Plus parts of the South Hams and West Devon

  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 19, 2018
Webpage updated: April 12, 2021




Tavistock Junction was recorded in 1955 as being 243 miles 10 chains milepost mileage from London Paddington Station via Bristol Temple Meads, the original route of the Great Western Railway.  The ruling gradient on the approach to Tavistock Junction was 1 in 81 but it lessened towards Laira Junction Signal Box to 1 in 143 falling.

It was the point at which the South Devon and Tavistock Railway left the South Devon Railway main line between Brent Station and Plymouth Station (Millbay).  It was a trailing Junction in the Down direction because both passenger and goods traffic originated at either Plymouth Station (Millbay) or at Laira Yard.  The Junction and the associated Marshalling Yard were both within Plympton Rural District until its amalgamation into the City of Plymouth in 1969.

There must have been some kind of point control at Tavistock Junction from the date of the opening of the line to Tavistock, along with a policeman to operate whatever signal or signals existed at that time.

The first Tavistock Junction Signal Box appeared in 1876 when the broad-gauge Great Western Railway from Lydford was joined by the standard-gauge London and South Western Railway Company trains running to their main terminus at Devonport Station.  The Box was constructed by Messrs Saxby and Farmer Limited and is said to have housed 17 levers until 1909 when it was extended to 20 levers.

That Signal Box was closed on or as from January 17th 1916 and replaced by a new Tavistock Junction Signal Box 11 chains east of the old one at 242 miles 79 chains mile post mileage in the new Marshalling Yard.  Built by the Great Western Railway Company itself, this one had a 56-lever frame and controlled both the Junction and the Marshalling Yard.  When the Tavistock Junction Marshalling Yard was extended in 1941 to accommodate wartime extra traffic it was proposed, so the late Larry Crosier tells us, to erect a Tavistock Junction East Signal Box to control the Down and Up Goods Loops at the Plympton end of the site.  This proposal was dropped and instead the existing Box was extended from 35 feet 2 inches in length to 51 feet 9 inches and the frame doubled to 105 levers.  The width remained at 12 feet 2 inches and the height at 11 feet.  In 1943 Down and Up Goods Running Loops were added between Tavistock Junction and Laira Junction Signal Box.

For details of alterations made on Sunday December 3rd 1944 to Tavistock Junction's Up Main Inner Distant Signal (lever 105) and Dow Main Outer Advanced Starting Signal (lever 8) please see under Laira Junction Signal Box.

The Signalling Regulations at Tavistcok Junction required that in the Down direction the "Is Line Clear?" code must be sent as soon as the "Is Line Clear?" signal was received from Plympton Signal Box, when it was switched in.  Presumably when the block section was from Hemerdon Siding Signal Box it was only sent when the "Train Entering Section" code was belled from that Box.  In the case of train on the Up main line and both directions on the Launceston Branch the "Is Line Clear?" request was to be sent immediately upon receipt from Laira Junction Signal Box or Marsh Mills Signal Box.

One of the effects of not going through with the project to provide an East Signal Box was that points 23 and 24 leading to the Down Loop and Down Siding, points 65 and 66 leading from the Up Loop and Up Siding to Main line, and crossover points 84 and 85, all at the Plympton end of the Marshalling Yard, had to be operated by Westinghouse electric point motors because they were so far away from the Box for mechanical working.  All Down and Up Distant Signals were likewise motor operated.

Tavistock Junction Signal Box was closed on or as from November 10th 1973.


  With grateful acknowledgement to the late Mr Laurence 'Larry' William Crosier (1929-2010) of the Great Western Railway Company (1943-1947);
British Railways (1948-c1994); the Plymouth Railway Circle, the Lee Moor Tramway Preservation Society, and the Signalling Record Society.