Plus parts of the South Hams and West Devon

©  Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: April 08, 2018
Webpage updated: September 12, 2019




The last of the branch lines to be opened in the Plymouth area, the Great Western Railway Company's Yealmpton Branch, had the most complicated history of all the lines in the locality.  It started life in the 1860s as the South Hams Railway and was intended to run from Plymouth to Dartmouth.  When that failed in 1866 the London and South Western Railway Company, one of its supporters, persuaded the dormant Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway Company to promote a line from Plymouth to Yealmpton and Modbury.  This was known as the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway (South Hams Extension).

Number 9716 with a freight train at Brixton Road Station.
©  Hugh Davies.

Finally, on July 19th 1894 the dispute between the London and South Western Railway Company and the Plymouth and Dartmoor Railway Company on the one hand and the Great Western Railway Company on the other was resolved when the LSWR agreed to let the GWR have rights of access over their line from Cattewater Junction as far as Plymstock Station to enable them to gain access to their still unfinished line to Yealmpton.  This arrangement was added as a schedule to the Great Western (Number Two) Act of August 17th 1894 and the line was thus constructed as the Great Western Railway Company.


1895 December 31st Tuesday

‘Within the next few days Messrs Lucas and Aird, who have secured the contract for making the railway from Plymstock to Yealmpton, will commence work, and it is hoped the line will be completed within a comparatively short space of time.  Owing to the absence of cottages along the country to be “cut”, special huts will be built for the accommodation of the workmen.  The timber for the “sleepers” and fences will be obtained from the Kitley Estate, permission having been granted by Mr Bastard to Messrs Snawdon Brothers, of Yealmpton Mills, who will “prepare” the wood, to utilise his extensive domain.  Representatives of Messrs Lucas and Aird have been busy during the past few days in perfecting arrangements, and after many years of unceasing agitation inhabitnats of the Brixton and Yealmpton portion of the South Hams may confidently hope to be within a measurable period of close touch with the Three Towns.’

§  “Notes in the West”, Western Morning News, Plymouth, December 31st 1895.



Although the branch line officially commenced at Plymstock Station, the passenger service was operated from Plymouth Station at Millbay.  The Branch was officially opened on Monday January 15th 1898 along with Billacombe Station, Elburton Cross Station, Brixton Road Station, Steer Point Station, and Yealmpton Station.

But as was often the case in railway construction, the stations were situated in inconvenient locations and during the late 1930s motor bus competition on the roads that actually passed through the towns and villages on the route soon took away the railway's customers.  The Yealmpton Branch suffered badly from this problem and the last day of passenger operation on the Great Western Railway's Yealmpton Branch was Saturday October 4th 1947.  There was no Sunday  service.

On January 1st 1948 Britain's railways were nationalized and the Yealmpton Branch passed to British Railways' ownership as a freight-only line, with just one daily freight train.

The main line through Brixton Road Station was removed on March 14th 1952 leaving only the platform line in use. 

Freight traffic was composed mainly of animal feed for the farmers and coal for the local residents but that dwindled as the motor vehicle took its strangle-hold and the freight traffic eventually ceased.  The last freight and parcels traffic was accepted on Saturday February 27th 1960.

The last freight was mainly coal and around ten trucks were sent down the Branch each week towards the end.  During the final couple of weeks that increased as the local coal merchants stocked up to save themselves having to drive into Plymouth to collect it.  Some trucks of coal were still on their way to Yealmpton when closure came and a special train was arranged to take them through on Monday February 29th 1960, the official closuring date.  A light engine and brake van was expected to run to Yealmpton to collect the empty wagons later in the week and that would then be it.

Until 18 months before a gang of five men had been employed on track maintenance but this was then reduced to three and after the closure was announced one man used to travel on a permanent way trolley ahead of any train to check the track.

The services of the station porter at Yealmpton were retained after closure to look after an agricultural store owned by a firm that had an agreement with British Railways.  A railway road vehicle would be calling at Yealmpton on three days a week.

The last passenger train of all over the Yealmpton branch was run by the Plymouth Railway Circle on Saturday February 27th 1960, when 4549 hauled a rake of brake-vans.

Work on lifting the track started in November 1962 but the extremely bad weather of December 1962 and January 1963  delayed completion until mid-March 1963.  Diesel shunter D2178 supplied the motive power for the demolition train.  Only 11 chains of the original track were retained as part of the layout giving access to the new siding belonging to Messrs Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers Ltd.

With the Turnchapel Branch already closed, Plymstock Signal Box was closed as from May 1st 1963.

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 -