For the last two decades, the sights and sounds of the old Reading Railroad resonated in Dick Foley’s Spring Garden basement.
Not just a model train for show at Christmas, mind you, but a historically accurate H0 gauge replica of the trains of his youth.
His miniature handmade boxcars chugged along, hauling produce for Quaker City Grocery and garments for the Lit Bros. warehouse. The sound of the locomotive was piped in.
"It's your own little world," Mr. Foley told The Inquirer’s Mike Newall in a November 2016 column. "I just love it."
Richard L. Foley, 80, a retired marketer for RCA in Camden and an elite model railroad hobbyist, died Sunday, Sept. 8, of melanoma at his home. A lifelong Philadelphian, he grew up in Germantown, lived in Spring Garden, and summered in Ocean City, N.J., and Laporte, Pa.
As a boy, he stood overlooking what is now the Schuylkill Expressway to watch the freight trains go by. “You could still see the steam,” Mr. Foley told Newall, recalling when locomotives still ran on coal.
Mr. Foley’s early years reflected the shifting culture of his time. He graduated from the all-male Class 207 of Central High School, which admitted girls by the time his son enrolled. He graduated from the Muhlenberg College class of 1961, the first to admit women. He once defended a female classmate after their math professor said that having women in class would put a damper on his jokes.
Mr. Foley served as a parachute rigger for the Air Force National Guard and was honorably discharged in 1967.
He married Judy Mathe in 1969. He earned an MBA at Drexel University while the couple renovated an old house.
Except for a brief stint at ARCO Solar, Mr. Foley was a physics researcher and defense industry marketer for RCA. Over time, the company changed hands numerous times. “He worked for the same company under different owners without leaving his desk,” his wife said.
Tired of the corporate culture, he took early retirement in the early 2000s, and “really got busy,” she said.
Model railroading was his passion. He joined a group of retired Reading Railroad employees so he could hear the engineers reminisce about running trains. He gave clinics about building model railroads at conventions across the country; helped organize the Valley Forge Railroad Prototype Modelers; and researched kits that allowed consumers to build a model boxcar for carrying autos. The kits were sold by others.
He was a member of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA), the Railroad Prototype Modelers, and the Clinton Central Model Railroad Club in Lock Haven, Pa.
Joe Bergmaier, superintendent of NMRA’s Philadelphia division, told Newall that there weren’t many model builders left as dedicated to authenticity as Mr. Foley. Of the 300 local model builders in the division, only 25 were left in the city in 2016.
In addition to model railroading, Mr. Foley was “a beer nut, cyclist, Phillies fan, and jazz lover,” his wife said. Wherever he went, he tuned in the radio.
He loved all food except soft-boiled eggs. When he discovered Julia Child and the ripe cheeses available at a stand at the Reading Terminal Market, he became a skilled cook and connoisseur. He was a Saturday morning regular at the market for 50 years. He also loved to grill seafood.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, Timothy Mathe Foley.
Services will be private.