Plus parts of the South Hams and West Devon

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: May 13, 2019
Webpage updated: May 13, 2019




Swell Tor Siding Ground Frame was recorded in 1955 as being at 7 miles 63 chains milepost mileage from Yelverton Station and 2 miles 60 chains from the terminus at Princetown Station.  The ruling gradient in the Down direction, towards Princetown Station, was 1 in 41 rising, and in the Up direction, towards Yelverton Station, was 1 in 55 falling.

The Siding was constructed for and operated by Messrs Pethick Brothers, of Plymouth.  Their Private Siding Agreement was dated September 12th 1883, shortly after the line was opened.  The Agreement was subsequently transferred to the South Devon Granite Company on June 26th 1920 and the Dartmoor Granite Company on September 24th 1946.

Unusually, the lever frame was contained within a very small hut, which had the name of the Box on the side facing the railway line, as per a normal signal box.  It apparently contained six levers, of which only numbers 3 and 4 were actually used, respectively for the point into the Siding and the facing point lock to ensure that the points were safe to cross by passenger trains travelling to Princetown.  The frame was released by an Annett's Key attached to the Electric Train Staff for the section from Dousland Barn Signal Box to Princetown Signal Box.

Only freight trains travelling in the Up direction, to Yelverton, could call at Swell Tor Siding.  Thus empty wagons for the Quarry had to be taken by a Down mixed train to Princetown Station first and then brought back to Swell Tor Siding by the one actual freight train that was scheduled to run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only.  The Regulations required that empty wagons were reversed into the Siding and then pulled forward in to the left-hand loop.  The locomotive would then be detached and run forward as far as the Stop Board.  Locomotive were not permitted to enter the Quarry.  It would then set back on to the loaded wagons in the right-hand loop line and push them back to rejoin the guard's van, which had been left at the stop block.  This operation was timed to take only 15 minutes.  When the train was ready to leave, the Guard would set the points and release a ground signal permitting the locomotive to pull out on to the Branch line, where it would wait for the Guard to set the points for the main line, set the facing point lock and remove the Annett's Key.  Having set enough brakes on the loaded wagons, the train could now proceed downhill (or, officially, Up) to the Stop Board at 6 miles 58 chains from Princetown Station, where the brakes would be taken up for the uphill part of the journey to Burrator and Sheepstor Halt and as far as the Stop Board at 9 miles 3 chains, just beyond Dousland Station, where the brakes would again be pinned down for the descent to Yelverton Station.

It is thought that Swell Tor Quarry was last worked not long after the Dartmoor Granite Company took over in September 1946.  When the last freight train ran on the Branch is not known.  British Railways closed the Branch on and as from Monday March 5th 1956.