The Last Engineer
After our third crossing, at Catherine, the tracks continued snug along the west side of the Victor Vaughn Building. The sidewalk along the east side of today's W. Medical Center Drive follows the former track bed, a tight passage at this point. I remember feeling like I could have touched the red bricks if my dad had let me lean out the cab's window. After that snug curve, it was another close shave by the northwest corner of the building trades and carpenter shop, then clear sailing down to the switchback that lay in the valley directly north of the university's Old Main hospital. This long, sloping grade cut behind the land now occupied by Med Sci III, II, and I and the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Today you have to turn right onto E. Medical Center Drive and then left on Nichols Drive to get down to where the U-M Railroad ended.
Back then, the track passed over a small concrete bridge that spanned a dirt utility road, then dead-ended on another trestle, an elevated setup that allowed the university to bring down hoppers of coal ash to dump off the side, likely to be used for winter road maintenance. It was easy for me to imagine the disaster of a runaway train flying through the timber blockade and off the end of the elevated track, but with my dad at the controls I always felt safe. Today the hospital's Survival Flight copters fly from pads near to where the old trestle and ash dump were located. Here we would leave our empty cars and pick up the full ones, all made possible by a set of sidings and a connecting track to the main line about thirty yards away.