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Pere Marquette 1225 back on the rails after four years

Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
Maiden run of refurbished Pere Marquette 1225

The historic steam locomotive that inspired the movie, "Polar Express" is back on the rails after four years of renovations.

The effort took a lot of steel, four thousand bolts, a million dollars, and countless volunteer labor hours.

The massive Pere Marquette 1225 in Owosso is one of a few remaining operable steam engines of its size.

Aarne Frobom is President of the Board of Directors for the Steam Railroading Institute. He says the train is a living history lesson.

"Today whenever you see a gas station, or an auto parts store, or someone who works for Ford, GM or Delphi, 100 years ago all those jobs would have been on the railroad, 'cause that's how people got around," says Frobom.

Steam locomotives take a huge amount of coal, water, labor, and constant repair. That's why they were replaced by diesel engines in the 1950s.

But the passion of non-profit groups like the Steam Railroading Institute (including scores of unpaid volunteers) keeps one of the most dramatic inventions of the coal age alive for generations to experience.

Frobom says the Institute was lucky to acquire the services of the last Michigan company that does big boiler replacements.  The company usually works on coal-fired steamer ships.

"They came up here and spent many months and many dollars just endlessly welding new steel into this locomotive, so the boiler is just as healthy as it was in 1941," says Frobom.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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