Steam Railroading Institute

Steam Railroading Institute

The Steam Railroading Institute is located at 405 South Washington Street, Owosso, Michigan.

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:Pere Marquette 1225, Flagg Coal Co. 75, and Mississippian 76 which is currently under restoration.

The Steam Railroading Institute was formed from the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation.



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 as an icon of the steam-era and there it sat until 1969 when a group of students took an interest in the locomotive. The Michigan State University Railroad Club was formed with 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 and started its corporate run in July 1979. Recognizing the daunting task that was ahead of them, the early MSU students saw the necessity to form a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and in 1981, Michigan State University donated 1225 to the newly formed MSTRP.

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 shops and roundhouse, the Steam Railroading Institute exhibits the intricacies of working steam locomotives.

Mission statement

"The Steam Railroading Institute uses historic railroad practices and demonstrations to educate and entertain visitors about the lure of steam railroading. The Institute engages visitors with interactive experiences and hands-on learning opportunities that reveal the importance of steam railroading and the effects this industry had on our heritage."

"The Steam Railroading Institute accomplishes this with first-person interaction, behind-the-scenes tours, quality excursion services, sound maintenance practices, and genuine hospitality to our guests. "

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

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 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 and leased as corporate headquarters

November 1985: 1225 chugs down the track under its own power for the first time in 34 years

September 1988: 1225 makes 12-mile (19 km) trial runs between Owosso and Chesaning

October 1988: MSTRP operates 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. founds 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.

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 2009: Pere Marquette 1225 suffers a second flue failure within the same year. This is the last time 1225 is under steam.

January 2010: The FRA mandatory 15 year rebuild for Pere Marquette 1225 is started with a hopeful finish by 2013.

Engines & Rolling Stock

The Steam Railroading Institute owns and leases a wide variety of unique railroad equipment not found anywhere else.


  • Pere Marquette 1225
  • Flagg Coal Company 75 visiting occasionally. Last visit was for Train Festival 2009. Owned and operated by John and Barney Gramling.
  • Mississippian 76 restoration halted to focus on Pere Marquette 1225's rebuild.
  • GE 25- tonner "Mighty Mouse" diesel Locomotive. Used for switching the yard and moving 1225 around.
  • GE 44- tonner Detroit & Mackinac 10

Passenger cars:

  • Canadian National coaches #5576, 5581, and 5646
  • Canadian National coach/cafe car #762
  • Chesapeake & Ohio Pullman Sleeper "City of Ashland" #2624
  • Chesapeake & Ohio/Chicago & Greatwestern/Chicago & Northwestern Baggage/Combination Car #462. Used as Crew Car for 1225's excursions.
  • Pere Marquette (C&O) Baggage car #361/Former troop sleeper/Former 1225 tool car.
  • PRR #8275 “Norristown Inn”/ SEMTA/ MARC #147. On long term lease from B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD.
  • US Army #89639/ Amtrak #1363/ MSTX #1363. Used as a concession car on excursions.

Freight cars: (list not complete)

  • 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. The later will be used as a auxiliary tender for historic photo freight trains.
  • Detroit & Mackinac Gondola #3514
  • Grand Trunk Western Track Foreman/bunk car #58332
  • Pere Marquette Automobile car #72332
  • Wabash Boxcars (later Ann Arbor X4633 and X4646)

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 Sleepers.
  • 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.


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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