One thing I noticed last night, but forgot to bring up in either of my blog posts: at some point since I saw the engine last, Locomotive #29 has been christened the “Robert C. Gray”, named after the man who rebuilt the railroad and brought this engine to Virginia City. The locomotive was built in 1916 and worked on the Longview, Portland & Northern Railway as #680. By the 1970s it was under the ownership of the Willamina & Grande Ronde Railroad, but was retired and up for sale. In June of 1977 Bob Gray bought the engine and had it trucked from Grande Ronde, Oregon, to to Virginia City. It was in such great shape that it was able to be put into service almost immediately, pulling its first load of passengers on August 8, 1977.
Now the locomotive carries the name of the man who rescued not only a steam engine, but an entire railroad. Bob Gray is the reason any of this is happening, because of his passion and perseverance, and we should all raise a glass to him.
It is quite a thrill to see the train again. The last time I saw this train was in the early 1950’s when it was pulling logs and lumber from the Grand Ronde,Oregon area.I remember when I was at my Grandfather’s home, near the tressel which crossed over the South Yamhill River; I would wait,and listen for the steam locomotive to leave Grand Ronde and come our way.You could hear the whistle and the train as it gained speed on it’s way to Willamina and beyond.As it would start to pass my Grandfather’s home, I would run as fast as I could and foot race the locomotive.The engineer would always blow the whistle and wave as it went by. I will never forget the sounds and the sight of the smoke it bellowed out from it’s stack. What a sight for an eight year old kid. In the near future, I would like to visit Virgina City and see this train that had given me so many fond memories of my youth.