THE FAMOUS PERE MARQUETTE 1225 positioned at the corner of Mason and Delaney roads on the morning of Monday, Nov. 12. Crew members were on hand around the clock to take care of the historic train engine while GLC Railroad members were working to clear off and repair the tracks at Cedar and Cass streets after seven grain cars had derailed Saturday night. Plans were underway to see the Pere Marquette safely back into Owosso by Thursday afternoon.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Returning home from another magical North Pole Express excursion from Ashley, and transporting 900 guests, the Pere Marquette 1225 was forced to delay along the intersection of Mason and Delaney roads, northwest of Owosso, on Saturday night, Nov. 24. The crew of the famed steam engine had been notified that the engine and her passengers would be unable to return to the Steam Railroading Institute (SRI) in Owosso due to the derailment of a freight train carrying grain near Cedar and Cass streets. Seven grain cars were derailed in that particular area within the Owosso city limits.
As soon as the delay due to the derailment was announced, emergency planning went into full action and the Pere Marquette 1225 was able to position safely along the Mason/Delaney road intersection. SRI staff and crew, members of the GLC Railroad (also helping with the grain car derailment), Owosso Public Safety Department, Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office, Owosso Township Fire Dept. and other emergency agencies and volunteers were quickly on hand to assist. The Owosso Public School administration team stepped up by immediately calling in OPS bus drivers to aid in retrieving passengers safely back to Owosso. Along with OPS, Shiawassee RESD and Indian Trails, assisted in creating a bus caravan to escort passengers off of the Pere Marquette.
So what do you do with 900 passengers delayed on a North Pole Express excursion? Simple. SRI staff and crew added in bonus entertainment and games to turn this particular train ride into an adventure worth remembering – and it will certainly be remembered. Within a fairly short hour and 30 minutes, all of the passengers were safely back into Owosso – thanks to the magic of a community coming together and prioritizing the needs of others, to ensure that the Steam Railroading Institute, Owosso and all of Shiawassee County, were well represented and every person was safe.
SRI Executive Director Kim Springsdorf was particularly overwhelmed by the outpouring of help from the community and the positive support toward the Pere Marquette 1225. “Every passenger, volunteer and crew member was safely shuttled back to their destination at the Steam Railroading Institute in downtown Owosso. A little more time was spent on the train, more games were played, and it turned into an adventure,” Springsdorf shared. “Owosso is an amazing community and the response we got from our community was more than anyone could ask for.”
Owosso Mayor Pro Tem Sue Osika was volunteering on the North Pole Express excursion that Saturday. “We looked out the window and saw this line up of buses, and everybody was just so nice to us,” Osika said. “It was really so amazing. There was no chaos at all. And I kept hearing all of these positive comments from guests about the community coming together.”
Osika shared that she ended up on Mrs. (Lori) Pelikan’s bus on the return to Owosso. Pelikan, an OPS bus driver, opted to have everyone sing uplifting Christmas carols “all the way back to SRI.” Guests from around the world visit SRI to see the Pere Marquette 1225. The Shiawassee County community, particularly the first responders, were quick to assist the Saturday night situation – significantly reiterating the message to so many visitors that there is “magic” when a community pulls together.