(Note: This is a reblog of a post I wrote in 2012 for a now-defunct blog. I’m adding it to my new online home because it’s important to me.)
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.
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:
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 to Jarvis. There, it briefly joined the Cayuga Sub, west as far as Simcoe. The line from Port Dover to Port Rowan via Simcoe was the Simcoe Sub, and completed the run. (Rich wanted to model both ports but did not have the space at home – so his layout included the line to Port Dover and he built Port Rowan as an exhibition layout.)
Rich’s double-deck layout captured most of the highlights of this line, including many crossings and interchange points with railways in Southern Ontario.
The layout was well underway when it appeared in print as the cover story in the March, 2003 issue of Railmodel Journal. The article was part of RMJ’s coverage leading up to the 2003 NMRA National 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 to create a shadowbox presentation:
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.
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).
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. 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.
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.
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 these 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.)