©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 22, 2018
Webpage updated: April 22, 2018




The following description of North Road Plymouth Station appeared in the Western Daily Mercury for Thursday March 1st 1877, a few weeks before it was opened to the public.  It includes all the original spelling mistakes (note "guage" instead of "gauge") and grammar, and at one point, indicated in the text, there even seems to be a part of a sentence missing.   The article has been paragraphed to make it easier to read and the original paragraphs are indicated by the ¶ symbol.


¶  For two years the works in connection with the new railway station in the north of Plymouth, for the interchange of traffic between the Great Western and the London and South Western Railways, have been in progress.  They have been watched throughout with no small amount of interest, as associated with “the battle of the guages”, and lately their completion has been anticipated with considerable eagerness.  Those who, eloquent enough on the deterrent effect of the late rainy season in accounting for their own shortcomings have not been so nimble in recognising that the same excuse applies with ten-fold force in the case of an undertaking as a railway station on an exposed site.   And not only have many an impatient ‘whenever will it be opened?’ been uttered, but many have taken a special delight in speaking disparagingly of the work.  ‘A match-box station’, a ‘wooden shanty’, and other appellatives ever at the end of the tongue of the supercilious and fault-finder have been used frequently.  But the notions that there has been unnecessary delay in the work, and that the exertion is inadequate and unimportant are both ill-founded and the offspring of ignorance.  In spite of a continuance for months of weather that put an end to all out-door work not urgently needed, the station has been pushed on.  And so far from its being “a shanty” we make bold to affirm that when opened all will be willing to admit that it is a station of considerable size and convenience – an erection with some pretension to beauty and effect not unworthy of the system with which it is connected, and a credit to the district it is intended to serve. 

Some will, doubtless, fail to grasp the importance of the work by the details given in this article, but all must see that a Station which has two covered platforms, each 300 feet in length and 26 feet in breadth, has, at least, been planned by those alive to the wants of the public, and desirous of meeting those wants.  In a few weeks these conveniences will be at the service of the travelling public.

¶  The Station, as most of our readers will be aware, is situated on the main line of the Great Western Railway, between the Saltash-road Bridge and Mutley Station, and the additional land purchased for its site was about six acres on the North (or Cemetery-road) side, and five acres on the South side.  The nature of the site rendered the building of a large station a difficult and expensive work.  The ground to be dealt with was the side of a steep hill, the top of which had to be excavated, and the bottom filled up.  The quantity of embankment of required for the approaches to the sidings was much in excess of the cutting upon the site. 

To carry the up station a series of twelve arches were turned on thirteen piers of solid masonry.  These piers were four feet thick, 35 feet wide, and from the rock to the spring of the arch was 24 feet in most cases.  The end piers were rather larger and buttressed in addition.  The down station being on the level rests practically on the rock, but for its platform arches were built with piers seven feet deep at one end and less at the other.  Piers – 14 in number – were also brought up from the rock, 25 feet on the up side and 12 feet on the down, as supporters for the iron pillars carrying the roof; those piers being at the bottom 7 feet square, but reduced to four feet where they show through the ground masonry.  Foundations were also brought up from the rock to receive the weight of the staircases of the bridge, and the piers to sustain the columns carrying the connecting bridge were 12 feet square on the rock and 10 feet at the top, their height being 26 feet on the up-side and 11 feet on the down. 

About two hundred thousands of tons of rubble had to be tipped to make ground.  For two years the work of filling up has gone on unceasingly.  The station’s foundation seemed to have an insatiable maw, for it swallowed the whole of the cutting out of the fields at the back of Caprera-terrace, and below Houndiscombe; devoured all that came from the levelling of the site for the new Blind Institution at North Hill, took in thousands of tons from the Tavistock branch and the excavations for the railway extensions in Harwell and Wyndham-streets, and the narrow-guage extension into Devonport, and were glad even of gifts of street scrapings from the town.

¶  The Station yard is of considerable size.  The new lines comprise up and down loops, extending from Saltash-road Bridge to the Houndiscombe Bridge, about a quarter of a mile; convenient sidings from both up and down lines for horse and carriage traffic; a siding from the down line for shunting goods trains, or for spare carriages; and several shorter lines and crossovers for various traffic purposes.   The lines have been laid on the longitudinal system, as usual on the Great Western Main Line, and with steel rails in the more important places.

¶  The office buildings comprise two distinct suites of offices, one on the up line, and one on the down line side, approached from the Saltash-road by new roads, one on either side of the line; with roofs over the platforms on both sides, and an omnibus stand at the East end of the down Station.  The Station has at present but two platforms; the loop lines have, however, been kept at a sufficient distance from the main lines to admit of two additional platforms being built when required. The traffic will be controlled from two signal cabins, one at either end of the Station.   The whole of the signal work and locking has been executed by Messrs Saxby and Farmer, the signals being of the semaphore type, which has almost superseded the disc and crossbar formerly in use on the Great Western system.   The masonry foundations for the building are works of ‘very considerable’ etc.  THE STORY SEEMS TO HAVE A LINE MISSING AT THIS POINT. 

The offices are of timber; the framing is covered with rusticated boarding, with champered pilasters at intervals.  On the sides facing the road a verandah or covered way, supported on cast iron ornamental brackets, shelters a considerable length of the footway, the remainder being finished with au laves gutter.  On the platforms there is clear stone between the office gutter and the springing of the shed roofs.  The window and door openings throughout are square headed with plain bonded architraves.  The main shed roof, and also the roof of the omnibus shed, are of timber, trussed with iron work, and supported on cast iron columns and lattice girders, the latter are in the main shed in spaces of about 47 ft., and the former 28ft.  The span of the main shed roof is 47ft., and the length 284.  The omnibus shed measures about 113ft by 38ft.  A footbridge, 150 feet long, of plate girders in three spans double, connects the two stations, with flights of stairs on both platforms.

¶  Under cover the station has platforms, which on each sides exceed 284 feet in length and are extended into the open air at either end some 75 feet.  The platforms are 26 feet wide, and are paved with York stone.  The offices are roomy, neat and conveniently arranged. 

On the down platform, commencing at the western end, the corner is occupied by the lavatories, etc., for gentlemen, and then a room, 16 feet 6 by 13 is given up to the porters, a coal store being placed at the back.  Then comes a “way out”, 10 feet 6 wide; next to that a store room, and then a parcel office, 20 feet by 17, with access from the front and from the platform, and opening into a cloak-room.  Adjoining is a convenient station master’s office, then comes a series of three waiting-rooms – a large general room, 22 feet by 18, with ladies’ rooms fitted up with lavatories, opening out on either side.  These rooms besides their conveniences, will be neatly appointed, and one of them has a neat wainscoting or dado which has a good effect.  Continuing on the booking-office is reached.  It is a large office, 27 feet by 22, with a pretty screen of pitch pine varnished, dividing the public from the booking clerks, who will issue tickets at two openings.  The ceiling is panelled with pitch pine ribs and mouldings supported by spandrels, with quatre-foils cut in the angles.  The centre panels are filled with a lantern light, which has a sky-light above.  Around d the office runs a neat dado lining of pitch pine varnished.  

Beyond the booking-office, and occupying the whole of the higher end of the down station, is the spacious omnibus shed, which has five pairs of gates opening into it from the platform.  The shed is 112 feet long and 38 feet wide.  It has a light roof, with wood principals, wrought iron tie rods and struts, and is close boarded on the purlins to receive the slates.  The roof, which has a sky-light with rough rolled plate glass finishing to the ridge, is supported on the outside by five slightly ornamental iron columns on granite bases.  Along the outside of the station runs a pavement 7 feet 6 inches wide, and in front of the offices it is protected by a verandah, whose roof is laid with Vielle Montagnezinc.  The verandah is supported by twenty-six cast-iron brackets resting on oak corbels, and supported by pilasters. 

Stone and brick is alone used in the chimneys and the chimney walls, the chimneys being of plain brick moulded and capped.  Although, therefore, the station is practically a wooden erection, it is not devoid of beauty, and the view from the west is effective, as from here can be seen the end of the station, finished with louvre glass, and an ornamental cut barge board; the pediment over the “way out”, the run of the verandah, and the side of the omnibus shed with its valance boarding and scalloping.

¶  The footbridge is 6 ft., wide with an ornamental iron parapet.  Hawksley’s patent steps are fitted to the staircases.  These steps which give a good foothold and are very durable, consist of blocks of wood 1½ inches square, driven in on end to an iron frame-work.   The wood in the body of the step is pitch pine but the two front rows or “nosings”, to take the tread, are of oak.  The “risers” of the steps are of perforated cast-iron.  The bridge is carried at either end on arched girders which serve to carry the stairs, and at the end of the middle, span by two groups of four smaller columns, resting on a granite block bed, which caps a dressed limestone base.  The central span, 56 feet long, is at present to have a light, temporary roof, which will be removed when the whole space between the stations is covered in.  Provision has been made in the erection of the bridge for other staircases to give access to platforms, which may some day be constructed on either side between the main and the loop lines for the stations.

The up station differs in arrangement from the down, and contains a good many more offices.   Beginning at the western end the corner is occupied by “lamps” and “coals”.  Next is the cloak-room, and it opens into “parcels”, which, like the same office on the opposite side, has access from the platform and the front.  Adjoining is a spacious first-class waiting-room, with effective pitch pine fittings; and opening out from it is a ladies’ retiring-room, with lavatory and other conveniences.  Next comes a “Way Out” and then the second and third class waiting-rooms, with ladies’ apartments opening out from it, and fitted like the others.  Beyond is the booking-office, with two divisions and entrances – one for the Great Western, and the other for the South Western clerks.  The office will be appointed similarly to the one on the down side.  Between the booking-office is a luggage entrance, and beyond them is a spacious refreshment bar, with a handsome panelled and ribbed ceiling of pitch pine, varnished, with dado framing, counters, etc., of the same material.  Adjoining is a large kitchen, and below the bar is a cellar 24 feet by 20 for the storage of ale, etc.  Beyond the refreshment bar and recessed is Smith’s book and newspaper stall, and then in succession comes the Chief Inspector’s room, the telegraph offices, the Sub-Inspector’s room, the porters’ rooms, and lavatory, etc., for gentlemen.  As on the down station the outside of the offices will have a covered footpath, seven feet six inches wide, and the approach road from Pennycomequick is 48 feet wide.

¶  The main roofs of the stations project some distance beyond the trains, and thus give good shelter to the platform.  Further shelter which is required, is given by the platforms having wing walls, with doors opening in and out, but the exposed site suggests the necessity of the over-all roof which is contemplated.   The roof is a light tie-rod roof, and is supported on the outside by ornamental iron pillars.  A great portion of its space being filled with Hartley’s rolled ribbed glass, the interior of the station will have a bright and cheerful aspect.  The glass is fixed with Mr Edgcombe Rendle’s patent, in which putty is dispensed with.  At night the platform will be lit with nine lamps on either side, depending from the roof, the omnibus shed being fitted with bracket lamps.  The woodwork generally has been painted in several tints of stone colour, the doors windows panes and architraves, as usual, grained; and the ironwork has been painted with the Pomphlete iron paint.   The ocherous deposit which forms the basis of this paint is raised near Laira Bridge; it has also been used in re-painting the Saltash Bridge.

The new iron-girder bridge across Pennycomequick-road, the admirable retaining walls of dressed limestone abutting on the two principal approaches to the station, and the removal of the houses on the Saltash Road have greatly improved the appearance of the thoroughfare.   At present the plans only show these approaches from the Pennycomequick-road, but others could be made – and the convenience of the public require it – from either end of Caprera-terrace leading into North-road direct.  These additional approaches will possibly be given, and before many years are passed the road from Mutley-plain down to Mutley Station will be continued on to the North-road Station, which will then serve a far larger district than it does with the present approaches on the plan.

¶  The works have been planned by, and carried out under the superintendence of Mr P J Margary, engineer of the south-western section, Great Western Railway; and Mr H J Snell was the architect for the buildings, under Mr Margary’s direction.  Mr Jinkin, Plymouth, was the contractor for the earthworks, foundations, and preliminary works, and Vernon and Evans, of Cheltenham, were the contractors for the station buildings, Mr Rossiter being clerk of the works.


NOTE:   Vieille Montagne was a zinc mine in Kelmis, a small town in Belgium between Liege and Aachen.  It started work in 1808.  The name is French for “the old mountain”.  The Vieille Montagne Zinc Company owned several mines in Great Britain from 1896 onwards.