Pere Marquette 1225

Pere Marquette 1225, the largest and most impressive locomotive in the Steam Railroading Institute’s collection is the largest operating steam locomotive in Michigan. Built in October of 1941 by the Lima Corporation for the Pere Marquette Railway, 1225 was designed for “fast-freight” service. Most of 1225’s short career in freight service was spent hauling steel and wartime freight between Michigan’s factories and northern Indiana steel mills. In 1941, the construction cost for the locomotive was $200,000 or roughly $2.5 million by today’s standards. Since its restoration and subsequent entrance into passenger service, approximately $1 million has been spent over the last 30 years to keep the locomotive up and running.

The locomotive is one of thirty-nine 2-8-4 Berkshire types ordered by the Pere Marquette Railway. The 2-8-4 classification refers to the wheel arrangement of 1225. It has a 2-wheel pony truck to guide the larger set of 8 driving wheels into curves, and a 4-wheel trailing truck to support the weight of the boiler’s massive firebox. 1225 is sixteen feet tall, 101 feet long with a combined engine and tender weight of 400 tons. It produces 3000 horsepower and in the 1940s, was able to pull one hundred loaded freight cars at sixty miles per hour. It takes about eight hours to generate a full head of steam on the locomotive’s boiler, which in turn 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 Pere Marquette Railway merged with the Chesapeake & Ohio in 1947 ending 1225’s corporate run with the PM. The locomotive continued in regular service until its retirement in 1951 in favor of newer and less costly diesel locomotives.

In 1957, 1225 was saved from the scrap yard by officials at Michigan State University who sought an outdoor monument to commemorate the steam-era. In 1969, a band of students set out to restore the locomotive to operable condition but eventually lost favor with university administrators who grew tired of looking at a torn-down locomotive on their property. As a result, the growing team of MSU rail enthusiasts began searching for of a new home and in 1983, 1225 was moved to the site of the former Ann Arbor Railroad’s steam shop. Restoration work continued until 1988 when the locomotive was reborn and ready for service, making it the largest operating steam locomotive in Michigan. Today, former PM 1225 is used for excursion service and during other special events to help educate the public about steam railroading in Michigan and the greater United States.