The Last Engineer
Shortly after I had left my position as the railroad's unofficial mascot in order to begin kindergarten, the university purchased a much bigger eighty-ton diesel engine to improve efficiency and handle its expanding needs. My dad and his crew certainly liked it, and I remember riding it once or twice, but the modern style with the controls in the center didn't have the same feel to it. There was little of the magic that the smaller but more traditional cab-in-the-back locomotive evoked in a little boy's imagination. It was the look, feel, and sounds of that old Plymouth engine that were important aspects of the pretend storylines I carried in my mind.
For even after returning home to my grandma's after one or two morning runs with my dad back in those preschool days, my job was not finished. After lunch I would spend the whole afternoon perched on one end of the black wrought iron fence that ran along the upper sidewalk in front of the house, pretending the first segment was my own train locomotive and the sections of railings stretching before me were the coal cars I was transporting back and forth. Today I can still make that run in my mind, churning along to the click-clack rhythm and squeal of metal against metal as we round each bend.
Unfortunately, that memory is all that is left. By the end of the 1960s, the house had been torn down, the power plant had been converted to natural gas, and the university had abandoned its railroad. Subsequent building and paving projects have virtually obliterated the old rail bed.