Pere Marquette 2-8-4 "Berkshire" Locomotives in the USA

Pere Jacques Marquette was a French Jesuit priest who was a missionary to the Ottawa Indians. He died on the shore of Lake Michigan in 1675. On the spot where he died a small settlement sprang up and in his honor it was named Pere Marquette. A small railroad connected Flint Michigan and the lake port town of Pere Marquette. This railroad, incorporated in 1855, was called the Flint & Pere Marquette. Later in 1873, the town of Pere Marquette was incorporated as a city and changed its name to Ludington, Michigan, but the railroad kept the name.

The Pere Marquette Railroad began in 1900 with the merger of three lumber railroads, the Flint & Pere Marquette, the Detroit, Grand Rapids & Western and the Chicago & West Michigan. This new railroad served much of Michigan and grew as the automobile industry grew.

Its position with the automobile makers and the other heavy industries of Michigan made it a constant target for take-over. Throughout its existence it came under the control of several railroads; the B & O, the Erie Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio. Finally, the C & O merged it into its operations in 1947.

As a member of the "Advisory Mechanical Committee" the Pere Marquette had access to some of the best locomotive designs of the day and selected the 2-8-4 "Berkshire" type locomotive to haul its fast freight. These "Berkshires" hauled fast trains between Detroit, Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Chicago and established an impressive record of speed and efficiency.

The Pere Marquette purchased thirty-nine "Berkshire" type locomotives from the Lima Locomotive Works in three orders, Class N, road numbers 1201 through 1215 in 1937, Class N-1, road numbers 1216 through 1227 in 1941 and Class N-2, road numbers 1228 through 1239 in 1944. These locomotives had 69" diameter drivers, 26" x 34" cylinders, a 245 psi boiler pressure, they exerted 69,350 pounds of tractive effort and each weighed about 278,000 pounds.

After the Pere Marquette was merged into the C&O some of its "Berks" began to carry the C&O name and all were to be renumbered as follows:

PM Class N #1201 - 1215 to be C&O 2685 - 2699
PM Class N-1 #1216 - 1227 to be C&O 2650 - 2661
PM Class N-2 #1228 - 1239 to be C&O 2670 - 2681

However, a stipulation in the merger agreement required that any equipment still not fully paid for had to remain in Pere Marquette livery. As a result, only the older Class N (road numbers 1201 through 1215) locomotives were ever renumbered.

By 1952, most of the "Berkshires" were gone from the former Pere Marquette divisions, with eleven transferred to the Chesapeake Division and the other twenty-eight retired. The Class N locomotives were scrapped in 1954 and some of Class N-2s were scrapped in 1956 and 1957. A total of thirteen were saved and stored at New Buffalo, MI until 1961.

There are two surviving Pere Marquette 2-8-4 "Berkshire" type locomotives. Both are presently in Michigan, with one in full operating condition. They are numbers 1223 and 1225 and are located as follows:

Number 1223 is at the Tri-Cities Historical Society display near ex-GTW coaling tower, in Grand Haven, MI. This locomotive was displayed for many years at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit, MI, during which time many components were removed for use in the effort to restore sister Berkshire #1225.

Number 1225 at the Steam Railroading Institute facility in the former Ann Arbor Railroad Owosso yard. Restored over a period of 20 years, #1225 is the last operable PM steam locomotive and has been used by the MSTRP on excursions up the former NYC St. Charles branch under the auspices of the Shiawassee Valley Railroad in the early 1990s, as the centerpiece of their "Engineer for an Hour" program, and on mainline excursions in West Virginia as part of the 1991 NRHS National Convention in Huntington, WV. She is an occasional visitor to the Durand Railroad Day Festival.


ClassQty.Road NumbersYear BuiltBuilderNotes
N151201-12151937LimaNumbers 1201-1215 scrapped by 1954
N-1121216-12271941LimaNumbers 1223 and 1225 are preserved. All the others scrapped by 1958.
N-2121228-12391944LimaNumbers 1228-1239 scrapped by 1958

Class Details by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media

Class N1 (Locobase 54)

Data from tables and diagrams in 1947 Locomotive Cyclopedia. (My thanks to Chris Hohl for identifying the valve gear., and to Jackie Lien for his 6 May 2017 email supplying the fully loaded weight of the tender. A 22 September 2017 email from Chris Hohl reported unlikely boiler pressure values for 177 entries. A Locobase macro caused the error .)

Firebox had 122 sq ft (11.3 sq m) of syphons and arch tubes. Consisting of three sub-classes, this set of Berkshires made their debut in 1937 when the first 15 N1s arrived.

In 1941, Lima produced 12 more (N-2) and followed with a final batch of 12 in 1944. (NB: The Pere Marquette Historical Society has this comment about the class IDs: "For reasons we have yet to discover, the N-2 class designation was typically hyphenated on the PM, but the the N1 class designation wasn't.")

Jackie Lien pointed out that the 284,800 lb (129,183 kg) figure originally given for the loaded tender in most tables is the "two-thirds" loaded weight and that the fully loaded figure should be the substantially higher amount noshown in the specs. (, last accessed 30 December 2012), owner of the 1225 in tourist service, stated in their description of the engine that it consumed one ton (0.9 tonne) of coal every 12 miles (19.3 km) and 1,800 US gallons (6,813 litres) over the same distance.

Principal Dimensions by Steve Llanso of Sweat House Media
Locobase ID54
RailroadPere Marquette (PM)
Number in Class39
Road Numbers1201-1239
Number Built39
Valve GearBaker
Locomotive Length and Weight
Driver Wheelbase (ft / m)18.20 / 5.55
Engine Wheelbase (ft / m)42 / 12.80
Ratio of driving wheelbase to overall engine wheebase 0.43
Overall Wheelbase (engine & tender) (ft / m)88.23 / 26.89
Axle Loading (Maximum Weight per Axle) (lbs / kg)
Weight on Drivers (lbs / kg)277,600 / 125,917
Engine Weight (lbs / kg)442,500 / 200,715
Tender Loaded Weight (lbs / kg)363,400 / 164,836
Total Engine and Tender Weight (lbs / kg)805,900 / 365,551
Tender Water Capacity (gals / ML)22,000 / 83.33
Tender Fuel Capacity (oil/coal) (gals/tons / ML/MT)22 / 20
Minimum weight of rail (calculated) (lb/yd / kg/m)116 / 58
Geometry Relating to Tractive Effort
Driver Diameter (in / mm)69 / 1753
Boiler Pressure (psi / kPa)245 / 16.90
High Pressure Cylinders (dia x stroke) (in / mm)26" x 34" / 660x864
Tractive Effort (lbs / kg)69,368 / 31464.83
Factor of Adhesion (Weight on Drivers/Tractive Effort) 4.00
Heating Ability
Firebox Area (sq ft / m2)466 / 43.29
Grate Area (sq ft / m2)90.30 / 8.39
Evaporative Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)4777 / 443.79
Superheating Surface (sq ft / m2)1932 / 179.49
Combined Heating Surface (sq ft / m2)6709 / 623.28
Evaporative Heating Surface/Cylinder Volume228.64
Computations Relating to Power Output (More Information)
Robert LeMassena's Power Computation22,124
Same as above plus superheater percentage28,539
Same as above but substitute firebox area for grate area147,279
Power L133,032
Power MT1049.32

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Wes Barris