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.

Ephraim Shay, the Shay Locomotive & Shay Days

Mancelona Logging and a Shay Locomotive

Mancelona MI Logging and possible Shay Steam Engine, photo by Don, the Up North Memories Guy

The Harbor Springs Area Historical Society holds their annual Shay Days celebration this Friday & Saturday (July 15-16, 2016). They share that inventor Ephraim Shay was likely retiring when he moved to town in 1888, but during his “retirement” he created over twelve miles of water mains to bring running water to the city, designed and constructed his unique Hexagon House, and started a railway known locally as the Hemlock Central.

They will celebrate his life and work with all kinds of engaging history including live steam model trains with the Michigan Small Scale Live Steamers group, games, historical photograph displays, and self-guided tours at the Shay Hexagon House. Shay himself will even be on hand Saturday so you can wish him a happy 177th birthday – click for all the details.

Shay Locomotives is an online book about the most widely used geared steam locomotives invented in Michigan lumber camps by Ephraim Shay. They share that Shay was born July 17, 1839 in Huron County, Ohio and received a better than average education for the day. After serving in the Union Army in the Civil War, Shay married his lifelong companion, Jane Henderson:

Shortly after their marriage, the Shays moved up to a farm in Ionia County, Michigan. Here Ephraim was known to have served as a clerk in the Township of Sebewa, 1867-1868. In 1869 the Shays were in the Township of Sunfield, Michigan and Ephraim was now operating a steam sawmill until 1873. Their son Lette was born here in January of 1870.

In 1873, with the tract of timber in Sunfield exhausted, the Shay family moved north to the Manistee river basin of Michigan and set up his sawmill and a general store near a lumber camp called Haring, newly settled only the year before.

Logging in the 1870’s was far different than today. Essentially once all the trees along the rivers were harvested and floated down river to a mill, logging operations were done in the winter month as loggers depended on snow cover to more easily move the cut timber on sleds drawn by horse or oxen. This method naturally depended on the weather systems and if there were a mild winter there would be a low yield of lumber from the mills.

…What Ephraim Shay had invented was a locomotive capable of delivering equal torque directly to wheels on both sides of the engine at the same time. This over came the dynamic force of his common rod engine whose normal pistons strokes jerked the engine side to side on each stroke, delivering excessive force to the wood rails, especially on the curves.

Read on for much more about one of the pioneers of modern transportation – includes some great old photos!

View Don’s postcard background big and click for more of his Shay Locomotive photos.

More trains on Michigan in Pictures.

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.

Eastbound from Autumn

Eastbound Tracks along Huron River Drive by Lawrence Lazare

Eastbound Tracks along Huron River Drive, photo by Lawrence Lazare

It’s hard to leave fall behind…

Lawrence took this with an iPhone 4s using VividHDR. View it background bigtacular and see more in his Autumn 2013 slideshow.

There’s more fall wallpaper and more trains on Michigan in Pictures.

What’s ahead for 2014?

Unknown

Unknown, photo by Mike Lanzetta

Probably my favorite thing about the New Year is the sense that anything and everything is possible. For myself, I’m happy to close the door on 2013 which has been a tougher than usual year and looking forward to new opportunities in 2014.

I hope that whatever you’re feeling about the year that’s gone that the year to come brings you everything you hope for and some wonderful surprises that you weren’t expecting. Happy New Year everyone!

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

PS: Thanks everyone for the great comments and kind words yesterday!

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!

Sault Ste. Marie International Railroad Bridge

international railroad bridge, sault ste. marie, ontario / michigan

international railroad bridge, sault ste. marie, ontario / michigan, photo by twurdemann

The Library of Congress page on the Sault Ste. Marie International Railroad Bridge that spans the Soo Locks from Michigan to Canada at St. Marys Falls explains that:

The Sault Ste. Marie International Railroad Bridge has nine camelback truss spans crossing the St. Marys River with bascule and vertical lift bridge components crossing the American Locks at the St. Marys Falls Canal. It is the only bridge in the United States known to include these three types of spans in a single structure to use an interlocking mechanism to connect the leaves of the double-leaf bascule span.

It is Michigan’s most significant railroad bridge from an engineering history standpoint and is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Click through for some great old photos of the bridge and explore the various sections through Historic Bridges.

Check this photo out on black and see more great shots in twurdemann’s Sault Ste. Marie 2012-2013 slideshow.

More Michigan bridges on Michigan in Pictures.