Pere Marquette Railway

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Pere Marquette Railway
Pere Marquette Herald.png
Reporting mark PM
Locale Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Ontario, New York (state), and Wisconsin
Dates of operation 1900–1947
Successor Chesapeake and Ohio later CSX
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Headquarters Cleveland, Ohio

The Pere Marquette Railway (reporting mark PM) operated in the Great Lakes region of the United States and southern parts of Ontario in Canada. It had trackage in the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and the Canadian province of Ontario. Its primary connections included Buffalo; Toledo; and Chicago. The company was named after Père (French for Father) Jacques Marquette S.J. (1637–1675), a French Jesuit missionary who founded Michigan's first European settlement, Sault Ste Marie.


Loading salt into a Pere Marquette boxcar

The Pere Marquette Railroad was incorporated on November 1, 1899 in anticipation of a merger of three Michigan-based railroad companies that had been agreed upon by all parties. It began operations on January 1, 1900, absorbing the following companies:

C&O's The Pere Marquette at Grand Central Station in Chicago on December 26, 1967

The company was reincorporated on March 12, 1917 as the Pere Marquette Railway. In the 1920s the Pere Marquette came under the control of Cleveland financiers Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen. These brothers also controlled the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate), the Erie Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, and planned to merge the four companies. However, the ICC did not approve the merger and the Van Sweringens eventually sold their interest in the Pere Marquette to the C&O, with which it formally merged on June 6, 1947. The C&O has since become part of CSX Transportation.

In 1984, Amtrak named its passenger train between Grand Rapids, Michigan and Chicago the Pere Marquette.

The 2004 film The Polar Express featured steam locomotive Pere Marquette 1225. The train in the movie (not the same train in the popular children's book) was a model of #1225 based on measurements and recordings of the 1225. It is the locomotive that Chris Van Allsburg said was the inspiration for the book, having seen it as a child when it was on the Michigan State University campus. The locomotive was scheduled to be at the premiere in Grand Rapids, where the writer was born, but was canceled because of interferences with the schedule of CSX. It is now housed and maintained at the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan.

Preserved Locomotives[edit]

Pere Marquette #1225 owned by the Steam Railroading Institue in Owosso, Michigan, Pere Marquette #1223 owned by the city of Grand Haven in Michigan, Pere Marquette #11 owned by the B&O Railroad in Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Class N series 2-8-4[edit]

In the year of 1937, the Pere Marquette Railroad purchased 15 total of the first order of 2-8-4 "Berkshires" by the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio for their fleet. Which were, the Class N numbered #1201-1215. In 1941, the railroad then purchased 11 total of the second order of 2-8-4 "Berkshire" from Lima. Which were, the Class N-1 numbered #1216-1227. In 1944, the railroad then purchased 11 total of the last order of 2-8-4 "Berkshires" from Lima. Which were, the Class N-2 numbered #1228-1239. The Class N Series 2-8-4 "Berkshires" were the largest and most powerful steam locomotives in the Pere Marquette system. Also, these are one of the most recognizable Berkshire classes built in North America. The Pere Marquette Railroad system traveled from through out most of Michigan, Chicago, an southern part of Ontario, Canada. They were used to haul heavy freight services in that region of the Midwest. Pere Marquette Railroad is the predecessor of the famous Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, one of the largest northeastern railroads in the United States in the late 1900s. All of the Class N were scrapped in the early 1950s. All of the Class N-1, except two, were scrapped in the late 1950s. The remaining locos preserved are Pere Marquette 1223, and Pere Marquette 1225. Pere Marquette 1223 is oldest Class N-1 preserved displayed at the Chinook Pier in Grand Haven, Michigan. Mainly the city of Grand Haven is the current owner. Pere Marquette 1225 the last and younger Class N-1 after 1223. Pere Marquette 1225 is the largest operational steam locomotive in Michigan. The current owner is the Steam Railroad Institute in Owosso, Michigan, where 1225 spends many years. The special thing about this train is that this is the locomotive that took the role in The Polar Express (2004) movie. Some people noticed that #1225 is actually the date of Christmas which was on 12/25. But however, Warner Bros of the Polar Express movie didn't let Steam Railroading Institute used the term Polar Express on 1225, so they called it "The North Pole Express". Many people that knew, didn't really care. All they now is that 1225 is the only Polar Express. In fact, the locomotive in the movie was modeled by 1225 with specific detail like, Steam dome in front of the long Sand dome on the boiler, The bell over the smoke box, the exact number of wheels the real engine has, which was 2 pilots, 8 drivers, and 4 trailer wheels which makes it, 2-8-4 "Berkshires. Even the sounds from the locomotive in the movie were from 1225, Except the whistle. A teenager and his cousin, had a best experience riding the real Polar Express in early December 2017. Both teens were asked by a railroad worker? to climb aboard the engines cab an hour later after the train arrived at the Village of Ashley. The taller teen asked a lot of questions in the cab; mostly between Pere Marquette 1225 and Nickel Plate 765. Like, their features he asked "Does 1225 & 765 have the same cab?" He mostly heard what the engineers say because of the sounds in the cab. He also asked about "Have NKP 765's bell ringed just like 1225's bell? One of the engineers said "Not like the swinging move of 1225's bell does. NKP 765 mostly has it's bell ringed by compressed air". He also said "I heard from many rail fans that 1225 and 765 are sisters because they are the same shape, both 2-8-4 "Berkshires", both built by Lima, but when I saw the classes were different, That made me think that their cousins (From the teen's family tree point of view). He also asked "Why does Pere Marquette 1225 change it's number boards? you know the one's that sometimes goes on top in front of the boiler? what's with that? I've noticed that months ago (Summer 2017)". One of the engineers said "Those are the flying number boards that 1225 used when she worked for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad." the teen then said "Well, I don't really care about the either number boards; All I care about is 1225 in good condition". That was all then teen had in mind to ask. Next on the last class. All of the Class N-2 were scrapped in the late 1950s. The thing is about the Class N-2 is that, Unlike the Pere Marquette's Class N, N-1, they had their sand dome up front with the steam dome behind it which looks just like those of the Chesapeake and Ohio Class K-4 2-8-4 "Kanawhas". The N-2 Class may be gone, but the C&O Kanawhas will be perfect to remember the N-2 #1228-1239's extinction.

1907 wreck[edit]

On July 20, 1907 an excursion train carrying 800 passengers from Ionia to Detroit collided near Salem with a freight train, killing 31 and injuring 101. The accident apparently happened because of a hand-written schedule on unlined paper whose columns did not line up, and was misread by the freight crew. The Interstate Commerce Commission investigation also cited safety violations, including use of pine instead of oak for car walls and the omission of steel plates required for mail cars. This was Michigan's worst rail disaster.[1][2]

Routes and current disposition[edit]

Car ferries[edit]

The Pere Marquette operated a number of rail car ferries on the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers and on Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. The PM's fleet of car ferries, which operated on Lake Michigan from Ludington, Michigan to Milwaukee, Kewaunee, and Manitowoc, Wisconsin (see SS Badger), were an important transportation link avoiding the terminal and interchange delays around the southern tip of Lake Michigan and through Chicago. Their superintendent for over 30 years was William L. Mercereau.

Pere Marquette 18[edit]

Postcard illustration of sinking ferry 18, with ferry 17 coming to its aid.

On September 10, 1910, Pere Marquette 18 was bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from Ludington, Michigan, with a load of 29 railroad freight cars and 62 persons. Near midnight, the vessel began to take on massive amounts of water. The captain dumped nine railroad cars into Lake Michigan, but this was no use—the ship was going down. The Pere Marquette 17, traveling nearby, picked up the distress call and sped to assist the foundering vessel. Soon after she arrived and she could come alongside, the Pere Marquette 18 sank with the loss of 28 lives; there were 33 survivors.[4][5]


  1. ^ "Accident or hoodoo, mystery of train wreck persists". The Regents of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 1995-05-05. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  2. ^ "Salem, MI Excursion Train In Head On Collision, July 1907". The Cranbury Press (reprinted by 1907-07-26. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  3. ^ INDOT's 2011 Indiana Railroads map
  4. ^ Ratigan, Bill (1977). Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivors. Grand Rapids: WM B. Eerdmans. 
  5. ^ Cabot, James L. (2005). Ludington: 1830-1930. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing. 

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