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




Although the branch railway from Plymouth to Turnchapel was built by the London and South Western Railway Company, the legal preliminaries were done by their agents, the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway Company.  They deposited the plans on November 30th 1882 and it was the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway Act 1883 that received the Royal Assent on August 2nd 1883.  The proposal was closely linked with the Plymouth and Dartmoor Company's South Hams Extension Act for a line from Plymstock to Yealmpton.

Firstly a bridge had to be constructed across the River Plym and this was duly completed in 1887 at a cost of 32,000.  The line as far as Pomphlett Station was ready by June 25th 1888 so the London and South Western Railway Company started to operate freight traffic over it.

It was not until July 1st 1892 that the official opening took place and even then, because the signalling was not satisfactory, no public trains were operated until Monday September 5th 1892.

Eight passenger and trains and one goods train were run that day, many of the passengers then walking to Oreston and returning to Plymouth by the Oreston and Turnchapel Ferry.  The remainder of the week brought crowds of people attending the Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse Races at Chelson Meadow, which was but a short walk from Pomphlett Station.

In the meantime, however, there were arguments going on between the London and South Western Railway Company and the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway Company on the one side and the Great Western Railway Company on the other about the running of trains over the proposed line to Modbury.  The LSWR finally conceded with an agreement dated July 19th 1894 that allowed the GWR to have running powers over the Turnchapel line as far as Pomphlett Station and in order for them to access their line to Yealmpton.  The section from Yealmpton to Modbury was never constructed.

The LSWR thus completed their branch to Turnchapel and this was opened for traffic on Friday January 1st 1897, with trains running from their main-line terminus at Friary Station.  Pomphlett Station was renamed Plymstock Station.  The contractors had been Messrs Pethick Brothers, of Plymouth.

One of the features of the line was the swing-bridge across Hooe Lake.  This was operated by hand and was supported at the centre by the pillar holding the swinging mechanism.  The signalman based at Turnchapel Signal Box used to have to walk on to the bridge to hand-crank the mechanism and he would be marooned there until he closed the bridge at the end of the operation.

Lucas Terrace Halt, between Friary Station and Plymstock Station, was opened in 1905 to cater for traffic from the new housing estates on the eastern fringes of Plymouth.  The adjacent Friary Engine Shed was opened in 1908.

As from January 1st 1923, when the London and South Western Railway Company was amalgamated into the Southern Railway Company, the Branch became the Southern Railway Turnchapel Branch.