Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: May 25, 2017.
Webpage updated: May 25, 2017




Following the opening in 1876 of the London & South Western Railway's narrow-gauge line over the broad-gauge route Lydford and Tavistock through Marsh Mills to Devonport Station, the LSWR forced the Great Western Railway to construct a joint station to the north of Plymouth at the aptly-named North Road.  The GWR prevaricated (after all, Mutley Station was not far from the proposed site) and it was only after the LSWR put legal pressure on it that the GWR eventually constructed buildings of wood instead of stone.  The Station was opened to passengers on Wednesday March 28th 1877 and was officially known as "North Road Plymouth" Station.  A description was published in the local press.

A refreshment room was opened in 1888.

In 1890 the Station Master at North Road Plymouth Station, acting on behalf of both the GWR and LSWR, was Mr Gustavus Bell, who lived just outside the Station at number 8 Stanley Terrace, Albert Road.

North Road Plymouth Station was enlarged and new access roads laid in on both sides in 1908, when four through platforms were provided along with additional sidings.  It was unusual in that platforms 1 and 2 along with 5 and 6 were served by single sets of rails, making loading and unloading from both sides of the train possible.  This must have hindered getting trains away on time as both sides had to be checked to ensure the carriage doors were all closed.

Track circuiting was installed in 1925 and in 1928, after the Royal Mail moved their sorting office into the new building in Cemetery Road, a parcel's office was established in the old building near the main Saltash Road.   Motor delivery vehicles were introduced at the same time.

During the night of Wednesday October 10th 1934 the show train belonging to "His Master's Voice" rolled into North Road Plymouth Station.  It was open to the public on the Thursday and then quietly steamed off to Torquay.  Captain Sidney Moon, of Messrs Moon and Sons, the Plymouth radio and record dealer, helped Mr G M Fenwick of HMV to conduct the Deputy Mayor of Plymouth, Mr W L Bastard, and his wife through the exhibition.

Passengers waiting for their trains at North Road Station on Thursday March 28th 1935 were witnesses to another unusual visitor.  Promptly at 12.25pm the Great Western Railway's streamlined locomotive "King Henry VII" pulled in on the 5.30am train from Paddington.  At Newton Abbot the London crew had been changed and driver Mr James Prowse and fireman Mr John Easton had brought the new-style locomotive on to Plymouth.    Mr F Sheldon, a chief inspector at Swindon Works, had accompanied the train throughout.  "King Henry VII" left North Road again at 3.55pm bound for Bristol Temple Meads.

In 1935, when the Great Western Railway was taking part in the Government's New Works Scheme to aid unemployment, it was announced that the station would be enlarged to seven platforms.   All the rail traffic would then be concentrated on North Road, enabling Plymouth Station (Millbay) and Mutley Station to be closed.   Work started on the rebuilding in 1938 but was interrupted by the Second World War.

In  September 1937 it was reported that around 100 men were engaged on the extension works.  The work was very complicated because the station cannot be enlarged until the new tracks are available and the new tracks cannot be used until the station has been altered.  The groundwork for the new larger bridges at Mutley and Pennycomequick was being laid and one of the bridges was nearly ready for the steelwork.  As from Monday October 4th 1937 the path from the Mutley end to the Up side of North Road Plymouth Station, known as Birdcage Walk, was closed.

Mutley Station was closed anyway, in 1939, and Herr Hitler took care of Millbay, which closed as a result of air raids in April 1941.

Some work did take place before the Second World War.  Platforms 7 and 8 were built, the North Road West Signal Box was moved bodily and the North Road East Signal Box was completely rebuilt.

The plan for the reconstruction and modernisation of North Road Plymouth Station was approved in principle by the British Transport Commission at the start of February 1956.  It was closely linked to the reconstruction of Plymouth's City Centre and the City Architect, Mr H J W Stirling, was consulted.  In charge locally was Mr N S Cox, the District Engineer, and the plan was expected to cost around 1,500,000.  The centre-piece was an eight-storey office block for the District Manager and his staff, on the ground floor of which would be a new booking office, inquiry offices, a modern parcels depot, and a left luggage hall.  Although a restaurant was included in the original plan, it was removed on the grounds that as Plymouth was a terminal station passengers would either have eaten before they started out, been able to have a meal on the journey, or would get one once they had arrived at their destination in the City.

Much of the reconstruction of the external rail lines had already been completed before the War but an additional arrival platform was to be provided so that there would be one arrival bay, three arrival platforms, a central through road and four departure platforms.  By 1957 a combined refreshment and waiting room had been added on platforms 3 and 4.  The existing refreshment room on platforms 7 and 8 was to be refurbished.

In June 1957 the old parcel's office was closed and the District Engineer's Depot, which was right outside the main entrance to the Station, was transferred to the former Devonport Station Goods Yard at Valletort Road.  The new signal box was to be built on the site of the parcel's office.

As from Monday September 15th 1958 it became simply "Plymouth Station" after the closure of the City's only other main line one at Friary.