OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 03, 2017.
Webpage updated: June 03, 2017

        

RAILWAYS IN OLD PLYMOUTH  |  GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY

PRINCETOWN BRANCH

From the first day that it opened, Saturday August 11th 1883, the Princetown Railway had been operated by the locomotives, carriages, wagons and staff of the Great Western Railway Company.  The Company finally took over the Princetown Railway Company on January 1st 1922.

At that time the terminus was Yelverton Station, on the Plymouth to Tavistock and Launceston Branch, and there were only two other stations, at Dousland and Princetown.  Sidings for goods traffic were provided at Walkhampton Common (also known as Eggworthy Siding), Swell Tor Sidings and Royal Oak Siding.  All goods traffic went right through to Horrabridge Station as there were no facilities at Yelverton.

A scheme for a light railway between King's Tor and Merrivale Quarry, first discussed in 1909, was revived again in 1924 but nothing came of the plan.

Burrator and Sheepstor Platform was opened on Monday February 4th 1924 for the benefit of men working on the raising of the Burrator and Sheepstor Dams.  In the morning a workmen's train left Princetown at 6.27am for Dousland and Yelverton and then, after collecting workmen off the 6.20am from Millbay Station, left Yelverton Station at 6.58am, stopping additionally at Burrator and Sheepstor Platform at 7.05am to set them down.  On Mondays to Fridays the 4.05pm from Princetown called at Burrator at 4.30pm to pick them up again for the homeward journey.  They also worked on Saturday mornings, when the 12.25pm from Princetown would stop at 12.50pm to collect them and the later train would then not stop.

From Thursday November 6th 1924 this practice was changed.  The early morning trains now only ran on Monday mornings.  In the evenings the 4.05pm from Princetown no longer called at the Platform but the return journey, the 4.55pm from Yelverton did stop.  For the remainder of the week the 7.38am from Princetown conveyed the workmen to Burrator.  This arrangement suggests that the workmen were being accommodated at Princetown during the week and only returned home to Plymouth after the Saturday morning shift.

Burrator and Sheepstor Platform was opened to the general public as from Monday May 18th 1925 and was served by trains during daylight hours only.

In around 1923/24 the Royal Oak Siding was removed.

After a break of fourteen years, Sunday services were restored on the Branch as from Sunday July 18th 1926 for the summer holiday months only.

King Tor Halt was opened almost on the site of the Royal Oak Sidings on Monday April 2nd 1928  [3].  Although it has always been claimed it was for the benefit of quarry workers living in the cottages nearby, it should be noted that it was opened a week before the Easter holidays.   Unfortunately, the weather was not terribly good that weekend and passenger numbers travelling out from Plymouth to Yelverton was not as heavy as had been expected.

Sunday services on the Branch were withdrawn at the end of the summer season in 1929 and were destined to never be reinstated.

Ingra Tor Halt was opened on Monday March 2nd 1936 in connection with the short-lived re-opening of the adjacent quarry.  Its later traffic was entirely walkers and it was well known for its notice warning about snakes.  At the time of the opening the single fares from Ingra Tor Halt were:  to Princetown, 11d First Class or 7d Second Class; to Burrator Halt, 9d and 5d; to King Tor Halt, 7d and 4d; to Dousland, 1s 1d and 7d; to Yelverton, 1s 5d and 10d; and to Plymouth, Millbay, 3s 8d and 2s 3d.  A Cheap Day Return ticket to Plymouth cost 2s 3d Third Class; or to Princetown and back for 7d.

Wednesday January 25th 1939 was just another ordinary day on the Princetown Branch.  That was until just before 5pm.  Driver William Gough, of Great Western Railway Cottages, Princetown, and Fireman G Freeman, of Squire's Cottages, Two Bridges Road, Princetown, were ready at Yelverton Station to take the 4.51pm departure off to Princetown.  The Yelverton signalman gave the staff that authorised their presence on the line and off they set.  Unfortunately they had omitted to check whether the signal was at "All Clear", which it wasn't, and shot forward into the siding by the turntable, hit the stop blocks and the engine rolled slowly down the embankment.  Luckily the coupling snapped and left the single carriage still on the track above.  The two men scrambled from the cab in a state of shock but without injuries.

A breakdown train was quickly on the scene and the staff at Yelverton commissioned a bus belonging to the Western National Omnibus Company's Tavistock depot to take passengers to Princetown.  Unfortunately even that was not without an unhappy ending, as the snow and ice meant that Driver S Scown could get no further than Devil's Bridge.  A car and a lorry, both equipped with chains, took passengers on into Princetown.  He had great difficulty in turning the bus and several times on the return journey had to get out and shovel snow away.  As the line was not damaged the 7pm service ran as normal.

There is some confusion over whether there were any passengers in the carriage that was left standing.  From the above statement about the bus journey it would appear that the passengers amounted to about a dozen and included several school children but they had clearly not boarded the train as the following day a statement was issued by the Great Western Railway saying that there were no passengers in the carriage at the time of the accident.

On September 24th 1946 the Dartmoor Granite Company signed a new Private Siding Agreement for the Swell Tor Sidings.

As from January 1st 1948 the line became the British Railways Princetown Branch.