Plus parts of the South Hams and West Devon

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 15, 2018
Webpage updated: May 07, 2021




Although the South Devon Railway Company had worked the line between Plymouth, Tavistock and Launceston from the very beginning in 1859, the line was constructed by and owned by the South Devon and Tavistock Railway Company, in which the South Devon Railway Company was a prominent shareholder.  As from July 5th 1865 the South Devon Railway Company took over the South Devon and Tavistock Railway Company and as from June 24th 1869 it also absorbed the Launceston and South Devon Railway Company.

BRWR number 5531 arrives at North Road Plymouth Station (note the nameboard)
with a train from Launceston on April 21st 1960.
From the author's collection.

On February 1st 1876 the Great Western Railway Company purchased a 999 years lease of the South Devon Railway, only eleven years after the first part, from Tavistock Junction to Tavistock, had been opened.

The Great Western Railway Company opened several new stopping places for the benefit of the public.  Plym Bridge Platform was opened on May 1st 1906 followed by Whitchurch Down Platform, just south of Tavistock, on September 1st 1906.  On August 21st 1907 Shaugh Bridge Platform, for the Dewerstone Rock, was opened.  Two decades later Clearbrook Halt was opened on October 29th 1928.  Finally, on April 4th 1938, came Liddaton Halt, between Lydford and Coryton

As from January 1st 1948 the line become the Launceston Branch of British Railways (Western Region).

BRWR number 6430 storms away from Marsh Mills Station
with the 2.10pm Plymouth to Tavistock South Station on
December 22nd 1962.
  Peter W Gray.

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.

Loco 3686 is seen leaving Ham Green Viaduct with the
 6.20pm Plymouth to Launceston train on June 24th 1961.
the late Peter W Gray.

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

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.

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.

A local train from Tavistock heading towards Plymouth, circa 1960s.
Hugh Davies.

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.

Loco 4574 is seen after leaving Shaugh Bridge with the 10.25am
 Plymouth to Launceston train on August 4th 1962.
the late Peter W Gray.

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

A Plymouth to Launceston train enters Tavistock South Station.
The filthy numberplate makes it impossible to identify the locomotive.
From the author's collection.

Loco number 5569 with an Up train at Tavistock South Station.
Chris Gammell, Godalming, Surrey.

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

The 2.05pm Launceston to Plymouth train, headed by loco 5569,
 is seen near Brentor on August 4th 1962.
The Southern main line between Lydford and Tavistock is in the background.
the late Peter W Gray.

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.

Loco 5564 with the 10.40am train from North Road Plymouth Station
 at Launceston Station on the last day of operation, December 29th 1962.
The author was sheltering somewhere on the Station at the time this photograph was being taken.
the late Peter W Gray.

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.

Click on the following links for more information about the Engines Sheds, Goods Depots and Yards, Ground Frames, Halts, Junctions, Platforms, Sidings, Signal Boxes, Signalling, Stations, Tunnels, and Viaducts -