OLD PLYMOUTH . UK
www.oldplymouth.uk
 

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 05, 2017.
Webpage updated: June 06, 2017

        

RAILWAYS IN OLD PLYMOUTH

GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY

The Great Western Railway Company was founded on August 31st 1835, the date that its initial Act of Parliament received the Royal Assent.  It opened its railway line from London's Paddington Station to Maidenhead, Buckinghamshire, in 1838, and from there to Bristol Station, at Temple Meads, in 1841.  From there the Bristol and Exeter Railway Company took the line westwards to Exeter Station in 1844.  The South Devon Railway Company built the remainder of the main line and the final stretch, from Laira Temporary Station, into Plymouth Station was opened for traffic on April 2nd 1849.  The whole of this route, the product of three different but linked private companies, was surveyed and engineered by Mr Isambard Kingdom Brunel and built to his "broad" gauge of 7 feet 0 inches.  Furthermore, each of these Companies operated their own locomotives and carriages.

As from January 1st 1876 the Great Western Railway Company leased the Bristol and Exeter Railway and started to run Great Western engines and carriages as far as Exeter.  Then on February 1st 1876 it also leased the South Devon Railway (which included their Tavistock and Launceston Branch) and the Cornwall Railway, thus bringing Great Western Railway stock into the Borough of Plymouth, the neighbouring Borough of Devonport and across the Royal Albert Bridge into Cornwall.

During its tenure of the main line in and around Old Plymouth the Great Western Railway Company .....

  • opened a new curve by-passing Plymouth Station for the use of the London and South Western Railway Company, whose trains used the Launceston Branch from Lydford Station to gain access to Plymouth (1876);
  • opened North Road Plymouth Station jointly with the London and South Western Railway Company (1877);
  • installed Tavistock Junction Signal Box, Laira Junction Signal Box, North Road East Signal Box, North Road West Signal Box, Cornwall Junction Signal Box and Devonport Junction Signal Box (1878);
  • encouraged the construction of the Princetown Branch (1883);
  • introduced gas lamps into their railway carriages (1889);
  • converted 213 miles of their main line and branches from broad gauge to standard gauge (1892);
  • doubled their main line between Totnes Station and Hemerdon Sidings (1893)
  • opened the Yealmpton Branch and Billacombe Station, Elburton Cross Station, Brixton Road Station, Steer Point Station, and Yealmpton Station (1898);
  • reconstructed Plymouth Station (1900);
  • opened Laira Engine Shed (1901);
  • introduced a fast train between London and Plymouth (1903);
  • introduced the Saltash Suburban Service (1904);
  • opened Laira Halt, Lipson Vale Halt, Wingfield Villas Halt, Ford Halt, and Saint Budeaux Platform (1904);
  • inaugurated a non-stop train between London and Plymouth (1904); 
  • opened the quicker route from London via Westbury (1906);
  • converted Hemerdon Sidings into loop lines (1907);
  • enlarged North Road Plymouth Station and opened a new, enlarged North Road East Signal Box that enabled Mutley Signal Box to be closed (1908);
  • planned to quadruple the track between Lipson Junction and Plymouth Station (1914);
  • opened Tavistock Junction Marshalling Yard, an enlarged Tavistock Junction Signal Box and the Bull Point Government Siding at Saint Budeaux (1916);
  • exhibited one of its new ambulance trains at Millbay Docks (1916).

The Great Western remained an independent railway company beyond the amalgamations of 1923 that created "the big four" and was the only company to retain its original title.  It also absorbed the Princetown Railway Company.

The Company then went on to .....

  • opened Burrator and Sheepstor Halt (1924);
  • laid additional sidings at Tavistock Junction Marshalling Yard (1925);
  • exchanged locomotives and operating data with the London and North Eastern Railway Company (1925);
  • run the Cornish Riviera Express non-stop from Paddington to Devonport Junction (1927);
  • opened King Tor Halt (1928);
  • run a Pullman train to Millbay Docks as an experiment (1929);
  • closed the Yealmpton Branch to passenger traffic and also Laira Halt and Defiance Platform (1930);
  • added the straight shed to Laira Engine Shed and provided a new exit road from the Shed (1931); 
  • opened Ingra Tor Halt (1936);
  • run an excursion by diesel railcar from Taunton through Plymouth to Newquay (1936); 
  • started on the rebuilding and extension of North Road Plymouth Station by physically moving the North Road West Signal Box (1938);
  • closed Mutley Station (1939);
  • erected a new North Road East Signal Box (1939);
  • laid wartime connections between the Great Western Railway and the Southern Railway at Saint Budeaux and Lydford and opened rail access to the War Department's Coypool Depot, near Marsh Mills Station (1941);
  • seen the loss of Plymouth Station, Ford Halt, Saint Budeaux West Signal Box and Hall-class locomotive "Bowden Castle" at Keyham Station (1941);
  • reopened the Yealmpton Branch (1941);
  • closed Lipson Vale Halt (1942);
  • and closed the Yealmpton Branch to passenger traffic for a second time (1947).

The Great Western Railway Company only ceased to exist from Midnight on December 31st 1947, following which its system became the Western Region of British Railways, under the terms set out in the Transport Act of August 6th 1947.

Events within Old Devonport are dealt with at Railways in Old Devonport - Great Western Railway Company.