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Of the 39 members of the Pere Marquette's fleet of Superpower Berkshires, only two examples remain-- #1225, restored to operating condition by the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation, Inc., and #1223, cosmetically restored and displayed at the Tri-Cities Historical Society museum site in Grand Haven, MI. In fact, of the entire fleet of steam locomotives operated by the Pere Marquette, only these two engines escaped the scrapper's torch. A third Berkshire, #1227, was offered to the City of Grand Rapids for display at John Ball Park, but the city's Parks and Recreation Department declined the offer, and she was sent to the scrapper.
Number 1223's history, while not as well known as sister #1225's, is interesting nonetheless. Constructed in November, 1941, she served the PM moving heavy wartime traffic, and with her sisters pulled the PM's premiere expedited freights, numbers 40 and 41, The Overnighter, on their tight nine-and-a-half hour schedule between Chicago and Detroit, via Grand Rapids. This service was not only competitive against trucks connecting Chicago and Detroit, but given the state of the highway system prior to 1950, was unbeatable!
At just over 400 tons, the N-1 class Berkshires were not quite the heaviest power on the PM, being outweighed by the booster-equipped members of the N class (#1211-1215), and all of the engines of the N-2 class (#1228-1239). They steamed well, and generated a respectable 69,350 pounds of tractive effort at the railhead. Their weight, however, restricted them (as well as all of the other Berkshires) to operating on the lines from Toledo to Saginaw, from Detroit to Grand Rapids, and from Grand Rapids to Chicago.
Number 1223 was retired in late 1951. Despite having been assigned C&O number 2657 following the merger, she retained her number up to retirement. Following a quick shopping and a repainting into C&O livery, she was donated for display at the Michigan State Fairgrounds, where she remained on display behind the grandstands until 1981. While on display, her grease cellars were traded to the Michigan State Trust for Railroad Preservation to aid the restoration of sister #1225 in East Lansing, Several similar Superpower Berkshires of C&O and Nickel Plate heritage displayed throughout the Great Lakes region also provided parts for that effort.
In 1980, the State Fair administration decided that #1223 no longer fit into their plans for development of the fairgrounds, and offered it for display elsewhere. Several groups and individuals made offers to remove #1223, with the City of Grand Haven making the winning bid. In 1981, with the help of the Michigan National Guard using panel track, #1223 was moved to the nearby Grand Trunk Western mainline for shipment to Grand Haven, a city she had never visited while in service on account of her extreme (by PM standards, at least!) weight.
Upon arrival in Grand Haven, #1223 was moved to the site of the former Grand Trunk Western yard along the Grand River, at the intersection of North Harbor Drive and First Street. Over the succeeding years, she was joined by ex-Pere Marquette steel caboose #A986 and ex-GTW caboose #77915. In 1982, the West Michigan Railroad Historical Society acquired PM steel boxcar #72222, cosmetically restored it, and donated it to the restoration effort for use as both part of the display, and as enclosed storage space.
The Pere Marquette 1223 Preservation Committee, working under the auspices of the Tri-Cities Historical Society, accepted responsibililty for making #1223 presentable again, and for maintaining her. The many years of hard work by these volunteers has paid off, as the photo shows. Much sheet metal was replaced, and the cab completely rebuilt. Missing parts were acquired or fabricated so as to give her the appearance of a complete locomotive. As a compromise due to her exposed display (a protective shed promised by a previous city administration never materialized), #1223 currently wears a fabricated headlight and number boards and lacks her original builders plates, as protection against theft. Presently, #1223 and her consist are a very handsome display. An ex-PM wig-wag signal is mounted nearby to add to the atmosphere.
On December 7, 2000, #1223 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Railroadiana Stolen from PM 1223 Preservation Site
On or about December 30-31, 2004 the storage boxcar was broken into at the Pere Marquette 1223 Preservation site in Grand Haven, Michigan. Two Pyle-National locomotive classification lights (used on Pere Marquette Berkshire #1223) and three Handlan #50 kerosene-burning caboose lamps used in the interior of Pere Marquette caboose #A986 were stolen. One or more of the caboose lamps are stamped ROCK ISLAND on the black metal frame, and the others are stamped some other railroad than Pere Marquette. These items were still in their original cardboard shipping cartons when stolen.
If you are offered any of the above items or have any information about this theft, you are urged to please contact the Grand Haven Public Safety Department at 1-616-842-3460. Refer to case #04-9481. You can provide an anonymous through the Silent Observer program at 616-842-1400. There is a reward for information that leads to recovery of the stolen items and apprehension of the perpetrator(s).
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