Approaching Storm: the 1225 Polar Express

Approaching Storm by Charles Bonham

Charles caught this shot of another photographer shooting the famous 1225 Polar Express, The 1225 is housed at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso where every year it takes folks on North Pole Express rides during the holiday season. Wikipedia has the story of how the Pere Marquette 1225 locomotive became the Polar Express:

Retired from service in 1951, 1225 was sent to scrap, in New Buffalo, Michigan. In 1955, Michigan State University Trustee, Forest Akers was asked by C&O Chairman Cyrus Eaton if the University would be interested in having a steam locomotive (Eaton did not want to scrap the engines but was having a hard time finding places that would accept them) so that engineering students would have a piece of real equipment to study. Forest Akers thought it a good idea and proposed the idea to University President John Hannah. John Hannah accepted the gift of the locomotive.

When he told the Dean of the College of Engineering about the gift, the Dean said that Engineering was not interested in an obsolete locomotive. John Hannah then called up Dr. Rollin Baker, director of the MSU Museum and told him that he was getting a locomotive. The C&O then instructed the yardmaster at New Buffalo to send an engine to the Wyoming Shops for a cosmetic restoration and repainting with the name Chesapeake and Ohio on the side. The 1225 was the last engine in the line, i.e. easiest to get out. It had nothing to do with the number representing Christmas Day. Baker received the gift of the locomotive in 1957 when it was brought to campus. The locomotive remained on static display near Spartan Stadium on the Michigan State campus in East Lansing, Michigan for a decade.

 

While on display, a child by the name of Chris Van Allsburg used to stop by the locomotive on football weekends, on his way to the game with his father. He later stated that the engine was the inspiration for the story, Polar Express.

Lots more  information about riding the train and the rest of their collection at the Steam Railroading Institute and more about the book right here!

View Charles’ photo bigger on Flickr and see more in his Steam Engine, Railroad Photos album.

How Pere Marquette 1225 inspired the Polar Express

Pere Marquette 1255

Pere Marquette 1225, photo by Bob Gudas

The Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso is home station for the Pere Marquette 1225 locomotive aka the Polar Express:

Retired from service in 1951, 1225 was sent to scrap, in New Buffalo, Michigan. In 1955, Michigan State University Trustee, Forest Akers was asked by C&O Chairman Cyrus Eaton if the University would be interested in having a steam locomotive (Eaton did not want to scrap the engines but was having a hard time finding places that would accept them) so that engineering students would have a piece of real equipment to study. Forest Akers thought it a good idea and proposed the idea to University President John Hannah. John Hannah accepted the gift of the locomotive. When he told the Dean of the College of Engineering about the gift, the Dean said that Engineering was not interested in an obsolete locomotive. John Hannah then called up Dr. Rollin Baker, director of the MSU Museum and told him that he was getting a locomotive. The C&O then instructed the yardmaster at New Buffalo to send an engine to the Wyoming Shops for a cosmetic restoration and repainting with the name Chesapeake and Ohio on the side. The 1225 was the last engine in the line, i.e. easiest to get out. It had nothing to do with the number representing Christmas Day.

Baker received the gift of the locomotive in 1957 when it was brought to campus. The locomotive remained on static display near Spartan Stadium on the Michigan State campus in East Lansing, Michigan for a decade. While on display, a child by the name of Chris Van Allsburg used to stop by the locomotive on football weekends, on his way to the game with his father. He later stated that the engine was the inspiration for the story, Polar Express.

Lots more about the Michigan’s largest operating steam locomotive at Wikipedia and information about riding the train and the rest of their collection at the Steam Railroading Institute.

View Bob’s photo bigger and see more in his slideshow.

Get your Polar Express aboard Pere Marquette 1225!

Pere Marquette 1225

Pere Marquette 1225, photo by Mi Bob

Every year, the Steam Train Railroading Institute in Owosso operates an annual North Pole Express that takes you to the North Pole and back. Over on Absolute Michigan, The Polar Express Comes to Michigan from Michigan History Magazine explains that author Chris Van Allsburg his well-known children’s book, The Polar Express, on train experiences he had as a boy in Grand Rapids:

The book’s popularity led to a movie released in November 2004. Michigan railroad buffs recognize the sound of the movie’s train whistle, which comes from one of the nation’s few working steam locomotives.

Built in 1941, the Pere Marquette 1225 is an enormous steam locomotive, measuring one hundred feet long and sixteen feet high. Replaced in 1951 by a more efficient diesel engine, the 1225 was saved from the scrap heap and decades later, ended up in Owosso as the star of the Steam Railroading Institute (SRI). Shortly thereafter, the 1225 was restored to its former glory.

As researchers prepared the movie version of Van Allsburg popular book, they were drawn to Owosso and the 1225. Technicians recorded the sound of the whistle, the clatter of the wheels and the rumble of the four-hundred-ton locomotive rolling down the tracks. The sounds were merged with the animated Polar Express.

Check the photo out bigger and see more in Bob’s slideshow.

More trains on Michigan in Pictures and also check out the Pere Marquette 1225 slideshow in the Absolute Michigan pool!