Pere Marquette steam locomotive

STUDENTS READY MSU CHOO CHOO - MSU Railroad Club members spend long hours working on ''1225.'' One of two Pere Marquette steam locomotives in existence, MSU's ''1225'' is being rebuilt to possibly transport students and team members to athletic events and

Barbara McIntosh

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Dept. of Information Services East Lansing, Michigan 48823

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Have you ever been fascinated with trains and dreamed of running a locomotive, pulling the throttle, and stoking the fire?

At Michigan State University this dream is becoming a reality.

With the blessings of MSU President Clifton R. Wharton Jr., students in the MSU Railroad Club are tackling the massive job of rebuilding a 240-ton Pere Marquette steam locomotive.

One of two in existence, the '1225' is the only one which is nearly operational. Avid enthusiasts, the Railroad Club members have spent the last nine months checking state and federal operation and boiler regulations, rail rights and mapping plans for converting the engine so it can be used for passenger service.

When the '1225' is rebuilt, MSU students hope to use it to transport students, as well as team members, to selected football games and running periodic excursions for fans to MSU athletic events.

Randy Paquette, Saginaw senior majoring in electrical engineering, and a prime mover in the Railroad Club, explains that once the locomotive is operative it is expected to be self-supporting and will be run on a nonprofit basis. General fan trips at a projected cost of $10412 for a 100-mile round trip will be the primary source of revenue.

Hard work comes first though.

To aid in the rebuilding, Michigan State Fair officials offered the 'insides' of the '1223,' the only other original Pere Marquette still around. This will not destroy the appearance of the '1223' and it will provide the much-needed parts.

The '1225' also needs to be converted for passenger pulling.

Paquette explained that when the locomotive was donated to Michigan State University in 1957 it was generally believed to be a passenger pulling engine.

'It simply is not equipped to pull passengers,' says Paquette. 'We need to install a signal line and a steam line for this function, as well as generally update the locomotive for use.

'Major repairs include replacing the lead truck, which was ruined when the locomotive developed a 'hot box' while being towed to MSU from Grand Rapids, and putting rings in the pistons.'

While making plans for the '1225,' MSU Railroad Club members are also making plans for themselves. They are being trained by persons skilled in operating steam locomotives so they can qualify for licenses to operate the '1225.'

This is particularly important, Paquette said, because the '1225' is a fuel economy running engine and costs are dependent, to a large degree, on the operator.

He explained the locomotive is more economical than conventional diesels, as far as fuel is concerned, but the cost of maintaining track is more than 50 percent higher and more time is involved. The '1225' will need to stop every 150 miles for more water and every 300 miles to take on additional coal.

'Of primary importance,' he said, 'is building a shelter for the '1225.' Unless some positive action is taken within the next decade, the '1225' will have deteriorated beyond display condition.'

Presently the locomotive is located on a campus siding and is under the direction of the Michigan State University Museum. It is open for close inspection by the public on weekends during the school year.

The engine club members are selling chrome-plated rail spikes to raise funds to repair the engine and build a shelter.