Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Great Canadian Model Railroad: Roger Chrysler’s Lake Erie & Northern

A model railroader for 37 years, Roger Chrysler is now retired after working at Dofasco in Hamilton for 32 years. He now works a couple days a week at Credit Valley hobby shop in Mississauga, where he also does repairs and DCC installs. I sent him some questions about his layout; answers below.

Roger is the brother of Rich Chrysler, who died in 2012. I posted about Rich’s layout on this blog that year.

Why did you decide to model an electric railway?

Rich and I were both model railroaders. We modelled together for years, building a layout at our father’s home starting in 1981. Later we both built home layouts with turn of the century themes, Rich with GTR, me with CPR in Ontario.

After I became involved in the NMRA’s AP program, I decided to scratchbuild an HO scale Lake Erie & Northern steeple cab for my Master Loco builder’s certificate. After that, I decided to model that prototype since nobody else was doing it. Plus, it ran through our home town of Paris, although it was dieselized when we knew it.

What can you tell me about the prototype?

The prototype is the Lake Erie and Northern Railway (LE&N) and Grand River Railway, which made up the Canadian Pacific Electric Lines. Both railways were run as one, which provides an interesting mix of road names.

The LE&N was started in 1913. It was taken over by the CPR and completed in 1916. It was a small planned interurban electric railway that linked Galt, Brantford and Port Dover on Lake Erie in Ontario. The GRR predecessor roads began in 1894. They linked Galt, Preston, Hespeler, Kitchener and Waterloo.

In 1931 the CPR formed the Canadian Pacific Electric Lines and merged the LE&N and the GRR, although both lines continued to operate as separate entities and retain their own reporting marks.

What year and locale do you model?

I model the railway in 1953, in late summer. The layout represents portions of Brant and Norfolk counties in Southern Ontario.

The layout is constantly evolving as I get more information on what certain car or motor looked like in 1953. Some cars have been repainted, some of my early scratch building efforts retired. Narrowing the focus of my modelling puts certain discipline in my purchases. There is a lot of shiny new stuff out on the shelves, but it can stay there as it doesn’t apply to me.

Why did you choose that year? 

There are numerous reasons. The change in paint schemes from chequerboard to stripes was happening, and passenger service was still ongoing. I also have stats on types of cargo shipped and received for that year, along with the 1953 Equipment register.

What is the size of the layout? And when did you start construction?

The layout is 42 feet by 11 feet, single level, with a small extension into the next room for the Brantford and Hamilton yard.

Construction began in 2000. I was ready to host tours during the 2003 Toronto Maple Leaf convention, with most of the benchwork built and some scenery.

What kind of track plan do you have?

The track plan is point-to-point and sincere, meaning that the track passes through each scene only once. There is no duck under. All cars and locos are double ended, so there’s no need for space eating wyes, turn tables or return loops. Every town has a passing run-around track. The mainline run is 150 feet.

What about the track and scenery?

The track is handlaid code 70. I handlaid 50 turnouts before Fastracks came along! The roadbed is Homasote on spline and plywood cookie cutter.

The scenery is made from hardshell, paper towel and plaster, and plaster cloth over foam. The ground cover is ground foam, static grass, Scenic Express weeds and plants. The Grand River valley is a unique biosphere, labeled as a “Carolinian Forest”, where plants and trees common to the Carolinas are found. So there’s lots of rich summer greenery.

How do you operate the layout?

I operate it using Time Table & Train Orders, Switch list (a Mac based program). We run passenger trains on the schedule of 1953, seven passenger trains each way, four scheduled freight trains, two of which return as extras.

Which railways do you interchange with?

The CP Electric Lines interchanges with CP and CNR at Galt (staging), CNR and Toronto, Hamilton and Buffalo in Brantford, TH&B and Canada Southern (NYC) at Waterford, CNR at Port Dover.

What control system do you use? 

I’m running Digitrax DCC. The development of Keep alive capacitor technology has been a boon for overhead wire operation, allowing slow switching moves, the MU’ing of trains, sound, and reliable performance. 

What kind of units do you run?

I run steeple cab freight motors with one box cab. Some are kits and some are scratchbuilt. Passenger cars are scratch built, styrene strip and sheet. After the first couple, I made masters and cast ends and sides in resin in RTV molds.

All cars are double ended, so it makes sense to do one master well, then cast as many parts as needed. I’m standardizing the power units for the passenger cars with Bowser traction drives.

How do you power the units?

The units are run completely off the overhead wire. All track is common polarity; the overhead wire provides the opposite polarity. The exception is the running of small diesel industrial switchers in the gravel pits, where there is no wire overhead. These cars are reached from the main by empties employed as idler cars.

What kind of industries are there on the layout? 

There are gravel pits between Paris and Brantford that provide the majority of shipments offline as they did in 1953. 

There is a lot of agricultural manufacturing in Brantford, producing Massey Harris and Cockshutt farm implements for world-wide sales, and binder twine from Brantford Cordage. Most of this is represented by freight movements through staging.

There is also a major flour mill accessed from the CNR interchange track. One interesting move was a single reefer from Port Dover on Thursdays for fresh fish for the Toronto Market on Friday.

What kind of passenger service is there? 

Passenger service is seven trains each way daily, including two multi-car Express, Baggage and Passenger trains. One of these movements includes dropping off an express car in Brantford to be unloaded and picked up later in the day. Passenger trains make all regular station stops and also at the “Chalet” style flag stops if needed.

Anything else you'd like to add? 

Building the layout has been very satisfying, but I also enjoy the friendships I’ve made in the hobby the most. I also get a feeling of satisfaction from hand crafting models and sharing techniques with people. 


  1. Roger, always a wonderful layout. Reminds me of the times I spent riding up and down from Galt to Waterloo and Paris courtesy of Art Merrifield the agent at Galt. Art was a fellow Boomer and introduced me to some of the engineers so I could ride the cab on what should have become a fabulous Tourist Line.

  2. Great models of such an interesting and unique prototype. I would love to see it one day!

  3. Hello Roger,

    I remember visiting your layout one evening oh, about 10 years ago now. It was a group visit for the Cambridge Railway Heritage Group. It was an incredible layout. Your scratchbuilt and heavily kitbashed interurbans and freight motors are truly extraordinary. They just look real. And, of course, the scenes on your layout are second to none. One of the finest layouts I've had the privilege of visiting. Thank you Roger! Would LOVE to see it again sometime!

    Clive O'Neill
    Cambridge, Ontario