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Pere Marquette 1225 is a Berkshire 2-8-4 N-1 class steam locomotive. Chris Van Allsburg based the train in his book, The Polar Express on this locomotive. This has led to it being nicknamed, "The Real Polar Express." For the film, the producers used blueprints of #1225 to create the model of the Polar Express locomotive. Most of the sounds were also recorded from #1225. One notable exception is the whistle, which came from Sierra Railway No. 3.


The Pere Marquette 1225 was built at the Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio in 1941 for the Pere Marquette Railway along with eleven other N-1 class locomotives. During its first decade in service, it mostly pulled steel and wartime freight. The N-1 class locomotives remained in service after Pere Marquette's merger into the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1947. However, in 1951, #1225 was withdrawn from service and sent for scrap in New Buffalo, Michigan.

Luckily, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad gave the locomotive to Michigan State University as a gift because Cyrus Eaton, the chairman of the railroad, did not have the heart to scrap it. As a result, a group of students from the university formed the Michigan State University Railroad Club and set a goal to restore #1225 to its former glory.

The locomotive was put on static display near Spartan Stadium in 1957. Chris Van Allsburg, a little boy at the time, would play on it while attending football games at the stadium with his father. Van Allsburg says he has fond memories of the engine and that he was inspired by its number, which is also the date of Christmas, 12/25.

In November 1985, around the time the book The Polar Express was published, #1225 returned to service and moved under its own power for the first time since 1951. Today, the locomotive currently resides in Owosso, Michigan and is one of two surviving members of the N-1 class with the other being Pere Marquette 1223. Annually since 2004, #1225 has hauled winter weekend excursions in November and December initially as the Polar Express, then as The North Pole Express after the film license expired.


  • The locomotive's number, 1225 is featured in several Polar Express media:
    • In the film, the number appears as part of seven-digit numbers on the children's tickets with zeroes filling in the remaining places.
    • Also in the film, the number is on the keystone of the tunnel the train comes out of during the ticket chase scene.
    • Most merchandise portray the Polar Express locomotive with the number, even though it does not have the number in either the book or the film.
    • A party kit based on the book shows the zip code for the North Pole to be 001225.[1]
  • In the film, Know-It-All describes the locomotive of the Polar Express as a Baldwin 2-8-4 S-3 class Berkshire type locomotive as opposed to an N-1 class that Pere Marquette is. He also says it was built in 1931 at the Baldwin Locomotive Works and weighs 456,100 pounds while Pere Marquette was built at Lima in 1941 and weighs 442,500 pounds.



  1. The Polar Express Party Kit (PDF). p. 27

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