Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: June 05, 2017.
Webpage updated: April 12, 2018




The London and South Western Railway Company arrived at Lydford, on the western fringes of Dartmoor, in October 1874, having absorbed the Devon and Cornwall Railway Company.  In 1866 this same Company had laid before Parliament a Bill seeking running powers between Exeter and Plymouth over the South Devon Railway and the construction of a line by-passing Millbay to provide direct access to Devonport.  It would have also authorised the adding of a narrow-gauge track to the Cornwall Railway's broad-gauge line as far as Keyham Junction, for access to the Royal Dockyard.  Needless to say, the South Devon strongly objected and the Bill failed to be enacted.

However, an agreement between the two Companies on March 24th 1873 allowed the Devon and Cornwall to construct a branch to Friary Gardens, to build a double-line branch to Devonport, and to make its own branch to Stonehouse Pool.  The Cornwall Loop link would be built and the line to Keyham Junction would have an additional track to take the narrow-gauge trains.

Following this success, the London and South Western purchased the line to Lydford, the lines within Plymouth and Devonport, and adopted the running powers the Devon and Cornwall had over the South Devon Railway.

Access to Plymouth was gained over the old Launceston and South Devon as far as Tavistock and the South Devon and Tavistock Railway from there into Plymouth by adding a narrow-gauge rail to the broad-gauge track.  In readiness for the arrival of the LSWR signal boxes were installed along the line from Lydford to Devonport Junction.  

The line was opened Wednesday May 17th 1876, along with the Cornwall Loop line by-passing Plymouth Station.  Thus the terminus was actually in Devonport (the station was named Devonport and Stonehouse) and that Borough celebrated wildly with triumphal arches and church bells ringing continuously.  More information about that can be found on the Old Devonport.UK  Website at Railways in Devonport.

Now firmly established, albeit at Devonport, the London and South Western Railway Company started to develop its facilities in Plymouth.  North Road Plymouth Station, built jointly with the Great Western Railway Company, was opened in 1877; a line was laid between Lipson Junction, on the Great Western Railway Company's main line, to a goods depot at Friary Green (1878); a standard gauge rail was added to the GWR's broad gauge to give the Company access to the Great Western Docks (1878); the Sutton Harbour Branch was opened (1879); the Cattewater Branch was opened (1880); Laira Bridge and Pomphlett Station were opened for freight traffic (1888); and through carriages were introduced between Plymouth and Bradford on the Midland Railway.

In 1890, courtesy of the Plymouth, Devonport and South Western Junction Railway Company, the London and South Western Railway Company got their own completely independent access to Plymouth via Tavistock and Beer Alston, as it was known then.  Devonport For Stonehouse ceased to be terminal station, with trains now entering from the west and running on through to North Road Plymouth Station.

The Company continued its developments, with renewed vigour.  Friary Station and the adjacent Friary Engine Shed were opened in 1891; Pomphlett Station was reopened for passenger traffic as Plymstock Station in 1892; the Turnchapel Branch was opened in 1897; Tamerton Foliot Station was opened (1898); corridor carriages were introduced (1903);  a larger Friary Engine Shed was opened (1905); Saint Budeaux Suburban Service was introduced (1906); the famous Plymouth to Brighton through train was started in 1907, and luncheon cars added to trains Queen Street Station, Exeter, to trains to London Waterloo; the Callington Branch was opened in 1908; North Road Plymouth Station was enlarged and new signalling introduced (1908); and a rail link was opened between the Sutton Harbour Branch and the Cattewater Branch (1914).

On August 19th 1921 the Royal Assent was given to the Railways Act 1921 which provided for the grouping of the railway companies into the "big four.  The first series of amalgamations took effect from Monday January 1st 1923, when the London and South Western Railway Company was merged with others to form the Southern Railway Company.