News & Reviews News Wire Pere Marquette 2-8-4 No. 1225 debuts for 2024 season (updated)

Pere Marquette 2-8-4 No. 1225 debuts for 2024 season (updated)

By Lucas Iverson | June 20, 2024

| Last updated on June 21, 2024

June operations yield a great performance after off-season work; boiler for 4-6-0 No. 175 headlined as a capital project

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Pan shot of steam locomotive across a field
Pere Marquette 2-8-4 No. 1225 debuted in 2024 with back-to-back weekends of Hands on the Throttle sessions and the Freedom Flyer excursion to Ashley, Mich. Steam Railroading Institute

OWOSSO, Mich. — The 2024 debut of Pere Marquette steam locomotive No. 1225 in June offered multiple firsts for the 2-8-4 and its owner, the Steam Railroading Institute (SRI).

Ultimately, it was the first time since 2019 that the Berkshire-type operated for the public outside of its regular holiday-season North Pole Express schedule. But for the locomotive and non-profit organization, it was still business as usual with back-to-back weekends of Hands on the Throttle experiences at the institute, June 7-9, 14, and 16, in addition to a June 15 excursion to Ashley, Mich., named the Freedom Flyer – Vintage Baseball Train.

Beforehand, offseason tasks primarily focused on the smokebox section of the locomotive, according to Justin Hamilton, SRI’s Master Mechanic of Motive Power. The inside had the stuffing box rebuilt, along with the blower ring and blast nozzle repaired and returned to their Advisory Mechanical Committee specs. Outside saw work to the hot water pump as originally planned after the 2023 season [See “Pere Marquette No. 1225 puts a holiday bow…” News Wire, Dec. 21, 2024]. Though Hamilton looks at the previously mentioned dynamos to be next on the docket during 2024, the injector and throttle are now seen as projects heading into 2025.

No. 1225’s overall performance during the June operations was summed up with a single word: Great. “Something we did notice was that we almost went three days without the need to dump ash because it was all going up and out the stack,” Hamilton added as an observation. “There are almost no clinkers in the ash pan as it’s just fly ash now.

“That was a testament to the changes in the front end and the locomotive’s drafting.”

While the Freedom Flyer excursion was another opportunity to put in more miles, Hamilton believes the work done this year won’t be fully tested until the next runs for No. 1225 – hinting at plans for late summer and fall, followed by the Nov.-Dec. North Pole Express excursions. He anticipates some long-distance running for the bearings and other components of the rebuilt running gear to be fully seated while shifting attention to future testing at higher speeds.

In the meantime, in-season maintenance will focus on rewinding two of the dynamos, changing the thermocouple wire’s insulation to prevent steam condensation, valve maintenance and lapping, addressing a couple of rivets in the mud ring, and sending out gauges from No. 1225, plus Chicago & North Western No. 175, to FMW Solutions for rebuilding. Regarding the mentioned 4-6-0, Hamilton confirms the boiler has been moved into the backshop as this year’s capital project.

When describing the planned restoration on the pressure vessel so far: “We’re going to get the door sheet and rear-tube sheet cold flanged,” he explained. “Jean [Speaker-Kloha] has started cutting staybolts as they’re going to be full-penetration welded bolts, and we identified all the wrapper-sheet patches that we need to do.

“Both of the old, corrugated sidesheets were removed, and the staybolts have been burned out of the door and rear-tube sheets but still need to be detached from the mud ring. That’ll all be ongoing along with the maintenance taking place on the Berk.”

Visit the Steam Railroading Institute website for more information.

— Updated June 21 at 8:10 a.m. with dates of previous events.

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