Port Hope Depot – Restored to 1900s Perfection

It wasn’t until 1903 that the Flint and Pere Marquette railway extended tracks from Harbor Beach north to Port Hope in the Upper Thumb. Financed by local businessmen, a standard gauge rail line was laid the final seven miles. The following year the Port Hope depot was built to host passengers and cargo. Now passengers could come in from anywhere in the country and Port Hope depot could ship out commodities to other markets.

The Depot was the End-Of-The-Line

Port Hope Depot

The railway owners deemed Port Hope to be the end of the line running up the eastern shore of Lake Huron. So an engine house, water tower, and a “Y” turn-around were built to maintain the depot. Up until sometime in the 1930s, there was a daily train that ran from Port Huron to Port Hope in the morning with a return trip in the late afternoon. The run took three hours. Trains continued to run to Port Hope for another fifty years. The last freight runs ceased operation in 1982.

The Restored Port Hope Depot Today

Port Hope Railway Depot
Port Hope Railway Depot

Today the Depot has been exquisitely restored. You can see exhibits in the passenger waiting room, the station master’s office,  luggage, and the freight room.  Each room has been painted to match the original color. The station looks brand new. One of the most interesting items on display was a pair of glasses found trapped for over one hundred years behind window trim in the station master office. The wireframe glasses are extremely fragile yet look brand new.

Port Hope Chimney

A landmark that you can’t miss is the 80-foot sawmill chimney that was constructed in 1858 by John Geltz. The chimney still stands in perfect condition. It is noted as one of Port Hope’s historical landmarks.

Stafford Sawmill Chimney - Port Hope
Stafford Sawmill Chimney

Model Railroad Shows History of Port Hope and Harbor Beach

Port Hope Depot Model Railroad
Port Hope Depot Model Railroad

In the lower level of the depot, there is an extensive model railroad being built by volunteer craftsmen. The model depicts how the depot and Harbor Beach depots and freight yards looked when the railway was active in the early 1900s. Volunteers are still at work creating this area it looked. It’s a fascinating exhibit in miniature. The model railroad can be seen when the depot is open or by appointment at 989-550-5298.

The Story of the Polly Ann Railway in the Thumb – Local folklore states that the Pontiac, Oxford & Northern Railroad (P.O. & N) ran from September 1889 until the last service run of the line’s full length on February 9, 1984.

A Railway was Lost in Saginaw Bay – The Great Thumb Fire of 1881 opened an opportunity for agricultural development. On October 20th, 1881, construction of the thumb railroad Pontiac, Oxford & Port Austin began at Caseville, Michigan, to bring rail service to the Upper Thumb area. On one shipment from Cleveland, the ship ran aground on the rocky shoals near Oak Point. During the salvage operation, 23 rails slipped into Saginaw Bay and were lost.

Marlette’s Beautifully Restored Depot – The Marlette Train Depot is a beautiful and well-restored example of a late 1800s railway station. Other examples of this Michigan’s Thumb include the railway depots in Pigeon, Capac Museum and Depot, and the restored 1903 Port Hope rail station. The depots in Sebewaing and Elkton are still standing but remain unrestored

The Birth of the Michigan Coney Dog at Jackson’s Amtrak Train Station – We took a day trip to visit friends in Kalamazoo. On our way, we took a quick stop to visit the historic Jackson train station. It was an interesting site, and it was like going back in time.


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