Steam railroad buff takes controls
September 2, 2012
A man from Mountain View, Calif., earned his railroad engineer stripes Saturday, operating a steam locomotive as a special treat from his wife.Alternating grins with serious attention to detail, Ray Tolles sat like an old hand in the engineer’s seat and blew the locomotive’s whistle before heading down the tracks at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.“It was a birthday gift from my wife,” said Tolles not long before he headed down the tracks. Bonnie Tolles snapped pictures and looked on at the depot during her husband’s preparations.“This is his 70th birthday present,” she said. “He’s been very excited.”The gift, part of the museum’s $500 “Your Hand Is On The Throttle” program for anyone who pays the freight, proved to be as delightful for the giver as the recipient, if her smiles were any indication.“He gets a certificate as an honorary engineer,” she said, a twinkle in her eye and pride in her voice.She said her husband has been a lover of railroads and locomotives, particularly the steam variety, since his youth in Tekamah, Neb.She also said that two years ago, the couple came to ride the V&T Railroad linking the state capital and Virginia City, a trip they both enjoyed.So when she learned of the museum’s program, she said, it was a great opportunity to come up with his special birthday gift.Tolles, who worked 27 years for the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and later for a medical laser firm in California, is now retired. His two-hour program to learn and execute his chance to come out of retirement by working briefly as a locomotive engineer included an hour of training and an hour running the locomotive. Tolles operated the 1905 Baldwin Steam Locomotive that is V&T No. 25. He was one of three participating in the program Saturday, according to museum staff. The program costs $500 for non-members and $450 for members of the Friends of the Nevada State Railroad Museum organization.The three participants with their hands on the throttle were just part of the Labor Day weekend fun at the museum, which also gave other railroad buffs a chance to ride behind the locomotive in rail cars more often than usual.The museum offered a deal, allowing folks to pay for one ride but ride as often as they liked each day this weekend. Russ Tanner, conductor for Tolles’ special treat, said soon they would attach up to three cars and start hauling the many folks expected.In addition, members of Warren Engine Co. No. 1 volunteer fire department in Carson City were on hand at the depot offering up $5 meals, which included hamburgers, cheeseburgers, or hot dogs with chips and a soft drink Saturday and today.