Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 05, 2017
Webpage updated: April 15, 2021




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 Green 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 .....

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 the Plymouth Great Western Docks as an experiment (1929);
  • extend the use of third-class sleepers on a second train from London Paddington Station to Penzance and vice-versa (1929);
  • speed up the Cornish Riviera Express to Plymouth by seven minutes and to Penzance by ten minutes (1929)
  • start running the Cornish Riviera Express on Sundays (1929)
  • introduce a new internal colour scheme for all third-class corridor coaches and restaurant cars (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.

SEE Great Western Railway Company, Train Headcodes.

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