Pontiac, Oxford and Northern Railroad and the Legend of The Polly Ann
Local folklore states that the Pontiac, Oxford & Northern Railroad (P.O. & N) ran from September 1889 until the last service run of the full length of the line on February 9, 1984.
Nicknamed the “Polly Ann”, or Poor, Old and Neglected, the line was a single-track, standard-gauge, steam railroad, situated entirely within the Thumb Region of Michigan, extending from Pontiac to Caseville for just under 100 miles.
The Michigan Legend – The Polly Ann
Polly Ann Railway Struggle to Survive
In the early 1900’s passengers never reached sufficient numbers to support the line. Aside from Pontiac, the communities being serviced were all sparsely populated. The fertile farmland known for its wheat, bean, and sugar beet crops, contributed valuable tonnage to the railroad. It was said that there was always a free bag of beans to be had by the train’s crew whenever they had to layover. The term “out to beans” because synonymous with “out to lunch”. At just under 100 miles of track, the line was absorbed by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1909 for $400,000.
P.O.& N’s Era of Freight and Passenger
During the late 1930’s Oxford had one of the world’s largest gravel mines and was the source of carloads for Grand Trunk Western. This regularly assigned job was known as the “mud run”. The gravel was used for road construction and for the runways at nearby Selfridge Air Force Base in Macomb County.
Service continued to decline and the “Poor, Old & Neglected” ended its three runs a week mixed-train service in 1955.
The Railway Still Lives On
Today the former industrial railway is now a source of recreation. The Polly Ann Trail in Lapeer County. Owned by the Michigan Department Natural Resources, is part of the abandoned corridor that was once used by the Pontiac, Oxford & Northern Railroad. Local groups host horseback riding, cycling events, nature walks, runs, and charity fundraisers.
Remnants of the Polly Ann Railway
One of the last remnants of the Polly Ann track can still be seen in Caseville right off the main street. The Caseville depot east moved in the 1980s and is now a summer home. The original rail can be seen at the Caseville municipal park in the center of town.
Related Reading for the Polly Ann
- A Railway Almost Lost in Saginaw Bay
- The Port Hope Depot Restored
- The Polly Ann Trail
- Jackson Train Station – Living History