Tag Archives: Michigan Railroads

1903 Railway Depot in Port Hope Michigan

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.  

Port Hope was the End-Of-The-Line

Port Hope DepotThe 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 1930’s 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 to 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 Port Hope Depot has been exquisitely restored. You can see exhibits in the passenger waiting room, the station masters office,  luggage and 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 wire frame glasses are extremely fragile yet look brand new. 

Model Railroad Shows History of Port Hope and Harbor Beach

Port Hope Model Railroad
Port Hope Model Railroad

In the lower level of the depot there is an extensive model railroad being built by volunteer craftsmen. The model depicts how Port Hope and Harbor Beach depots and freight yards looked when the railway was active in the early 1900’s. Volunteers are still at work creating this are as 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.

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Pontiac, Oxford and Northern Railroad and the Legend of The Polly Ann

The Polly Ann

The Michigan Legend – 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 Polly Ann

The Polly Ann’s 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 regular 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.

Polly Ann

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 was once used by the Pontiac, Oxford & Northern Railroad. Local groups host horseback riding, cycling events, nature walks, runs, and charity fundraisers.

Polly Ann

Remnants of the Polly Ann Railway

One of the last remnants of the Polly Ann track can still be seen in Caseville right off main street. The Caseville depot east moved in the 1980’s and is now a summer home. The original rail can be seen at the Caseville municipal park in the center of town.

The Polly Ann

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