Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 06, 2018
Webpage updated: May 19, 2018




GWR 1930 at Friary Junction with a Sutton Harbour Branch
 freight train from Laira Yard, March 1925.
  F H C Casbourn/Stephenson Locomotive Society.

The Sutton Harbour Branch had its origins in the plans of the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway Company, which received the Royal Assent on July 2nd 1819 to construct a line from Crabtree, in the Parish of Eggbuckland, to Prince's Town.  The project was the brainchild of one Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt, who was trying to cultivate and populate the wilderness of Dartmoor.  He built the Town, named after the Prince of Wales, and Dartmoor Prison and soon realised that by extending the proposed line from Crabtree to the shore of Sutton Pool he could import the materials required to help reclaim the land, like lime, sea sand, coal and timber, and export the produce of the granite quarries, and the farms.  It would help to turn his dream into a reality.

A lone wagon on North Quay, Sutton Harbour.
From the author's collection.

A second Act, on July 8th 1820, gave authority for an extension to Sutton Pool, along with a short branch to Martin's Wharf on the Cattewater, just below the Laira Bridge.  A third Act, which received the Royal Assent on July 2nd 1821, allowed the line between Crabtree and what was then called Jump (nowadays, Roborough) to deviate to follow the contours and made provision for a 620-yard tunnel on that section. 

The Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway was opened on September 26th 1823.  It was built to an unusual gauge, 4 foot 6 inches, which henceforth became known as the "Dartmoor" gauge.  The line was 25 miles, 2 quarters and 6 chains long, of single track throughout, and reputed to have cost 66,000 to build.  It ran from King Tor, short of Princetown, to Sutton Pool, a distance of some 13 miles as the crow flies.

In the early 1850s the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway Company's line between Laira Junction and Sutton Harbour was acquired by the South Devon Railway Company, who added a broad gauge rail and eased a very sharp curve near the Dartmoor Granite Works before re-opening the line in May 1853 as their Sutton Harbour Branch.  However, it could only be used by horse-drawn traffic and had to be closed in May 1856 to be improved for use by steam locomotives.  During this work the radius of the curve at the Dartmoor Granite Works was eased even further.  The Branch, which was mixed-gauge only to a point a few yards short of the 245th mile post, opened for goods traffic on October 1st 1857.

As from February 1st 1876 the whole of the South Devon Railway was taken over by the Great Western Railway Company.  That Company extended part of the line to give access to North Quay, which was actually owned by the Sutton Harbour Improvement Company.  The North Quay Branch was opened to traffic on November 6th 1879, but had been beaten by the London and South Western Company, which opened its North Quay Branch from Friary Goods Yard on October 22nd 1879.  The point at which they joined was the boundary with the track owned by the Sutton Harbour Improvement Company.

On January 1st 1948 the railways were nationalized and the Branch then became the British Railways (Western Region) Sutton Harbour and North Quay Branch.  There was also a British Railways (Southern Region) Sutton Harbour and North Quay Branch.

To cut out unnecessary duplication, the British Railways (Southern Region) Sutton Harbour and North Quay Branch was closed and the rails were removed in 1957.

The British Railways (Western Region) Sutton Harbour and North Quay Branch was officially closed to traffic on December 31st 1973.

Click on the following links for more information about the Engines Sheds, Goods Depots and Yards, Ground Frames, Halts, Junctions, Platforms, Sidings, Signal Boxes, Signalling, Stations, Tunnels, and Viaducts -