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An e-mail from the Steam Railroading Institute:
Pere Marquette 1225 sidelined
The Steam Railroading Institute, in its sixth season of the North Pole Express, hosted over 2,500 passengers this past weekend during its annual winter train excursions. Children and adults, from as far away as California, enjoyed a magical four hour experience which included a trip to the North Pole. Passengers enjoyed complimentary hot cocoa, visits with Santa, holiday rides, model railroad displays, live entertainment, holiday crafts, Kris Kringle Mart and hours of family fun. “We are very fortunate to be able to host thousands of new and returning visitors annually,”commented TJ Gaffney, Executive Director.
While Pere Marquette 1225 was under steam and the star of the show for the first trip on opening day, during a routine inspection of the locomotive at the North Pole a mechanical issue was found. The crew decided that in the interest of preserving the locomotive and keeping the North Pole Express trains operating, as planned, it was best to remove 1225 from service. “We would love to continue to run the locomotive,” said Greg Udolph, Chief Mechanical Officer of the Steam Railroading Institute, “but the truth remains, the 1225 is a 70-year old piece of machinery that was built on an assembly line the same way an automobile is built. During its career the engine has racked up well over a million miles. The boiler on 1225 has shown the crew that it is ready for some serious work. Next year starts a major rebuild of the locomotive to try to put some of the miles back into her. With the current mechanical issue at hand it is best for the locomotive and the schedule of the North Pole Express trains to bring the engine down and prepare for her rebuild.
This past July, during TrainFestival 2009, the engine had a couple of tubes that cracked and released some steam. In the weeks to follow, the crew fixed the problem by replacing the tubes. The engine then successfully ran a two-day photo charter, hourly excursions during Hamburg Railroad Days and an all-day excursion to Cadillac, Michigan, in conjunction with the Ft. Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s Nickel Plate Road 765. Unfortunately, this repair was not enough. It is time to fully inspect the boiler and figure the cause of these problems. This process will be costly, intense and take a minimum of one year.
In order to continue to give the passengers the experience they deserve we have decided to bring 1225 out of her storage building and put her on display for all to see. She will be fully visible and located next to the Christmas trains. Volunteers from SRI will be on hand to answer questions, show off different parts of the locomotive and provide cab tours. Passengers will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the engine. Kids will have the rare and unique opportunity to sit in the engineer’s seat and ring the bell on the locomotive.
SRI would like to thank the many passengers that have been very compassionate of the fact that SRI had to substitute the motive power. The North Pole Express will still be operating and offering a quality memorable experience for each of its passengers with the assistance of a Great Lakes Central Railroad diesel locomotive.
The Steam Railroading Institute strives to provide a memorable experience for each and every passenger and will continue to preserve the knowledge, skills and technology involved with the maintenance and operation of steam locomotives and to educate the public about the enormous impact that these machines had in the economic development of Owosso and the Great Lakes Region.