1225 Pere Marquette

The Pere Marquette 1225 train is an absolutely iconic silhouette that everyone who’s into trains, hobby or real, should know about!

It’s a class N-1 2-8-4 Berkshire-type steam locomotive that was built all the way back in 1941!

It’s had an incredible history since then, both on the rail and also serving as inspiration for locomotives in pop culture like The Polar Express!

Let’s deep dive into some of the cool facts about the Pere Marquette 1225!

The history of the Pere Marquette 

The 1225 Pere Marquette was a classic locomotive in the steam era.

The idea for this iconic locomotive was originally thought up by a group of students at the Michigan State University whose interest in the locomotive made them form a Railroad Club. Primarily, it was built by talented young souls for bringing passengers to football matches at their university.

The mighty locomotive, Pere Marquette 1225 was built in October 1941 for the Pere Marquette Railway.

This largest, finest piece of the locomotive was built by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima which successfully built the most impressive operating steam locomotives found in Michigan.

The robust locomotive was designed between 1925-1934. The benefits of the maximum speed at a minimum cost of the superpower locomotive were enjoyed by around half a dozen railroads. 

The hauling freight was in operations from the middle of the1940 to-1950s. During its 10 years period, the dynamic locomotive was used by Detroit, Grand, Rapids, Toledo, Saginaw, Chicago, and Flint.

It was hauled and served for a variety of purposes. During Detroit’s “Arsenal of Democracy” phase, the locomotive hauled large amounts of vehicles, armaments, and aircraft.

On the contrary, it also hauled fast freight for Michigan factories’ products and farms that included mostly war materials.

The demise of the Pere Marquette happened around 1951 when it was ordered to be discarded in New Buffalo, Michigan but was saved in 1957 and the classic locomotive was put on exhibition at the Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.

It was exhibited there, till the 1980s, after which the Pere Marquette was donated to MSTRP by MSU. 

Its journey still didn’t stop and the Pere Marquette 1225 was then moved to the preceding Ann Arbor Railroad steam locomotive shop in Owosso.

The journey of Pere Marquette 1225

The vigorous locomotive that served giant companies in the USA had quite a ride itself. Some notable timeline and the journey of the 1225 itself include:

  • 1947- the train, Pere Marquette integrated with the Chesapeake and Ohio and continued to provide its all-powerful services till 1951
  • 1957-the Pere Marquette was saved from scraping upon receiving help from the Forest Akers, the Vice President of Dodge Motor’s and from its own root, the Michigan State University for believed to be an iconic real-life example for the engineering students.
  • 1982- the locomotive was moved to Ann Arbor Railroad steam backshop from the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation Inc for restoration.
  • 1985 (November)-Pere Marquette started operating in its own power after 35 years of its execution in 1951.
  • 1988- the 1225 started its first locomotive outing service. It started with a trial run for 19km between Owosso and Chesaning.
  • 1990- the locomotive managed and controlled the older Pm mainline. But first, its two freights ran on a performance test to better prepare itself for the National Railway Historical Society convention for the following year.
  • 1991- the Pere Marquette attended the NRHS Convention after partnering with the Nickel Plate. The locomotive’s route then started from Ohio and stretched towards Huntington, West Virginia due to which 1225 was able to attend the convention. On the not-so-bright side of the convention, the 1225 was restricted to operate maintaining a speed limit of 20 MPH.

As of now, the locomotive, Pere Marquette is owned and managed by the Steam Railroading Institute and is registered with the National Register of Historic Structures.

It was brought to even more limelight and ignited to popularity in 2004 by the Warner Brothers when they decided to use the train for its Christmas classic as “The Polar Express”. 

The Polar Express & The Pere Marquette 1225 – Same or Different?

Acknowledging the function of the outstanding locomotive, Warner Bros. approached to get the original blueprints of the locomotive to use for its Christmas holiday film, “The Polar Express”.

The mass media conglomerate was successfully able to provide the audience with an authentic experience from the book’s author’s childhood. The author’s entire book is reminiscent about his childhood journey on the awe-inspiring Pere Marquette itself.

The entire film was made using the exact para engine, only the whistle, provided by the Sierra Railroad No. 3 differed. In fact, the locomotive’s number “1225” was also deliberately made aligned to the Christmas Day date 12/25!

You may consider the Polar Express as an animated doppelganger of the original 1225 Pere Marquette. The magical cartoon form of the train was designed for children to travel to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. It was configured to have 2-8-4 wheels with an American Berkshire-type steam and a capacity of about five passenger cars.

Crucial detailing was maintained by Warner Bros. to display the 1225 Pere Marquette to animated life as they used the blueprints as the prototype for locomotive images and also mimicked the sound of the original train. After The Polar Express’s grand publicity and success, the Pere Marquette 1225 also got the chance to appear in the Marshall Productions for a 70-minute-long video, “Lots and Lots of REALLY BIG Steam Trains”.

Pere Marquette 1225 Specifications

The vintage locomotive, 1225 is 14 and a half feet in height, 101 feet in length, and with a combined weight along with its engine of 440 tons. The energetic train could reach a maximum speed of 20 MPH while producing a commendable 5,000 tractive horsepower.

The outstanding build of the train only required about 8 hours to generate a full head of steam on the boiler. The boiler itself operated on a generous 245 pounds per square inch area. The locomotive was very spacious as its tender could hold around 22,000 gallons of water, 22 tons of coal by only utilizing 1 ton of coal for every 12 miles and 150 gallons of water per mile. Today, the valuation of the 1225 Pere Marquette costs around $2.5 million.

After the unfortunate occurrence in the Train Festival of 2009 when the locomotive was unable to pull passengers amid the event, it stopped its operation completely the following year in January 2010.

However, it was back in action from late November 2013, and its fully functional since then. The economic locomotive deserves respect and should never be compared with any other modern train. The only other similar locomotive that exists is the 1223 which is put to display in Grand Haven, Michigan.

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