I literally stumbled across the Sebewaing railway depot one morning while taking pictures nearby. I recognized it right away as a rail depot. However, there were no signs, no markers to indicate what this nondescript building was in the midst of the Sebewaing industrial area. Neglected, with broken windows, faded peeling paint, and vines almost covering one end it seems like a sad fate is ahead for this small historical gem. Amazingly it’s still in use by the Huron and Eastern Railway.
Doing a little research, the first mention of this passenger and freight line was in 1882. A narrow-gauge railway was put in place from East Saginaw to Sebewaing by the Saginaw, Tuscola and Huron Railroad. A nine-mile extension to Bay Port was completed in 1884, then on to Bad Axe in 1886. The railway was converted to standard gauge starting in 1891. Finally, it was purchased by Pere Marquette in 1903. Local lore states it was the Pere Marquette that constructed the depot that stands today.
Saginaw, Tuscola and Huron Railroad
In 1885, the ST&H railroad was just under 50 miles long between Saginaw and Bay Port. Yet it reported carrying an astounding 720,000 short distance passengers and it transported 39,000 passengers the length of the line. There were five locomotive engines, seven-passenger cars, and three baggage cars. The railway had 137 assorted cars for freight. Schedules from the early 1900s indicate that four trains a day ran past Sebewaing.
Besides being an essential transport line for the area farms, processed fish, and for stone products from the area quarry’s the ST&H also promoted the railway as a way to get to a desirable tourist destination. A pamphlet was published in 1889 entitled, “Summering at Bay Port on Wild Fowl Bay, Lake Huron, the resorters’ paradise.: a delightful, healthful, and economical place to spend the summer vacation.” Of course, this was an advertisement for transport to the famous Bay Port Hotel and the pamphlet was published each year. The whole area, especially Bay Port, was an early tourist destination. Passenger service ceased for the railway in the early 1930s.
The end of the era as a working freight depot occurred during the inflationary period in the US economy in the late 1970s. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, C&O, acquired the Port Huron and Detroit Railroad in 1984 and closed the Sebewaing depot that same year.
I hope that I’m wrong on this little depot’s fate. Port Hope, Pigeon, and Marlette have all restored and found new life for their local train depots. It’s a slice of late 1800s Michigan depot architecture that would be a shame to waste. Hopefully, Huron and Eastern Railway will consider sprucing it up a bit. After all, it lasted this long.
- Poor’s Manual of Railroads
- Summering at Bay Port on Wild Fowl Bay, Lake Huron, the resorters’ paradise.: a delightful, healthful and economical place to spend the summer vacation.
- Timeline information from michiganrailroads.com
The Legend of the Polly Ann; Pontiac, Oxford and Northern Railroad – 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.
How Caseville’s Railway Ended Up in Saginaw Bay – 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. This disaster delayed the start of the Thumb railroad building until December. It’s assumed that those rails are still at the bottom of the lake today.
The Beautiful Restoration of the Port Hope Depot – 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 a modern depot was built to host passengers and cargo. Now passengers could come in from anywhere in the country and Port Hope could ship out commodities to other markets.