niagara Escarpment) deck was viewed from the entrance aisle, complete with swing-gate for access to the interior of the layout. Simcoe was located above this scene, and viewed from the inside aisle:
Rich Chrysler - Mushroom photo RichC-16-Mushroom.jpg

The layout also featured a helix designed to do double-duty, by taking trains up to the second level between the Escarpment and Rymal, then back down to the first level between Simcoe and Port Dover (although this second trip through the helix was later eliminated):
Rich Chrysler Helix photo RichC-02-Helix.jpg

I spent a day photographing Rich’s layout in 2003 and I’ve posted some pictures from that session so that others may appreciate his work.

A tour always started at the CNR station in Hamilton:
Rich Chrysler Hamilton Station photo RichC-07-HamiltonStn.jpg

From there, visitors and operators could enjoy watching trains trundle south down Ferguson Avenue and creep through busy intersections:
Rich Chrysler Ferguson Ave photo RichC-06-FergusonAve.jpg

Rich Chrysler Ferguson Ave photo RichC-05-FergusonAve.jpg

Trains would then face their biggest challenge – climbing the Niagara Escarpment:
Rich Chrysler Escarpment photo RichC-09-Escarpment.jpg

For the small 2-6-0s typical on freights, this often required assistance from larger locomotives such as 2-8-2s (which then returned as a light engine move to Hamilton):
Rich Chrysler Escarpment photo RichC-10-Escarpment.jpg

Rich Chrysler Escarpment photo RichC-08-Escarpment.jpg

At the top of the Escarpment, the layout switched from industrial city scenes to farmland, as seen in small communities such as Rymal…
Rich Chrysler Rymal photo RichC-11-Rymal.jpg

…before reaching important junctions like Caledonia, where the line crossed Ontario Highway 6:
Rich Chrysler Caledonia photo RichC-12-Caleondia.jpg

South of Caledonia, the line straddled a road on the approach to an impressive bridge over the Grand River:
Rich Chrysler Grand River photo RichC-15-GrandRiver.jpg

Rich Chrysler Grand River photo RichC-13-GrandRiver.jpg

This bridge carried a weight restriction which limited Hagersville Sub trains to 2-6-0s south of Caledonia – which is why The Daily Effort to Port Rowan was powered by Moguls until almost the end of steam:
Rich Chrysler Daily Effort photo RichC-14-GrandRiver.jpg

In the mid-1950s, the bridge would be reinforced sufficiently to accommodate 10-wheelers.

While preparing this posting, I found a few videos of Rich’s layout in action:

Running on the Hagersville Sub, by Rich’s son Geoff Chrysler, includes a nice mix of layout video and prototype photos to provide a sense of what Rich was accomplishing.

Rich’s brother Roger Chrysler (also an excellent model and layout builder) shot video during a layout open house in 2008 and a similar tour the following year. YouTube has done some unusual compression on the aspect ratio for these two videos, unfortunately, but they do show off the trains in motion.

Rich’s gift for sharing extended to my own efforts on my in-progress S scale Port Rowan layout:
M233 at Port Rowan yard photo M233-PtR-TowTruck_zps4c045e28.jpg

Rich and I regularly traded emails with Mike Livingston and Richard Otto, two gentlemen who remember the steam trains running to Port Rowan and Port Dover. These discussions were helping us to better model the town and the railway that served it: I’m going to miss sharing information with Rich and working together to solve the various puzzles that remain unsolved.

In addition, I owe the accuracy of my CNR baggage-mail car to Rich, who invited me to take reference photographs of his beautiful HO scale model to help me create my own:
CNR Baggage-Mail 7792 photo CNR-BaggageMail-Header_zps75fc893c.jpg

When I found out that Rich had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I thought of how I could pay tribute to someone who has been such an influence on my own modelling. The Austin Healey provided an answer.

I have an uncle who also restores these classic British sports cars so I became aware of them long before I was old enough to drive, and learned to standard shift in a spirited four-cylinder Austin Healey 100. The Healey has been produced in model form in several scales, and I own some examples in 1:18 and 1:87 (HO). But I had to search as far as Tokyo to find a decent Healey model in S scale – and ended up with three.

Kyosho offered the Austin Healey 100-6 in three different colours in their 1/64 die cast line, as part of a series of classic British sports cars. Here, a Healey club tour has stopped in the apple orchards near Port Rowan:
Healeys at the Orchard photo Healeys4Rich-01.jpg

Later, they were spotted at the Port Rowan station:
Healeys at Port Rowan station photo Healeys4Rich-02.jpg

When I get far enough along on the layout, I will park one car – Rich’s Healey – at the Port Rowan station and think about how he would’ve loved to have been standing trackside, waiting for the arrival of The Daily Effort.

(Since Rich restored the cars professionally, I can swap out the car for one of its stablemates as the mood arises.)

Thank you, Rich, for your friendship. I’ll miss you, and my thoughts are with your wife, your siblings, and your children at this time. I’m sorry we won’t be able to continue our magnificent conversations.

(If anybody reading this knew Rich and would like to add a Healey to their own layout, in addition to the Kyosho model in 1:64, Wiking offered an HO scale version at one time. There are a number of 1:43 die cast models available for O scalers to consider.)

18 thoughts on “Richard Chrysler

  1. Trevor;
    Sorry for your loss. I’m sure the hobby will miss a great modeler as well as the Austin Healey crowd will miss a great mechanic.


  2. Thanks for the excellent tribute. Rich was my uncle and I can remember many family gatherings that always ended up touring the ongoing improvments and upgrades to his layout.
    He will be missed

  3. Rich’s Healey parked at the station in Port Rowan on your layout is a perfect tribute to a wonderful man with a passion for railroad modelling and the restoration of the Healey automobile. He was a wonderful brother-in law and we are sure going to miss him. We are comforted by the memories of just how brightly his flame of life glowed in our family circle.

  4. Hi Trevor. Rich would be so touched by your creative tribute, as am I. He was a master of his hobbies and relentless at researching accuracy and details to provide the correct ambiance and flavour of the time and location he was modelling.

    I am his wife and can tell you that he was also a loving family man – gentle and conscientious. We will miss him more than words can say – we truly appreciate your post and the loving tribute you have set up in his honour.


  5. Trevor. Thanks for this fine tribute. To Lyn and the rest of the Chrysler family my sincere condolences. Rich was a gentleman, and will be sadly missed. Rich looked healthy and fit when I last saw him at Copetown in February. He is the second friend I have lost to this form of cancer in less than a year so I have a pretty good idea of what he and his family went through in his final weeks and days. As a tribute to Rich I would suggest each and every one of us grab hold of life and be thankful for what we have. Our time here is temporary.

  6. A sad loss, but a fitting tribute. Funny how so many good train guys are also into cars. Your mention of the Healeys really hit me as I am a British car guy myself. Once the British cars get in your blood there is no way to get them out, nor do you want to. Much like our trains. Keep up the good memories.

  7. I am truly sorry to hear that I’ll no longer see Rich at train shows, particularly the November show in Toronto where we have both appeared for many years. Rich was an excellent modeller who shared his knowledge and skills with us all and we will miss him.

    To his wife and family, to brother Roger and his family, my deepest sympathy.

  8. Thank you, everyone, for the kind words for Rich and his family. As readers will note, some members of his family have written in as well. To Lyn, his wife… his sons and siblings… and his other relatives: I hope these words – from me and from others – are offering some measure of comfort at this difficult time.

  9. I too will miss Richard very much. A regular with the Wednesday night group and the yearly trips to Strasburg, Rich was always a hoot. I only knew him for 12 – 13 years but in that time he taught me so much. The main thing was that I just wanted to be a better modeler. I think it’s a great tribute if we all put an Austin Healey on our layouts.

  10. I am very saddened to hear of the loss of one of Canada’s great model railroaders. I knew Richard when I lived in southern Ontario (pre-1987). Richard shared his modelling skills with our readers and was featured in Canadian Railway Modeller Train 6 Track 6 and Train 7 Track 1 where he showed how he kitbashed an HO scale IHC Mogal into a Canadian National version. Our condolences to Richard’s family and his many friends.
    Morgan Turney – Editor
    Canadian Railway Modeller magazine

  11. My memories of Rich are posted in good part on my website, but I would like to convey here my heartfelt condolences to Rich’s family, and in particular to his son Geoff with whom I have, as I had done many times with his father, shared my research of the “Daily Effort” and its history.
    I am so so sorry.

  12. Such a tragedy to lose one to the awful and indiscriminate assault of cancer — my young sister, a couple close friends, and now Rich. I’ll miss his contribution to our ongoing e-mail dialog.

    I sought him out after reading of his work in that 2003 Railmodel Journal feature, and we had a nice exchange. Several years later, I was at the Sylvan Models display at the Big E Trainshow in West Springfield, swapping stories about my Canadian ancestry and youthful vacations at my grandparents’ Turkey Point cottage not far from Port Rowan, and my chance encounters with that fascinating little steam train. It was the Sylvan fellow (name unknown to me) who first alerted me to Rich’s modeling endeavors, and for anyone who’s ever been there, you know that huge show draws a mega-crowd. So– you’ll grasp my astonishment and complete delight when he said, “You want to meet him? He’s standing right over there!” It was a perfect intersection of time and place, and we enjoyed a wonderful chat.

    I believe God the Father has taken Rich out of time and place, sparing him further pain and suffering by His will in Christ, the same Christ whereof His true love and comfort will enfold Lyn, his entire family, friends such as you, Trevor, and all who cared for him.

    My true condolences,
    Dick Otto

  13. my first run as an eng was on 233 because of my inexperience they put a 1200 type diesel on the job for me which was the first time a diesel had been on the job my fireman was norm conway

  14. Thank you Trevor for writing such an excellent tribute to Rich so that others may recognize his contribution both to the hobby and to the people who had the benefit of his friendship. Rich’s commitment to capturing a moment and place in time, and then physically creating that vision with as much fidelity as possible, is the guiding force behind my own passion in “railroad modeling”.

    As my wife has struggled with cancer this year, I found that I have been out of touch with many friends in the hobby and understand now that this must change.

    My thoughts go out to his family,
    with kind regards

  15. Greetings:
    Belatedly, I wanted to express my condolences and sadness at the passing of Mr. Chrysler. My family journeyed to Toronto for the 2003 NMRA convention. I most clearly remember two things from that trip: 1) The SARS warning signs that greeted us at customs at Pearson Airport and, 2) Rich Chrysler’s wonderful model railroad.
    As a U.S. resident, I don’t know much about the CNR line he modeled, but I do know world-class modeling when I see it. And the latter was on full display in his basement on the day of the LDSIG layout tour. I lingered for a long time over his work, taking it all in, furiously snapping photos and filing away his innovative ideas.
    In fact, I learned of his passing this week while looking online for updates about his model railroad work. I didn’t spend much time talking with him in 2003, but I do recall his being a fine and gracious host, who took time to answer many questions from his horde of visitors.
    His family is in our prayers.
    P.S. — I remember his brother’s traction layout as well. Fine modeling runs in the Chrysler clan, it seems.
    Thanks for this webpage honoring Mr. Chrysler’s memory and work.
    Andre Jackson
    Atlanta, Ga. USA

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