The Polar Express and Pere Marquette 1225

The Pere Marquette #1225 (Christmas train 12/25) One of the Last!!!

The Pere Marquette #1225 (Christmas train 12/25) One of the Last!!!, photo by David Sr. – Lapeer Photography.

A lot of times I think I’ve written about something on Michigan in Pictures and then when I look, it turns out I haven’t.

Such is the case with the Pere Marquette #1225 Christmas train. David writes that this train was used as the model for the train in the animated movie “The Polar Express” with Tom Hanks (view trailer on YouTube). Wikipedia explains:

The steam locomotive that pulls the Polar Express is modeled after an actual locomotive that is on display at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan. The Pere Marquette 1225 Berkshire-type (2-8-4), built in 1941 at the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, OH, was part of the Pere Marquette Railway system before being decommissioned in 1951. Slated for scrapping, it was acquired by Michigan State University (MSU) in 1957 and exhibited on campus.

In 1971, MSU steam enthusiasts commenced the formidable task of restoring the mighty locomotive to operating condition. Restoration was substantially completed in 1985, and in 1988, number 1225 started pulling excursion trains in the Owosso area and around Michigan. The locomotive has been listed on the United States National Register of Historical Places.

In the film, artistic liberty is taken with the appearance of the locomotive and its tender, both being made to seem even more massive than the 794,500 pound (361,136 kilogram) original. Many of the train’s sound effects, such as the whistle blowing and steam exhausting, were created from live sampling of number 1225 while in operation.

Learn more about the train and see it in action at The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso. See it bigger along with other views of Michigan in David’s Michigan slideshow (view set) and see more photos of the Pere Marquette 1225 in the 1225 Michigan slideshow (really a treat!)

The movie was based on the Caldecott Medal winning book The Polar Express written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Like the movie, it’s set partially in Van Allsburg’s hometown, Grand Rapids.

11 thoughts on “The Polar Express and Pere Marquette 1225

  1. I love this blog….so glad I found it! I was born and raised in Michigan…moved to Southern California and now I am in Texas. Always a piece of my heart stays in the beautiful state of Michigan. I feel blessed to have grown up there. Please stop by my blog if you have a chance and say “hi”. Keep up the great work here, love the pics!! ~Cheryl

    ps listed you on my blog…hope it gets you more visitors. I hear from others from MI


  2. A timeless photo! This could have been taken 60 years ago although she would have been pulling freight, not passengers. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Unfortunately, the Polar Express trip from Owosso, MI does not include this locomotive any longer. The engine is in disrepair, a fact the SRI folks have not let be know to those booking the trip. This led to many disappointed steam engine fans and children over the Thanksgiving weekend. SRI offered no explanation or apologies. At dinner later some of the people from town told us that the engine failed to run this summer also but they didn’t people to know that because it would hurt the town’s tourism.


  4. The Polar Express Trip did run, with the 1225 Pere Marquette, on November 27, 2009. I stood next to the tracks as it rolled into Santa’s Village in Chesaning. The SRI folks did inform the public by public media radio channels the week of November 29th that there was problems with the 1225 and the rest of the season would be run by another train.
    Bob Rogers comment is misleading and not fair to the SRI folks.


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