Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 01, 2017.
Webpage updated: June 22, 2017




The Great Western Railway Company had taken over the South Devon Railway Company's Launceston Branch on February 1st 1876, only eleven years after the first part, from  Tavistock Junction to Tavistock, had been opened.  As from January 1st 1948, following nationalization of the railways, the Great Western Railway Company's Launceston Branch became the British Railways Launceston Branch.

Tavistock Junction, where the Branch left the main line, was the starting point for the milepost mileage.  Yelverton was 7 miles 37 chains from there, Tavistock South Station 12 miles 71 chains, Lydford, 19 miles 43 chains, and Launceston Southern region Station, 31 miles 64 chains.  The comparative mileages starting from Plymouth Station at Millbay, even though the passenger trains only started 68 chains short of that at North Road Plymouth Station, were to Yelverton, 11 miles 11 chains; Tavistock South, 16 miles 45 chains; Lydford, 23 miles 17 chains,  and Launceston, 35 miles 38 chains.

The line basically rose as far as far as Yelverton Tunnel, then fell to Tavistock, before rising again to Lydford.  Although there was a small rise upon entering Launceston, the line fell all the way from Lydford.  All trains were restricted to a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour, except between Lifton and Launceston, where it was 45 mph.

When British Railways took over the line the stopping places after North Road Plymouth Station were: Marsh Mills Station; Plym Bridge Halt; Bickleigh Station; Shaugh Bridge Platform; Clearbrook Halt; Yelverton Station; Horrabridge Station; Whitchurch Down Platform; Taviostock South Station; Mary Tavy and Blackdown  Station; Lydford Station; Liddaton Halt; Coryton Station; Lifton Station; terminating in the former Southern Region Launceston Station.

All classes of Western Region locomotives were permitted as far as Yelverton except 60XX "Kings" and 47XX.  Between Yelverton and Launceston engines of the 45ZXX class were given special authorisation.

A shunting locomotive was derailed at Marsh Mills on Friday May 7th 1948, causing delays of some 2 hours to trains on the Branch.

New arrangement were made in the winter of 1948-49 for the transportation of milk to and from the dairy at Lifton.  With the BR(WR) Launceston Branch closed on a Sunday, the train now travelled over the former Southern line from Plymouth to Lydford and then to Lifton and back.  The locomotive was either an 0-6-0PT or a 45XX 2-6-2T.

During January 1950 the former Great Western Tavistock Station became Tavistock South Station.

As from Monday June 30th 1952 the former Great Western Launceston Station was closed and all traffic diverted to the former Southern Railway Launceston Station.

On Tuesday March 2nd 1954 passenger trains on the Plymouth to Launceston Branch were noted as being worked by 0-6-0PT 6406 and 2-6-2T numbers 4530, 4590, 5531, 5567, and 5569.  A goods train was worked by 4534.

In January 1955 the Lee Moor Crossing Signal Box on the Launceston Branch was taken out of use.  It was not a block post and had been provided purely to allow the china clay trains cross over the main line.

During August 1955 the Devon County Council siding at Wilmingtone Quarry, just north of Tavistock North Station, was taken out of use.

Yelverton Station was somewhat reduced in status after the Princetown Branch closed to traffic on Saturday March 3rd 1956.

The electric train staff system on the Launceston Branch was replaced by electric key tokens during May 1956, first between Marsh Mills and Bickleigh and then between Bickleigh and Yelverton.

In June 1958 the electric train staff system between Horrabridge and Tavistock South Signal Boxes was replaced with electric key tokens.

From Monday May 4th 1959 Yelverton Signal Box was closed and the block section became Bickleigh to Horrabridge.

On Saturday December 29th 1962 loco 6400 headed the last steam railcar workings in the Plymouth area, the 7.40am Plymouth to Tavistock South and 8.45am return.  As the Launceston Branch was due to close that day the remainder of the trains were composed of locomotives and carriages.

The last trains on the Tavistock and Launceston Branch were scheduled to run on Saturday December 29th 1962 but because of a blizzard, which knocked out most of the services on that day, the last train actually left the Branch on Monday December 31st 1962.  The part of the Branch between Tavistock and Lifton was kept open for goods traffic.