Virginia & Truckee Railroad’s Bob Gray dies at 97

Bob Gray, who brought the defunct Virginia & Truckee Railroad back to life and spent 40-plus years restoring it, died April 3 in Orinda, California.

He was 97.

Gray’s love affair with the historic railroad began in June 1938 when he was one of 226 riders on the railroad’s farewell trip to Virginia City. He purchased the railroad’s corporate name from Paula Hardy in 1972 and, on July 2, 1976, the V&T came back to life with daily steam trains from “F” Street in Virginia City toward Gold Hill. By 1977, he was able to purchase what became V&T Locomotive No. 29 from the Longview, Portland & Northern.

After he managed to extend the tracks 2 1/2 miles to Gold Hill, he helped convince the state to create the Tri-County Railway Commission which built 14 miles of track form Gold Hill across the Overman Pit and across Highway 50 at Mound House.

Gray was a combat photographer for the Marine Corps during World War II. Afterward, he established the Robert C. Gray Co., in Oakland, selling coins, stamps and book supplies.

For most of his career with the V&T, he was president and general manager of the railroad. He’s survived by his son Tom who’s vice president of the V&T, and his daughter Kimberlee Tankerslee who’s secretary treasurer. He will be buried next to his wife Ardelle who preceded him in death at the Willamette National Cemetery in Oregon.


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