Pere Marquette 1225, the largest and most impressive piece in the Steam Railroading Institute’s collection, is one of the largest operating steam locomotives in Michigan.
The 1225 was built in October of 1941 by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio for the Pere Marquette Railway. The locomotive was used for 10 years between Detroit, Toledo, Flint, Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Chicago; hauling fast freight for the products of Michigan factories and farms, including war materiel when Detroit was the “Arsenal of Democracy,” producing huge volumes of vehicles, aircraft, and armaments. The locomotive is one of 39 2-8-4 or Berkshire types ordered by the Pere Marquette. The superpower design was developed between 1925 and 1934 and used by over half a dozen railroads to haul freight at maximum speed and minimum cost.
The Pere Marquette 1225 is sixteen feet tall, 101 feet long with a combined engine and tender weight of 400 tons, while producing an impressive 5000 tractive horsepower. It takes about eight hours to generate a full head of steam on the locomotive’s boiler, which operates at 245 pounds per square inch. The tender holds 22 tons of coal and 22,000 gallons of water, consuming one ton of coal for every twelve miles and 150 gallons of water per mile. The locomotive cost $245,000 or roughly $2.5 million by today’s standards.
The Pere Marquette Railway merged with the Chesapeake and Ohio in 1947, but the 1225 continued in service until its retirement in 1951 in favor of diesel locomotives. In 1957, the locomotive was saved with the help of Forest Akers; Dodge Motors’s Vice President and Michigan State University Trustee, who saw it as a real piece of machinery for Engineering students to study. Displayed as an icon of the steam-era, it sat at MSU until 1969, when a group of students took an interest in the locomotive. The Michigan State University Railroad Club was formed at that time with the ambitious goal of restoring 1225 and using it to power excursion trains that would bring passengers to football games at the university. In 1982, under the newly evolved Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation, the donated locomotive was moved to the former Ann Arbor Railroad steam backshop in Owosso where the restoration continued until 1985 when it moved under its own power for the first in 34 years.
Today the Pere Marquette 1225 is owned, maintained and operated by the Steam Railroading Institute. It’s part of the National Register of Historic Structures and is renowned for its role in the 2004 Warner Bros. Christmas Classic, THE POLAR EXPRESS™. 1225's blueprints were used as the prototype for the locomotive image as well as its sounds to bring the train in the animated film to life!