Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Charles H. Clay, short line founder, dies at 83

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Charles H. Clay, a Soo Line alumnus and founder of several short line railroads in the upper Midwest, died March 1. He was 83.

Born in Troy, Mont., Clay worked in the forest service and served aboard the USS Wainwright in World War II before acquiring his business and law degrees at the University of Minnesota. His legal background included serving as a law clerk in the Minnesota Supreme Court before working for Soo’s legal department.

Clay also worked for the Minneapolis law firm of Head, Seifer & Vender Weide, but returned to railroading as, with two partners, he founded numerous short line railroads, including the Red River Valley & Western Railroad, the Twin Cities & Western Railroad (Railway Age’s 2008 Short Line of the Year), the Minnesota Prairie Line, and the Rutland Line. Clay also established the Western Railroad Equipment Co. (with an acronym Clay relished).

Active throughout his life in civic affairs, Clay served as a member of the Civic Caucus Core Group, and on the Board of Directors of the Citizens League, where he also served as its president from 1965 to 1966. He served on the Board of Directors of Deaconess Hospital, and on the Edina, Minn., school board.

In lieu of flowers, the family prefers any memorials be made to the Nature Conservancy, Allina Hospice and Palliative Care, or Normandale Lutheran Church in Edina, Minn.