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Steam Railroading Institute
Locale Michigan
Terminus Owosso
Commercial operations
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Reporting mark SRI
Length 38 miles (61 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preservation history
1969 Open
Headquarters Owosso

The Steam Railroading Institute is located at 405 South Washington Street, Owosso, Michigan. It was founded in 1969 as the Michigan State University (MSU) Railroad Club. It became the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation, and later adopted its present name.

The Steam Railroading Institute is an organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and operation of historical railroad equipment and items. It operates a heritage railroad which offers occasional passenger excursion trains using steam locomotives: ex-Pere Marquette Railway Steam Locomotive No. 1225 and Chicago & Northwestern Railway 175.


The Steam Railroading Institute, dedicated to educating the public about steam-era railroad technology, is the product of the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation Inc. For many years, the MSTRP centered on a single steam locomotive, former Pere Marquette Railway No. 1225. After 1225's retirement, the locomotive was donated to Michigan State University. Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Chairman Cyrus Eaton thought that the University College of Engineering ought to have a piece of real equipment to work on and convinced the MSU University Trustee Forest Akers that this was a good idea. Eaton didn't like seeing these relatively new locomotives cut up for scrap. The Dean of the College of Engineering was not convinced, so then University President John Hannah, accepted the engine as a contribution to the MSU Museum. It arrived on campus in 1957. There it sat, getting an occasional coat of paint and was opened to the public on football weekends until 1969 when a group of students took an interest in the locomotive. The Michigan State University Railroad Club was formed by student rail fans who were interested in Trains and Locomotives in general. In 1970 at the suggestion of Randy Paquette, they adopted the ambitious goal of restoring 1225 and using it to power excursion trains that would bring passengers to football games at the university. After toiling away at the locomotive for many years, the Michigan State University Railroad Club evolved as the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation after then MSURRC President Chuck Julian discussed the subject of how this engine would run when finished, with then University President Edgar Harden. Harden proposed that they form a 501(c)(3) that would allow the University to give the Trust the locomotive. MSU had no interest in running a steam locomotive. The MSTRP started its corporate run in July 1979. Harden kept his promise and had the University donate the locomotive to this new organization.

In the past thirty-five years the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation and its Steam Railroading Institute have grown tremendously, now housing two steam locomotives, a fleet of passenger cars, and numerous pieces of rolling stock.

Situated on the site of the old Ann Arbor Railroad's steam backshop and roundhouse, the Steam Railroading Institute exhibits the intricacies of working steam locomotives.

Brief History Summary

  • Fall 1969: MSU Railroad Club is formed after student Steve Reeves uses an open letter in the State News to rally other rail history buffs.
  • Spring 1970: At a meeting of the East Lansing club, a bold idea flourishes: restore former PM 1225 to operating condition.
  • April 1971: Members begin dismantling 1225, donated to MSU in 1957 and displayed next to Spartan Stadium as a monument to the age of steam.
  • November 1972: 1225's boiler is filled and checked for leaks under pressure in first hydrostatic test. It fails the test necessitating the refluing of the boiler.
  • January 1975: Repairs bring first successful hydrostatic test of locomotive's boiler.
  • October 1975: 1225 is fired up in stationary test.
  • February 1976: Search begins for larger permanent display and restoration site.
  • July 1979: Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation, Inc. is set up as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational corporation.
  • May 1981: 1225 is donated to MSTRP by MSU and moved just off campus.
  • February 1983: 1225 is moved to former Ann Arbor Railroad steam locomotive shop in Owosso, MI. The site is leased as corporate headquarters and home for the engine.
  • November 1985: 1225 chugs down the track under its own power for the first time in 34 years.
  • September 1988: 1225 makes 17-mile (27 km) trial runs between Owosso and St. Charles.
  • October 1988: 1225 operates its first excursion trains.
  • August 1991: 1225 goes to Huntington, WV for the National Railway Historical Society's annual convention.
  • August 1992: Canadian National (CN) railroad donates machine tools for further restoration work.
  • August 1993: Extensive repairs are finished on the boiler syphons and 90-square-foot (8.4 m2) firebox.
  • September 1993: “Engineer for an Hour” program starts as a visitor attraction and way to raise money and fulfill the mission statement: To educate the public of steam era railroad technology.
  • March 1995: 1225 is listed on National Register of Historic Structures.
  • December 1996: MSTRP acquires a Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad combine and a CN Burro crane.
  • January 2000: Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation, Inc. changes its name to The Steam Railroading Institute (SRI).
  • June 2000: SRI acquires Pere Marquette 90-foot-diameter (27 m) (later lengthened to 100-foot) turntable (built 1919 by the American Bridge Co.) from New Buffalo, MI.
  • December 2000: Two display rail cars are unveiled at grand opening of SRI.
  • July 2002: Warner Brothers arranges to use 1225's image in “The Polar Express,” an animated feature based on the children's Christmas story book of the same name, premiering in theaters in November 2004. Chris Van Allsburg tells a reporter for the Detroit Free Press that the engine on the campus of Michigan State University, was the inspiration for the story line. He is informed that the 1225, used for the film, is that engine.
  • July 2002: Restored Flagg Coal Company 0-4-0T #75 steam locomotive comes to SRI.
  • February 2003: SRI buys Tuscola & Saginaw Bay Railway Co. site in the Owosso yard for its permanent home and visitor center.
  • June 12–13, 2004: Grand opening weekend for SRI visitor center.
  • April 2005: Steam Railroading Institute purchases 2-8-0 #76 from the Ohio Central Railroad.
  • October 2005: #1225 and the Steam Railroading Institute partner with Bluewater Michigan Chapter NRHS for the longest excursion that the engine has hauled since 1991. To do so, #1225 traverses RailAmerica's former Grand Trunk Western Bay City Subdivision, then spends two days hauling excursions from Kawkawlin to Grayling, Michigan over the former New York Central Mackinaw Division, now Lake States. nearly 1400 passengers are hauled over the two days.
  • May 27, 2006: SRI begins regular weekend passenger excursions to West Owosso behind Flagg Coal Company #75.
  • December 2006: PM 1225's overhaul was completed just in time for the North Pole Express, returning to service in the best shape it has seen in a long time. SRI volunteers finished re-plumbing the locomotive in September, and the final phase of the project, installing the superheater units, was completed in November.
  • April 2007: Pere Marquette #1225 hauls first ever "Photo Freight."
  • July 23–26, 2009: Pere Marquette 1225, Nickel Plate 765, Southern Pacific 4449, Flagg Coal Company 75, Little River Railroad 110 & 1, Leviathan, Viscose 6, and a few diesel locomotives come together for Train Festival 2009.
  • July 24, 2009: Pere Marquette 1225 suffers a flue failure which puts her out of service the rest of Train Festival. Nickel Plate 765 substitutes for PM 1225.
  • December 5, 2009: Pere Marquette 1225 suffers a second flue failure within the same year. Some GMTX and GLC diesels haul the North Pole Express for the rest of the season and the next couple of years.
  • January 2010: The FRA mandatory 15 year rebuild for Pere Marquette 1225 is started.
  • October 20, 2013: The 1225's overhaul had just about ended and the 1225 was fired up (for the first time since 2009). The 1225 is back for another 15 years, until 2028, when it is due for its next rebuild. It successfully pulled the North Pole Express Trips in November and December 2013.
  • June 2014: The Steam Railroading Institute hosted the Train Expo 2014, featuring the 1225 as well as the 765 and others.


Quincy Smelter tour 3
CNW 175 at its old site, the Quincy Smelter

The Steam Railroading Institute owns and leases a wide variety railroad equipment:


Active units:

  • Pere Marquette 1225 Built October 1941.
  • GE 25-ton switcher "Mighty Mouse" diesel Locomotive. Used for switching the yard and moving 1225 around.
  • Ex Grand Trunk Western EMD GP9 4428. Temporarily leased from Great Lakes Locomotive.

Inoperable units:

  • Chicago & Northwestern Railway 175 is starting to go under restoration to operational shape.

Former units:

  • GE 44-ton switcher Detroit & Mackinac 10. Sold to Southern Michigan Railway Society.
  • Mississippian 76 Built December 1920. Sold to the Oakland B&O Museum in Oakland, Maryland and will undergo a cosmetic restoration as B&O #476.

Rolling stock

Passenger cars:

  • VIA Rail coaches #5576, 5581, and 5646
  • VIA Rail diner/lounge car (now owned by the Great Lakes Central Railroad) #762
  • Canadian National coaches "Canadian Flyer" #5226 and 5228
  • Chesapeake & Ohio coach #1615
  • Chesapeake & Ohio Pullman Sleeper "City of Ashland" #2624
  • Chesapeake & Ohio/Chicago and Great Western/Chicago & Northwestern Baggage/Combination Car #462. Occasionally used as a crew car for 1225's excursions.
  • PRR #8275 “Norristown Inn”/ SEMTA/ MARC #147 coach. Purchased in 2005 from B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD.
  • US Army #89639/ Amtrak #1363/ MSTX #1363 baggage. Used as a concession car on excursions.

Freight cars:

  • Ann Arbor PS-1 Boxcar #1314
  • Chesapeake & Ohio/Pere Marquette Gondola #31262
  • Detroit & Mackinac Tank cars X-127 & X-128. Restored as Pure Oil & Dow Chemical tank car.
  • Detroit & Mackinac Gondola #3514
  • Pere Marquette Automobile car #72332
  • Wabash Boxcars (later Ann Arbor X4633 and X4646)
  • A couple flat cars.

Maintenance of Way:

  • Rock Island #5000-series tender/ Auxiliary Tender #5000. Former Rock Island 4-8-4 5000 series locomotive tender now used for longer excursions behind PM 1225.
  • Pere Marquette #361. Former Troop Sleeper. Now 1225's tool car.
  • Grand Trunk Western Track Foreman's/ Bunk Car #58332.
  • Detroit, Toledo & Ironton/ Grand Truck Burro crane #15027. A self-propelled burro crane used for light duties.
  • Ex. US Navy Speeder/Gasoline Motor Car.
  • Ann Arbor Caboose's #2838 & 2839.
  • Pere Marquette Caboose #A909.
  • Detroit & Mackinac power car #7. Former troop sleeper.


The SRI has a few new and historic structures including an original PM turntable and an old Ann Arbor Freight house.

New Buffalo Turntable

The turntable is an original 90 ft (27 m) PM turntable built in 1919 to serve the Pere Marquette railyard in New Buffalo, Michigan. It operated and served a 16 stall roundhouse for many years until Chessie System took over in 1984 and ceased operations at the New Buffalo yard. The SRI acquired the turntable and had it relocated to the site. Upon purchasing, the SRI added an additional 10 ft (3.0 m) to the turntable to better accommodate larger rolling stock like the PM 1225. Still functioning like it did during the steam era, the turntable was used by the 1225 during its service years on the PM many times despite its short length.

SRI Visitor Center

The SRI Visitor Center is located inside a renovated freight warehouse used by the Ann Arbor road. Its construction date is unclear but the foundation dates back to the 1880s. It is speculated that the original one burned down in the 1920s and the existing structure was built. Originally a creamery, the Ann Arbor used for freight storage for things like grain. Bruckman's Moving and Storage then leased the building from the railroad for storage use. The SRI purchased the building in 2004 and renovated it as their Visitor's Center containing exhibits, a model train layout, and the museum's artifact and archives collection.

Coordinates: 42°59′40″N 84°10′13″W / 42.99438°N 84.17028°W / 42.99438; -84.17028

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