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
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
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
The ‘1225’ also needs to be converted for passenger
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
‘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
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
The engine club members are selling chrome-plated rail spikes to
raise funds to repair the engine and build a shelter.